The endocannabinoid system is a biological system that plays an important role in the human body. She is also responsible for the physical and psychological effects of cannabis.
Scientists first discovered the system, trying to understand the mechanisms of cannabis exposure, and for this reason called it the endocannabinoid system.
“Endo” means endogenous – arising, developing in the body due to internal causes. Cannabinoid belongs to the group of compounds that activate this system.
The endocannabinoid system is the main goal of medical research because of its wide distribution and therapeutic potential. Although scientists have sorted out the basics of this fascinating system, much remains to be seen.
What are cannabinoids?
Cannabinoids are chemical messengers for the endocannabinoid system. Although there are many different cannabinoids, they all fall into two categories: endogenous or exogenous.
Endogenous means occurring inside the body. Also known as endocannabinoids, these compounds are naturally formed by the human body. They interact with cannabinoid receptors to regulate basic functions, including mood, memory, appetite, pain, sleep, and more.
Exogenous agents arise outside the body. Cannabinoids found in marijuana, such as tetrahydrocannabinol (THC) and cannabidiol (CBD), are considered exogenous. When consumed, they also interact with cannabinoid receptors to create physical and psychological effects in the body.
What are cannabinoid receptors?
As their name implies, receptors are message receivers. Messages come in the form of chemical messengers binding to the receptor. These messages create a characteristic effect in the body.
The endocannabinoid system has two receptors: CB1 and CB2. Each receptor responds to different cannabinoids, but some cannabinoids can interact with both.
The distribution of CB1 and CB2 receptors in the body and brain explains why cannabinoids have certain effects.
CB1 receptors are found throughout the body, but are mainly present in the brain and spinal cord. They are concentrated in areas of the brain associated with influenced behavior.
For example, CB1 receptors associated with the regulation of appetite are located in the hypothalamus. The same receptors were also found in the amygdala, which plays a role in memorizing and emotional processing of information. CB1 receptors are also found in nerve endings, where they are involved in the suppression of pain.
CB2 receptors are usually found in the peripheral nervous system and are particularly concentrated in immune cells. When CB2 receptors are activated, they contribute to the removal of inflammation. Inflammation is an immune response that is believed to play a key role in many diseases and conditions.
As for cannabinoids found in cannabis, the researchers found that THC binds to the CB1 and CB2 receptors, activating them the same way as endocannabinoid.
CBD does not bind directly to cannabinoid receptors. Instead, CBD works by inhibiting an enzyme called FAAH (Fatty acid amide hydrolase), which is responsible for the destruction of anandamide, the most important endocannabinoid in the body. When FAAH is inhibited, it cannot destroy anandamide at a normal rate. This leads to anandamide accumulation in the brain.
What are endocannabinoids?
Endocanabinoids are cannabinoids produced naturally in the human body. 2-AG (2-arachidonoylglycerol) and anandamide are the two main endocannabinoids that scientists are aware of.
Anandamide was the first endocannabinoid identified by scientists. Opened in 1992, its name comes from the Sanskrit word “ananda”, meaning “bliss,” with a hint of its unique effects on the mind and body. In 1995, scientists discovered a second endocannabinoid and named it 2-AG (2-arachidonoylglycerol).
The highest concentrations of 2-AG are in the brain, while anandamide accumulates in other areas of the body. Both are able to bind to receptors CB1 and CB2, but differ in similarity with these receptors (this determines the degree of probability of communication and activation of each receptor by a certain cannabinoid).
Endocannabinoids are “short-term” neurotransmitters, that is, they are synthesized on demand. In other words, endocannabinoids are produced only when the body signals that they are necessary and their presence is temporary.
After release, endocannabinoids are rapidly destroyed by enzymes that include FAAH (fatty acid amylahydrolase) and MAGL (monoacylglycerol lipase).
In contrast, when you consume marijuana, large amounts of cannabinoids enter the body and “stick”. This means that the endocannabinoid system is activated more and longer than usual.
Other endocannabinoids are currently being studied, including noladine ester, virodhamin and N-arachidonildopamine (NADA). However, their role in the body is not yet fully understood.
Functions of the endocannabinoid system
The endocannabinoid system is involved in the regulation of many of the main functions of the human body, including:
Appetite Metabolism Pain Sleep Mood Mobility Temperature Memory and learning Immunity Inflammatory processes Neural development Neuroprotection Cardiovascular function Digestion Reproduction
In addition to maintaining core functions, the endocannabinoid system also responds to diseases.
For example, it has been shown that tumor cells express more cannabinoid receptors than healthy cells. Studies also show an increase in endocannabinoid levels in patients with various disorders, such as Parkinson’s disease, anxiety, chronic pain, and arthritis.
As a result, some scientists believe that the overall function of the endocannabinoid system is to regulate homeostasis.
Homeostasis is a key element in the biology of all living things. It is best called the ability to maintain a stable internal environment necessary for survival.
The disease is largely a failure in the body’s attempt to achieve homeostasis. Thus, the role of the endocannabinoid system in maintaining homeostasis makes it a unique and promising goal in medicine.
Endocannabinoid system in medicine
Because of its widespread effect on the human body, it is believed that the endocannabinoid system in the future can greatly facilitate the treatment of many diseases and conditions. In recent years, scientists have been studying various ways of targeting this system.
Currently, there are two main ways to stimulate the endocannabinoid system: medical marijuana and synthetic cannabinoids.
Medical marijuana is the most common way of targeting the endocannabinoid system for treating various diseases. It is known that compounds in marijuana, including THC and CBD, have a therapeutic effect by interacting with the endocannabinoid system.
Medical marijuana can be prescribed in a wide variety of cases, including chronic pain, nausea, multiple sclerosis, epilepsy, and palliative care.
Despite the success of medical marijuana, some users experience unpleasant side effects, such as feeling intoxicated. Some people do not use the psychoactive effects of cannabis and prefer a treatment that avoids it.
Synthetic cannabinoids are molecules that are designed to mimic the activity of existing cannabinoids. These compounds can be targeted to the endocannabinoid system in a more specific and effective way.
For example, Dronabinol is a synthetic version of THC that can be assigned to cancer and AIDS patients to combat nausea and loss of appetite. Cesamet is another synthetic cannabinoid that is similar to THC. It is used to reduce vomiting in cancer patients and to treat pain with several disorders, including fibromyalgia, multiple sclerosis, Parkinson’s disease and chronic pain.
In addition to emulating the effects of cannabinoids, such as THC, synthetic cannabinoids can also be developed to target certain parts of the endocannabinoid system, while avoiding others.
For example, researchers are currently investigating whether the endocannabinoid system can be peripherally directed using synthetic cannabinoids that cannot cross the blood-brain barrier. This would avoid the negative side effects of cannabinoids entering the central nervous system and affecting the brain (i.e. high).
In general, the endocannabinoid system is truly a treasure trove for scientists and medical professionals. It is extremely complex, plays an important role in many vital processes, and promises to be an effective means of treating many serious conditions.
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