There are many who really want to look after their health and with that in mind, there’s a biological system we should all become better acquainted with, regardless of age. One that since discovery in the 1980’s-1990’s barely gets taught at medical school, but one that performs an extraordinarily vital role in keeping our health in balance (homoeostasis). It’s called the Endocannabinoid System (ECS) and it is responsible for modulating, regulating and maintaining many physiological systems in the human brain and body including sleep, appetite, mood, immune system, reproduction, pain, inflammation and much more involved with everyday experience.
When scientists were first studying Δ-9-tetrahydrocannabinol (THC), they realised most mammals have a vast network of cannabinoid receptors throughout the brain, central nervous, immune and gastrointestinal systems. The discovery of receptors in the brain that respond pharmacologically to cannabinoids (chemical compounds that trigger cannabinoid and other receptors) and the subsequent identification of endogenous (endo meaning ‘within’ the body) cannabinoid compounds, endocannabinoids, which bind to these receptors and act like locks on the surface of cells waiting to be opened, has significantly advanced a better understanding of human biology, health and disease. The ECS has been likened to a dimmer switch, working to keep the primary functions within the body operating at optimum level.
Over 100 cannabinoids have been identified in the Cannabis plant. Of these molecules, THC and cannabidiol (CBD) have been studied most extensively along with the endocannabinoids, anandamide and 2AG. In recent years, scientists associated with the International Cannabinoid Research Society (ICRS have elucidated a therapeutic impact. Dr Sean McAllister and colleagues, California Pacific Medical Center, San Francisco laboratory, stated the best results were obtained when CBD was administered along with THC. Several studies underscore the therapeutic advantages for combining CBD and THC, particularly for treating peripheral neuropathy, a painful condition associated with cancer, multiple sclerosis (MS), diabetes, arthritis and other neurodegenerative ailments.
Clinical research conducted with GW Pharmaceuticals has also shown that CBD is most effective as an analgesic when administered in combination with whole plant THC. Unfortunately, through stresses of modern living (most in western ‘civilisation’ live in a toxic soup with faux food and synthetic ‘medicines’), the ECS can become depleted, meaning it cannot effectively carry out its role of bringing balance to the body. American Neurologist Ethan Russo termed this, ‘Clinical Endocannabinoid Deficiency’, suggesting it lies at the root of illnesses such as fibromyalgia, muscular sclerosis, IBD/IBS and migraines.
According to Dr Russo, “If you don’t have enough endocannabinoids you have pain where there shouldn’t be pain. You would be sick, meaning nauseated. You would have a lowered seizure threshold. And just a whole litany of other problems”. To strengthen the ECS, Dr Russo suggests ‘topping up’ the body’s endocannabinoids with cannabinoids derived from the cannabis plant (cannabis and hemp). This will restart the ECS, bringing homoeostasis. While this remains just a theory, the ability of the cannabis plant to re-calibrate the Endocannabinoid System can be demonstrated in cases of children suffering from extreme forms of epilepsy who have responded favourably to whole plant therapy.
To boost the Endocanabinoid System, you can try the following:
1. Exercise: Studies show that as well as releasing endorphins when we do cardiovascular exercise, the body produces the ‘feel good’ endocannabinoid, anandamide (the ‘bliss’ molecule), explaining the ‘runners’ high’.
2. Omega 3 (hemp is perfect): Vital to ECS health, without it scientists believe endocannabinoid CB1 receptors may not form correctly, potentially resulting in “impaired emotional behaviour”.
3. Cut Out Alcohol: studies show ethanol dampens the ECS. A great imperative to go dry. A good replacement for boozy alcohol could be one of an almost endless variety of herbal teas, many are low or zero caffeine and all can be sweetened naturally with home-grown Stevia perhaps or a little organic Honey or Maple syrup.
4. Augment Anandamide:proven to relieve stress-related affective and anxiety disorders. Cannabis may be an effective safe therapeutic strategy to mitigate adverse behavioural and physiological consequences of stress. Both THC and CBD are proven beneficial for the treatment of anxiety through several mechanisms.
5. Eat Your Greens: leafy green vegetables (including organic ‘home-grown’ Cannabis leaves) contain many therapeutically useful terpenes. A dietary cannabinoid (terpene) called beta-caryophyllene (BCP) has researchers attributing its anti-inflammatory effect to activation of the cannabinoid receptor CB2.
6. Terpenes: many found in Cannabis produce anti-anxiety effects by binding to receptor sites of the main inhibitory neurotransmitter in the brain, creating the same effect as benzodiazepines such as Xanax and Valium. Five different terpenes in cannabis provide anti-anxiety results: β-Caryophyllene (BCP), Limonene, Linalool, Pinene and Phytol.
7. Copaiba Essential Oil: has a high (45-55%) BCP content. Due to targeting CB2 receptors, BCP is an effective way to medicate while avoiding any alteration in perception or motor skills. It can be used to treat several inflammatory disorders, including arthritis, multiple sclerosis and colitis. BCP has been shown to fight cancer, reduce anxiety and is gastroprotective (used to treat ulcers). There is a mountain of evidence to support the use of BCP for easing tension and discomfort, providing protective effects for kidney and liver systems, providing protection against auto-immune disruptions, easing depressive feelings and even helping to abstain from unhealthy habits such as alcohol dependence. Copaiba also shows skin-enhancing benefits. Applied directly to acne pimples and scars, it reduces inflammation and speeds up skin healing.
Copaiba may afford even more relief due to there being no THC, it won’t give a false positive on a drug test. BCP’s are in plenty of foods and other essential oils but nowhere near the concentration nor purity found in Copaiba. According to Dr Ethan B. Russo in his 2011 study, published in the British Journal of Pharmacology, Taming THC: potential cannabis synergy and phytocannabinoid-terpenoid entourage effects;
“β-Caryophyllene is generally the most common sesquiterpenoid encountered in cannabis … Caryophyllene is anti-inflammatory … comparable in potency to the toxic phenylbutazone and an essential oil (EO) containing it was on par with etodolac and indomethacin. In contrast to the latter agents, however, caryophyllene was a gastric cytoprotective, as had been claimed in the past in treating duodenal ulcers in the UK with Cannabis extract. Caryophyllene may have contributed to antimalarial effects as an EO component. Perhaps the greatest revelation regarding caryophyllene has been its demonstration as a selective full agonist at CB2”.
Your Endocannabinoid System works tirelessly to keep you happy, healthy and on an even keel. Now you know, there’s no turning back. Be sure to look after your ECS and it will look after you.