WHAT IS THE ENDOCANNABINOID SYSTEM?
If you’re human, you have a network of receptors called the “endocannabinoid system,” (ECS) found in your brain and throughout your nervous system. Turns out that the compounds in the cannabis plant “turn on” this system—and that our bodies produce similar compounds that also activate these receptors.
The human body uses specialized compounds known as cannabinoids that control a variety of bodily processes by interacting with different receptors and regulatory enzymes.
The endocannabinoid system is involved with regulating many basic functions of the human body, including:
- Memory and learning
- Immune function
- Neural development
- Cardiovascular function
Besides maintaining basic functions, the endocannabinoid system also acts in response to illness.
In cannabis, cannabidiol (CBD) is often referred to as a “phytocannabinoid.” Phytocannabinoids are plant derivatives that contain a number of diverse chemical compounds that can affect appetite, metabolism, pain sensation, inflammation, thermoregulation, vision, mood, and memory.
Note that phytocannabinoids are any plant-derived product capable of either:
1. Directly interacting with cannabinoid receptors;
2. Sharing chemical similarities with cannabinoids that allow them to interact with other components of the ECS;
3. Or both.
All you need to know is that your body produces compounds that activate the same receptors activated by the cannabinoids found in the cannabis plant once they are heated up. Cannabinoids in the body are endocannabinoids; cannabinoids found in plants are phytocannabinoids.
Cannabinoid receptors are present throughout the body, embedded in cell membranes, and are believed to be more numerous than any other receptor system. When cannabinoid receptors are stimulated, a variety of physiologic processes ensue.
There are currently two major ways of targeting the endocannabinoid system: medical marijuana and synthetic cannabinoids.