The human body is made up of all sorts of truly amazing tissues, organs, and systems. It is so complex that our understanding of it, as advanced as it might be, barely scratches the surface of what is really going on. Take the endocannabinoid system (ECS). Could it be the most amazing system in the entire human body? It is beginning to look that way.
You may have heard of the ECS in relation to medical cannabis and recreational marijuana. Cannabis and marijuana are essentially the same type of plant. They impact the human body by interacting with the ECS. This post will explain how in just a minute. But first, it is important to discuss what the ECS is and what it does.
A Recent Discovery
Believe it or not, scientists didn’t discover the ECS until the early 1990s. And even at that, they weren’t looking for it. Researchers were trying to understand how marijuana makes people high. In attempting to solve that puzzle, they discovered the ECS.
For the most part, the ECS is a regulatory system. It is found in all human cells. The ECS is critical to maintaining cell homeostasis. That being the case, it plays a key role in regulating all sorts of things ranging from body temperature to appetite and pain perception.
The Importance of Cell Homeostasis
One could argue that maintaining cell homeostasis is the ECS’s most important function. After all, a lack of cell homeostasis is one of the root causes of cancer. Healthy cells do not die off as they naturally should. Instead, they become cancerous and spread. If cell homeostasis could be regained, those cancerous cells would naturally die off and that would be that.
It’s for this reason that researchers are so excited about studying cannabis as a cancer cure – above and beyond symptom treatment. According to the folks at Utahmarijuana.org, many patients already use medical cannabis for cancer treatment, pain, nausea, and a few other symptoms. It is not being utilized as a cure right now.
Binding With Cannabinoid Receptors
So, how does cannabis interact with the human ECS? It is all about cannabinoids. The two most recognized marijuana cannabinoids are THC and CBD. They activate the ECS by binding to cannabinoid receptors known as CB1 and CB2. Activating these two receptors causes the body to respond in certain ways.
What you might not know is that the human body produces its own cannabinoids naturally. We call these substances ‘endocannabinoid’. The prefix ‘endo’ means ‘internal’. Cannabinoids like THC and CBD are known as ‘phytocannabinoids’. The prefix ‘phyto’ refers to plants.
Manipulating the ECS
Those researchers trying to understand how marijuana makes people high came to realize that THC manipulated the ECS in users. It was from that understanding that the idea of using cannabis as a medical treatment was birthed. Medical researchers suggested the possibility of using phytocannabinoids to manipulate the ECS in response to certain diseases and medical conditions.
The most amazing thing about the ECS is that it is involved in so many regulatory functions throughout the body. The fact that it is active in every human cell suggests it could be one of only a small handful of systems that touch every biological function in some way, shape, or form.
We are still in the dark regarding most of the functions the ECS regulates. In short, we have a lot to learn. But the more we discover about the ECS, the more we are beginning to understand how revolutionary cannabis might be as a treatment for an endless list of conditions.