What is the Endocannabinoid System?

Everyone has an Endocannabinoid System (ECS). In fact, every animal with a spinal column has an ECS. The ECS was discovered 30 years ago in the early 1990s and while we are still discovering what the ECS fully does we do now know that it interacts with a range of functions in the body including sleep, mood, appetite, memory, reproduction and fertility.

What are Endocannabinoids

Endocannabinoids are produced by your body to keep these functions running smoothly, and when a system is out of kilter your body will produce more. There are two endocannabinoids currently known, Anandamide (AEA) and 2-arachidonoylglyerol (2-AG). Endocannabinoids are fat-like molecules that are made within the cell membranes when interestingly they are only produced when needed and are not stored for later use like other molecules such as hormones.

What are Endocannabinoid receptors

There are two main types of receptors in your body. CB1 receptors found in your brain and central nervous system and CB2 receptors which are found in your immune cells and the peripheral nervous system.

Endocannabinoid System

Endocannabinoids can bind to either receptor and the resulting effects depend on where the receptor is located, for example if the receptor is in the spinal nervous system it might help with pain, alternatively if the receptor is in your immune cells it could help to ward off inflammation.

Have you heard the term ‘Homeostatis’?

Homeostatis is when your internal system is in perfect equilibrium. Think of old fashioned weighing scales where you had to find the perfect balance by adding more weight or taking weight away. Well your body works in the same way, if it is too hot it makes you sweat to cool you down. Experts think that the ECS is involved in maintaining and regulating your body’s homeostatis. The ECS has been linked to regulating chronic pain, inflammation, motor control, sleep, liver function and stress but there are many more functions that people think the ECS can effect.

What happens to the endocannabinoids when they have finished working?

The endocannabinoids don’t hang around in your body for long. The body produces metabolic enzymes that erase the endocannabinoids once they have done their job. There are two different enzymes, Fatty Acid Amide Hydrolase that breaks down the AEA endocannabinoid and the Monoacylglycerol Lipase that breaks down the 2-AG. These enzymes ensure that Endocannabinoids get used when they’re needed but not for longer.