As you begin to learn about CBD and how cannabis and its compounds (phytocannabinoids) affect the body, you may have stumbled upon yet another unfamiliar bit of hemp-centric vocab: Endocannabinoid System.
Fun fact: your body actually has a physiological system designed to receive cannabinoids, including CBD. Wild, right? The ECS (Endocannabinoid System) is essentially a regulatory system — it helps other systems in the body maintain balance and keep homeostasis.
The system itself comprises receptor cells (in addition to chemical messengers) which are found throughout the body in your central and peripheral nervous systems (CNS and PNS). These cells are called CB1 and CB2. They’re in the brain, the skin, and various organs helping to transmit messages. Though there’s not a ton of research on it just yet, there is some, and as far as we know CB1s are mostly found in the nervous system and brain and CB2s are in peripheral organs and immune cells.
When you ingest cannabis, the compounds (phytocannabinoids) bind to these receptor cells to deliver those specific messages and signals, which help your body do different things (think: reduce anxiety and stress response, reduce inflammation, go to sleep, etc).
This is the basis for how CBD helps so many different ailments, and explains why we can put a few drops of CBD Tincture under our tongue and experience anything from intense anxiety relief to improved immune function. So why haven’t we known about this system? We all took biology in grade school, right? We learned about the digestive tract, the cardiovascular system, but… why not this system?
Until recently nearly all medical schools in the US skipped teaching the ECS in their curriculum. This is multifold. For one, cannabis has been illegal for nearly a century thanks to government prohibition. So if a doctor wanted to prescribe cannabis to regulate an out-of-alignment endocannabinoid system, they’d be unable to do so (legally, that is). Second, because of prohibition, scientific research has been extremely limited.
Fortunately now thanks to changing legislation, research in this field is exploding. This means not only will we have more medical knowledge of how this system works, but how we can keep it healthy and balanced.
As far as managing that now, CBD is only one piece in the endocannabinoid puzzle. You can take your CBD as needed for ailments like sleep, inflammation, pain, and mood disorders — but continually focus on all aspects of your health. Sleep well and on a consistent schedule; fuel your body with nutritious and clean foods and avoid junk; exercise regularly and recover after tough workouts; get fresh air whenever possible and mitigate screen time; spend time with loved ones and attend therapy sporadically to keep your brain in tip top shape.
Just like the ECS is one part of a cohesive network of systems within the body, CBD is one part of how you treat your body and keep it healthy. It fits perfectly into your healthy lifestyle, but isn’t a standalone! Keep up the rest of the good work on your wellness routine, and you’ll likely see even better results from your favorite plant-based medicine.