13 May 2015

Are You Cannabinoid Deficient?

Humans may need cannabinoids to live a normal healthy life. Are you getting yours?

Cannabinoid substances don't just grow in cannabis plants. Your own body produces them. The Endogenous Cannabinoid or Endocannabinoid System (ECS) is one of the most important components of the human body. The number of physiological processes it is responsible for or involved in is truly amazing. The ECS plays an integral role in biology and appears in many surprising and unexpected places.

The ECS is perhaps the most important physiological system involved in establishing and maintaining human health. Endocannabinoids and their receptors are found throughout the body: in the brain, organs, connective tissues, glands and immune cells. In each tissue, the ECS performs different tasks, always with the same goal, homoeostasis or the maintenance of a stable internal environment despite fluctuations in one's external environment.

At every level of biological life cannabinoids promote homoeostasis, from the sub-cellular level to the organism and perhaps to the community and beyond. For example, autophagy, a process in which a cell sequesters part of itself to be self-digested and recycled, is controlled by the ECS. This process keeps normal cells alive, allowing them to maintain a balance between the synthesis, degradation and subsequent recycling of cellular products, and has a deadly effect on malignant tumour cells, causing them to consume themselves in a programmed cellular suicide.

Endocannabinoids and cannabinoids are also found at the intersection of the body's various systems, allowing communication and coordination between different cell types.

Besides regulating our internal and cellular homoeostasis, cannabinoids influence one's relationship with the external environment. Socially, the administration of cannabinoids clearly alters human behaviour, sometimes promoting sharing, humour and creativity. By mediating neurogenesis, neuronal plasticity and learning, cannabinoids may directly influence a person's open-mindedness and the ability to move beyond limiting patterns of thought and behaviour from past situations or circumstances.

Sea squirts, tiny nematodes and all other vertebrate species share the ECS as an essential part of life and adaptation to environmental changes. By comparing the genetics of cannabinoid receptors in different species, scientists estimate that the ECS evolved in primitive animals over 600 million years ago.

Cannabinoid receptors are present throughout the entire body, embedded in cell membranes, and are believed to be more numerous than any other receptor system. When cannabinoid receptors are stimulated, a variety of physiologic processes ensue.

1 Information is transmitted around the body in the form of electrical impulses that travel through nerves. As the signal reaches the end of the nerve, or axon, the resulting depolarisation stimulates the release of stored vesicles of neurotransmitters (the yellow molecules). These traverse the synapse (the gap dividing two nerves) where they bind to receptors on the post-synaptic cell.  Activation of these post-synaptic receptors then initiates a series of events.
2 One of these series of events is the release of the Endocannabinoids (the red molecules) which are synthesised and released locally and function as a retrograde transmitter.
The Endocannabinoids travel in the opposite direction to the initial neurotransmitters, backwards across the synaptic cleft, and bind to pre-synaptic CB1 receptors (the light blue receptors). This feedback allows pre-synaptic regulation of transmitter release whereby the binding of the Endocannabinoids will retrogradely inhibit the release of further neurotransmitters, whether the neurotransmitters are inhibitory (e.g. GABA) or excitatory (e.g. glutamate)
4 Phytocannabinoids are able to mimic the action of these Endocannabinoids. In this way, they are able to augment the effect that the Endocannabinoids have in regulating the transmission of impulses from one nerve to another.

Researchers have identified two cannabinoid receptors. CB1 is predominantly present in the nervous system, connective tissues, gonads, glands, cerebellum, basal ganglia, hippocampus and dorsal primary afferent spinal cord regions and organs. CB2 is found in white blood cells, in the tonsils and in the spleen, the immune system and its associated structures. Many tissues contain both CB1 and CB2 receptors, each linked to a different action.

In the immune system, one important function of cannabinoid receptors is the regulation of cytokine release. Stimulation of the CB1 receptor produces 'marijuana'-like effects on the psyche and circulation, while no such effect is seen when the CB2 receptor is activated. Phytocannabinoids are plant substances that stimulate cannabinoid receptors. Delta-9-Tetrahydrocannabinol, or THC, is the most psychoactive and certainly the most famous of these substances, but other cannabinoids such as Cannabidiol (CBD) and Cannabinol (CBN) are gaining the interest of researchers due to a variety of healing properties.

A healthy and functional ECS is essential for health. From embryonic implantation in the uterine wall of the mother, to nursing and growth, to responding to injuries, endocannabinoids help us survive in a quickly changing and increasingly hostile environment. Research has shown that small doses of cannabinoids from cannabis can signal the body to make more endocannabinoids and build more cannabinoid receptors. This is why many first-time cannabis users don't feel an effect, but by their second or third time using the herb they have built more cannabinoid receptors and are ready to respond. More receptors increase a person's sensitivity to cannabinoids; smaller doses have larger effects and the individual has an enhanced baseline of endocannabinoid activity.

It looks as though cannabis may contain over 100 different cannabinoids, including THC, which all work synergistically to produce better medical effects and less side effects than THC alone. While cannabis is safe and works well when smoked, many patients prefer to avoid the possibility of respiratory irritation and use a vaporiser, tincture, edible or a topical salve or cream.

After years of study of cannabis (medically and recreationally) and talking to patients, it appears that if people are not using cannabis they may be cannabinoid-deficient. Humans need cannabinoids like THC, CBD and more, to live a normal healthy life. Not going through life 'high', but more like maintaining what your body needs to function properly. It is a quality of life issue. People should not be cannabinoid deficient any more than we should have a nutrient deficiency. It is possible that medical cannabis could be the most useful remedy to treat a variety of human diseases and conditions, as a component of preventative healthcare. This has been known to indigenous civilisations of ancient India, China and Tibet.

Despite a 5,000-year history of safe therapeutic use and a huge amount of published research, most doctors still know little or nothing about medical cannabis. It is time we 'get with the program' and bring modern medicine into line. Many in the medical community are still too afraid to talk about it or do anything to change the status quo. People want change now and not only Americans are more hip to the truth and the benefits of cannabis, with legislation changing across the US and around the world.

Adapted from, Are You THC Deficient? with

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