The endocannabinoid system (SEC) is a complex cellular signalling system identified in the early 1990s by researchers studying the THCa known cannabinoid. Cannabinoids are compounds found in the body, such as cannabinoids. cannabis.
Experts are still trying to fully understand the ECS. But so far, we know that it plays a role in the regulation of a number of functions and processes, including
- the dream
- the state of mind
- the memory
- reproduction and fertility
- SEC exists and is active in your body even if you do not use cannabis.
Read on to learn more about the SEC, including how it works and interacts with cannabis.
How does it work?
Endocannabinoidscannabinoids, also called endogenous cannabinoids, are molecules produced by the body. They are similar to cannabinoids, but are produced by your body.
Experts have so far identified two key endocannabinoids
- anandamide (AEA)
- 2-arachidonylglycerol (2-AG)
They help internal functions run smoothly. They are produced by the body as needed, so it is difficult to know what the typical levels of each are.
These receptors are found throughout the body. Endocannabinoids bind to them to signal the SEC to act.
There are two main endocannabinoid receptors:
- The CB1 receptorswhich are mainly found in the central nervous system
- The CB2 receptorswhich are mainly found in the peripheral nervous system, especially in immune cells.
The endocannabinoids can bind to either receptor. The resulting effects depend on the location of the receiver and which endocannabinoid it binds to.
For example, endocannabinoids may target the CB1 receptors of a spinal nerve to alleviate the pain. Others can bind to a receptor CB2 in the immune cells to indicate that the body is experiencing a inflammationa common sign of autoimmune disorders.
Enzymes are responsible for breaking down endocannabinoids once they have served their purpose.
There are two enzymes The main reasons for this:
- the amide fatty acid hydrolase, which breaks down fatty acid AEA
- the lipase monoacylglycerol acid, which usually decomposes the 2-AG
What are the functions?
The ESA is complicated, and experts have not yet determined exactly how it works and all its possible functions.
Scientists have linked SEC to the following processes:
- appetite and digestion
- chronic pain
- inflammation and other immune system responses
- state of mind
- learning and memory
- motor control
- the dream
- function of the cardiovascular system
- muscle formation
- bone remodelling and growth
- liver function
- function of the reproductive system
- function of the skin and nerves
- All of these functions contribute to homeostasis, which refers to the stability of the internal environment. For example, if an external force, such as pain from an injury or fever, disrupts the body's homeostasis, the ECS goes into action to help the body return to its ideal functioning.
Today, experts believe that the maintenance of homeostasis is the main function of the ESA.
The role of the SEC in learning and memory
We know that SEC plays a key role in learning and memory from several lines of research. The most obvious observation is that one of the main side effects of high doses of recreational cannabis use is the temporary impairment of short-term memory. Memory returns to normal with abstinence. There have also been some sophisticated studies on how humans respond acutely to the administration of THC (the active ingredient in cannabis) and the ways in which this alters both their ability to memorise things in the short term and the patterns observed in their functional brain images.
According to popular writer Michael Pollan, in his best-selling book The Botany of Desire, cannabis is one of the plants that humans have cultivated, or co-evolved with, for thousands of years. This is partly because, Pollan writes, the act of forgetting plays a valuable role in our brains' ability to function without being overloaded with the data from our senses with which we are continually bombarded. Pollan hypothesises that if we did not forget, we would not function, and cannabis helps us to do so. The role of SEC in forgetting also opens up opportunities for the treatment of PTSD, a condition in which there are unpleasant and intrusive memories that people cannot avoid recalling, and which cause a whole syndrome of disturbing and dangerous symptoms related to pathological remembering.
The role of the SEC on hunger and adjustment of weight loss drugs
The cautionary tale of the drug rimonabant, a drug that blocks the CB1 receptor, is an interesting example of the central role that the SEC plays in so many crucial functions. It was developed as an anti-obesity drug. The idea was that the SEC controls hunger. We know this because, among other lines of evidence, cannabis gives you "the munchies", so if you block the CB1 receptor it should cause weight loss. Rimonabant caused weight loss, quite successfully. But, because SEC also regulates mood, it had to be urgently withdrawn from the market because people taking it were becoming suicidal. However, we can imagine a case, as we better understand the complexities of SEC, where we can create a weight-loss drug that acts on the cannabinoid receptors that affect weight loss, but does not act on the receptors that control mood.
The exploration of the SEC can lead to the discovery of new drugs
The SEC study initially focused on attempts to understand (and demonise) an illegal drug, but new research has since blossomed into a much broader exploration of what is an amazingly intricate and far-reaching system by which our bodies learn, feel, motivate and keep themselves in balance. We are truly at the dawn of an era of SEC discovery and the development of new medicines that can help alleviate some of the cruelest diseases that people (and animals) suffer from. I am incredibly excited to see what discoveries await us as we continue to unravel the mysteries of the SEC.
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