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Human Endocannabinoid System

Our bodies are made up of a variety of systems. Some are commonly known. The digestive system, the cardiac system and so forth are things studied as early as elementary school. Some systems are less well known and have indeed only been recently… medically speaking… discovered.  The endocannabinoid system is one of the latter.

They found the human endocannabinoid system

As Bradley E. Alger, PhD said, “Despite records going back 4700 years about the medical uses of cannabis no one knew how it worked until 1964. There are a variety of reasons for that. Cannabis has been a political issue since the 1930's. Many politicians see it as a gateway drug or they have constituencies that believe that. It took the 2018 Farm Bill to remove hemp from the Class I drug list.

THC, or tetrahydrocannabinol is the mechanism that produces the high when smoking or otherwise ingesting cannabis. This brought about more studies in order to understand exactly how it works. 

Towards the end of the 1980's an American team of doctors discovered the receptor that binds with THC. It didn’t take long after that for the rest of it to be worked out and what they discovered was named after the plant that caused the studies. They found the human endocannabinoid system.

This endocannabinoid system is involved with almost every other system in the human body although it is considered part of the nervous system. As research continued they found that there were two receptors rather than just one. The first receptor was for THC. The second was for a compound they named Anandamide. The word is in part for Ananda, which means divine joy in Sanskrit and Amide acid.

Both receptors play important roles in the human body within the human endocannabinoid system.

CB1, which binds with THC, works mostly in the brain. One of the things it controls is food intake. Researchers in other countries developed a weight loss drug from it. In multiple studies that involved thousands of patients dramatic results came about. Not only did the patients lose weight and girth they did not have to go on intensively restrictive diets to do so.

There was a drawback. One in ten patients suffered side effects that included depression, anxiety and nausea. It should also be noted that none of the patients suffered from previously diagnosed mental disabilities such as depression. 

When the company that patented the drug applied to the FDA to start marketing it in the United States the FDA was skeptical. They have requested more studies be done. When these studies were done the side effects were much more prominent. This is because reducing CB1 may help with weight loss that is not the receptors only job. It also controls moods and the nausea reflex. These were bad enough that the company that sold the drug pulled it from the market.
One of the best uses for CB1 involves activating it rather than getting rid of it. Conditions such as anxiety, chronic pain, AIDS and the problems chemotherapy cause may be relieved by the use of cannabis. In this instance hemp is a better source as it does not produce the high that marijuana does.

CB1 may also be useful for post-traumatic stress disorder.

Fear is a learned response to negative stimuli. In a study involving mice those that were bred to not have this receptor could not learn that a negative stimulus was no longer a danger. 

The study had mice sitting on a floor with an electric grid. A tone was played just before and during a mild electrical jolt. When mice are scared they freeze. As they learned that the tone meant a jolt was coming they would freeze at the tone.

Mice that had the receptor could unlearn the fear response. Those without the receptor could not. This suggests that increasing the receptor in PTSD patients may help them recover.

CB2 receptors are not found in the brain. Instead they are found in the spleen and digestive tract. These receptors are responsible for appetite, immune function, inflammation and pain relief. CB2 is found more prominently in hemp. 

There are other big differences when it comes to the endocannabinoid system.

Most neurons are surrounded by water and do not thrive around lipids. The endocannabinoid system is lipid based. Also, neurons pass massages towards the next neuron in the chain. The lipid based system does it in reverse. This has made the study of it very interesting for scientists.

The next question is the route by which it is best used. Taking a pill is a lot easier than procuring and smoking hemp or marijuana. However there is a great potential for a fatal overdose. There is also the fact that it takes up to half an hour for a pill to start working with your endocannabinoid system. With inhalation it starts to work within seconds. The debate about problems of inhaling smoke is relevant but the truth is no one has died from an overdose of smoking hemp or marijuana.


1937 Marijuana Tax: Due to massive addiction and overdoses of drugs like heroin and morphine Congress began looking at other things to see if they needed a ban similar to that placed on the opiates. They placed a tax on all forms of cannabis making it nearly impossible to have or use legally. This tax was lifted in the 1960s.

2018 Farm Bill: This bill made it legal to grow, manufacture, buy, sell and use hemp throughout the United States.

Cannabinoids: Substances found in the cannabis family. Not all of them cause people to get high, but all work with your endocannabinoid system.

Lipid: These are fats used in the body for various things.

Sanskrit: An ancient language from India. Most of the liturgies of Hinduism are in Sanskrit.

THC: The substance in marijuana that causes people to get high.