What is the Endocannabinoid System and How Does It Work?

What is the Endocannabinoid System, and How Does It Work?

The primary reason you feel the effects of hemp flower cannabidiol (CBD) is because of how it interacts with your body’s endocannabinoid system (ECS) after you consume it. Your body produces endocannabinoids that originate from inside. You do not technically produce CBD, but you do produce another kind of cannabinoid which CBD mimics. 

Just as our endocannabinoids interact with our ECS internally, CBD also triggers your endocannabinoid system into action. The overall reaction differs depending on the hemp flower strain you consume. Below, we take a closer look at the endocannabinoid system, and it works in conjunction with hemp flower CBD.

What is the Endocannabinoid System?

The term cannabinoid comes from cannabis. The term endo is short for endogenous, which means that the body produces cannabis-like substances naturally. The ECS consists of three parts.

1. Endocannabinoids

Endocannabinoids are molecules that your body produces. There are two main types of endocannabinoids.

  1. anandamide (AEA)
  2. 2-arachidonoylglycerol (2-AG)

They keep internal functions running smoothly. Your body produces them as needed, making it difficult to know what typical levels are for each.

2. Endocannabinoid Receptors

Receptors are located throughout your body. Endocannabinoids bind to them to signal that the ECS needs to take action.

There are two main endocannabinoid receptors:

  1. CB1 receptors are in the central nervous system
  2. CB2 receptors are in your peripheral nervous system, especially immune cells

Endocannabinoids can bind to either receptor. The binding effect depends on where the receptor is located and which endocannabinoid it binds to.

3. Enzymes

Enzymes are responsible for breaking down endocannabinoids once they’ve carried out their function. There are two main enzymes responsible for this:

  1. Fatty acid amide hydrolase breaks down AEA
  2. Monoacylglycerol acid lipase breaks down 2-AG

The endocannabinoid system (ECS) is a complex cell-signaling system identified in the early 1990s by researchers exploring THC. 

What Does the Endocannabinoid System Do?

The ECS regulates a range of functions and processes, including

Sleep Mood Appetite
Memory Reproduction Metabolism
Learning and memory Motor control Chronic pain
Motor control Cardiovascular function Muscle formation

These functions all contribute to homeostasis, which refers to the stability of your internal environment. For example, if an outside force, such as pain from an injury or a fever, throws off your body’s homeostasis, your ECS kicks in to help your body return to its ideal operation.

Today, experts believe that maintaining homeostasis is the primary role of the ECS.

How Does the ECS Interact with CBD

While THC acts like the body’s own cannabinoids, attaching to CB1 receptors and stimulating the ECS system, CBD does not directly stimulate the ECS system. Instead, it helps to make the ECS system work more effectively. It acts as a reuptake inhibitor, much like Prozac does, to help alleviate anxiety and stress. 

For instance, anandamide, also referred to as the happiness neurotransmitter, is released during exercise or when we do things such as meditate. It helps create a sense of calm. CBD helps to suspend the reuptake of anandamide to stay in the system longer, prolonging that sense of calm.

What Are the Benefits of Hemp Flower to the ECS?

Many CBD products promote calmness and enhance CBD’s effect on the body by combining it with other herbs or fatty acids. While studies have not conclusively shown that CBD helps with sleep, experts believe that CBD’s ability to help offset occasional anxiety is part of why it may help with sleep. 

Full-spectrum and broad-spectrum CBD may further boost the health benefits of CBD by allowing it to work in concert with all of the compounds of the hemp plant, including terpenes and flavonoids, rather than in isolation. It is referred to as the entourage effect

In addition, as more organic hemp becomes available, expect to see more USDA Organic certified products coming to market as organic is recognized as a way to guarantee a clean product while also having a transparent supply chain.

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