The Endocannabinoid System: What Is It?
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What is the Endocannabinoid System? It is a part of our Nervous System!
“The endocannabinoid system is a biological system composed of endocannabinoids, which are endogenous neurotransmitters that bind to cannabinoid receptors, and cannabinoid receptor proteins that are expressed throughout the mammalian central nervous system and peripheral nervous system.” (Wikipedia).
Hopefully we can make this a bit easier to understand: The endocannabinoid system is actually part of the central and peripheral nervous system and endocannabinoid receptors and cannabinoid neurotransmitters on our existing neurons. So this is to say that the endocannabinoid system is not so much its own system, but a function or capability of our existing nervous system. You can see a diagram of the nervous system here, thanks to Wikipedia.
How does the nervous system and neurotransmission work?
Want to know more about neurotransmission? Check out this quick video to visualize exactly how neuron cells pass messages with the neurotransmitter chemical compounds (cannabinoids or otherwise). To break it down in super simple terms, neurotransmitters act as homing pigeons carrying messages from one neuron to another and then returning back to the original neuron to repeat the process again.
Quick Fact: If you’re familiar with SSRI medication, commonly used for depression and anxiety, it is a “Selective Serotonin Reuptake Inhibitor”. SSRI’s force the neurotransmitter serotonin to stay in the second neuron instead of going back to the first neuron so the effects last longer. This causes people to have more balanced moods and less symptoms of depression or anxiety due to the increased serotonin activity on the second neurons.
Here’s a longer video explaining more of the neurological processes of the human body. If you watch the whole video, note their mentions of things like Alzheimer’s and schizophrenia. While there is research showing the benefits of cannabis for slowing and even reversing the onset of Alzheimer’s, schizophrenia is hotly contested as a major risk factor in cannabis use with theories that cannabinoids can trigger the onset of a psychotic break. We’ll take a look at conditions like this in part two of the endocannabinoid series – stay tuned!
What are cannabinoid receptors?
Cannabinoid receptors are cell membrane receptors found on our neuron cells in the nervous system. If you recall from the video above, there are various receptors in neuron cells that receive different types of neurotransmissions. Receptors are created and expressed from within the body and are not found in the same places or same numbers from one species to another and may be different from person to person as well. Cannabinoid receptors allow the cells of our nervous system to accept and react to cannabinoids, this is often described as a “lock and key” interaction: the receptor is the lock and the cannabinoid is the key.
There are currently two known types of cannabinoid receptors: CB1 and CB2. The CB1 receptor is expressed mainly in the brain, but also in the lungs, liver and kidneys. The CB2 receptor is expressed mainly in the immune system and in hematopoietic cells. (Wikipedia).
The endocannabinoid system is capable of receiving neurotransmissions from different types of cannabinoids: endocannabinoids are cannabinoids produced by the human body; phytocannabinoids are cannabinoids created by plants (such as cannabis) that can be ingested. Cannabimimetics are cannabinoid “mimes” created by plants that can interact with cannabinoids receptors even though they are not true cannabinoids.
As we discussed above, cannabinoids are neurotransmitters made of chemical compounds that are sent back and forth between neurons in our nervous system. Neurotransmitters don’t last forever. Inside the cell they can last longer, but once they are transmitted outside the cell, they are prone to degradation. This is why if you consume cannabis you don’t stay medicated forever and the effects wear off over time.
Stay tuned for the rest of Cannabis Supply Co.’s educational series!