The Endocannabinoid System: Crucial for Homeostasis
This biological system is composed of endocannabinoids, which are endogenous lipid-based retrograde neurotransmitters that bind to cannabinoid receptors, and cannabinoid receptor proteins that are expressed throughout the vertebrate central nervous system and peripheral nervous system.
To understand the ECS, it first helps to understand what homeostasis is.
Basically, homeostasis is your body’s efforts to keep everything in the right zone. It tries to keep your internal environment stable and optimal no matter what’s going on in the environment around you. Think of all the gauges in the dashboard of a car or airplane. Those all tell the operator whether things are—or aren’t—operating in the proper zone.
Just like the electronics in a car or plane, your body works continuously to monitor important levels and functions in your body. Is your temperature too high, too low, or just right? Are your hormone levels what they should be? Is your heart beating too fast? Do you need fuel or rest? Is too much of something building up in your bloodstream or inside of your cells?
When something is operating outside of the right range, your body activates the ECS to help correct it. So when you’re really hot and begin to sweat, thank your ECS for working to cool you down. Stomach growling? That’s your ECS helping remind you to eat because you need fuel.
The ECS does this via cannabinoid receptors found in select tissues. We have (at least) two types of cannabinoid receptors:
- CB1 which is in the central nervous system (brain and nerves of the spinal cord)
- CB2 which is in the peripheral nervous system (nerves in your extremities), the digestive system, and specialized cells in the immune system
Cannabinoid receptors are believed to be among the most plentiful in our central nervous system, and some researchers hypothesize that we could have a third, undiscovered one, as well.
Through those receptors, the ECS helps regulate a lot of important functions, such as:
- Immune function
- Inflammation, including neuroinflammation
- Motor control
- Temperature regulation
Your body activates the ECS with precision so that it impacts only what it needs to. For example, if your reproductive hormones are out of whack, it will work to regulate them without altering your digestion or immune system.
What Is CBD?
CBD oil is derived from a plant called cannabis sativa. The plant has over 100 chemical compounds, called cannabinoids, that have a range of effects, including anti-inflammatory and analgesic (pain relieving) qualities.
Ways CBD Treats Pain
Research indicates that CBD may reduce pain by:
- Reducing inflammation
- Combating anxiety, often associated with long-lasting or chronic pain
- In addition, advocates suggest CBD can help with sleep as well as improve a person’s overall state of relaxation. Some research suggests that the use of CBD has an an effect on pain perception; however, more in-depth studies are needed.
CBD as Preventative Medicine
Cannabinoid therapy is connected to the part of the biological matrix where body and brain meet. Since CBD (cannabidiol) and other compounds in cannabis are so similar to the chemicals created by our own bodies, they are integrated better than many synthetic drugs. According to Bradley E. Alger, a leading scientist in the study of endocannabinoids with a PhD from Harvard in experimental psychology, “With complex actions in our immune system, nervous system, and virtually all of the body’s organs, the endocannabinoids are literally a bridge between body and mind. By understanding this system, we begin to see a mechanism that could connect brain activity and states of physical health and disease.
- 1. Reduced Risk of Diabetes and Obesity
- 2. Better Cholesterol Profiles and Lowered Risk of Cardiovascular Disease
- 3. Reduced Risk of Cancer
- 4. Helps Maintain Brain Health and Create Resilience to Trauma and Degeneration
- 5. Protects against Bone Disease and Broken Bones
- 6. Protects and Heals the Skin
- 7. Anti-inflammatory Benefits of CBD
- 8. Anxiety and Stress
- 9. Depression and Mood Disorders
- 10. Pain
- 11. Sleep Disorders (Insomnia, Sleep Apnea)
Potential Risks and Side Effects of CBD
Cannabidiol, even in high amounts, is generally safe. Side effects from CBD may include:
- Dry mouth
- Low blood pressure
More severe side effects, while rare, include:
- Mental confusion
As with other natural products, there is potential for adverse reactions when taken with other medications, especially those that come with grapefruit warnings, such as certain blood thinners. These warnings indicate that certain medications should not be taken with products containing grapefruit.
CBD use prior to surgery
Before having surgery, all cannabis use, including CBD and marijuana, should be disclosed to the surgeon or anesthesiologist. A recent study suggests that cannabis use may have an effect on medications used to sedate patients.
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