Did you know that humans have used and appreciated hemp since ancient times? Ethnobotanists even claim that it was the first plant to be intentionally cultivated. Evidence of its use exists across various ancient cultures, including the ancient Hebrews and early Asian people. Despite its long history, only recently have people understood how hemp works. In the 1960s, scientists finally identified CBD, but it was difficult to explain everything due to limited research. It wasn't until the early 1990s that cannabis researchers realized that CBD was interacting with a system in human physiology called the Endocannabinoid System (ECS).
The ECS: A Vital System in the Body
The ECS is an innate system upstream of all other major systems in the human body. It plays a crucial role in maintaining balance within the body. The ECS helps every other system communicate to keep the body in the optimal state. It consists of three major components: endocannabinoids, endocannabinoid receptors, and endocannabinoid enzymes.
Discovery of the ECS
The discovery of the ECS began with the identification of CBD and THC by Dr. Raphael Mechoulam in the 1960s. After the discovery of the first cannabinoid receptor, CB1, in 1990 and the second, CB2, in 1993, researchers realized that CBD was binding to these receptors. This discovery led to the discovery of the "bliss molecule," anandamide, in 1993, which played a crucial role in regulating emotion and mood. Soon after researchers discovered that enzymes were responsible for anandamide's breakdown and buildup, they understood the endocannabinoid system's three-part nature.
Endocannabinoids, Receptors, and Enzymes
Endocannabinoids, such as anandamide, are produced to combat stress and maintain homeostasis in the body. The endocannabinoid receptors, CB1 and CB2, are activated by endocannabinoids and plant-based cannabinoids such as CBD and THC. On the other hand, endocannabinoid enzymes are responsible for breaking down endocannabinoids once they have served their purpose.
The Human Body and the ECS
The human body has a fantastic system responsible for regulating various functions, including pain, appetite, mood, and memory. This system is called the Endocannabinoid System (ECS). The ECS is a network of receptors and chemicals in the brain, nervous system, and body. These receptors respond to natural compounds called cannabinoids, which the body produces and found in certain plants (called phytocannabinoids), such as cannabis.
Cannabis and the ECS
Cannabis contains compounds known as phytocannabinoids, similar to the cannabinoids produced by the body. When someone uses cannabis, these compounds interact with the ECS receptors and can affect the body. The most well-known phytocannabinoid is delta-9-tetrahydrocannabinol (THC), which is responsible for the psychoactive effects or "high" associated with cannabis use. Another significant phytocannabinoid is cannabidiol (CBD), which does not produce a high and studied for its potential health benefits.
Health Conditions and the ECS
The ECS has played a role in various conditions, including chronic pain, inflammation, anxiety, depression, and epilepsy. As research into the ECS continues, there is growing interests in the use of cannabis and its components for the treatment of these and other
Recent Studies On The ECS
"The Endocannabinoid System: A Target for the Treatment of Parkinson's Disease?" published in the Journal of Parkinson's Disease in 2021.
"The Endocannabinoid System in Depression: A Systematic Review" published in the Journal of Clinical Psychology in 2020.
"Endocannabinoid System and Pain: An Update" published in the Journal of Pain Research in 2019.
"The Role of the Endocannabinoid System in Cancer: An Overview" published in the Journal of Cancer Research and Clinical Oncology in 2018.
"The Endocannabinoid System and Its Receptors as Therapeutic Targets for Inflammatory Bowel Disease" published in the World Journal of Gastroenterology in 2017.
"The Endocannabinoid System and Glaucoma" published in the Journal of Ocular Pharmacology and Therapeutics in 2016.
"The Endocannabinoid System and its Role in Metabolic Disorders" published in the Journal of Clinical Endocrinology and Metabolism in 2015.
"The Endocannabinoid System As A Target For The Treatment Of Neurodegenerative Disease" published in the British Journal of Pharmacology 2010.
The discovery of the ECS has led to a greater understanding of how the human body functions and has paved the way for the development of new medical treatments, including the use of cannabis and its derivatives for therapeutic purposes.
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