What is the endocannabinoid system?
hen it comes to cannabinoid based medicine, people often think of the two major cannabinoids THC and CBD. Most people however, are unaware that the human body has its own system for processing and even creating its own cannabinoids known as the endocannabinoid system. The endocannabinoid system is found throughout the brain and nervous system and is involved with things like appetite, pain modulation, digestion, reproduction, motor learning, stress, and memory.
There are several different types of cannabinoids that the endocannabinoid system can act on.
Endocannabinoids – These are natural cannabinoids that your body produces on its own.
Phytocannabinoids – Phytocannabinoids are produced by the cannabis plant. This includes things like THC (tetrahydrocannabinol), CBD (cannabidiol), CBN (cannabinol), etc.
Synthetic cannabinoids – These are laboratory produced cannabinoids such as those found in your pharmaceutical products like nabilone or sativex.
A prescription for a cannabinoid product can sometimes help you make up a deficiency within your endocannabinoid system. If your body is not producing enough endocannabinoids then we can sometimes supplement the deficiency with those cannabinoids found in plants or created synthetically. Both endogenous (created within) and exogenous (external) cannabinoids bind with receptors in the endocannabinoid system. There are two primary types of receptors in the endocannabinoid system known as the CB1 and CB2 receptors.
CB1 receptors are typically found in the brain and throughout the nervous system. Cannabinoids that target these receptors can have an effect on motor learning, coordination, pain modulation and metabolism.
CB2 receptors are primarily found in the immune system and thus are thought to act in a primarily protective role.
Ultimately the interaction of cannabinoids with your cannabinoid receptors will determine how treatment will affect you as a medicinal cannabis patient. Due to the complexity of the endocannabinoid system, it may require trial and error to determine what product may best suit you.