The Endocannabinoid System

To understand how cannabidiol (CBD) works you must understand the endocannabinoid system (ECS).
We all have an endocannabinoid system, as do all mammals, birds, reptiles, and fish. Even amphibians seem to have a primitive version. The system is not exactly the same in all animals so we will deal only with the system in humans which is much the same as in all mammals, so also the same as your dog or cat.
The endocannabinoid system is internal to the body
which is why it has the prefix ‘endo’ from the Greek
word meaning ‘within, inner, absorbing, or containing’.
It consists of endocannabinoids, cannabinoid receptors
and enzymes.
Endocannabinoids are fatty substances or oils in
microscopic quantities which interact or bind with
cannabinoid receptors.
Cannabinoid receptors are membranes in our body’s
cells that enable signals to be passed back and forth.
There are CB1 and CB2 receptors in the central nervous
system and CB2 receptors in the immune and gastrointestinal
system. Scientists have suggested that there
is a CB3 receptor but this is still theory at present.
The enzymes are responsible for the manufacture and
disposal of endocannabinoids.
Our body manufactures endocannabinoids in order to
pass messages concerning functions such as
pain, inflammation, memory, appetite and mood.
CBD is a phytocannabinoid, that is it is a substance
derived from a plant (phyto) that interacts with the
cannabinoid receptors found in the body. Most phytocannabinoids
are from the cannabis plant although some other plants such as echinacea and cocoa also contain cannabinoid-like substances.
So CBD and other phytocannabinoids can affect
our body in the same way as endocannabinoids.
The science is not yet clear whether phytocannabinoids
can replace or substitute for endocannabinoids but it
seems to make logical sense. Remember though that
when you ingest CBD, even in small doses, these are
massively greater than the microscopic quantities of
endocannabinoids.
In theory then (and from actual experience), phytocannabinoids
can affect pain, inflammation,
memory, appetite and mood. Remember though that
the effect can work either way. For example, scientists
are working hard to research how cannabinoids can
reduce rather than increase pain and inflammation
and have a beneficial effect on our memory and mood.
So it’s pretty clear that our endocannabinoid system
is very important to our health and wellbeing.
All the more remarkable then that it was only discovered
in 1988 by an Israeli scientist named Raphael Mechoulam
and 30 years later most doctors do not receive any
training in it. Medical schools have yet to catch up with
the science.
Just how important the endocannabinoid system is
has been well expressed by Dr David Allen, an
eminent cardiac surgeon and cardiologist. He
describes it as “the most important discovery in
medicine since the invention of sterile surgery
technique.”