In a continuing effort to educate myself on how and why cannabis oil works so well for my condition, I came across the mechanism by which cannabis works and helps with many conditions; conditions such as PTSD, cancer, Alzheimer’s, autoimmune diseases, depression, epilepsy, nausea, arthritis, chronic pain and the list goes on …
The Endo Cannabinoid System (ECS) was discovered in 1988 through a government-funded study at the St. Louis University School of Medicine and is, in my opinion, one of the most important medical discoveries in modern times. Although it was discovered nearly 30 years ago I would venture to guess you have never heard of it.
According to the study, the ECS is a network of receptors (CB1 and CB2) found on cells, located throughout the brain and body. CB1 receptors are found mostly in the brain while CB2 receptors are located most everywhere else in the body. CB1 receptors are the most abundant receptors in your brain. The only place in the brain they are not found is in the brain stem. Cannabis is a very safe medicine in this regard. The lack of CB1 receptors in the brain stem means no chance of an overdose.
A related but separate study in 1992 revealed that the body produces its own internal compounds (Anandamide and 2-AG) that attach to these CB1 and CB2 receptors. These compounds act as neurotransmitters and help in functions such as appetite/metabolism, pain, sleep, memory and overall balance of these functions.
Plant compounds known as cannabinoids, such as THC, CBD or any of the other 70-some cannabinoids in marijuana, fit on these CB1 and CB2 receptors like a key in a lock. When administered, these plant cannabinoids mimic your body’s own compounds.
From what I’ve learned, the function of the ECS is to keep the body in balance or homeostasis. Think about that for a moment … Keeping the body in balance. Consider some of the conditions cannabis is said to work on and see how balance would be key to recovery and wellness. Cancer is the uncontrolled division of abnormal cells. Apoptosis is the normal process by which cells commit suicide. When this process is disrupted, cancer can form. Cannabinoids have been shown to aid in this normal process of cell death. This is one way cannabinoids help to kill cancer, all the while leaving healthy cells alone.
In some cases of epilepsy where neurons are firing too rapidly, cannabinoids have been effective in slowing that firing down to normal functioning levels.
With Post Traumatic Stress Disorder, people can struggle with reliving past traumatic experiences which cause great anxiety. Cannabis has been used to aid in the recovery of PTSD by helping a person to forget. You’re probably thinking that doesn’t sound right. We’re supposed to remember things, aren’t we? Certainly remembering not to place your hand in the fire, or walk into traffic is important. But forgetting is perhaps just as important as remembering. Your body has a natural delete process so you won’t remember every passing face in a big city or every word of the 47 different emails you read today. Sometimes with very traumatic experiences, like the horror of war or domestic abuse, that fear does not dissipate.
Alzheimer’s causes a build up of plaques in the brain, blocking cell-to-cell signaling at synapses. This disrupts connections in the brain. Cannabis aids in the removal of these plaques and helps to coat and protect neurons. Another amazing fact about cannabinoids is their ability to pass through the blood brain barrier, directly accessing problems associated with the brain. Conditions such as cancer, Alzheimer’s, water on the brain, concussion and inflammation can be improved with the administration of cannabinoids.
The three most important things I’ve learned about cannabis over the past year are as follows: first, cannabis is a medicine, no doubt about it; second, there is a very well-established communication system that regulates balance in the body and consuming cannabinoids from the cannabis plant aids in that process; third, we need much more research regarding both of the above. There are many questions about the far-reaching medicinal properties of cannabinoids; questions regarding treatment of conditions, dosage, effectiveness, possible long-term side effects and benefits. There are very few experts in this field, so until we demand this becomes main stream, personal research will be key in understanding how to best use cannabis and regulate your ECS.
The government’s classification of cannabis as a Schedule I drug makes researching it nearly impossible. We need leadership that will step up to the plate and push for the rescheduling and study of this plant so it can be fully understood and properly utilized. It is my hope that this column piques your interest and prompts more question and discovery. There is a bright and exciting future for cannabinoid therapy and healing through the Endo Cannabinoid System. It’s long overdue that balance was restored.