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Is the endocannabinoid system a real body system?


Just as each body has a respiratory system, each body has an endocannabinoid system. This remains true whether or not someone uses any cannabis products.


Your endocannabinoid system is just as much a part of your body as your endocrine system, your digestive system, and the other systems that help your body function properly. Some of the biggest differences between the endocannabinoid system and the other systems are that researchers only discovered the endocannabinoid system in the 1990s, and they are still trying to pin down exactly how it works.


What have scientists found so far?


Although scientists haven’t yet discovered all of the secrets of endocannabinoid system, they have learned that it is made up of three main parts: endocannabinoids, receptors and enzymes.


Your body naturally produces its own endocannabinoids. Your body also has receptors throughout it, and these endocannabinoids bind to the receptors. When this happens, it signals the rest of the endocannabinoid system to take a specific action. For example, endocannabinoids might bind to a receptor to relieve pain. After the endocannabinoids have served their purpose, enzymes break them down.


The endocannabinoid system is not isolated to only one part of the body. Instead, it has receptors located throughout it.


Scientists can currently identify two different kinds of receptors. The CB1 receptors are found primarily in the central nervous system, but they are also reportedly located in the peripheral nervous system, cardiovascular system, adipose tissue and liver. The CB2 receptors are located in the peripheral nervous system, immune cells, brain, blood, lymph nodes, spleen and thymus.


What exactly is the endocannabinoid system responsible for doing?


With endocannabinoids and their receptors located throughout the body, the endocannabinoid system is bound to have connections to a variety of functions. While scientists still have much to learn about this system, they do know that it helps regulate sleep, mood, appetite, memory and fertility.


Research has also connected the endocannabinoid system to:

  • Metabolism

  • Chronic pain

  • Inflammation

  • Motor control

  • Cardiovascular system function

  • Muscle formation

  • Bone remodeling

  • Growth

  • Liver function

  • Stress

  • Nerve function

According to Healthline, many experts currently believe that the primary role of the endocannabinoid system is maintaining homeostasis. All of the functions linked to the endocannabinoid system are functions that can impact the stability of your body’s internal environment, which is also called homeostasis. Researchers reportedly believe that the endocannabinoid system kicks in when something begins to throw off that balance, and its job is to return the body to that balance.


How does cannabis interact with the endocannabinoid system?


Certain compounds found in cannabis plants can interact with our body’s existing endocannabinoid system. We refer to these compounds as cannabinoids.


Tetrahydrocannabinol (THC) is a cannabinoid that binds to receptors the way your body’s endocannabinoids do. THC can reportedly bind to both CB1 and CB2 receptors.


Scientists are reportedly unsure how cannabidiol (CBD) interacts with the endocannabinoid system, but they do know that it doesn’t bind to the CB1 or CB2 receptors. Some researchers reportedly believe that it binds, instead, to a receptor that has not yet been discovered. Other researchers reportedly believe it doesn’t bind to a receptor at all, but that it keeps endocannabinoids from being broken down.


Cannabis plants reportedly produce over 100 different cannabinoids. Researchers have not yet examined all of the ways these compounds interact with our endocannabinoid systems, but cannabinoids are being researched as a variety of potential treatments, such as treatments for Alzheimer’s disease, cardiovascular disease, chronic inflammatory diseases, autoimmune diseases and more.


The endocannabinoid system spans nearly the entire body, so there is no telling what researchers may discover. However, cannabinoids may be just the tool that is needed to tap into that system and help the body combat a variety of illnesses.


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