Cannabis has a very special relationship with the human body, unlike all other plants. Cannabinoids interact with receptors produced in the human body, called cannabinoid receptors. These receptors are the designed to recieve the compounds called endocannabinoids, molecules that have a similar structure to those in cannabis. They are of great importance for the human body. The endocannabinoid system (ES) is one of the largest neurotransmitter networks in the human body.
This system helps regulate balances in the body. Sleep cycles, apetite, cognition, immune system, pain and many others are affected by it. Psychoactive compounds like THC engage with the ES.
Cannabinoids are found in other plants as well, but none have been found to interact in such a profound way with the human body. This is one reason for high hopes for medical research on cannabis.
The ES was first discovered nearly 25 years ago, while trying to understand the workings of THC inside the human body. The first cannabinoid receptor to be identified was CB1, and later a complex network of receptors were discovered in the nervous system. Later on, other such receptors were identified in the digestive and immune systems.
Discovery of receptors encouraged researchers to search for cannabinoid-like molecules. And a new world of biological and medicinal research was started this way.
How significant is the Endocannabinoid System for the Body?
The total number of ES receptors is thought to exceed all other neuromodulatory receptors (including serotonin & dopamine) in the body, combined.
The ES helps bring balance to many systems and cycles of the body. Reserch shows that during many of serious diseases like cancer, Alzheimer’s, arthritis, functioning of the ES is damaged. Bringing balance to the ES through external means, i.e. with the help of cannabinoids, can help boost the body’s ability to cope with many of these diseases.
It is known that lifestyle changes, like diet and exercise, have an effect on the functioning of the ES. Once again proving how integral a system it is for the body.