oh high there
oh high there
Basic elements that we're going to cover here;
The physiology of all mammals, not just humans, features something called the Endocannabinoid System, or ECS. The ECS is a collection of microscopic receptors found on the surface of various cell types within the body.
Two types of ECS receptors have been discovered to date: CB1 and CB2. While both are found throughout the body, CB1 is concentrated in the Central Nervous System (the brain and spinal cord), while CB2 receptors are found mostly within the organs and tissues of the immune system.
Only certain types of molecules can fit into these specialized receptors. These chemicals, called cannabinoids, can be obtained from two sources: Your own body, or an outside plant source such as cannabis (yes – you read that right, we naturally produce cannabinoids in our own bodies). Cannabinoids produced within the body are known as endocannabinoids, while those obtained from plants like cannabis are called phytocannabinoids.
...9-syllable word in-coming...
Anandamide and 2-arachidonoylglycerol (2-AG) are the major endocannabinoids manufactured by the human body. The most well-known phytocannabinoids available from cannabis are tetrahydrocannabinol (THC) and cannabidiol (CBD). While these are the most common, dozens of other phytocannabinoids may be present in any given cannabis product that you consume, including:
Our biological systems actively maintain an ideal narrow range of conditions known as homeostasis (think Goldilocks). Our body doesn’t want its temperature to be too hot or too cold, blood sugar levels too high or too low, and so on.
The ECS is involved in critical physiological processes, including appetite, sleep, energy level and metabolism, pain sensitivity, memory, and mood.
Like a vitamin or mineral deficiency, a lack of cannabinoids within the ECS is called endocannabinoid deficiency.
People who, for whatever reason, are not producing enough anandamide or 2-AG themselves, can assist homeostasis by supplementing their ECS with cannabinoids from the cannabis plant, such as THC and CBD.
(It should be highlighted that similar molecules called terpenes also interact with the ECS, and the nuanced interaction between the different cannabinoids and terpenes in the ECS is referred to as the entourage effect. More on that in a later section)
Cause of Psychoactivity
The psychoactive/intoxicating/euphoria effect of cannabis is the result of THC molecules binding with CB1 receptors within the brain. The mechanism at work here is very rare and speaks to how special our body’s interaction with cannabis is. The blood/brain barrier is an extremely selective gatekeeping mechanism, and its major role of protecting the brain means that it allows very few molecules to pass through and into the inner sanctum of the brain.
CBD, on the other hand, attaches to both CB1 receptors and the CB2 receptors of the immune system, where it exhibits the greatest binding affinity.
We Need To Go Deeper
There's a lot to unpack just on this page alone, but now that you understand the basic interaction between the ECS and the phytocannabinoids found in cannabis, you can delve in to more advanced areas. These include the efficacy of different cannabinoids, as well as the nuanced interaction between cannabinoids and terpenes in the ECS (the “entourage effect”), including the "allosteric modulation" at work between CDB and THC at CB1 receptor sites.
Like Inception - you can always go deeper! If someone tells you that they know everything, then they probably don't. Cannabis consumption is inherently a personal experience, and you need to figure out what works best for you. Along with personal legalization of cannabis also comes the freedom to scientifically study the plant and it's relationship with human biology. That's exciting - and lots more knowledge will be made accessible in the coming years.