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Reasons Why The Endocannabinoid System Fascinates Us
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[Image: reasons-why-the-endocannabinoid-system-f...tes-us.png]

It is just a rumor that the endocannabinoid system (ECS) is in existence for the last 600 million years. The reason behind this is that ECS holds its presence in the earliest forms of life. These are sponges that have been around for a longer period.

It is that we were not aware of this until Dr. Robert Mechoulham has begun his groundbreaking work in 1960. It was on the exploration of endocannabinoids and cannabinoids that are responsible for forming part of ECS. It is also a bit unfortunate that the ECS has been excluded from the syllabus of medical school for several years.

What Creates The Endocannabinoid System?

An Israeli Professor who was working at the Hebrew The University of Jerusalem. In year 1964, he has done the isolation of a molecule in the marijuana plant. It has become the reason for healing relief to the human body that is THC (tetrahydrocannabinol). He was curious about how the marijuana plant works for serving with the effects it has on the human body. This sets off the journey towards the discovery of the ECS.

But the use of marijuana dates back to ancient civilizations which have arisen from the banks of great rivers. For instance, the Indus River in India, Tigris & The Euphrates in Mesopotamia, and Hwang-Ho in China.

Before Mechoulam has begun his research work, herbalists were tapping already into the healing power of marijuana. After so many years, Mechoulam together with other scientists has discovered that the body has done the production of its cannabinoids. These act in the same way as plant phytocannabinoids. There could also be an augment in the reverse. Plant cannabinoids do the emulation of the actions and effects of endocannabinoids.

Another researcher Lisa A. Matsuda later in the 1990s has done the identification of the first cannabinoid receptor in the brain. It is a CB1 receptor, and it binds the endogenous cannabinoids along with plant cannabinoids, for instance, THC. Later in the year 1995, he has done the identification of the second receptor. The classification of these two receptors was as the CB1 & CB2 receptors.

The ECS of the body comprises of three major components:
  • Receptors spread throughout the body
  • Endocannabinoids
  • Metabolic enzymes which usually break down endocannabinoids
Learn about these components in detail:

Cannabinoid Receptors

The first identification was of the CB1 receptor, a component found predominantly in the central nervous system & brain. It is responsible for the modulation of the higher center functions. It does the achievement of this by doing interaction with cannabinoids.

After this,, the identification of the CB2 receptor has happened. You will predominantly find this receptor in the immune system. It is responsible for the modulation of immunity and other peripheral functions. It does the achievement of this by doing interaction with cannabinoids as well. In a healthy state, the CB2 receptor does not do too much. However, when the body is in a disease state, it kicks. Then it sets immune responses which are both protective & defensive.

Later the identification of a third and less commonly discussed receptor has happened is the GPR55 receptor. There have not been many studies done yet on this third receptor.

Phytocannabinoids found in marijuana are capable of interacting with cannabinoid receptors in exceptional ways. When they do this, they do the production of effects that are similar to those produced by endocannabinoids.

Endocannabinoids

Endocannabinoids are molecules found in the body that are capable of interacting with cannabinoid receptors. They are comprised of polyunsaturated fatty acids derived from arachidonic acid. The primary endocannabinoid molecule is widely popular as anandamide or bliss molecule. The 2nd endocannabinoid is 2-AG or 2-arachidonoylglycerol.

There is being more investigation on endocannabinoids. And they are inclusive of N-arachidonoyldopamine (NADA) & 2-arachidonylglycerol. Anandamide binds to both the CB1 & CB2 receptors for assisting in supporting the ECS. It is also widely popular as the bliss molecule. The reason is that once it is released, it becomes the reason for extreme happiness.

However, as soon as the endocannabinoids have performed their role, they quickly get removed from circulation. This also explains that why anandamide, unlike THC does not become the reason for euphoria. If it was permitted for accumulating in the body, probably it would have made "make us high" in the same way as how THC can get one intoxicated.

2-AG also interacts with a lower affinity with both the CB1 & CB2 receptor.

Metabolic Enzymes

As soon as endocannabinoids have completed their functions, they get removed from the system. The metabolic enzymes come into play for the achievement of this. FAAH is widely popular for being responsible for breaking down the anandamide. On the other hand, MAGL is responsible for breaking down 2-AG. If signifies that endocannabinoids do not do the accumulation in the body, unlike phytocannabinoids. Based on a need, endocannabinoid gets released.

Why Endocannabinoids Are Diverse From Other Neurotransmitters

Endocannabinoids are widely popular for working in a retrograde manner. It is different from how other neurotransmitters work. Brain cells send out chemical messages. These have been relayed from one cell to the next. And it usually controls our actions, feelings, and thoughts. Most neurotransmitters releases from a cell which is widely popular as a presynaptic cell. Along with this, they cross a synapse or gap forgetting to postsynaptic cells from where they trigger a definite action.

On the other hand, endocannabinoids work in the opposite manner. The release from the postsynaptic cells, and cross the synaptic junction for getting to the presynaptic cells. Here they bind to endocannabinoid receptors. This is the thing that signifies a retrograde mechanism.

The manufacturing of endocannabinoids happens on-demand unlike other neurotransmitters.

When endocannabinoids act in a retrograde fashion. It facilitates them for having control over the release of other neurotransmitters from the presynaptic cells. They work as a "dimmer switch" for regulating the release and functioning of other neurotransmitters.

The ECS & Homeostasis

Homeostasis is widely popular as the balance of the internal environment of the body. All physiological parameters are within limits in this case. It signifies that when the external conditions fluctuate, then the internal mechanism adjusts. It happens for ensuring that the internal environment has remained in check. For instance, when the external temperature enhances, the body starts mechanisms e.g. sweating. And this is the reason that the temperature of the body remains moderate. The same thing applies to hunger, hormonal level, and other crucial functions of the body.

The ECS is responsible for the maintenance in the body of homeostasis. With the assistance of the interaction of the endocannabinoid with endocannabinoid receptors. The body is capable of keeping all systems in check. Some crucial functions among those the regulation of which happens by the ECS are:
  • Memory
  • Temperature
  • Sleep
  • Immunity
  • Digestion
  • Mood
  • Motor control
  • Fertility
  • Appetite
  • Pain
The ECS works in a direct, purposeful, and targeted manner. For instance, when your body temperature is in the extreme range. The ECS kicks in for correcting that without influencing other systems. Once the endocannabinoids that are working through the ECS, have managed to do the restoration of the optimal temperatures. They have rapidly broken down by metabolic enzymes and have been removed from the system.

If they are left for persisting in the body. They might become the reason for an upset in the opposite direction of what they had just restored. This is the thing that is responsible for making the system unique.

On the other hand, phytocannabinoids work in a diverse manner. The reason is that they have not taken out of the body instantly. And they might end up becoming the reason for side effects. For instance, paranoia and euphoria among others.

It is crucial that the ECS functions optimally at all times. When there is a situation of the failure of the ECS, the classification of the resulting state may happen as an endocannabinoid deficiency.

Chronic Endocannabinoid Deficiency (CECD)

When the endocannabinoid system is in disarray. The body is likely to do the development of any of the conditions under the CECD umbrella. All these conditions have an interrelation between them. And these also have a link to a malfunctioning ECS. The common conditions in this bracket are inclusive of:
  • Fibromyalgia
  • Migraine
  • Irritable bowel syndrome
In the past, there was difficulty in the treatment of most of these conditions. Most often the traditional system has focused on the management of the symptoms instead of finding a cure. More studies on the ECS could serve as a breakthrough in the treatment of these chronic conditions.

Why The ECS Intrigues Us

Numerous things are intriguing about the ECS. For starters, it is confusing that how such a crucial system went unnoticed by scientists for a very long time. Also, it is interesting to learn about the potential of this system for influencing both basic functions as well as complex disease processes.

At last, it is fascinating that such a "controversial" plant for instance marijuana could have extreme potential for influencing such a vital system as the ECS.
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