How many different body systems can you name off the top of your head? The nervous system? The cardiovascular system? The digestive system? You can probably think of quite a few. Whether your list is long or short, it very likely didn’t include the endocannabinoid system.
Unlike most other major bodily systems, the endocannabinoid system, or ECS for short, was discovered very recently. In fact, scientists didn’t know it existed until the early 1990s when they stumbled upon it by accident while studying the effects cannabis has on the body. However, despite our limited knowledge of this system, researchers are quickly realizing the important role it plays in our everyday life.
GOLDILOCKS AND THE ENDOCANNABINOID SYSTEM
Components of the endocannabinoid system (ECS) can be found throughout the body. This system helps regulate our neural and physiological functions. The ECS keeps everything in check and helps maintain an internal balance called “homeostasis,” or “The Goldilocks Zone.” This internal balance is necessary for our bodies to stay healthy and function normally.
The ECS is made up of a variety of different components and receptors. The most well-studied receptors are the CB1 and CB2 receptors. CB1 receptors are primarily found along with the central nervous system, while CB2 receptors are located in the immune system and in other peripheral systems. These receptors respond to compounds that our body produces called “endocannabinoids.” When endocannabinoids interact with CB1 and CB2 receptors, they work together to regulate our other systems and maintain balance.
For example, if a neurotransmitter is sending out too many signals, the ECS will respond by sending endocannabinoids to receptors in the area to adjust the transmitter’s output. These adjustments interact with the neurotransmitter to help it function normally again. By doing this, the ECS helps maintain order among our internal systems and can prevent parts of our bodies from over- or under-functioning.
Because the ECS is so far-reaching, scientists have found that plays a part in maintaining the immune system, the reproductive system, the nervous system, etc. The endocannabinoid system keeps everything “just right,” so we can enjoy living happy, healthy lives.