Chances are you’ve landed on this article because you’ve either heard about cannabidiol (CBD) on the news, in a magazine, on a website.
Maybe you’re even interested in trying it out yourself, but you’re also wondering if this new panacea of the nutraceutical industry is all it’s cracked up to be, or if it’s all a bit too good to be true. And if it really is as good at doing all these different things as people claim, how does CBD oil work?
The answer to these questions lie in the endocannabinoid system – your body’s very own biological system that not only creates and uses your body’s very own cannabinoids to stay happy and healthy but also lets plant cannabinoids like CBD interact with it, and your body.
In this article we will explain exactly what the endocannabinoids system is, what it does, and how cannabinoids like CBD work.
As mentioned earlier, we all have a biological system called the endocannabinoid system, often referred to as simple the ECS. This system is in charge of controlling, regulating and moderating a wide range of other biological and physiological systems in your body. These include everything from relatively “basic” things like appetite and digestion, but also more complicated things such as mood, memory and stress responses.
The easiest way to explain what the ECS does is to think of it in terms of the story of Goldilocks, where the last of bowl of porridge “was just right!”. Similarly, the ECS keep your body working “just right” by keeping it in a state of perpetual balance called homeostasis.
The ECS does this through an intricate interplay between its three most fundamental components which comprises;
As the name suggests, endocannabinoids are cannabinoids that are produced by your body and are made on demand and on the spot where they are needed. Endocannabinoids are a special type of neurotransmitter that’s not only responsible for activating and regulating your ECS but also other systems, processes and even come genes.
Another thing that is special about endocannabinoids is that they can send a signal down a neural pathway, but unlike most other neurotransmitters, also send signals up (i.e., the wrong way) a neural pathway. This is what is known as retrograde signaling.
The reason why this is important is that endocannabinoids can help stop signals produced by other neurotransmitters.
To date, the two main and most studied endocannabinoids scientist have identified so far are:
Where cannabinoids (both plant and endogenous) are the keys, the remarkably complex network of cannabinoid receptors act as the locks in a kind of “lock-and-key” arrangement that helps our bodies send messages and regulate a wide variety of biological functions and systems.
The two types of cannabinoid receptors are the CB-1 receptors; and CB-2 receptors.
The CB-1 receptors are mainly responsible for regulating the release of different types of neurotransmitters as well a preventing too much, or too little neuronal activity.
The majority of CB-1 receptors are located in the brain and central nervous system, but can also be found in the lungs, gastrointestinal tract, liver and kidneys, also making it involved with regulating appetite, digestion and motor control.
Scientists believe that because of where the CB-2 receptors are located, that they are involved with immune function and response, cell death, cell migration during tissue development as well as the regulating intestinal inflammatory responses in diseases such as Crohn’s, inflammatory bowel diseases, and ulcerative colitis.
Unlike other hormones, neurotransmitters and other types of biological compounds, endocannabinoids and other types of cannabinoids don’t stick around. Instead, the ECS has metabolic enzymes which make sure that endocannabinoids as well as other cannabinoids like CBD are broken down once they used up and their jobs are done.
This breaking down of surplus cannabinoids is one reason why cannabinoids such CBD are so safe to use – even at high dosages. However, this is also the reason why we can sometimes have a shortage of endocannabinoids, sometimes causing your body to be unable to maintain its essential and healthy internal state of balance (or homeostasis).
As mentioned above, because your body is unable to store endocannabinoids it can sometimes happen that you simply do not have enough of these compounds circulating in your body for your ECS to help maintain homeostasis.
In fact, scientists now believe that not having enough endocannabinoids causes a condition known as clinical endocannabinoid deficiency syndrome which they theorize is at the heart of a wide variety of symptoms, ailments and diseases. This is also why scientists are now researching and investigating the ECS as a major target site for drug and therapeutic interventions.
Scientists and clinicians are finding that despite a couple of chemical differences between endocannabinoids and phytocannabinoids, the way in which they interact with the ECS are very similar. And what this means is that, when you take a plant cannabinoid like CBD, because it acts very much the same way as your body’s own cannabinoids do, it is able to help kick-start the ECS, helping to restore homeostasis. This in turn puts your body back into that “Goldilocks” state where everything is “just right”.
Even though we are still in the beginning stages of really understanding how cannabinoids like CBD interact with our bodies via the endocannabinoid system, the body of evidence showing that CBD can help for a wide variety of symptoms and ailments is growing. And as our understanding of this interplay and its effects on our bodies deepens, it also begins to explain why such a variety of people have so many positive stories to tell about their experiences with CBD oil.
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