Cannabinoid and Endocannabinoid System
Welcome to part 1 of our Cannabinoid series, where we focus on each of the cannabinoids and their effects on our body.
Today, we will be introducing Cannabinoids in general and get into the details of the Endocannabinoid System.
Cannabinoids are naturally occurring compounds found in the Cannabis sativa family and the human body, which interact with cannabinoid receptors in our body.
Phytocannabinoids vs Endocannabinoids
The human body produces its own cannabinoids which are known as endocannabinoids. One of the most prominent endocannabinoids is Anandamide, derived from the Sanskrit word for bliss (Anand). Anandamide plays a key role in appetite regulation, cognitive memory, and neural generation of motivation and pleasure. The other important endocannabinoid is the 2-ArachidonoylGlycerol (2-AG) which controls our emotional states and regulates our cardiovascular health (Baggelaar et al., 2018). Your body naturally produces endocannabinoids, like Anandamide and 2-AG, on-demand.
Cannabinoids found in plants (such as Cannabis sativa family) are called phytocannabinoids. They assist the plant in various key roles, including deterring pests, conserving moisture, and formation of pollen. Phytocannabinoids work on the same receptors in our body that endocannabinoids bind to, and this mechanism allows cannabinoids secreted by cannabis plant to provide relief to an array of symptoms including pain, nausea, anxiety, and inflammation.
The ancient ayurvedic granthas mentions vijaya extract which comes from the cannabis sativa family. The wise sages of ancient India utilized this plant for curing various ailments and vijaya is mentioned as an ingredient in 191 formulations, which are described in the text as being effective against more than 29 disease conditions such as Grahani (Malabsorption syndrome), Jvara (Fever), Atisara (Diarrhoea), Agnimandya Ajirna ( Dyspepsia) Prameha (Urinary disorders), Sangrahani (irritable bowel syndrome), Shiroroga (Disease of head), Kasa (Cough), Kushtha (Diseases of skin), Pandu (anemia) Jvaratisra (Diarrhoea with fever) Shotha ( Inflammation), Shoola (Colicky Pain), Abhinyasa Jvara( Meningitis ), Hikka Shvasa (Hiccup, Dyspnoea /Asthma), Medoroga (Obesity), Sheetapitta (Urticaria) (Acharya et al, 2015) . It is apt that such a potent medicine is called Vijaya-a victor against many ailments and we are proud to revive the medical usage of this extract.
Both endocannabinoids and phytocannabinoids interact with the same receptors in the human body- CB1 and CB2, present throughout our central nervous system and immune system (Echo, 2017). These receptors are the binding site to which cannabinoids attach and interact. This whole network of binding sites (receptors) and chemical messengers (cannabinoids) is known as the endocannabinoid system.
Human Endocannabinoid System
There are two receptors that make up the main part of the human endocannabinoid system, called CB1 and CB2.
CB1 receptors target:
- Immune Cells
- Motor Activity
- Pain Perception
- Short Term Memory
CB2 receptors target:
- Adipose Tissue
- Cardiovascular System
- Central Nervous System
- Immune System
- Reproductive System
- Skeletal Muscle
|CB1 and CB2 Receptor location||Role|
Cerebral Cortex (Brain)
Decision making, cognition and emotional behaviour
Dorsal striatum (Brain)
Learning and memory
Globus Pallidus (Brain)
Regulation of voluntary movements
Link the nervous system to the endocrine system, body temperature, appetite
Regulates motivation, emotion, learning and memory
Plays an important role in reward, movement and addiction
Coordinating motor skills
Dorsal nucleus of vagus nerve (Medulla)
Emotion regulation, emesis
White blood cells (immune system)
Helps in developing immunity
Helps in digestion
The CB2 receptors are mainly found on white blood cells, in the tonsils, and the spleen. The immune cells also express CB1, although there are fewer of them than CB2. In the immune system, one important function of the cannabinoid receptors is in the regulation of cytokine release. Cytokines are signaling molecules that mediate and regulate immunity, inflammation, and hematopoiesis.
CB2 receptors response to cannabinoids allows cannabis-based medicines to counterbalance conditions of an overactive immune system, which includes arthritis, asthma, allergies, digestive issues, and autoimmune disorders (Lakiotaki et al., 2015).
CB2 doesn’t create the get high effect of CB1 and is therefore quickly emerging as a potential therapeutic target for treating inflammatory and neuropathic pain by doctors worldwide (Hourani & Alexander, 2018).
Cannabinoids in Ayurveda
The cannabinoids as we know them today are a recent discovery but the ancient ayurvedic granthas mentions vijaya extract- an extract derived from the cannabis sativa family. This extract contained a concentration of cannabinoids (THC,CBD,CBN,CBG) which made vijaya a versatile potent medicine.
The wise sages of ancient India utilized this plant for curing various ailments and vijaya is mentioned as an ingredient in 191 formulations, which are described in the text as being effective against more than 29 disease conditions such as Grahani (Malabsorption syndrome), Jvara (Fever), Atisara (Diarrhoea), Agnimandya Ajirna ( Dyspepsia) Prameha (Urinary disorders), Sangrahani (irritable bowel syndrome), Shiroroga (Disease of head), Kasa (Cough), Kushtha (Diseases of skin), Pandu (anemia) Jvaratisra (Diarrhoea with fever) Shotha ( Inflammation), Shoola (Colicky Pain), Abhinyasa Jvara( Meningitis ), Hikka Shvasa (Hiccup, Dyspnoea /Asthma), Medoroga (Obesity), Sheetapitta (Urticaria) (Acharya et al, 2015) . It is apt that such a potent medicine is called Vijaya-a victor against many ailments and we are proud to revive the medical usage of this extract.
Cannabinoids role in attaining a balanced endocannabinoid system
Modern western-led lifestyle has affected our body functioning and thrown them off balance. High-stress level, improper diet, irregular sleep cycle and lack of exercise affects the endocannabinoid system negatively. Alcohol and pharmaceutical drugs have also overstimulated our endocannabinoid receptors, which further causes addiction and dependence on these substances.
Cannabinoids present in the cannabis sativa family, especially CBD, helps in modifying CB1 receptors so that they are harder to over-activate. Over time these plant produced cannabinoids bring overstimulated receptors back to the normal level (Deutsch, 2016).
Can I reset my Endocannabinoid system back to normal without using Cannabinoids?
Yes, there are many ways to tackle the problem of our imbalanced endocannabinoid systems –
- Exercise – Medium intensity exercise done regularly helps regulate the endocannabinoids present in our body naturally. Regular exercise also reduces stress levels which help in resetting the endocannabinoid system faster.
- Meditation – Meditation helps in reducing stress levels by relaxing both our body and mind.
- Phytocannabinoids – Phytocannabinoids derived from plants other than the cannabis sativa family can be used. Other rich sources of phytocannabinoids include black pepper, nutmeg, ginger, cacao seed (read chocolate FIXES EVERYTHING), edible rosemary extract.
- Detox – Abstaining from drugs, alcohol, and recreational chemicals, which over-activate receptors, helps restore the receptors to their natural level.
As we can see the endocannabinoid system plays a crucial role in our body functions and general well-being. This makes understanding the Endocannabinoid system and the cannabinoids a key priority for us, as it enables us to unlock the various benefits the cannabis sativa plant has to offer.
We will continue our 7 part series on cannabinoids by covering the major phytocannabinoids and how best to use them for maximum benefit.
Stay tuned as we shift our focus to individual cannabinoids, and what better place to start than the most notorious cannabinoid known to mankind…..THC.
Acharya, R., Dhiman, K., Ranade A., Naik,R., Prajapati, S., & Lale, S.K. (2015). Vijaya (Cannabis sativa Linn.) and its therapeutic importance in Ayurveda; a review. ResearchGate. Link
Alexander, S. P. H. (2007). Cannabinoid Receptors. XPharm: The Comprehensive Pharmacology Reference. Link
Baggelaar, M. P., Maccarrone, M., & van der Stelt, M. (2018). 2-Arachidonoylglycerol: A signaling lipid with manifold actions in the brain. Progress in Lipid Research, 71, 1–17. Link
Deutsch, D. G. (2016). A Personal Retrospective: Elevating Anandamide (AEA) by Targeting Fatty Acid Amide Hydrolase (FAAH) and the Fatty Acid Binding Proteins (FABPs). Frontiers in Pharmacology. Link
ECHO Connection (2017). A Look at the Endocannabinoid System’s CB1 and CB2 Receptors. ECHO Connection. Link
Hourani, W., & Alexander, S. P. H. (2018). Cannabinoid ligands, receptors and enzymes: Pharmacological tools and therapeutic potential. Brain and Neuroscience Advances, 2, 239821281878390. Link
Lakiotaki, E., Giaginis, C., Tolia, M., Alexandrou, P., Delladetsima, I., Giannopoulou, I., Kyrgias, G., Patsouris, E., & Theocharis, S. (2015). Clinical Significance of Cannabinoid Receptors CB1 and CB2 Expression in Human Malignant and Benign Thyroid Lesions. BioMed Research International, 2015. Link
Mandal, A. (2019). News Medical Life Sciences. Cannabinoid Receptors. Retrieved from Link