Endocannabinoids: How Do They Impact Digestion?
You may have seen a recent Facebook post where bees are being used to make a new type of cannabis infused honey. It’s all the rage lately and has created quite the stir, getting a lot of attention throughout social media. While this new honey is THC based (using bees natural tendency to harness nectar in honey making) rather than CBD based, it led me to question why we have an endocannabinoid system in the first place. Why can we process both tetrahydrocannabinol (THC, Δ 9 -THC, or Δ 9 -tetrahydrocannabinol) and cannabidiol (CBD)? Where does this system of receptors come from? What role does it play? What’s the evolutionary benefit? Why do we have this system, but bees don’t? Most evolutionary traits, like the ability to taste sour, for example – which happens in an entirely different way than we taste everything else – come from some beneficial trigger in nature. Sour is independent of other tastes because it represents a potentially rotten food. While the other flavor profiles – sweet, salty, savory and bitter – may still be intact, a sour taste indicates a food past its prime. So why an endocannabinoid system? What does it do for us? It turns out, the endocannabinoid system is a central regulatory system that affects a wide range of biological processes. It consists of a group of molecules known as cannabinoids, as well as the cannabinoid receptors that they bind to. Decades of scientific research on the endocannabinoid system have resulted in the discovery of two types of cannabinoid receptors, CB1 and CB2. These receptors are found in many parts of the body – including the peripheral nervous system, cardiovascular system, reproductive system, and gastrointestinal and urinary tracts – but are most prevalent in the brain and immune system. Although marijuana is a source of over 60 different cannabinoids (including THC and CBD), the human body itself produces a number of its own cannabinoids, as well. These endogenous cannabinoids (growing or produced by growth from deep tissue) include anandamide and 2-arachidonoylglycerol (2-AG) and are present in all human beings. Cannabinoid receptors act as binding sites for endogenous cannabinoids, as well as the cannabinoids found in marijuana. When cannabinoids bind to CB1 or CB2 receptors, they act to change the way the body functions. Interestingly, the endocannabinoid system is not unique to the human species. Research has shown that this system is actually common to all vertebrate animals – and even some invertebrate ones, too – suggesting its significance in the process of evolution. Experts believe that natural selection has conserved the endocannabinoid system in living organisms for over 500 million years. With such a long-held evolutionary backing, experts are now starting to think that its overall function is to regulate homeostasis – a key element in the biology of all living things, best described as the ability to maintain stable internal conditions that are necessary for survival. Disease is simply a result of a failure in achieving homeostasis. A primary example of the endocannabinoid system’s role in homeostasis comes from research that has identified an overexpression of cannabinoid receptors in the tumor cells of various cancer diseases – including lung cancer, liver cancer, breast cancer and prostate cancer. Experts also believe that the overexpression of cannabinoid receptors is an indicator of the endocannabinoid system’s role as a biological defense system, providing strong support for the use of medical marijuana (again, both CBD and THC). In recent years, researchers from all over of the world are starting to accept the huge medical potential of the endocannabinoid system. Summarized in a 2006 review by the National Institutes of Health (NIH): “In the past decade, the endocannabinoid system has been implicated in a growing number of physiological functions, both in the central and peripheral nervous systems and in peripheral organs… modulating the activity of the endocannabinoid system turned out to hold therapeutic promise in a wide range of disparate diseases and pathological conditions, ranging from mood and anxiety disorders, movement disorders such as Parkinson’s and Huntington’s disease, neuropathic pain, multiple sclerosis and spinal cord injury, to cancer, atherosclerosis, myocardial infarction, stroke, hypertension, glaucoma, obesity/metabolic syndrome, and osteoporosis, to name just a few…” Of course, if you don’t want to wait around for another ten years’ or so worth of research – or have already read through our many blog posts on the matter – you can find a great selection different types of CBD products here on DiscoverCBD.com