To understand how cannabis provides therapeutic relief, you need to be aware of the endocannabinoid system. Discovered in the 1990s, we’re still learning about the ECS. We know that naturally occurring cannabinoid compounds (called endocannabinoids) work by interacting with corresponding receptors (cannabinoid receptors) across nearly every cell and tissue type in the human body. The most influential receptors are called CB1 and CB2.
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CB1 receptors mainly affect activity in the brain and nervous system. CB2 receptors primarily affect immune system activity and interactions with body tissues and organ systems. These receptors have a major impact on many functions of both mind and body.
The endocannabinoid system is vital to homeostasis.
Endocannabinoids are found in abundance throughout the:
- Connective tissues
- Immune cells
- Internal organs
- Nervous system
There are also cannabinoids produced by the cannabis plant.
These active chemicals are responsible for extensive effects on the human endocannabinoid system. Studies have identified over 80 separate cannabinoids, with the two most abundant and important being THC (tetrahydrocannabinol) and CBD (cannabidiol).
If the ECS is not functioning properly or suffers an endocannabinoid deficiency, there is potential for physical and psychological problems. Since cannabis provides chemicals of similar structure to endocannabinoids, it makes sense it can offer relief from a nearly limitless range of medical conditions. For example, by binding with CB1 receptors in the brain, THC can mimic anandamide activity and play a role in pain, depression, appetite, and memory. CBD is believed to indirectly increase endocannabinoid levels.
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