The Endocannabinoid System
The Endocannabinoid System or ECS is a biological system composed of endocannabinoids and cannabinoid receptor proteins. The ECS performs several different tasks with the aim to achieve and maintain homeostasis (maintenance of a stable internal environment so that the cells can maintain optimum performance). The Endocannabinoid System helps in the regulation of several cognitive and physiological processes such as appetite, mood, memory, fertility, and more.
The Endocannabinoid System has three main components:
Cannabinoid Receptors are receptor proteins expressed throughout the central and peripheral nervous system. These receptors are present on the surface of the cells and start appropriate cellular response to the changing conditions outside of the cell. The two major and best-studied cannabinoid receptors, CB1 and CB2, are found throughout the body. The CB1 receptors are abundant in the brain, while the CB2 receptors are majorly found outside the nervous systems like the immune system.
The Endocannabinoids are produced naturally by the cells in the human and animal body. They bind to cannabinoid receptors and activate them. The two well-known and well-studied endocannabinoids are anandamide and 2-arachidonoylglycerol (2-AG). These cannabinoids are synthesized on demand and are made from fat-like molecules inside the cell membrane. Hemp and cannabis have led scientists to undertake a massive research effort because of the presence of phytocannabinoids, which have a direct interaction with endocannabinoid receptors, thus triggering specific responses in mammals that are confirming potential health benefits.
Metabolic Enzymes are used to synthesize and degrade the endocannabinoids once they complete their function. The two major metabolic enzymes are fatty acid amide hydrolase (FAAH), which breaks down anandamide and monoacylglycerol lipase (MAGL), which breaks down 2-AG. These enzymes ensure that the endocannabinoids are not used for longer than necessary.