WHAT IS THE ENDOCANNABINOID SYSTEM AND WHAT IS ITS ROLE?
One of the most amazing factors around Cannabis if the fact all bodies, humans and animals have an endocannbinoid system. Socking to know this has been kept a secrete for our entire life. Who knew we have receptors throughout our body that wants cannabis, as a food source. In my research, I found this excellent article published by the Arizona Medical Marijuana Certification Center | AZMMCC. This information is game-changing to our health and well being, and here’s why!
Homeostasis is the concept that most biological systems are actively regulated to maintain conditions within a narrow range. Our body doesn’t want its temperature to be too hot or too cold, blood sugar levels too high or too low, and so on. Conditions need to be just right for our cells to maintain optimum performance, and exquisite mechanisms have evolved to draw them back to the Goldilocks zone if they move out. The body’s endocannabinoid system (ECS) is a vital molecular system for helping maintain homeostasis—it helps cells stay in their Goldilocks zone.
Some of us consume cannabis for its mind-altering effects, while others seek symptom relief. But cannabis wouldn’t get us high or have some of its therapeutic benefits if our bodies didn’t already contain a biological system capable of interacting with its active chemical compounds, like THC.
Our endocannabinoid system does just that. But it isn’t there just to allow us to enjoy the effects of our favorite strain. It serves a vital purpose for our health and well-being because it regulates key aspects of our biology. So, what’s it doing, and how does it work?
Homeostasis: Staying in the Goldilocks Zone
To understand the human endocannabinoid system, it’s helpful to know a little about one of the most fundamental concepts in biology: homeostasis. And the best way to understand homeostasis is to think of Goldilocks and the three bears.
That classic fairy tale illustrated the idea that the best outcome often lies somewhere in the middle, between two extremes. We don’t want things too hot or too cold, but just right.
Key Pieces of the Endocannabinoid System (ECS)
Because of its crucial role in homeostasis, the ECS is widespread throughout the animal kingdom. Its key pieces evolved a long time ago, and the ECS can be found in all vertebrate species.
The three key components of the ECS are:
- Cannabinoid receptors found on the surface of cells
- Endocannabinoids, small molecules that activate cannabinoid receptors
- Metabolic enzymes that break down endocannabinoids after they are used
Endocannabinoid Regulation of Brain Cell Firing
Brain cells (neurons) communicate by sending electrochemical signals to each another. Each neuron must listen to its partners to decide whether it will fire off its own signal at any given moment. However, neurons don’t like to get too much input—there’s a Goldilocks zone. If they get overloaded by signals, it can be toxic. That’s where endocannabinoids come in.
Consider a simplified scenario with one neuron listening to two others. One of these two neurons might become overactive and send too many signals to the neuron that’s listening. When that happens, the neuron that’s listening will make endocannabinoids specifically where it’s connected to the overactive neuron. Those endocannabinoids will travel back to the “loud” neuron where they bind to CB1 receptors, transmitting a signal that instructs it to quiet down. This brings things back to the Goldilocks zone, maintaining homeostasis
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