Endocannabinoids are naturally occurring compounds in the human body that interact with the endocannabinoid system (ECS). This system plays a crucial role in maintaining the body’s internal balance, or homeostasis, regulating functions such as mood, appetite, sleep, immune response, and pain.
Endocannabinoids and Their Function
The two primary endocannabinoids are anandamide and 2-arachidonoylglycerol (2-AG). These compounds are synthesized on demand in response to an imbalance in the body, and they interact with the ECS through cannabinoid receptors found throughout the body.
- Anandamide: Often referred to as the “bliss molecule,” anandamide is associated with feelings of happiness and well-being. It also plays a role in memory, motivation, and pain relief.
- 2-AG: This endocannabinoid is present at relatively high levels in the central nervous system and has been found to play roles in immune system function, pain management, and inflammation, among others.
Interaction with Cannabis
When cannabis is consumed, the cannabinoids in the plant (such as THC and CBD) interact with the same cannabinoid receptors in the ECS as endocannabinoids do. This is why cannabis has such a wide range of effects on the body.
For example, THC, the psychoactive compound in cannabis, binds to CB1 receptors in the brain, leading to the “high” associated with marijuana use. CBD, on the other hand, doesn’t bind directly with CB1 or CB2 receptors but instead influences the ECS to use its endocannabinoids more effectively.
Endocannabinoids are a crucial part of the body’s ability to maintain homeostasis. Understanding their function and how they interact with cannabinoids from cannabis is key to unlocking the potential therapeutic uses of cannabis.