So… you know that cannabis is a plant , right? But did you know that we possess within our human bodies a system only relatively recently discovered, that is called the endocannabinoid system? What does that mean? That we were made for this plant? That it was made for us?
Well, naturally (pun intended), it does. Just as we evolved to be right here, right now, this humble plant was destined to be with us here now. It doesn’t really seem that strange when you say it that way, does it?
What is it about Cannabis and Cannabinoids that makes them work so well in the human system for so many conditions?
This can be explained by the endocannabinoid system which is present in all humans. This endocannabinoid system within us is also in many animals too. The system consists of a many receptors that only match specific cannabinoids. Among these are tetrahydrocannabinol (THC) and cannabidiol (CBD). Further research has identified cannabinol (CBN), cannabigerol (CBG) and many more. Although this plant’s existence predates history and it has been involved in many human civilisations for thousands of years, we are still discovering new and unique molecules hidden within it’s cells and their effects on the human endocannabinoid system.
Let’s focus for a moment then, on the two receptors which were discovered and identified first, and have been researched the most. These are the cannabinoid 1 (CB1) and cannabinoid 2 (CB2) receptors.
These receptors are responsive to both the endocannabinoids that our bodies naturally produce and to phytocannabinoids (those that originate in plants and therefore must be introduced exogenously to our system) like THC and CBD. The way our bodies produce endocannabinoids is very similar to the way we are able to create narcotic like endorphins. Cannabionoids created synthetically by humans also fit these receptor sites, but they have not been able to show that they are able to work as efficiently as the naturally produced endocannabionoids and phytocannabinoids do at activating the receptor. This is one of the principal reasons why man made cannabinoids have not demonstrated superior efficacy in creating health and moderating disease.
This research was coming to light at the same time the war on drugs was consuming the US Politcal stage. The irony cannot be understated. Here was a system discovered in our own human bodies that not only possessed receptor sites for exogenous phytocannabinoids to act on, but a system that was also able to produce it’s own endocannabinoids for those receptors in order to produce an effect designed to manage homeostasis. A system designed to create a therapeutic or survival reaction in order to benefit the human that owns the endocannabioid system.
So what was our endocannabinoid system designed for? And how can we take advantage of it to improve our health quality and life outcomes?
CB1 receptors are primarily found in brain tissue. The CB1 receptors are also found in both female and male reproductive organs. Research overwhelmingly points to THC responding to CB1 receptors. THC is responsible for the intoxicating feeling that most people commonly associate with Cannabis.
Therapeutically, CB1 (and therefore THC) can modulate and moderate the perception of pain.
The intensity of the painful feeling is reduced when THC is present in the CB1 site. This mechanism of action is why THC rich medicines are so prized by people with intense pain issues. Cannabis and narcotics are also co agonists. This means that each of magnifies the effect of the other. Effectively, people may be able to reduce the dosage of either or both potentially when they are used together.
The part of the brain that regulates heart rate and respiration does not contain CB1 receptors so, unlike narcotics the lethal dosage threshold for THC has not been established. This ensures greater safety with respect dosage selection for the individual.
So far CB2 receptors have been found in large quantities in the immune system, with the highest concentrations occurring in the spleen. Speculation remains around whether or not there are CB2 receptors in the brain in the basal ganglia and nerve bundles.
Therapeutically, these CB2 receptors are also responsive to CBD so they respond to reduce inflammation. As most western diseases present with corresponding inflammation, it is exciting the think about the future direction of research in the area of receptor response. So even though, there appears to be receptors in the immune system of humans, the immune boosting functions of CB2 are still not very well understood.
What is extremely interesting about CBD is that it moderates the effects of THC. CBD preferentially attaches and binds to the receptor and ensures that THC cannot attach to the receptor. In this way it stops the THC from having its effects on the human system. So that if an individual is experiencing overwhelmed by the effects of the THC a strong dose of CBD can counteract those effects.
This is why the future of CB is limitless. There is still so much to know about cannabis.
So far, we have barely touched on the effects of CBD and THC. Others have been identified and yet many more are to come.
There are other cannabinoids that bind to these and other receptors and may moderate or cause an entourage effect on the human body. Other cannabinoids can be psychoactive or not, analgesic or anti inflammatory. Some cause relaxation and others cause stimulation.
The possible directions forward are so exciting and it is just the start that we have discovered a human system that resides within us that can potentially help health and us from the inside out.
Hopefully, the way forward for cannabis is much less political than the way behind us and the answers we seek in the solutions not made obvious to us by the current pharmaceutical and medical fraternity may lie within this fascinating plant.