The endocannabinoid system of the human body is a communication system between cells. It is a neurotransmission system found in different zones and tissues of our body that helps in the regulation of various metabolic processes.
Cannabinoid receptors (CB) along with endocannabinoids constitute the endocannabinoid system which is essential for the body to function normally. The endocannabinoid system is not only found in humans, but it has also been identified in mammals, birds, amphibians, etc.
Our body has different sites where cannabinoids adhere to the surface of cells and the body produces several endocannabinoids that are activated by passing through cannabinoid receptors. Depending on the cell, dosage and the location in the body, this activation causes changes to the cells that result in certain physiological effects such as anxiety, euphoria, hunger, pain reduction, muscle relaxation, etc.
Besides the activation of CB receptors, endocannabinoids are being investigated for other therapeutic purposes. For example, researchers are investigating if blocking CB receptors or if modulating the concentration of endocannabinoids leads to a weakening of the system.
Currently, there are endocannabinoid treatments that stimulate the CB receptors (dronabinol, nabilone and cannabis). There is also a compound that blocks the CB1 receptor (rimonabant).
Endocannabinoids for therapeutic purposes
Dronabinol and nabilone are two CB receptor agonists which are currently in use. So are Sativex, a cannabis extract, and rimonabant, an antagonist of CB receptors. Both are synthetic cannabinoids found are limited in scope as therapeutic elements.
Phytocannabinoids that come from the whole plant provide better results thanks to the entourage effect carrying the rest of its elements such as flavonoids and terpenes.
The use of cannabinoids for therapeutic purposes is still under investigation in many countries. However, in pharmacies in the Netherlands, it is possible to acquire raw cannabis. In this case, cannabis is regulated and its production is controlled and supervised by the Ministry of Health of the Netherlands.
In countries like Spain, Belgium and parts of Switzerland the therapeutic use of cannabis in small doses is also tolerated. In the United States some states have legalized the medicinal use of cannabis and, in Canada, citizens have the possibility to use cannabis for medicinal purposes provided they obtain a waiver. In addition, Health Canada facilitates cannabis plant types among patients if they do not want to grow it themselves.
The use of cannabinoids for therapeutic purposes remains largely unknown in medical consultations and between alternative medicinal treatments. However, the cases mentioned in European countries, the United States and Canada show that the use of cannabinoids can have successful medicinal effects.