Human beings began utilizing the cannabis Sativa plant hundreds if not thousands of years ago. Cannabis represents an incredible plant species that provides material for fabrics, food, medicine, and psychoactive properties.
For most of its existence, people used the cannabis plant without scrutiny or legal implications. The psychoactive properties of the marijuana plant prompted a campaign beginning in the 1930s to portray cannabis as harmful. The now cult classic film, Reefer Madness tried to convey that we would fail as a society if we gave in to the temptations of marijuana.
In addition to marijuana, the controversy also spread to the hemp plant. Though marijuana and hemp derive from the same species of the cannabis Sativa plant, significant differences exist. Tetrahydrocannabinol or THC represents the cannabinoid found in marijuana that sets it apart from the hemp plant. THC contains the psychoactive properties that gained popularity for the euphoric high it produces.
To qualify as hemp, a plant needs to contain less than.03% THC, while a marijuana plant has between.5 and 30% of THC.
Both hemp and marijuana contain hundreds of cannabinoids. THC, along with many other cannabinoids, contains healing properties. Cannabidiol or CBD, the prominent cannabinoid found in hemp, continues to gain popularity for its medicinal qualities.
As legislation continues to evolve, we hear more about advancements in both medical marijuana and the attributes of CBD. So, why do the cannabinoids in cannabis assist us with different ailments? Cannabis, when ingested or used, topically works with something called the Endocannabinoid System or ECS.
What is the ECS?
The endocannabinoid system or ECS consists of a series of small acidic endogenous molecules running throughout all body systems, including organs, tissues, muscles, bones, and blood. These molecules, otherwise known as endocannabinoids, consist of arachidonic acid, anandamide, and arachidonoyl glycerol.
The ECS represents the building blocks of what takes place in the bodies of all mammals, including the following:
- Cognitive ability
- Motor skills
- Bone growth
- Muscle formation
- Cardiovascular health
- Liver function
- Reproductive system
- Nerve function
- Pain and inflammation
- Mental wellness
Achieving balance or homeostasis represents the primary function of the ECS.
The discovery of the ECS:
One would think in a society filled with incredible technology and scientific discoveries that the ECS would make up part of our collective knowledge hundreds of years ago. Remarkably, the ECS remained undiscovered until 1992. The research commissioned in the 1980s involved finding the adverse effects of cannabis or, specifically, marijuana since cannabis carried the label of a schedule one narcotic.
The research took place at the St. Louis University School of Medicine with Allyn Howell and William DeVane as head researchers. While searching for answers as to how the receptors in the human brain responded to cannabis, they discovered the positive effects of cannabis on various body systems. The research evolved with scientist Raphael Mechoulam isolating anandamide, the first known cannabinoid, in 1992. The discovery of THC came soon after the 1992 discovery, which led to the naming of the ECS.
The ECS impacts the individual systems and dramatically affects the synergy of how everything involving our bodies works together.
How the ECS becomes compromised:
With the endocannabinoid system working to achieve balance, one might wonder why we ever get sick. Unfortunately, the ECS suffers compromise, also known as Clinical Endocannabinoid Deficiency. CED takes place when the body does not synthesize enough endocannabinoids.
Some challenges to the ECS include aging and inherited autoimmune conditions. While these disrupters occur naturally, others stem from poor lifestyle choices. Practices such as tobacco use and drug and alcohol abuse wreak havoc on the ECS. Our diets and exercise habits also come into play when supporting a healthy ECS. Stress or the production of cortisol also adds to the compromise of the endocannabinoid.
Cannabis and the ECS:
Choosing healthy habits will help maintain the endocannabinoid system. But the use of cannabis directly corrects the ECS when ingested or applied topically. The reason it works so well stems from the fact that the hemp plant possesses a system that mirrors the endocannabinoid system. The system known as photosynthesis keeps the plant alive and healthy.
When we introduce cannabis to our bodies, it goes to work at the cellular level by penetrating C1 and C2 cannabinoid receptors. The areas targeted will depend partially on the strain of hemp or marijuana used and what area or system needs assistance.
The ability of cannabis to target specific systems through the ECS explains why cannabis appears to help with so many ailments.
Using cannabis to help a compromised ECS:
Choosing whether to use hemp or marijuana, and the particular strain and concentration, will affect the results you achieve when combating a specific condition. Legislation continues to relax throughout the United States regarding the legal use of marijuana. Currently, fourteen states allow recreational use of marijuana, and thirty-four states include provisions for medical marijuana. Cannabidiol or CBD enjoys a legal status in all 50 states.
Each state dictates the procedures to receive a medical marijuana card, but products containing CBD come in various forms, including tinctures, capsules, topicals, and food products. It’s easy to purchase CBD products online or in stores.
Some ailments relieved by cannabis include:
- Some cancers
- Sleep disorders
- Weight management
- Anything inflammation-related
THC vs. CBD:
Both marijuana and hemp plants contain dozens if not hundreds of different cannabinoids with THC and CBD as the primary cannabinoid in each plant, respectively.
Though best known for its psychoactive properties, THC also boasts healing benefits. The development of tailored strains of marijuana likewise targets specific concerns. As it binds with the C1 cannabinoid receptors at the cellular level, marijuana contains anti-spasmodic and anti-nausea properties and helps with pain and nausea.
CBD binds primarily with the C2 cannabinoid receptors and non cannabinoid receptors and eases pain, stress, and conditions originating from inflammation. Another widespread use of CBD includes subduing the adverse side-effects that sometimes accompany marijuana, such as dizziness, confusion and memory loss, or an unwanted high feeling.
Dosing recommendation and things to know:
When using cannabis in any form to improve your health, following the recommendations of your healthcare provider or the manufacturer makes the most sense. If you feel you need to increase or decrease the dosage, do so slowly and incrementally. Remember that the cannabinoids work with your body and endocannabinoid, so pay attention to subtle differences.
Pregnant and lactating women should only use cannabis when instructed by a doctor. Of course, if you also take prescribed medication, check with a healthcare professional about any contraindications.
Compared to the litany of adverse side-effects that come with prescribed and over-the-counter medications, using CBD or medical marijuana for various health concerns represents a safe and effective choice. Recreational marijuana doesn’t come with the problems presented with other vices such as smoking and alcohol consumption. With tobacco and alcohol, you need to worry about everything from cancer to liver and kidney disease, not to mention possible addiction struggles.
Good health practices involving nutrition, adequate sleep, and stress reduction will assist the use of cannabis in helping the ECS achieve its homeostasis goal.
1. Does CBD make you high? No, CBD deriving from a hemp plant will not produce a high. To qualify as a hemp plant, it must contain less than.03% THC. Tetrahydrocannabinol or THC represents the cannabinoid in marijuana with the psychoactive properties.
2. Will cannabis cure my disease? There is no scientific claim that cannabis cures disease. Cannabis will work with the endocannabinoid system to achieve better health.