The Endocannabinoid System: The endocannabinoid system is located inside everyone’s brain, whether you use cannabis products or not. The endocannabinoid system, ECS for short, works closely with both of our central nervous system and our peripheral nervous system. The ECS was only discovered in the 1990’s so further research is being conducted to better understand the extent of its benefits.
Endocannabinoids: Endocannabinoids are very similar to cannabinoids, but are different in key ways. Endocannabinoids are produced by your body and are used as and when they are needed. Due to the ECS only being discovered in the 90s, only 2 endocannabinoids have been identified:
- Anandamide (AEA): Anandamide is produced in areas of the brain where memory, motivation, superior cognitive processes and movement control are managed. In this way, it influences physiological systems such as pain, appetite regulation, pleasure and reward.
- 2-arachidonoylglycerol (2-AG): 2-Arachidonoylglycerol (2-AG) is a signaling lipid in the central nervous system that is a key regulator of neurotransmitter release. 2-AG is an endocannabinoid that activates the cannabinoid CB1 receptor. It is involved in a wide array of (patho)physiological functions, such as emotion, cognition, energy balance, pain sensation and neuroinflammation.
What are the two main receptors in the ECS?
The ECS is made up from both receptors and enzymes. Although the main system is located in the brain, cannabinoid receptors can be found all over the human body. The main receptors which make up this system are known as the CB1 and the CB2 receptors, but what is the main function of them? Well, the main function of these receptors is to keep the body in a ‘homeostatic’ state, or to put it more simply, to maintain stability throughout the body.
- CB1: Located within the Central Nervous System.
- CB2: Located in the Peripheral Nervous System
When using CBD, the cannabinoids that are ingested or applied, latch onto either of the receptors. Depending on which receptor receives the cannabinoid, a specific area of the body may be targeted by the ECS.
The enzymes that help to make up the ECS, are used to break down endocannabinoids once they have been used. The main enzymes which are responsible for breaking down the endocannabinoids are:
- Fatty acid amide hydrolase which is used to break down anandamide (AEA). AEA is an immune modulator in the central nervous system and acts not only through CB1 and CB2 receptors but through others as well. It is a partial agonist at cannabinoid CB1 receptors and has been reported to be a full agonist at the recombinant vanilloid receptor, VR1.
- Monoacylglycerol acid lipase which is used to break down 2-arachidonoylglyerol 2-AG. Activation of the CB1 and CB2 receptors by 2-AG is associated with many physiological processes, including inflammation, food intake, locomotor activity, learning and memory, epileptogenesis, neuroprotection, pain sensation, mood, stress and anxiety, addiction, and reward.