The endocannabinoid system (ECS) may explain multiple illnesses that up to now have had no established cause. Learn more!
Endocannabinoid System Explained
Top headlines from the late ’80s included the fall of the Berlin Wall, the inauguration of George H. W. Bush senior, and the conviction of Oliver North in the Iran-Contra Affair. But one pivotal news story, still largely overlooked today, was ignored: the discovery of a new system in our bodies that is a central component to health and healing.
It’s called the endocannabinoid system (ECS), and scientists now recognize that the ECS plays a direct role in homeostasis, which means it regulates every metabolic process in the body to keep things running as they should. However, it’s estimated that 20 to 30 percent of the population has deficiencies in their ECS, a condition known as clinical endocannabinoid deficiency (CECD), which can lead to a number of ailments such as irritable bowel syndrome, fibromyalgia, and migraines.
Factors believed to bring on CECD include poor diet, insufficient sleep, lack of exercise, and stress.
“I would also (add) environmental toxins, such as pesticides and phthalates,” said Stephen McCamman, co-founder of the Clinical Endocannabinoid System Consortium.
In general, McCamman believes these factors are associated with the American lifestyle.
Fortunately, there are ways to boost deficient endocannabinoid systems. Not surprisingly, the cannabis plant is the cornerstone.
Bridging Mind And Body
To understand how to fix your ECS, it’s important to get a good sense of the basic science behind it. The endocannabinoid system consists of endogenous cannabinoid receptors located in the brain, bones, liver, nervous system, immune system, muscles, pancreas, and adipose tissue (fat). The receptors regulate these tissues by producing chemical compounds known as cannabinoids.
With too few cannabinoids, the endocannabinoid system works less efficiently, which can result in a whole slew of health problems, such as arthritis, obesity, anxiety, auto-immune disorders, depression, autism, hyperactivity, stuttering, ADHD, OCD, and eating disorders.
Research indicates that cannabinoids also help mediate pain from an injury or disease by stabilizing nerve cells to prevent excessive firing. Cannabinoids are also believed to have a deadly effect on malignant tumor cells, causing them to consume themselves in a programmed cellular suicide.
Cannabis: The New Yet Ancient Miracle Medication?
So what do you do if you have an inefficient endocannabinoid system that’s in need of more cannabinoid production? This question has taken a while to answer, but modern researchers are now turning to the same plant people have been using for thousands of years—the cannabis plant.
Cannabis, as well as medicinal herbs such as echinacea, flax and liverwort, produce cannabinoids known as phytocannabinoids which stimulate cannabinoid receptors. THC (Delta-9-tetrahydrocannabinol), which comes from the dried flowers of the cannabis plant (marijuana), is the most well-known phytocannabinoid, associated with creating a high. Since research on how THC interacts with the body led to the discovery of the endocannabinoid system (ECS), the system itself was named after cannabis.
Other cannabinoids, such as cannabidiol (CBD) and cannabinol (CBN), are gaining popularity because of their host of health benefits. The upside for many is that they do not produce euphoric properties.
And now, according to a study published in the American Journal of Physiology, emerging evidence suggests that the ECS can modulate mitochondrial integrity and function. Mitochondria are organelles—tiny structures inside each cell that serve as the cell’s power plant. They drive the metabolism by taking fats and sugars that are stored in fat tissue and turning them into fuel known as ATP (adenosine
triphosphate), which provides all the power the body needs to be healthy.
The potential for one plant to help with so many different health issues has led scientists and researchers such as Dr. Robert Melamede, biochemist and molecular biologist professor at the University of Colorado, to compare cannabis to the discovery of antibiotic drugs. Prior to the widespread abuse and misuse of antibiotics which has resulted in resistance of epidemic proportions, antibiotics were initially viewed as a revolutionary, life-saving discovery. Melamede speculates that cannabinoids also have the ability to minimize age-related illnesses such as cancer and cardiovascular disease because they inhibit inflammation and modulate harmful free radicals that normally occur with inflammation.
Ways To Boost Your ECS
Gaining rapid popularity are hemp-based plant based products containing cannabidiol, better known as CBD. These products typically come in the form of oils and capsules.
Cherie Arnold founder and CEO of MediQI Energetics, a company that sells hemp-based Cannabinoid products, has seen great results with CBD oil.
“Layer by layer you feel homeostasis returning to your body. You feel okay again and lose that fear about your health,” says Arnold, who has been following a more natural health path for 40 years.
Arnold says CBD oil helped her with chronic physiological patterns in regards to autoimmune issues she’s had since childhood. CBD oil has decreased her inflammation, given her more supple skin, and increased her energy. Today she feels less stressed out.
“This has given me a continuous flow of feeling happy,” adds Arnold.
While Big Pharma is also developing synthetic cannabinoids with the blessing of the Federal Drug Administration (FDA), both scientific research as well as patient testimonials indicate that herbal cannabis has superior medical qualities. Not only are they deemed safer to use with no side effects, a 2015 study published in Pharmacology & Pharmacy found that plant-based cannabinoids are more effective, last longer, and provide more anti-inflammatory potency.
Unlike synthetic cannabinoids, herbal cannabis also contains different cannabinoids , with evidence illustrating that whole plants or mixtures of plants rather than isolated compounds often have greater in vitro and/or in vivo antiplasmodial activity than isolated constituents at an equivalent dose.
A 2011 study titled Nutritional Omega-3 Deficiency Abolishes Endocannabinoid-Mediated Neuronal Functions found that omega-3 fatty acids can also help with the regulation of cannabinoid receptors. Hemp, flax, chia seeds, walnuts, eggs, and fish are excellent sources of omega-3.
McCamman rates nutritional foods, especially those rich in omega-type fatty acids, as the best source for repairing deficient endocannabinoid systems. But, like other researchers, he warns that a balance in Omega-3 and Omega-6 fatty acids in food consumption is extremely important. “Too many 6’s disrupts optimal functioning,” McCamman said.
How To Know You’re ECS Deficient
Currently there are no tests to determine the well-being of your endocannabinoid system, and whether or not your health issues are linked to ECS deficiencies. However, Arnold and McCamman believe there are red flag indicators:
- Chronic pain
- Chronic allergies
- Hormonal imbalances
- Your condition does not improve with conventional treatment
- Your health issue is related to inflammation
Despite the public demanding safer, inexpensive and natural treatments that stimulate our bodies’ ability to self-heal, the FDA continues to interfere when it comes to medical cannabis in favor of Big Pharma’s less effective and harsher pill prescriptions. The government persists in categorizing cannabis as a drug rather than the herbal healing plant that it is. This subjects marijuana to lengthy and often unrealistic testing standards despite volumes of empirical research attesting to its efficacy.
Mainstream research is also inhibited due to legal issues of access of marijuana. As California pediatrician David Sine puts it, “It’s difficult for mainstream universities, etcetera, to do research on a plant that’s illegal to grow and keep around.”
This is unfortunate, because one thing is certain: a functional endocannabinoid system, which is hardwired into all of us, is essential for good health. From embryo to old age, endocannabinoids allow us to survive in an environment that is increasingly challenging.