Endocannabinoids are naturally occurring compounds found within the human body. They’ve been there for 600,000 years or more, but we’ve only just noticed it! One of the remarkable things about endocannabinoids is their striking similarity to the active ingredients of cannabis called phyto-cannabinoids. In fact, it was the effort by scientists to understand the exact mechanism by which cannabis works in the body that led to the discovery of the Endocannabinoid System little more than a decade ago.
The science of endocannabinoid medicine has progressed to a dizzying degree in the past few years. There is wider awareness that the ‘endocannabinoid system’ is the largest neurotransmitter system in the human body, regulating relaxation, eating, sleeping, memory, and, as noted by the Italian scientist Vincenzo Di Marzo, even our immune system.
Cannabinoids promote homeostasis, the maintenance of a stable internal environment despite external fluctuations, at every level of biological life, from the sub-cellular, to the organism. For example, endocannabinoids are now understood as the source of the runner’s high. The endocannabinoids naturally found in human breast milk, which are vital for proper human development, have virtually identical effects as cannabinoids found in the cannabis plant. Amazingly, the mechanism at work after smoking or eating cannabis, when adults get the “munchies, is essentially the same as what causes breastfeeding babies to seek protein-rich milk.
Universally accepted following its discovery in 1995, the endocannabinoid system asserts it power to heal and balance the other systems of the body by turning on or off the expression of genes. Cannabinoids hold the key that unlocks receptor sites throughout the brain and immune system triggering potent healing and pain-killing effects.
The endocannabinoid anandamide, (Ananda = bliss in Sanskrit + amide = chemical type) a naturally neurotransmitting lipid compound made by all mammals, is basically a self-manufactured “natural THC” circulating within. Anandamide and THC act through the cannabinoid receptors and have similar effects on pain, appetite, and memory, etc…