For decades, doctors were taught in medical school that there were 11 major systems in the human body.
They are the circulatory, nervous, respiratory, urinary, reproductive, skeletal, muscular, endocrine, lymphatic, digestive, and integumentary (skin) systems.
All of these bodily systems have been known for a century or more.
But in 1988, scientists at St. Louis University School of Medicine announced the discovery of a 12th human body system. It’s called the endocannabinoid system (ECS).
It is a set of receptors that specifically respond to the natural compounds in cannabis.
“The endocannabinoid system may be the most important physiologic system in maintaining human health,” Dr. Dustin Sulak said. He is an integrative physician with practices in Massachusetts and Maine.
Scientists still don’t have a complete picture of all ECS functions. But they believe the system evolved to promote homeostasis.
“Homeostasis is the maintenance of a stable internal environment in your body despite fluctuations in the external environment,” Dr. Sulak explained.
The ECS has two types of nerve receptors, CB1 and CB2. CB1s are located in the brain. They regulate mood and sleep. CB2s are in all organs, including the brain. They regulate the chemical output of organs.
“CB1 and CB2 receptors keep your body in equilibrium by working with compounds that your body produces called endocannabinoids,” Dr. Sulak explained.
The primary endocannabinoids are anandamide and 2-AG. Anandamide is named after the Sanskrit word “ananda,” which means bliss, because it boosts mood. 2-AG is believed to affect organ function.
Your brain sends messages to your body through chemicals called neurotransmitters. Endocannabinoids send messages in the opposite direction—from your body to your brain.
When a bodily process is out of balance, enzymes upregulate anandamide and 2-AG. They bond with CB1 and CB2 receptors, which in turn instruct the brain to take corrective action.
The ECS is an internal regulator that makes sure you have the right levels of hormones, digestive enzymes, blood components, bone minerals, and other crucial biological materials.
“We do not have a full and complete picture of what the ECS does, but we do know that it helps fine-tune most of our vital physiological functions. It affects everything from sleep, appetite, pain, inflammation, memory, mood, and even reproduction,” Dr. Sulak said.
The ‘Tonic’ That Profoundly Improves Health
Dr. Ryan McLaughlin is a researcher who studies the ECS at Washington State University. He has found that your ECS changes during your lifetime. Your production of anandamide and 2-AG increases slowly during childhood, peaking during adolescence.
“Then, as we age, it’s on a steady decline,” Dr. McLaughlin said.
The decline makes your body less able to regulate itself and maintain its natural balance, he said.
What does all of this have to do with cannabis?
The endocannabinoids produced in your body are close chemical cousins to phytocannabinoids, the compounds in marijuana. CBD (cannabidiol) and THC (tetrahydrocannabinol) bond to the same CB1 and CB2 receptors as anandamide and 2-AG do.
So as you age, CBD and THC can compensate for a deficiency in anandamide and 2-AG.
“Small regular doses of phytocannabinoids can act as a tonic to our most central physiologic healing system,” Dr. Sulak said. “This can make profound improvements for a wide range of health conditions, and we’ve just begun to discover what they are.”
Editor’s Note: We have reviewed all recent cannabis research that has been published in scientific journals to answer two key questions: Which conditions do cannabis products help? And what’s the best way to use them?
You won’t get the answers in the mainstream media… But you’ll find them in the February issue of Independent Healing… It’s your best source for evidence-based, non-biased medical information.
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