The Endocannabinoid System
Brain cells called neurons communicate with each other by sending chemical messages. We have chemicals in our brains known as neurotransmitters, which are the chemical messengers that travel from one brain cell to another. Our neurotransmitters cross a gap between neighbouring neurons before attaching to their specific receptors. Once the specific receptors are activated by neurotransmitters, they trigger a set of events that allows a message to be passed along to other neurons.
This process occurs first presynaptically, meaning the neuron sends a message by releasing a chemical when signalled to do so; then postsynaptically meaning the neuron receives the message when it’s receptors are activated by specific chemicals (neurotransmitters).
Cannabinoids are natural chemicals that bind to cannabinoid receptors in the brain and the body. Cannabinoids can be found naturally in human breast milk, as well as in both hemp and cannabis. Two of the most common cannabinoids found in hemp and cannabis are cannabidiol (CBD) and tetrahydrocannabinol, (THC). They are usually present in the highest concentrations, and are therefore the most recognized and studied.
Cannabinoids interact with neurotransmitters, as the neurotransmitters will cross the gap attaching cannabinoids to specific CB1 and CB2 receptors. CB1 receptors are concentrated in the brain and central nervous system but also sparsely populate other parts of the human body. Tetrahydrocannabinol (THC) interacts with CB1 receptors. CB2 receptors are mostly in the peripheral organs especially cells associated with the immune system.
THC and CBN are known to “fit” like a lock and key into networks of existing receptors. The endocannabinoid system exists to receive cannabinoids produced inside the body called “Anandamide” and “2-Arachidonoylglycerol”. Tetrahydrocannabinol (THC) is the main active ingredient in cannabis, and it interferes with the normal functioning of the endocannabinoid system by stimulating the endocannabinoid system with plant-based cannabinoids which restores balance and helps maintain symptoms. Cannabidiol (CBD) does not directly fit into CB1 or CB2 receptors, but has powerful indirect effects still being studied.