An Intro to the Endocannabinoid System

For over 200,000 years, an endogenous cannabinoid signaling network has been working tirelessly, yet undetected in our bodies. It is called the endocannabinoid system (ECS). “Endo” means within. Every human, in fact, every creature with a vertebrate makes endocannabinoids and has an endocannabinoid system within. 


Our naturally produced cannabis-like molecules, the endocannabinoids, interact with receptors present in our brains, but also the skin, the immune cells, our bones, liver, pancreas, muscle, heart, kidney and the GI tract all have receptors that interact with endocannabinoids, too. 


The cannabis plant produces cannabinoids, too. They are called ‘phytocannabinoids’. ‘Phyto’ is the Greek word for plant. When we ingest plant cannabinoids they work seamlessly with our naturally produced endocannabinoids to carry out regulatory functions for our organs and help all our cell types function more effectively.  


Our own naturally produced endocannabinoids are the most hard-working and versatile chemicals in our bodies. In addition to other tasks, cannabinoid molecules soothe pain and ease anxiety. They set the sleep/wake cycle. 


They enhance memory and learning. They are instrumental for brain health and protection through plasticity (forming new connections between brain cells) and neurogenesis. They stimulate or moderate our food intake. They are instrumental in reducing stress and anxiety. They have pain-relieving mechanisms. They modulate emotions, addictive thoughts, energy balance, metabolism, independent movement, and fertility.


The discovery of the ECS is a profound 20th-century scientific breakthrough that will change the health and wellness industry for decades to come. The ECS is a complex network of cell signaling molecules that consists of endocannabinoids and cannabinoid receptors. Phytocannabinoids, like CBD, mimic, and augment what endocannabinoids do to support our physical health and mental well-being.

 

Author: Maureen Smyth, BSN,  Founder of Smyth Med