Big word, basic concept.

Cannabis research was thwarted in the United States by government prohibition and propaganda like former First Lady Nancy Regan’s ‘Just Say No’ campaign in the 1980s.

We understand your teachers probably didn’t mention it in school, but you have an endocannabinoid system and it’s working right now to keep you healthy. It’s not magic; it’s science.

You may not have learned about this in school because, like so many cannabis-related things, research was stunted thanks to federal drug policy. In fact, it was only 30 years ago that scientists Allyn Howlett and William Devane discovered that rat brains contained a multitude of cannabinoid receptors (pssst: ours does, too). So, it’s no wonder we’re only beginning to understand the endocannabinoid system.

And the more we learn about the human body the more we understand all its systems are equally important.

It’s all about the teamwork

Each of our bodies functions thanks to the interworking of multiple internal systems — the circulatory system, the endocrine system, the nervous system and more. These systems not only work together but rely upon each other, interacting like team players, to keep our bodies functioning properly.

Look at the digestive system. It breaks down nutrients found in the food and drinks we ingest and directs the nutrients it finds to our other systems for use as needed.

Take calcium, for example. It’s perhaps best known as a strengthener of bones and nails but did you know it’s also necessary for healthy heart function? Our bodies are programmed to react to calcium in our digestive system, picked up while digesting food or liquids that contain the element, and direct it to our cardiopulmonary system — i.e. heart and lungs — and our nails and bones.

We don’t have to think about or manage this important act, our bodies simply do their job. However, if our bodies don’t have enough calcium to work with there can be consequences, like osteoporosis, that can diminish a person’s quality of life.

The endocannabinoid system, or ECS, like the digestive system, is also largely on autopilot however it needs input from us to perform its job. The ECS has receptors ready and waiting for cannabinoids to grab onto and put to work helping other body systems function properly.

Calcium is an elemental metal necessary for human life.

Body Zen

Your interworking systems are in constant communication. Those systems prefer homeostasis, something the Free Dictionary defines as “the tendency of biological systems to maintain relatively constant conditions in the internal environment while continuously interacting with and adjusting to changes originating within or outside the system.”

I like to think of homeostasis as body zen, or a form of balance that is constantly maintained. In our bodies, the endocannabinoid system seems to manage homeostasis like a stage mom who carries in her purse a million different solutions to as many potential problems.

The endocannabinoid system’s responsibilities are vast but its ultimate goal is to protect the greater system — our bodies, as illustrated in this observation by Dr. Dustin Sulak, director of Integr8 Health, in Maine, as captured by MedicalJane.com:

These endocannabinoids regulate homeostasis through a wide variety of mechanisms, including facilitation of intercellular communication between different cell types.

“At the site of an injury, for example, cannabinoids can be found decreasing the release of activators and sensitizers from the injured tissue, stabilizing the nerve cell to prevent excessive firing, and calming nearby immune cells to prevent release of pro-inflammatory substances. Three different mechanisms of action on three different cell types for a single purpose: minimize the pain and damage caused by the injury,” said Dr. Sulak.

“Chemical components of Cannabis, called cannabinoids, activate specific receptors throughout the body to produce pharmacologic effects, particularly in the central nervous system and the immune system.”

– National Cancer Institute, Cancer.gov

Kelly Helms

Kelly Helms

Health Columnist

Nerdy girl-next-door who excels in everything science and goofball. Kelly is also a healthcare professional, a small business owner and a mother. And she wants to talk to you about your endocannabinoid system.

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This is the briefest of introductions to the endocannabinoid system. We understand it can seem complex, so know we’re going to start slow and build our collective knowledge over time. Because community, y’all.

If you’d like to skip ahead, below you’ll find a video where Dr. Sulak discusses how to get started balancing your endocannabinoid system.

In the Carolinas, that means figuring out what, if any, CBD you should ingest, how much to take and how often. In other parts of the world, the formula can include the whole spectrum of cannabinoids available.

It appears that, like the human body’s many systems, the various types of cannabis work best when they work together.

As described on Cannapedia.org:

Cannabis contains hundreds of chemical compounds with diverse health benefits. As a remedy, cannabis compounds work best 
together– not extracted one by one.

This principle is aptly called “the entourage effect” to suggest that these compounds support each other, flock together, and combine forces to heal us.

For this reason, products such as “full-spectrum” cannabis oil preserve the integrity of the plant and its medicinal potency– and are far more effective than isolates or refined oils.