Photo by Jan Faukner.

Beginner’s Guide To The Endocannabinoid System — The Reason Our Bodies So Easily Process Cannabis

Photo by Jan Faukner.

 
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comments

by Rick Pfrommer

on April 14, 2015

The following first appeared in Cannabis Now:

In the future, perhaps 20 years from now, cannabis-based medicines will have a prominent place in the worldwide pharmacopeia again. Indeed, we might have even gotten there much faster if it hadn’t been for the draconian interference of the U.S. government. To this day, they are still blocking researchers from accessing cannabis to study. Countless thousands have died suffering and millions more continue to be denied access to plant-based medications that could not only mitigate their misery, but also possibly even cure them.

Cannabis medications work so efficiently because of the endocannabinoid (EC) system, present in all humans and many animals as well. This system consists of a series of receptors that are configured only to accept cannabinoids, especially tetrahydrocannabinol (THC) and cannabidiol (CBD). Not enough research has been done on the other ones, cannabinol (CBN) and cannabigerol (CBG) plus others, to know much about their mechanisms of effect.

This system, an integral part of our physiologies, was discovered in the mid-1990s by Israeli researcher Dr. Ralph Mechoulam who also identified THC as the main active ingredient in cannabis in the early 1960s. Israel has been one of the most progressive nations for cannabis research and currently has one of the most advanced medical marijuana programs in the world. They are international leaders in advanced greenhouse technology, routinely producing flowers with 20 percent or greater THC.

Dr. Mechoulam’s world-changing research discovered two main receptors, cannabinoid 1 (CB1) and cannabinoid 2 (CB2), that are keyed to both the endocannabinoids that our body naturally produces and phytocannabinoids (plant-based) like THC and CBD. Our bodies actually produce the ECs similar to how our body produces narcotic-like endorphins. Synthetic cannabinoids, like the ones found in Marinol, also fit the receptor sites but don’t work as efficiently as the natural ones.

This research barely created a stir when first published as the whole world was still wrapped up in drug war madness. A prominent scientist discovers that our bodies not only have receptor sites cued just for cannabinoids but that our bodies actually produce them internally. The next step was to figure out how this affects our body’s functioning.

CB1 receptors are primarily found in the brain, although they are also both present in the male and female reproductive organs. Current research shows that THC is specifically keyed to the CB1 site. Therefore it is responsible for the feeling of intoxication that is the most familiar aspect of cannabis. From a therapeutic standpoint, it’s most important effect is to modulate and moderate the perception of pain. For example, touching a finger to a hot stove sends an electrical impulse that goes from the finger to the brain. The brain replies, “ouch, hot” and the finger is pulled away.

THC moderates pain; this doesn’t mean we leave our finger on the stove, but that the intensity of the painful feeling is reduced when THC is present in the CB1 site. This mechanism of action is why THC-rich medicines are so prized by people with intense pain issues. Cannabis and narcotics are also co-agonists, which means that each of them magnifies the effect of the other. This allows people to take lower doses and still have it be effective. Additionally, CB1 receptors are not present in the part of the brain that regulates heart rate and respiration, so unlike narcotics, there is no lethal dosage threshold for THC, allowing someone to consume as much is needed for its palliative effects.

CB2 receptors are primarily found in the immune system with the highest concentration located in the spleen. There is some evidence that the receptors might also be in the micro parts of the brain’s basal ganglia, or nerve bundles. Again, a lack of comprehensive research has left many without the knowledge that should be widely available.

The CB2 receptors are keyed to CBD and works as an anti-inflammatory agent. The immune-boosting functions of CB2 are far less understood as research into CBD is just really beginning. It’s only been about five years since CBD re-emerged in the medical cannabis scene and was identified through Steephill Labs. The benefits of CBD-rich medicine, with its anti-spasmodic qualities, is one the most exciting and promising areas of cannabis medical research currently happening. One of the other effects of CBD is that it moderates the effects of THC. It actually knocks THC off the CB1 receptor, so if someone is experiencing THC intoxication, a strong dose of CBD can counteract those effects. The future of CBD-rich medicines is almost limitless. Indeed, we have just barely scratched the surface of planet cannabis.

THC and CBD are the two main cannabinoids that are focused on, however there are dozens and possibly hundreds more. Some of the ones that have been identified and studied include CBG, which binds to both CB1 as well as CB2 and is an antagonist to CB1, meaning that it moderates the effects of THC. Cannabichromene (CBC) is non-psychoactive and has both anti-inflammatory and analgesic properties. CBN occurs when THC degrades. For this reason, it is rarely seen in fresh cannabis and is only mildly psychoactive, having a mostly sleepy effect. Tetrahydrocannabivarin (THCV) is another cannabinoid usually found in central Asian and southern African strains that also acts as a THC antagonist. There are more cannabinoids than can be listed here and they all have the potential to be as life changing as CBD is turning out to be.

The fact that there is a system in our body that produces cannabinoids, and is specifically designed to accept just them, should be overwhelming proof of cannabis’ efficacy as a medicine. From the pain-killing effects of THC to the anti-spasmodic and anti-inflammatory properties of CBD, we have just scratched the surface of a world of possibilities. People are waking up to the benefits of these medicines as more researchers are exploring the infinite possibilities inherent in this seemingly simple plant. Future generations will look back and wonder why it took so long to figure this out.

there are 43 Comments

Glenn Gallaher

Problem is that they have done their research, that is why big drug companies are 100% against it. It cures cancers, helps with lots of different diseases, and has very little side effects. It is safer than any drug they have or can create. They have done their research, and that is why the only ones that want it banned are big drug companies. So that you will have to rely upon them and pay for their drugs that may kill you and only treat the problem and not cure it. Think for a minute, Nixon did the research in the 1970’s and found that weed cures cancer, but hid it from the public. What did big drug companies have to fear? How much money is donated to causes like ‘find a cure’? Millions? Billions? Do you see yet why they can not come forward with information like this? See how long ago companies were bribing government to write laws? See the truth yet?

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manu

May want to fix the typo in your headline. Otherwise a great article.

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Chanvre | Pearltrees

[…] Beginner's Guide To The Endocannabinoid System — The Reason Our Bodies So Easily Process Cannabis. The following first appeared in Cannabis Now: In the future, perhaps 20 years from now, cannabis-based medicines will have a prominent place in the worldwide pharmacopeia again. Indeed, we might have even gotten there much faster if it hadn’t been for the draconian interference of the U.S. government. To this day, they are still blocking researchers from accessing cannabis to study. Countless thousands have died suffering and millions more continue to be denied access to plant-based medications that could not only mitigate their misery, but also possibly even cure them. Cannabis medications work so efficiently because of the endocannabinoid (EC) system, present in all humans and many animals as well. This system consists of a series of receptors that are configured only to accept cannabinoids, especially tetrahydrocannabinol (THC) and cannabidiol (CBD). […]

0
BanishedJester

: The same companies that produce the cancer causing toxins produce the toxic pills meant to combat the cancers. An all-out boycott of these companies is in order considering that they have been used to create the biggest deficiency in public health in the world. We fat Americans are fed by the poison companies, made ill by the same poison companies and are “treated” for illness by the same poison companies. Seems to me like the solution is staring us in the face yet we continue to bow down to the problematic institutions and pander before their injustice courts and oppressive drug warriors.

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David Chartier

CB2 receptors respond to cannabinol (CBN), not cannabidiol (CBD). This is why CBD does not cause intoxication. Whoever researched and published this work didn’t do their homework…

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Juergen Meixner

Well, this study must lead to a re-evaluation of the tactics that are being used to discourage teens from trying “marijuana”, which is in fact a harmless plant.

https://patients4medicalmarijuana.wordpress.com/2015/08/06/8579/

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Dr. Michele Ross

this article is rife with misinformation. THC binds to both CB1 and CB2 receptors, not just CB1, while CBD does not have an affinity for either CB1 or CB2. This article incorrectly states THC is specifically CB1 and CBD is specifically CB2 agonist. #facepalm – a PhD Neuroscientist

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Edward R. Arnold

Interesting article, but wish it had described anandamide, and its relationship to plant cannabinoids.

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