The Human Endocannabinoid System



Original blog post: https://www.newphaseblends.com/human-endocannabinoid-system/

*Be sure to check out the blog for sourcing of some of the information in regards to the research discussed. All credit is given, where credit is due.

The human endocannabinoid system (ECS) is a fascinating physiological system which helps regulate and balance various functions and interactions in the human body. These are tremendously impactful in their scope, affecting things like: stress responses, pain sensitivity, mood and memory.

The goal of the human endocannabinoid system is to maintain a stable internal environment, or homeostasis.

TLDR: All humans have an Endocannabinoid System. It is made of a web of interlinking receptors (CB1 and CB2), and is responsible for many different things.

Let’s jump right in to further explore this vital component of human physiology!

Discovery of CB Receptors

Given how central these functions are to basic survival, it’s crazy to realize it was only classified as late as 1992.

How, and why, did this occur?

Basically, a series of experiments across the world involved studying the effects of THC on the brain. The results out of the St. Louis School of Medicine first determined that mammalian brains have cannabinoid receptor sites that respond to compounds found in cannabis, known as cannabinoids.

These receptors, named CB1 cannabinoid receptors, turned out to be the most abundant type of neurotransmitter receptor in the brain!

This research slowed in the United States due to marijuana’s status as a schedule 1 drug. Interestingly, the next big discovery was due to the fact that the US was funding research in the hopes of detailing NEGATIVE effects due to cannabis consumption.

In 1990 at the National Institute of Mental Health, this came in the form of mapping the DNA sequence of a CB1 receptor; essentially how the body encodes and builds the cannabinoid receptors.

This was huge. Knowing how to identify the DNA that compose them, a genetically modified mouse without this receptor could be created.

On a side note, these genetically modified mice are called “knockout mice,” and their inventors won a Nobel Prize for it in 2007. THC could then be administered to these CB1 deficient knockout mice.

Doing so demonstrated that THC had no effect, proving THC works by activating cannabinoid receptors in the brain.

A second cannabinoid receptor, CB2, was catalogued shortly after.

These sites are found primarily in the immune and peripheral nervous system (nervous system outside the brain and spinal cord).

Endogenous cannabinoid signaling occurs when your body produces its’ own endocannabinoids. An endogenous cannabinoid is simply a cannabinoid produced within the body, all by itself.

Discovery of the cannabinoid receptor sites then led to the classification of the potential neurotransmitters that fit into the sites, aptly named endocannabinoids. The endo prefix indicates that they are produced within the body.

Two years later, scientists at the Hebrew University of Jerusalem then discovered the two primary, as well as a host of lesser, endocannabinoids.

Primary:
-anandamide (AG)
-2-arachidonoylglycerol (2-AG)

Secondary:
-homo-gamma-linoleoyl ethanolamide (L-EA)
-docosatetraenoul ethanolamide (DEA)
-noladin ether (2-AGE)
-N-arachidonoyldopamine (NADA)

Following the discovery of the receptor sites and the neurotransmitters that bind with them, the final piece was found to be composed of enzymes.

These enzymes break down the neurotransmitters once they complete their actions. With this, the human endocannabinoid system was officially mapped and catalogued.

We now know, without a doubt, that we have an efficient cannabinoid signaling system within our bodies.

Human Endocannabinoid System Components

As we mentioned, this system is composed of three parts.

1.Cannabinoid receptor sites spread in a wide pattern across the body, primarily CB1 and CB2.

2.Endocannabinoids (aka endogenous cannabinoid) that send chemical messages through the nervous system to reach the cannabinoid receptors, chiefly N-arachidonoyl-ethanolamide (anandamide) and 2-arachidonoylglycerol (2-AG).

3.Various endogenous cannabinoid metabolic enzymes, including fatty acid amid hydrolase (FAAH) and monoacylglycerol acid lipase

Interesting fact: According to Expert Opinion on Drug Discovery (2009), “Fatty acid amide hydrolase (FAAH) is an integral membrane enzyme that hydrolyzes the endocannabinoid anandamide and related amidated signaling lipids.”

They even go on to claim that fatty acid amide hydrolase shows potential for treating pain and central nervous system disorders.

Read more in the blog…

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