Your body is smart, maybe smarter than you think. In fact, it has a system you may not have heard of and/or may not understand. Your endocannabinoid system or ECS is responsible for some of the most important functions in your body. You could even say it is essential to life itself.
What is the Endocannabinoid System?
The endogenous/endo cannabinoid system is key establishing and maintaining health in humans and other vertebrates. Endocannabinoids and their receptors exist everywhere in the body – brain, organs, connective tissues, glands, and immune cells. The ECS performs different functions in each of theses areas, but the end goal is consistent: homeostasis, the maintenance of a stable internal environment despite the influence of variations in the external environment.
Thomas Edison probably said it best. “There were never so many able, active minds at work on the problems of disease as now, and all their discoveries are tending toward the simple truth that you can’t improve on nature.” He said those words in 1902. Over a century later, cannabinoid research is proof of the validity in this statement.
Researchers have identified two cannabinoid receptors, so far, and believe there may be a third. CB1 exists mostly in the nervous system, connective tissues, sex organs, glands, and other organs. CB2 is found mostly in the immune system and related structures. But many tissues contain both CB1 and CB2 receptors.
How Do We Know About the Endocannabinoid System?
This system is a recent discovery, coming to light only in the mid 90’s. But By comparing the genetics of cannabinoid receptors in different species, scientists believe the ECS evolved in animals over 600 million years ago. This system consists of a series of receptors that only accept cannabinoids. Although hundreds of them exist, most of the research to date has been on tetrahydrocannabinol THC and cannabidiol CBD. THC is psychoactive. CBD is not psychoactive, meaning you cannot get high from it.
How Does the endocannabinoid System Work?
Again, cannabinoids promote homeostasis on every level, from sub-cellular to individual organs and systems to the body and mind. And our bodies not only have receptors for them. We also produce them. They are so fundamental to health that there are even cannabinoids in human breast milk, the foundation of nutrition.
Here is one example of how your ECS works. Autophagy (self-eat, in Latin roots) is digestion of cellular components by enzymes of the same cell. The ECS mediates this process, keeping normal cells alive and allowing them to maintain balance. However, it has a deadly effect on malignant tumor cells. It literally causes them to commit what you could call programmed cellular suicide. Naturally this elimination of cancer cells promotes homeostasis and survival at the level of the entire organism.
With its complex affects on and actions in our immune system, nervous system, and organs, the endocannabinoid system is literally a bridge between body and mind. Understanding and further studying this system allows us to see how we can promote and support our own health or disease.
Research has shown that doses of cannabinoids can signal the body to make more endocannabinoids and build more cannabinoid receptors. Therefore, supplementing your diet with hemp CBD products may help improve your body’s use and abundance of both. And the end result could be highly beneficial to overall function of immunity and to health and wellbeing.
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