The endocannabinoid system or ECS is the main control system of cell-signaling to keep the body in homeostasis or our internal environment’s stability. This system was identified in 1992 by Lumier Hanus and William Devane after they isolated the human brain’s first known endocannabinoid.
What does ECS do?
ECS is active in your body even if you do not use cannabis and plays a role in regulating nearly all human functions, including sleep, mood, appetite, memory, reproduction and fertility, metabolism, cardiovascular system function, and learning. This system impacts conditions that each of us sees every day, such as inflammation, obesity, diabetes, anxiety, and chronic pain, to name just a few.
The ECS maintains balance in every system and between systems, so when these systems are out of balance or deficient such as in clinical endocannabinoid deficiency, many aspects of our health are negatively impacted.
We can have an overactive or underactive ECS. Underactive ECS may contribute to such conditions as pain, psychiatric illnesses, migraines, IBS, and fibromyalgia, while an overactive ECS may contribute to conditions such as obesity, metabolic syndrome, and hepatic fibrosis.
Main components of the endocannabinoid system
The ECS involves three main components: endocannabinoids, which are molecules made by our bodies, endocannabinoid receptors, and enzymes. Endocannabinoids identified by researchers so far are anandamide (AEA) and 2-arachidonoylglyerol (2-AG), and our bodies produce them as necessary.
The receptors CB1 and CB2 are found all throughout our bodies. Endocannabinoids bind to them to signal that the ECS needs to be activated. The enzymes are responsible for degrading the endocannabinoids once their functions have been carried out.
There is a research article published in April 2008 by Pubmed, “Clinical endocannabinoid deficiency (CECD): can this concept explain therapeutic benefits of cannabis in migraine, fibromyalgia, irritable bowel syndrome and other treatment-resistant conditions?”
It concludes that these conditions listed and related conditions display common patterns that suggest an underlying clinical endocannabinoid deficiency that may suitably be treated with cannabinoid medicines.
What is the role of CBD?
This brings us to the powerful promise of CBD (cannabidiol), one of the many different compounds known as cannabinoids found in oils of cannabis plants.
CBD is anti-inflammatory, antibacterial, antianxiety, and immunosuppressive, which is a strong indicator of the potential that could be unleashed. Most research to date on CBD has been limited to animals and test tubes, human trials are ongoing.
Still, the positive experiences of those around the world point to an exciting range of healing with few to no side effects that most pharmaceuticals are notorious for.
What does research show?
A research article published in Jan 2020, “The Endocannabinoid System: A Target for Cancer Treatment,” reports that cannabinoids target key signaling pathways affecting all cancer hallmarks.
This article also describes that cannabinoids show anticancer potential by modulating several cell growth pathways, differentiation, migration, and angiogenesis. It specifically speaks of gastrointestinal cancer, lung cancer, breast and prostate cancer, pancreatic and thyroid cancer, and brain cancer.
The conclusion is a strong suggestion in the ECS role in the pathogenesis of cancer and the evidence of cannabinoids targeting key signaling pathways affecting all characteristics of cancer. The article closes with future studies ideas, including the emphasis on administration routes, delivery schedules, and absorption of medicinal cannabis to fight and manage cancer.
It is evident that this is the time for further research and opportunities for clinical studies to show the effects of CBD in the treatment of many ailments.