The body contains a biological system that is capable of interacting and utilizing the benefits of the active chemical compounds of the cannabis plant. This system is called the Endocannabinoid system or ECS and it serves a vital purpose for health and well-being as it regulates key functions of our biology.
In order to understand this special system, we must know a little about a fundamental concept in biology called, homeostasis.
Homeostasis is the physiological system that maintains internal stability by coordinating responses to any situation or stimulus that would tend to disturb the normal condition or function of the body. The body works with many systems to maintain homeostasis which include the nervous, circulatory, vascular tissue, digestive, excretory, respiratory, skeletal, muscular, endocrine, sensory organ, body and the endocannabinoid system. These systems work together to make sure our body is not too hot, too cold, to fast or to slow. This orchestrated occurrence creates conditions that are just right for cells to maintain optimum. If something is out of wack the cells are alerted and these systems kick in to bring the body back in line.
The Endocannabinoid System (ECS)
The ECS plays a critical roll in homeostasis for all vertebrate species as it is widespread throughout the animal kingdom. The main components of the ECS are:
- Cannabinoid receptors found on the surface of cells.
- Endocannabinoids, small molecules that activate cannabinoid receptors.
- Metabolic enzymes that break down endocannabinoids after they are used.
Cannabinoid receptors are found on the surface of the cell. Their job? To be aware of what is going on outside the cell and alert the inside of the cell if there is a change in conditions around the cell. Once alerted the cell engages the appropriate cellular response.
Though there are several cannabinoid receptors the two most studied are the CB1 and CB2 receptors. CB1 receptors are the most abundant receptor types in the brain. These are the receptors that interact with THC, the psychoactive chemical in cannabis, to produce the high effect. CB2 receptors are more abundant outside of the nervous system, in places like the immune system. However, both receptors are found throughout the body.