We often find ourselves fretting about finding the right balance.
When we burn the candle at both ends and give too much to too much, we feel unbalanced and out-of-sync. It seems what we need to work on is figuring out a happy medium and keeping that optimum lasting longer. Knowing the anatomical make-up of our bodies and the biological systems that are operating within us should ultimately help with this.
The mind’s attempt to find a balance between all the things that are happening around us is exactly what our bodies are doing when trying to achieve homeostasis, or in biological terms, ‘the ability to maintain a constant internal environment in response to environmental changes.’ This process urges our bodies to find a neutral balance, keeping everything from temperature to stress levels running nice and smoothly. In recent years, science has revealed something rather groundbreaking about our body’s ability to reach homeostasis.
This is where we introduce your ‘endocannabinoid system’ (ECS for short).
Back in the late 1980s, while trying to better understand the effects of cannabis on living beings, scientists discovered the first cannabinoid receptor in the brain of a rat. This receptor was named CB1 and is understood today to be a vital part of the brain and spinal cord that works to regulate appetite, stress levels, memory and pain reduction. A few years later, it was discovered that the body had a second receptor (CB2) within the immune system, which works to reduce inflammation and boost recovery throughout the body. Receptors are message receivers, and effectively act as the receiving lock to the key-like compounds, cannabinoids. Every time a key enters a lock, neurotransmitters run the messages.
Through the discovery of receptors, we have understood that there are two main types of cannabinoids – ‘phyto’ (meaning plant) and ‘endo’ (meaning within the body). The most well understood phytocannabinoid is THC (the psychoactive compound responsible for marijuana’s ‘high’ sensation).
In short, living beings are naturally producing bodily compounds with properties similar to those found in cannabis plants; designed to work as and when we need to secure environmental balance. Where has this education been all our lives, right?
The two main endocannabinoids are anandamide and 2-AG. 2-AG is responsible for managing appetite, pain response and immune system functions, while anandamide plays a major role in managing anxiety and stress. Its name derives from the Sanskrit for ‘bliss’ (ananda) and is often referred to as the ‘bliss molecule’ – with irregular levels of anandamide being associated with everything from schizophrenia to depression. CBD (the second major phytocannabinoid after THC) has an important interaction with this molecule and is the reason why more and more people are reporting the anti-anxiety effects of CBD supplements.
We can explain this by referencing the third part of our body’s ECS – the destructing enzymes FAAH and MAGL. These work to break down anandamide and 2-AG when they no longer need to be in use. One of CBD’s effects on the ECS is its ability to inhibit FAAH breakdown, which in turn keeps anandamide in the body for longer, resulting in a greater CB1 activation. So, while CBD does not directly bind to CB1 and CB2, it does have an indirect role in regulating our body’s very own balancing act, homeostasis. It is there to help keep things ticking at a more optimum level rather than pull anything up or down.
To summarise, the ECS has three key elements: receptors, endocannabinoids and enzymes. The operation of the system plays an integral role in living species’ ability to regulate pain, mood, sleep, and everything in between. Given that science only discovered this system while attempting to understand the effects of cannabis on living beings, it is well worth paying attention to the emerging evidence that plant-based components and cannabis therapies can aid us with medically and mentally.
It shows that at a top-level, the journey to feeling like we have everything ‘balanced’ is provenly assisted by nature’s cannabinoid, CBD.
It’s time to learn more.
Pertwee RG. Cannabinoid pharmacology: the first 66 years. Br J Pharmacol. 2006;147 Suppl 1(Suppl 1):S163–S171
Gunduz-cinar O, Hill MN, Mcewen BS, Holmes A. Amygdala FAAH and anandamide: mediating protection and recovery from stress. Trends Pharmacol Sci. 2013;34(11):637-44.