Endocannabinoid system

The endocannabinoid system (ECS) was discovered in 1992 by a research team from the National Institute of Mental Health (NIMH, Bethesda, Maryland/USA) led by William Devane and Dr. Lumir Hanus in collaboration with the Israeli scientist Raphael Mechoulam. The ECS was named after the active compounds of the cannabis plant, the cannabinoids.

The most important findings
In recent years, the discovery of the endocannabinoid system has opened the door to systematic research on cannabis and revealed new perspectives for its medical use. To date, we know:

  • Cannabinoids act in the human body - which means there must be a system that "recognizes" the cannabinoids.

  • From this, the scientists in turn concluded that there must also be endogenous molecules for these receptors, so-called endocannabinoids (endo for "produced by the body").

  • Endocannabinoids are responsible for the physical and psychological effects, and thus the healing effects, of cannabis in the human body.

  • The ECS is an important regulatory system of the nervous and immune systems.

  • Studies in animals have provided promising results in chronic inflammatory diseases of the central nervous system and gastrointestinal tract, as well as in antitumor therapy of gliomas (spec. brain tumor).

There is justified hope that targeted interventions in the body's own endocannabinoid metabolism could open up new therapeutic perspectives. But more research is needed to achieve this.

The prefix "endo" is short for "endogenous" and means "originating in the organism" or "produced by the organism" - where "organism" also includes cells and tissues. "Cannabinoids" are the group of compounds that activate the associated system in the body. The endocannabinoid system (ECS) consists of two primary cell receptors - CB1 and CB2 receptors.

CB1 and CB2 receptors - the "locks" of the ECS
Cell receptors in the body can be thought of as a series of "locks" that respond to corresponding "keys" - chemical molecules called agonists. Whenever a matching agonist binds to a cell receptor, it relays a message and instructs the cell. Research has found:

  • CB1 receptors are mainly located on nerve cells.
  • CB2 receptors are found on cells of the immune system.

The agonists or "keys" for these receptors are the cannabinoids. On the one hand, these are produced by the body itself, but they can also be supplied to the body in the form of cannabinoids from the cannabis plant, for example.

Humans produce their own cannabinoids, the endocannabinoids. These endocannabinoids act on or stimulate cannabinoid receptors. These compounds behave in a similar manner to phytocannabinoids, which also bind to the receptors. The plant cannabinoids are also called phytocannabinoids. They are the unique constituents of the cannabis plant. Tetrahydrocannabinol (THC) and cannabidiol (CBD) are the main constituents. There are other cannabinoids, but much less is currently known about them.

For example, CB1 receptors are located in some regions of the brain that control different physical and behavioral functions. Therefore, cannabinoids affect sensory and motor responsiveness (movement), heart rate, emotional responses, appetite and nausea/vomiting, pain sensitivity, learning and memory, and high-level decision making. The more we learn about human ECS, the better we will understand how phytocannabinoids, THC, CBD, and other cannabinoids function. This understanding will lead to better medicines.

Endocannabinoids - the "helmsmen" in the body
Endocannabinoids are now thought to control essential bodily functions and patterns. Ethan Russo, a cannabis researcher and member of various international organizations, suggests that low cannabinoid levels may be the cause of numerous diseases. This deficiency potentially causes for severe conditions such as chronic pain or fibromyalgia, which are related to the endocannabinoid system.

Functions of the Endocannabinoid System
The endocannabinoid system essentially regulates all the basic functions and patterns that our body has to perform, including:

  • Appetite
  • Memory
  • Inflammation
  • Immune functions
  • Neuroprotection and development
  • Pain
  • Reproduction
  • Sleep
  • Mood
  • Metabolism
  • Digestion

The information and data that served as the basis for the creation of this article were taken from professional articles, trade magazines or studies. Medropharm is not authorized to make healing and/or efficacy promises in connection with their cannabis products.

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