We all have an Endocannabinoid System (ECS) – endo meaning within and cannabinoid which refers to a compound that fits into cannabinoid receptors.
It is a biological system that plays an important role in the regulation and development of the brain, central nervous system and peripheral nervous system.
The ECS is composed of cannabinoid receptor proteins that are found throughout the whole body and endocannabinoids, a diverse class of naturally occurring molecules within the body that act on cannabinoid receptors within cells that alter neurotransmitter release in the brain.
It has a multitude of tasks and is involved in regulating a variety of physiological and cognitive processes including fertility, appetite, pain and sensation, mood, memory and mediating the effects of cannabis but it’s main aim is to maintain homeostasis – the regulation and maintenance of a stable environment within.
Researchers have identified the two main cannabinoid receptors as CB1 and CB2:
CB1 are the most abundant neurotransmitter receptors in the central nervous system and are found in the brain, connective tissues, glands, and organs. Neurotransmitters are the chemicals that communicate information throughout the brain and body, serotonin and dopamine are the most well known examples of these chemicals. CB1 receptors are largely responsible for mediating the effects of cannabinoid binding in the brain.
CB2 are found throughout the body on cells associated with our immune system and play a vital role in regulating immune cell functions that are linked to pain and inflammation. It is also responsible for mediating the release of cytokine, small proteins that are important in cell signalling. Cytokines act through receptors and are important in health and disease, specifically in response to infection, inflammation, immune responses, trauma, sepsis, cancer, and reproduction.
The diversity of these cannabinoid receptor locations show just how important the ECS is and how cannabinoids are vital for a healthy bodily function, regulating the immune system, mood, sleep, pain and other endogenous functions.