The Butler Hemp Co. Team
If you were asked to name the two most well-known cannabinoids, what would you guess? If you said THC and CBD, ding ding ding! And by now, you've almost certainly heard or read about the health and wellness benefits that these, and many other cannabinoids, can potentially offer when used on a regular basis. But it wasn't until fairly recently (within the last 30 years!) that researchers exploring the effects of cannabis identified a cell-signaling system in the body that is responsible for regulating many of our super-important daily functions. Enter, the endocannabinioid system, or ECS. Studies have shown that the ECS plays a role in regulating everything from sleep cycles, mood, and appetite to our memory function, reproductive systems, and pain responses. And, more amazingly, all animals (both vertebrates and invertebrates alike) have been found to have endocannabinoid systems (some more elaborate than others)...which is why there are studies that show dogs can benefit from CBD just like humans do.
The way that it works is this: the ECS produces molecules called endogenous cannabinoids; these are made "as needed" by the body to keep all systems running smoothly. We also have endocannabinoid receptors (known as CB1 and CB2 receptors, depending on where they're found) located throughout our bodies, which the naturally produced endogenous cannabinoids can bind to, thus triggering the ECS to take action. Maybe you have a pinched nerve in your back and your ECS produces an endocannabinoid to bind to that receptor and relieve the pain...or you experience an auto-immune disorder such as fibromyalgia or rheumatoid arthritis and have swelling and pain in your knee? You guessed it--your ECS produces a molecule to bind to that receptor and offer an anti-inflammatory response. So where does THC and CBD come into play in all this?
Scientists have learned that THC binds to ECS receptors the same way that our naturally produced endocannabinoids do, and can inhibit pain, stimulate appetite, and help with inflammation or swelling. Since it's a psychoactive cannabinoid, though, it can also cause unwanted anxiety or paranoia for some users.
Recent studies have shown that CBD affects our ECS positively without these unwanted side-effects, though maybe not in the same way as THC. While scientists know that CBD doesn't bind to ECS receptors like THC, they believe that it works by preventing breakdown of our naturally-produced endocannabinoids, allowing them to stay in our bodies longer and work harder to fight pain & inflammation, stabilize mood and sleep patterns, and assist in many other functions. Some researchers believe that there is an undiscovered receptor in our bodies that CBD binds to, the same way as THC does-there are still many studies being conducted and there's much to learn about this still poorly understood system. It is believed that an endocannabinoid deficiency might be responsible for development of auto-immune disorders, but this theory needs much more research and understanding before CBD and THC can be used as definitive treatment or prevention methods. This is why it is important for us in the hemp and cannabis industry to be proponents of scientific research and funding for programs designed to uncover the benefits and uses of our favorite friendly plants.
Peter Grinspoon, M. D. (2021, August 11). The endocannabinoid system: Essential and mysterious. Harvard Health. Retrieved December 3, 2021, from https://www.health.harvard.edu/blog/the-endocannabinoid-system-essential-and-mysterious-202108112569.
Raypole, C. (2019, May 17). A Simple Guide to the Endocannabinoid System. Healthline. https://www.healthline.com/health/endocannabinoid-system#deficiency
Zou S, Kumar U. Cannabinoid Receptors and the Endocannabinoid System: Signaling and Function in the Central Nervous System. Int J Mol Sci. 2018;19(3):833. Published 2018 Mar 13. doi:10.3390/ijms19030833