WHAT IS THE ENDOCANNABINOID SYSTEM?
The cannabinoid system, named after the plant that led to its discovery, is the most important physiological system in the human body. Endocannabinoids and their receptors, found throughout the body and in the brain, connective tissues, glands and immune cells. In these tissues, the cannabinoid system has different tasks, but the results are always the same, to maintain homeostasis within our body's.
WHAT ARE CANNABINOID RECEPTORS?
Sea squirts, tiny nematodes, and all vertebrate species share the endocannabinoid system as an essential part of life and adaptation to environmental changes. By comparing the genetics of cannabinoid receptors in different species, scientists estimate that the endocannabinoid system evolved in primitive animals over 600 million years ago.
Cannabinoid receptors are present throughout the body, embedded in cell membranes, and are believed to be more numerous than any other receptor system. When cannabinoid receptors are stimulated, a variety of physiological processes ensue. Researchers have identified two cannabinoid receptors: CB1, predominantly present in the nervous system, connective tissues, gonads, glands, and organs; and CB2, predominantly found in the immune system and its associated structures. Many tissues contain both CB1 and CB2 receptors, each linked to a different action. Researchers speculate there may be a third cannabinoid receptor waiting to be discovered.
Endo-cannabinoids are the substances our bodies naturally make to stimulate these receptors. The two most well understood of these molecules are called anandamide and 2-arachidonoylglycerol. They are synthesized on-demand from cell membrane arachidonic acid derivatives, have a local effect and short half-life before being degraded by the enzymes fatty acid amide hydrolase (FAAH) and monoacylglycerol lipase (MAGL).
Phytocannabinoids are plant substances that stimulate cannabinoid receptors. Delta-9-tetrahydrocannabinol, or THC, is the most psychoactive and certainly the most famous of these substances, but other non psychoactive cannabinoids such as cannabidiol (CBD) and cannabinol (CBN) are gaining the interest of researchers due to a variety of beneficial health properties these molecules hold within. Most phytocannabinoids have been isolated from cannabis sativa, but other herbs, such as echinaceapurpura, have been found to contain non-psychoactive cannabinoids as well.
Interestingly, the cannabis plant uses cannabinoids to promote its own health and prevent disease. Cannabinoids have antioxidant properties that protect the leaves and flowering structures from ultraviolet radiation - cannabinoids neutralize the harmful free radicals generated by UV rays, protecting the cells. Antioxidants found in plants have long been promoted as natural supplements to prevent free radical harm.
Laboratories can also produce cannabinoids. Synthetic THC, marketed a dronabinol (Marinol), and nabilone (Cesamet), a THC analog, are both FDA approved drugs for the treatment of severe nausea and wasting syndrome. Some clinicians have found them helpful in the off-label treatment of chronic pain, migraine, and other serious conditions. Many other synthetic cannabinoids are used in animal research, and some have potency up to 600 times that of THC.
WHAT ARE TERPENES
TIn the plant kingdom, Terpenes play a vital role. They protect plants from environmental stresses and deter insect predation. They act as building blocks for molecules such as cannabinoids. Varieties of terpenes either catalyze or inhibit formation of various compounds within the plant. How terpenes function, allow scientists to shape cannabinoids to desired ratios.
In the cannabis plant the primary terpenes are;
• A Pinene – this meaning the familiar cannabis odor
• Linalool – the scent of the floral spring flowers
• Myrcene – this is the most prevalent terpene which is found in most hemp varieties. This dictates if the strain has an Indica or Sativa effect.
• Limonene – Also found in the rinds of citrus fruits, this is the dominant in hemp.
• Ocimene – This terpene contributes to a plants defense system. This is often used in perfumes due to its pleasant odor.
• Valencene – Situated in oranges also contributes to hemps’ citrus aroma
• β Caryophyllene – Strongly contributing to the “entourage effect” this is the only terpene known to interact with the endocannabinoid system (cb2) receptors.