What Are Endocannabinoids?
According to the UCLA Health Cannabis Research Initiative, scientists discovered endocannabinoids in the 1990s. While researching the effects of marijuana on the body, they discovered that when it enters the blood stream, cannabis molecules (cannabinoids) mimic molecules that our bodies naturally produce. These molecules were, you guessed it, deemed endocannabinoids. Another way of putting it, endocannabinoids are molecules our bodies produce that are very similar to the cannabinoids cannabis produces.
Since then, they have been studying what these molecules do, how they function, and how they interact with the rest of our bodily systems. Researchers have also concluded that the endocannabinoid system is not unique to human beings but present in all vertebrate animals, including: mammals, reptiles, fish, birds, and amphibians!
Although they discovered endocannabinoids in the '90s, scientists discovered the endocannabinoid system is a neuromodulatory system only within the last decade. Specifically, they concluded endocannabinoids keep our internal ecosystems in a state of homeostasis. We know this sounds like a biology text book. Don’t worry. We are going to break it down for you as best as we can, because part of living well is knowing what is going on with our bodies.
What is neuromodulation?
This is a physical process in our bodies in which a neuron (a nerve cell) uses chemicals to regulate groups of other neurons. This sounds complicated, but you’re already familiar with neuromodulators, because they primarily deal with two main categories: how we feel and our inflammatory responses to various stressors. The most well-known neuromodulators include serotonin, dopamine, histamine and norepinephrine.
Wait. So what does the endocannabinoid system do?
Scientists discovered endocannabinoids are also neuromodulators. More than that, these receptors are present throughout our bodies, such as fat, skin, bones, organs and immune cells. It is believed the endocannabinoid system helps keep everything running smoothly. At any given time, our body is trying to manage the chaos of living a modern life. We are stressed, tired and dealing with various pollutants. Think about it: We are constantly breathing and consuming all sorts of material that our bodies have to filter and process—many things that weren’t even around 50 years ago.
Despite all that, our bodies keep going. But so much has to happen behind the scenes. Our systems have to work together to make sense of this chaos so that we can still function and feel good. When we are out of whack, we do not feel well, and our physical and mental health can suffer.
What is homeostasis?
Homeostasis refers to the maintenance and balance of living systems. To reach a state of homeostasis, a system must be balanced and functioning at steady, optimal levels. Think about it like a slot machine. You know how the images spin and spin but if the slots stop just above or just below the lines, you don’t win anything? Homeostasis is when everything lines up just right. We like that analogy, because when our bodies are at a state of homeostasis, we win. Feeling well and having our bodies functioning their best is truly the ultimate jackpot.
With all this in mind, scientists are continuing to study the cannabis plant (both marijuana and hemp varieties) for its cannabinoids (like CBD) and their potential benefits for the human body. The reasoning is, if our bodies naturally produce endocannabinoids to help us stay well, and cannabis plant cannabinoids mimic those molecules, perhaps supplementing our bodies with them can help us reach homeostasis and combat various ailments. That is why you keep reading about CBD being a miracle cure for all sorts of things.
However, while CBD may one day prove to be every bit as wonderful as we think it is, research is still ongoing. We say don’t believe the hype until we know more. Go with your own instincts and listen to your body. CBD impacts everybody differently, and like most things we consume, there is no way to know how it will impact your body until you try it.
Note: The information in this article is for educational purposes only. We are not making dietary recommendations, nor have these statements been evaluated by the FDA. Consume CBD at your own discretion. Our products are not intended to treat or cure any disease. Do not take if pregnant or nursing. Keep out of reach from children and pets.