CBD and The Body: The ECS
Believe it or not, our bodies actually produce their own kinds of cannabinoids. These cannabinoids are referred to as endogenous cannabinoids, or endocannabinoids for short, and they play largely the same role as the cannabinoids that we are putting into our bodies through CBD oil, CBD vapes, and other products.
Endocannabinoids are produced in a section of our nervous system called the endocannabinoid system, known as the ECS. The ECS is essential to our understanding of CBD’s effect on human beings, as it contains the largest concentrations of endocannabinoid receptors found all throughout the body. These receptors are what allow your body to interact with CBD, THC, and other phytocannabinoids.
What is the Endocannabinoid System?
The ECS was first discovered in the 1990s. Interesting cannabis history fact: The U.S. government actually put forth funding toward cannabis research, hoping to prove that cannabis was bad for humans. On the contrary, scientists discovered the endocannabinoid system. Through this discovery, we learned that cannabinoids played a much more important role in our biology than ever before thought possible!
What’s more interesting, the ECS was observed to produce its own endocannabinoids without any outside stimulus. That’s right: humans produce endocannabinoids whether or not they’ve ever ingested CBD, THC, hemp, marijuana, or any known form of cannabis.
Since its discovery, we’ve learned that the ECS is vitally important for key metabolic functions. Specifically, the ECS helps maintain homeostasis within our bodies, a sort of biological equilibrium, if you will. This is likely why our bodies produce endocannabinoids of their very own, and it’s even theorized that humanity developed endocannabinoid production because early humans consumed the cannabis plant, but concrete evidence has yet to surface.
What’s most astonishing about the endocannabinoids produced by the ECS is that they are nearly identical in chemical composition to CBD molecules. Because of this, CBD is thought to be chemically preferable within our bodies to other phytocannabinoids, such as THC or CBG.
There are two primary receptors associated with cannabinoids and endocannabinoids: the CB1 and CB2 receptors. Both receptors play important roles in our bodies, and you can tell them apart like this:
- CB1 Receptors are found primarily in the central nervous system, which includes the spinal cord and the brain. CB1 receptors are associated with cerebral and behavioral functions, playing a direct role in memory, cognition, emotion, motor control, appetite stimulation, and the perception of pain
- CB2 Receptors are found primarily in the peripheral nervous system, which includes anything outside of the spinal cord and brain. CB2 receptors are associated with the immune system and inflammation responses. When CB2 receptors are activated, they are known to induce physical relaxation and a reduction in pain.
The CB1 and CB2 receptors are vital to both the ECS and our understanding of CBD in general. However, CBD doesn’t attach to these receptors like other cannabinoids. The relationship between endocannabinoid receptors and CBD is still under investigation, but it is known that CBD molecules interact with these receptors.