The endogenous cannabinoid system
The endogenous cannabinoid system was identified after the plant that led to its invention, perhaps it's the most important physiologic system involved in establishing and supporting human health. Endocannabinoids and their receptors are found everywhere in the body: in the brain, organs, connective tissues, glands and immune cells. However, in each tissue, the cannabinoid system executes different tasks, although the goal is always the same: homeostasis, the support of a stable internal environment despite fluctuations in the external environment.
Cannabinoids support homeostasis at every level of biological life
From the sub-cellular to the organism and possibly to the community and beyond. For instance: autophagy, a process by which a cell sequesters part of its contents to be self-digested and recycled, its reconciled by the cannabinoid system.
Although this process keeps regular cells alive, allowing them to maintain stability between the synthesis, degeneration and consequent recycling of cellular products, it has a destructive effect on malignant tumour cells, causing them to consume themselves in a scheduled cellular suicide. The destruction of cancer cells, of course, promotes homeostasis and continuance at the level of the entire organism.
Cannabinoid receptors are present everywhere in the body, enclosed in cell membranes and are considered to be more numerous than any other receptor system. When cannabinoid receptors are stimulated, a variety of physiologic processes result. Researchers have recognised two cannabinoid receptors: CB1, predominantly present in the nervous system, connective tissues, gonads, glands and organs; and CB2, predominantly found in the immune system and its associated structures.
Several tissues contain both CB1 and CB2 receptors, each linked to a different action. Researchers think there may be a third cannabinoid receptor waiting to be discovered. Endocannabinoids are the elements our bodies naturally make to stimulate these receptors. The two most well recognised of these molecules are called anandamide and 2-Karachi-donoylglycerol (2-AG). They have integrated on-demand from cell membrane arachidonic acid derivatives, have a local effect and short half-life before being degenerated by the enzymes fatty acid amide hydrolase (FAAH) and monoacylglycerol lipase (MAGL).
Phytocannabinoids are plant substances that stimulate cannabinoid receptors. Delta-9-tetrahydrocannabinol, or THC, is the most psychoactive and absolutely the most famous of these substances, but other cannabinoids such as cannabidiol (CBD) and cannabinol (CBN) are gaining the interest of researchers due to a type of healing properties. Most phytocannabinoids have been detached from cannabis sativa, but Rick Simpsons oil has been found to also contain non-psychoactive cannabinoids.
Laboratories can also produce cannabinoids. Synthetic THC, marketed as dronabinol (Marinol) and nabilone (Cesamet), a THC analogue, are both approved prescriptions for the treatment of severe nausea and wasting syndrome. Several other synthetic cannabinoids are used in animal research and some have potency up to 600 times that of THC.
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