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16 Aug

The Endocannabinoid System

During our medical training as Medical students, Residents, and Fellows, we were treating patients based on our knowledge of Anatomy, Physiology, Pharmacology, and Pathology.  In the Physiology portion of our training, we covered all the physiological systems in the body. However, the one physiological system left out of our education is the one system was the Endocannabinoid System (ECS).

The discovery of the molecules and the receptors to which they bind did not come until the 1990s in the laboratory of Dr. Rafael Mechoulam at the Hebrew University in Jerusalem.  What they found is that not only is the ECS INTEGRAL to all of our physiological systems, but that many pathologies in the human body can be associated with some sort of deficiency/defect in the ECS.

Dr. Mechoulam further defines the role of the ECS as helping the human body do 5 basic things:  eat, sleep, relax, protect, forget. Defects/deficiencies in those 5 basic functions have been helped, when phytocannabinoids (plant-based cannabinoids) are introduced and properly supplemented

Our ECS consists of cannabinoid-like molecules that our body produces called Anandamide as well as 2-AG.  The receptors are called CB1, CB2, and TRPV1 (CB3 ?). CB1 receptors are mainly found in the central nervous system (Brain & Spinal Cord).  CB2 receptors are found in the peripheral organs and the immune cells. TRPV1 receptors are found throughout the body. THC, which is structurally similar to Anandamide and 2-AG partially bind to the CB1 and CB2 receptor.  CBD, which does not bind directly to CB1 or CB2 works more indirectly on the cells and receptors.

Researchers are finding new things every day about this complex system of ours called the ECS.  The future looks bright in terms of the potential benefit this research can bring.

Article written by

Dr. Michael McKenzie, M.D.

Leafywell Advisory Board Member

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