Why does cannabis work for so many different kinds of ailments? It is due to its influence on the endocannabinoid system, perhaps one of the most important physiological systems involved in establishing homeostasis and maintaining health. The endocannabinoid system was identified in the early 1990s when researchers injected THC (one of the active compounds of cannabis) into humans and tracked its impact across the body.

The discovery of receptors that respond to cannabis on a pharmacological level led to the identification of cannabinoid compounds produced by our own bodies (called endocannabinoids) which also interact or bind to these receptors. Research on the endocannabinoid system and the cannabis plant has substantially evolved our understanding of human health and disease. The endocannabinoid system plays a crucial role in modulating many aspects of our biology, mood, and overall experience. There are currently more than 16,000 articles in Pubmed and Science Direct.

Cannabinoids, both produced by the cannabis plant and within our bodies, exist in order to help bring the body back into homeostasis. For example, inflammation within the body is essential for optimal function, but too much can lead to a wide variety of illnesses. The endocannabinoid system works to regulate inflammation, brain function, digestion, and many other physiological systems and bring them into balance. The main functions of the endocannabinoid system can be summarized as: relax, eat, sleep, forget, and protect.

  • Relax: The regulation of fight or flight response, emotional memory, pain response, and the reaction to stressors (physical, mental, emotional, or environmental)
  • Eat: Role on digestion, appetite, feeding, and metabolism
  • Sleep: Wake/rest patterns, the balancing of energy levels, and proper sleep function
  • Forget: Role on memory, response to fight or flight, and brain function
  • Protect: Regulates immune response, modulates inflammation, neuroprotection, and disease prevention

When any part of the endocannabinoid system is out of balance, it can result in a variety of illnesses. It is believed that Clinical Endocannabinoid Deficiency may be involved with some treatment-resistant ailments such as fibromyalgia, irritable bowel syndrome, and others. As we continue to investigate the cannabis plant, we may begin to see even more diseases that have roots in an endocannabinoid system imbalance. An increase of chronic illness is our society may be due to the absence of nourishing our endocannabinoid system. The good news is that a discussion of cannabis in your healthcare regimen can help to gauge whether or not it may benefit your wellness goals.

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