The Endocannabinoid System: A Beginner’s Guide

 Photo Credit: Leaf Science

Photo Credit: Leaf Science

The physical and psychological effects of cannabis can all be attributed to its interaction with the body's endocannabinoid system (ECS). Cannabinoids are deemed the "chemical messengers" for the ECS, and they interact with cannabinoid receptors (categorized as CB1 or CB2 receptors) to provide a wide array of therapeutic relief. Some cannabinoids are endogenous, called endocannabinoids, and they are occur naturally within the body. Other exogenous cannabinoids, like those provided by cannabis, occur outside of the body but can similarly interact with the body's ECS. The list of functions the ECS is involved in seems endless, and it includes: appetite, metabolism, pain, sleep, mood, movement, temperature, memory and learning, immune function, inflammation, neural development, neuroprotection, cardiovascular function, digestion, and reproduction. In addition to regulating these functions, the ECS responds to illness to return the body to homeostasis. 

Because of its involvement in such a wide variety of bodily function, the endocannabinoid system could help treat a myriad of medical illnesses and conditions. Researchers and physicians are currently using medical marijuana and synthetic cannabinoids to target the system. Medical marijuana is commonly prescribed to treat chronic pain, nausea, multiple sclerosis, epilepsy, and palliative care. Synthetic cannabinoids are engineered to mimic the effects of natural cannabinoids in a more efficient way, and target specific parts of the system. Some synthetic cannabinoids include a synthetic THC call Marinol, used to reduce nausea and increase appetite for AIDS and cancer patients, and a synthetic cannabinoids similar to THC called Cesamet, which reduces vomiting in cancer patients and manages pain for fibromyalgia, multiple sclerosis, Parkinson's disease, and chronic pain.

This information has been provided by Leaf Science and approved by our Chief Medical Officer.