what is the endocannabinoid system?

What Is The Endocannabinoid System and Are We Starved of Cannabinoids?

The existence of hemp can be found throughout recorded history. Food, medicine, elixir and textile, hemp is thought by some as to be the first crop domesticated by our ancestors.

In ancient India, a mixture of milk, spices and hemp was blended into a drink believed to aid digestion, but also help with fever and dysentery. Some believed it made the body more alert, calling it “the nectar of the gods”.

historic-hemp-harvest

In American history, from the mid-1800s to the mid-1900s, hemp oil was a natural part of the U.S. pharmacopeia, and American doctors would regularly provide for its use. After the 1930’s taxes made it too expensive for farmers to grow hemp and thus they turned away from harvesting the crop. As hemp became more difficult to find, cannabidiol nearly disappeared from the food chain and Americans became deficient in cannabinoids.

Cannabidiol is a naturally-occurring chemical compound found in plants like echinacea, flax, and of course, hemp. In this form, it’s referred to as a phytocannabinoid. However,  plants aren’t the only source. Cannabinoids also exist naturally in the human body and can even be found in breast milk. In fact, some researchers believe that cannabinoids in breast milk are an important factor in early childhood development.

cannabidiol

Regardless of where cannabinoids come from, they work together with the body’s endocannabinoid system, also known as the ECS. The ECS is a network of cannabinoid receptors found in the brains and abdominal organs of mammals. This system regulates the body’s natural functions – including mood, sleep and appetite. The ECS predominantly consists of two endocannabinoid receptors: CB1, located in the central nervous system, and CB2, found throughout the peripheral nervous system.

endocannabinoid-system

Mostly located in the brain and spinal cord, CB1 receptors combine with the brain’s nerve cells to help regulate the body’s biochemistry. Both endocannabinoids and phytocannabinoids bind to these receptor points and to control the passage of proteins between cells.

CB2 receptors are mostly found on white blood cells, the tonsils, and the spleen. Cannabinoids that bind to these sites act to modulate immune system response. Research into the CB2 receptor has shown that cannabidiol may have some influence in balancing the body’s internal systems. 

cb1-and-cb2-receptors

They believe that the introduction of cannabinoids into our systems might bring the body back into balance. The discovery of cannabinoids and the Endocannabinoid System has forced the scientific community to rethink how many diseases work and how to treat them.

As it turns out, most of us are deficient in a fundamental part of what keeps our bodies in a state of balance. The fact that these receptors are an intrinsic part of who we are, begs the question… Are we starved of cannabinoids?

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