Health & Wellness
Our Fabulous Endocannabinoid System
Beverly Kilgore – Biochemist, Synergy Analytics & Research
30 August 2016
Imagine a system in the human body that is so powerful it can arrest cancer growth by exerting programmed cell death on cancerous cells while leaving healthy cells intact to perform life-sustaining functions. Scientific studies support mediation of this activity by THC, THCA, CBD, CBG, CBN, and CBC.
Or, picture devastating, intractable seizures halted within minutes when myriad medications with severe side effects and invasively implanted electrical devices gave little to no relief of symptoms. Clinical trials and scientific studies demonstrate modulation of seizure activity by CBD, CBDV, and THCV.
What if after years of struggling with cognitive and physiological deficits incurred from harsh schizophrenia medications, it became possible to dramatically improve daily functioning, reduce positive disease symptoms, and re-store capability for self-reliance essential for social interaction? Scientific studies and clinical trials support these life-changing affects mediated by CBD and CBDV. (Note that THC can exacerbate schizophrenia and is contra-indicated for persons who are pre-disposed to this medical condition.
While seemingly miraculous, such miracles have transformed lives via the multi-faceted interaction of cannabis phyto-cannabinoids with our body’s endo-cannabinoid system (ECS). Intricately designed and multi-dimensional in function, our ECS elicits a diverse array of activities to keep our bodies in homeostasis—the maintenance of a stable internal environment despite fluctuations in the external environment.
Our ECS is capable of conferring both neuro-protection and immunity. Animal models demonstrate cannabinoids as neuro-protectants, particularly beneficial in mitigating oxygen and glucose deprivation following head trauma or stroke. Observational benefits noted by many athletes attest to its neuro-protective and restorative advantages. Human studies are now underway to provide supporting evidence.
Both endo-cannabinoids produced by our bodies and phyto-cannabinoids modulate the ECS to effect healthy immune system function. Certain cannabinoids reduce inflammatory responses in patients with autoimmune diseases, promote cell-mediated immunity in response to infection and tumor cell proliferation, and mediate antibody responses.
Essential for adaptation to changes, we share the ECS with other vertebrates and invertebrates. How remarkable it is that our ECS has been retained for 600 million years and responds effortlessly to the cannabinoids in a plant historically dated to 3000 BC. More recently, ECS research points to its role in mediating neuronal plasticity as it relates to learning and limited beliefs. The ability to reframe negative thought patterns is essential to well-being and emotional health in an ever-changing, often stressful environment.
Scientists have exposed an extraordinary complex of cannabinoid receptors and endogenous cannabinoid ligands that participate in receptor activation, endo-cannabinoid biosynthesis, and additional signaling mechanisms supporting a highly evolved ECS that modulates physiological processes such as sleep and pathophysiological processes that can lead to disease or injury.
Our bodies naturally produce endo-cannabinoids anandamide and 2-arachidonoyglycerol (2-AG) “on-demand” from cell membrane arachidonic acid derivatives. The endo-cannabinoids then bind to pre-synaptic receptor sites where they trigger specific cellular activities. In the same manner, phyto-cannabinoid supplementation elicits similar coordinated responses within the brain and throughout the body and may be particularly useful when endo-cannabinoid levels are not sufficient to elicit a desired response.
Cannabinoid receptors, located throughout the bod—in our organs, glands, membranes, tissues, and various cells types—are believed to be more numerous than any other receptor type. High concentrations of receptor CB1 are found in the brain and spinal cord, connective tissues, endocrine glands, and organ systems. Receptor CB2 is highly concentrated in the immune system including white blood cells, tonsils, and spleen. It is common for tissues to share both CB1 and CB2 receptors, each capable of stimulation to elicit a variety of physiological processes. Some cannabinoids, such as CBD, have little binding affinity to CB1 or CB2. One of the many actions of CBD includes suppressing the degradation of anandamide.
Think of it as an orchestra! The conductor initiates the performance, the violins resound on signal, the trombones vibrate in unison, the piano accentuates the tempo, and the gentle clamor of tiny symbols dissipate slowly. This spectacular symphony is performed on queue by your ECS to sustain life-giving functions from our heads to our toes, balancing our neurotransmitters, hormones, and everything else in between.
Healthcare will undoubtedly be revolutionized as we implement wellness and treatment strategies that utilize the mechanisms of the ECS to maintain health and avert disease processes. It is imperative that we understand the properties (analgesic, anti-convulsant, memory augmentation, etc.) of the various cannabinoids and their synergistic effects with other cannabinoids, terpenes and flavonoids to elicit desired health outcomes.
We live at a time when cannabinoid therapies, coupled with evidence-based nutrition, proven exercise strategies, and powerful mindfulness techniques enable us to participate in our own comprehensive wellness and prevention plan, rather than be relegated to the predominant treat, release, repeat strategy common to western medicine.
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