by Derek Bell
Roughly 35 years ago, scientists discovered a new biological system: the human endocannabinoid system (HEcS). This late 20th century breakthrough shifted our paradigm of human physiology and health.
Research since then has demonstrated that the HEcS safeguards biological homeostasis. Homeostasis (in a nutshell) means the body keeps internal conditions constant – not too hot or too cold, for example. The HEcS interacts with systems in the body to stabilize internal conditions. It may relieve pain and stress, help regulate hormones, reduce inflammation, and promote peak health and wellness.
CB1 & CB2 Receptors
The HEcS accomplishes its tall tasks through two main receptors known as cannabinoid type 1 (CB1) and cannabinoid type 2 (CB2). CB1 receptors are mostly found on nerve cells, especially in the brain. CB2 receptors are mostly found on immune cells. These receptors are present in many organ systems throughout the body (see diagram). Positioned on cells, they tune into conditions outside of cells and help them respond. If a stressor is present, the HEcS answers by creating cannabinoids to restore homeostasis.
Source: Global Cannabinoids
Cannabinoids & Deficiency
The body does make its own cannabinoids. The two primary endocannabinoids are anandamide and 2-arachidonoyl glycerol (2-AG). They are ‘made to order’ in the body as required and rapidly cleared by enzymes.
But many people may actually be deficient. Clinical endocannabinoid deficiency refers to a deficiency of cannabinoids that can contribute to a plethora of health and wellness issues, including migraine and irritable bowel syndrome. Even in the absence of a specific illness, deficiency creates a decline in overall health. Deficiency could be related to diet, genetics, and other factors.
There are three types of cannabinoids that can activate or influence cannabinoid receptors (CB1 and CB2):
- Lipid endocannabinoids (anandamide and 2-AG): the body produces these when needed but clears them quickly
- Phytocannabinoids: abundant in the leaves/flowers of cannabis (e.g., CBD)
- Synthetic cannabinoids: created in laboratories
Advantages of full spectrum phytocannabinoids include that they are easily available, completely natural, safe, and generally more effective than isolated synthetic molecules. Supplementation with full spectrum phytocannabinoids may kick-start optimal health by invigorating the HEcS and providing much needed cannabinoids – and relief.