With the rising popularity of medical marijuana and CBD products, you may have heard of endocannabinoids. While there is still much to learn, research has already uncovered a wealth of information regarding how crucial they are to our overall well-being! But what are endocannabinoids, and why are they important?
To better understand what they are, it helps to remember that the whole of existence functions at its best when a dynamic balance is maintained through homeostasis (meaning, “to stay the same”). Our bodies, as part of existence, are no different. In other words, our cells, organs, and tissues function best when they are stable. When an outside influence, like pain, affects that dynamic balance or threatens that stability, the systems within our body go to work to restore the balance.
Perhaps one of the most vital and far-reaching of these systems is our Endocannabinoid System (ECS). This system is present throughout our bodies. It reaches and affects nearly everything, including our brain, heart, organs, glands, connective tissues, muscles, bones, blood vessels, skin, and immune cells.
The Role of Endocannabinoids:
When something threatens our state of homeostasis, the ECS kicks in, causing our bodies to create molecules called “endogenous cannabinoids” (or “endocannabinoids” for short). These are much like the active compounds found within cannabis plants.
The Endocannabinoids then bind themselves to endocannabinoid receptors throughout the central nervous system and peripheral nervous system, sending a signal that it’s time for the healing process to begin. Depending upon which endocannabinoid binds to which receptor throughout the body, these signals initiate a different healing process.
For example, if you are running a fever, one endocannabinoid may stick to a receptor in your immune cells to help signal the immune system that it needs to reduce your temperature. However, if you experience an injury, an endocannabinoid may bind with a different receptor to help reduce inflammation, limit the stimulation of nerve cells, and minimize pain.
While the signals may initiate different responses, the objective is the same no matter which endocannabinoid and receptor combination is activated – restore homeostasis.
Rather than hanging around in your system, the endocannabinoids are broken down by enzymes once they complete their task. This ensures that your ECS always stays fresh and ready to go back to work as needed without sending excessive or unnecessary signals.
As you can see, the ECS is all about sending signals throughout the body to help activate the body’s natural healing response. The endocannabinoids are one of the critical components of this system. By binding to receptors throughout your body, they send signals which play a vital role in helping our bodies maintain homeostasis, bringing balance and stability to our overall health and well-being.