What is the endocannabinoid system? Does everybody have one?
A quick look at your body’s internal regulator named after the awesome plant that led to its discovery.
Humans have enjoyed the benefits of cannabis for centuries, but it’s only been in the last few decades that we’ve begun to understand how and why. In a nutshell, it all comes down to chemistry—naturally occurring molecules in the cannabis plant interacting with our body’s system.
Not surprisingly, the science is pretty complicated. We’ll do our best to keep it simple—‘cuz, y’know, that’s how we roll here at Mood Ring!
When scientists began to study the Cannabis sativa plant, they discovered a group of more than 100 particularly unique compounds that were abundant in its resin. Among the bunch, there was the psychoactive tetrahydrocannabinol, which we all know as THC (the stuff that gets you “high”), and the non-psychoactive cannabidiol, more commonly known as CBD (the stuff that won’t). They named all these compounds phytocannabinoids—or “cannabinoids” for short—after the plant. (For those not up on their Greek prefixes, “phyto” just means that something is plant related).
In turn, they discovered an entire network of receptors, molecules and enzymes in the brain and throughout the human body that responds to these cannabinoids after binding to them. They named this network the “endocannabinoid system”—also, quite obviously, after the plant, for it was the plant that led to its amazing discovery. Following us so far?
Everybody has an ECS, regardless of whether or not they consume cannabis. (It’s okay if you were wondering about that—you’re most certainly not the only one!) Basically, your ECS functions as an internal regulator, working nonstop to keep your body healthy and properly balanced. It’s vital for maintaining all sorts of functions related to things like appetite, energy, immunity, sleep, mood, metabolism, reproduction, memory, stress, anxiety, and pain.
So, what role does cannabis play in all of this? Scientists found that after binding to receptors in our ECS, cannabinoids can act in different ways to produce different effects, some of which may be therapeutic <sup>1,2</sup>. How THC, CBD and all the other cannabinoids interact with our ECS is of great interest to researchers because of their potential to help people in ways we’re just now beginning to understand.
Keep your eyes on this space. We’ll keep you in the know as discoveries come to light!
1 Ligresti, De Petrocelis & Di Marzo (2016). From Phytocannabinoids to Cannabinoid Receptors and Endocannabinoids: Pleiotropic Physiological and Pathological Roles Through Complex Pharmacology. Physiol Rev. 96: 1593–1659.
2 Di Marzo (2018). New Approaches and Challenges to Targeting the Endocannabinoid System. Nat Rev Drug Discov. 17(9):623–639.