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What You Should Know About Your
Endocannabinoid System

by Dan Reich

Everyone (and every vertebrate, including most pets) has an Endocannabinoid System, or ECS. This system works much like the immune system to facilitate the body’s desire to stay in homeostasis, which means keeping things the way they are. If something becomes inflamed, the ECS tries to stem the inflammation and return the body to a non-inflamed state.

What makes this happen are chemical compounds known as endocannabinoids, which occur both naturally in the body and in the cannabis plant. The two best known are THC and CBD. Both provide documented health benefits, but the psychoactive properties of THC have caused it to be both embraced and demonized in modern America, despite 5000 years of medicinal use in other cultures. CBD, on the other hand, has become a growing phenomenon, equal parts miracle stories and hype.

Back to your body’s Endocannabinoid System. Unknown until the early 1990s, it’s a harder system to visualize than the skeletal system or the blood system, but it is essential nonetheless. Receptors in your central nervous system and other organs bind to these cannabinoids, which sets in motion processes believed to provide a staggering array of health benefits, including pain and inflammation relief, memory and mood elevation, appetite, stress reduction, and improved sleep, metabolism, immune function, and reproductive function.

So far, two different receptors have been discovered…C1 and C2. CB1 receptors are mostly found in the central nervous system, while CB2 receptors are mostly found in your peripheral nervous system, especially immune cells. Many scientists now view the ECS system as something that has evolved to help us benefit from cannabis. As Dustin Sulak, a renowned integrated medicine physician says, “Can an individual enhance his/her cannabinoid system by taking supplemental cannabis? Beyond treating symptoms, beyond even curing disease, can cannabis help us prevent disease and promote health by stimulating an ancient system that is hard-wired into all of us?”

Dr. Bradley Alger, author of Getting High on the Endocannabinoid System, has an excellent answer:

“The endogenous cannabinoid system—named for the plant that led to its discovery—is one of the most important physiologic systems involved in establishing and maintaining human health. Endocannabinoids and their receptors are found throughout the body: in the brain, organs, connective tissues, glands, and immune cells. With its complex actions in our immune system, nervous system, and virtually all of the body’s organs, the endocannabinoids are literally a bridge between body and mind. By understanding this system, we begin to see a mechanism that could connect brain activity and states of physical health and disease.”