What are endocannabinoids, and what are their effects?

Endocannabinoids what they are and effects

Responsible for homeostasis: the mechanism that regulates our physiological processes.

Endocannabinoids are essential constituents of the endocannabinoid system.

Through their action, the body manages a whole series of physiological processes that determine the maintenance of the delicate internal balance of the human body.

Let’s see what they are and their role in the cannabinoid system.

The cannabinoid system: what is it?

The cannabinoid system can be defined as a communication system between cells. Its constituent elements are three and include endocannabinoids, receptors and enzymes.

  1. Endocannabinoids.
    These messenger molecules register changes in external conditions and alert receptors to tell cells to react to a given stimulus. The main endocannabinoids are anandamide and 2-arachidonoylglycerol, which are put into circulation on-demand and are destroyed immediately after fulfilling their task.
  2. Receptors.
    The two fundamental receptors are CB1 and CB2 and are located in the membrane of different cell types, mainly in the central nervous system and are involved in the control of movement, memory, emotions, learning and other complex cognitive functions. Specifically, CB1 receptors can also be identified in the muscles, liver, lungs, and cardiovascular system cells. CB2 receptors, on the other hand, are mainly contained in the immune system, cells of the spleen, bones, pancreas, colon and generally at the peripheral level. The functions regulated by CB1 and CB2 receptors mainly concern the regulation of the release of ‘messages’ to neurotransmitters – to preserve the central nervous system from overstimulation – and the immune system, respectively.
  3. Enzymes.
    These have the task of destroying endocannabinoids immediately after completing their functions. This prevents a build-up of useless molecules in the body.

Read also: Full-spectrum CBD oil: what it is and what it means.

What functions do endocannabinoids perform?

As we said, endocannabinoids are present throughout the human organism and beyond. They have also been identified in numerous animal species.

Endocannabinoids have also been identified in numerous animal species

Endocannabinoids have also been identified in numerous animal species.
The function of these molecules is to regulate the body’s homeostasis, i.e. the body’s ability to keep its internal conditions unchanged despite changing external conditions.

The role of endocannabinoids is fundamental and regulates a myriad of critical physiological processes.

In a 2008 study, Dr John M. McPartland examined the main physiological mechanisms directly related to the regulatory action of endocannabinoids. According to the scientist, their function must be very relevant from the point of view of the evolution of the species since they have been present for over 600,000 years.

CB1 receptors have been detected in the brains of mice as early as the embryonic stage, suggesting a relevant role in the embryonic brain development process.

Another essential function of endocannabinoids is to protect the central nervous system from overstimulation by regulating the release of neurotransmitters.

Endocannabinoids are also crucial in neurodevelopmental processes. For example, influencing synaptic plasticity enables the CNS to create new connections between neurons and modify existing ones.

Endogenous cannabinoids also regulate a whole series of other, apparently more straightforward, but equally important processes. For example, they determine our sense of hunger or satiety, the feeling of needing sleep, and the tone of our mood. In addition, they perform an essential immunoregulatory function.

It also appears that endocannabinoids are also crucial in determining bone density.

Finally, activated CB1 receptors may reduce the sensation of pain.

Read also: Entourage effect: the benefits of the synergy between terpenes and cannabinoids

But are there only endocannabinoids?

We have already talked about endocannabinoids, i.e. those produced by our organism, but are they the only existing cannabinoids?

No, they are not the only ones. Endocannabinoids are only one of the 3 types known to date. It is also possible to influence the essential functions of endocannabinoids from the outside if you think about it. Medicines, for example, can alter our perception of pain or our appetite or sleep rhythm.

Medicines can modify our perception of hunger

Medicines can alter our perception of hunger.
All this is possible thanks to what are called synthetic cannabinoids. They are produced in the laboratory precisely to simulate the action of endocannabinoids and interact with the cannabinoid system, helping it where it sometimes fails.

Can you think of anything else that interacts with our body, modifying, for example, our appetite?

If you thought of cannabis, you got it right!

Marijuana is very rich in these molecules, which in this case are called phytocannabinoids or natural cannabinoids. Some say that the endocannabinoid system is named after cannabis.

Studying the effects of taking marijuana, researchers realised that it teased out particular receptors, which until then had not been identified.

With this in mind, it will not be difficult for you to understand the enormous success that cannabis is enjoying in terms of its therapeutic potential. Of course, it is still to be defined, but what is certain is that marijuana can interact with essential receptors, CB1 and CB2, which are directly involved in all significant mechanisms of homeostasis.

To conclude, what are the effects of endocannabinoids?

As you will have realised by now, endocannabinoids and their functions underlie all those vital mechanisms determining the body’s general state of equilibrium.

Drugs and cannabis also interact with the cannabinoid system, determining the variation of specific physiological processes.

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