Endocannabinoid System

The neurotransmission system present in the body that helps regulate various metabolic processes.

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Endocannabinoid System (ECS)

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.

As it is a system within the body, it has been called “Endo” and “cannabinoid” because it is affected by the intake of phytocannabinoids and they fit within the receptors producing similar effects to the endocannabinoids generated by the body.

Infographics on the Endocannabinoid System ( SEC)

Infographics on the Endocannabinoid System ( SEC) | Kalapa Clinic

The function of the Endocannabinoid System

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.

Functions of the ECS

  • Neuromodulators
  • Homeostasis regulator
  • Cardiovascular modulator
  • Immunological modulator
  • Regulates dietary balance
  • Neuroprotector

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“Without the Endocannabinoid System, the use of the cannabis plant would have no effect on our organism”

Dr. Mariano García de Palau

Principles of the Endocannabinoid System

In the same way that we are able to synthesise in our organism substances that imitate the effects of opiates such as morphine, and which we call endorphins, we can also synthesise substances that imitate the effect of cannabinoids from the cannabis plant, and which we call endocannabinoids.

About 450 million years ago, during the Cambrian period, in the Deuterostomes or animals with axial symmetry, a basically biochemical system appears evolutionarily, whose purpose is the regulation of different vital functions in these organisms. This system, many years later, was called the Endocannabinoid System or SEC, and has lasted until the present day, evolving in complexity, just as organisms have become more complex and skilled in different functions.

It basically consists of active molecules, or endocannabinoids, which can be synthesised in many cells in our body and act through a series of specific receptors, or cannabinoid receptors, which are widely distributed in the cells of different tissues.

The ECS is a complex modulator of multiple functions of our organism. It is involved in the regulation of such important functions as body temperature control, appetite intake and control, nociception or perception of pain, control of neuronal excitability, learning tasks, emotions, cognitive processes, memory area, sensory perception, motor activity, adiadocinesia (precise movements), reproductive system, sexual activity or libido, sleep regulation, mood regulation, stress management, metabolic regulation, endocrine regulation, modulates growth, differentiation, and cell survival.

In short, it is a system that undoubtedly contributes to the homeostatic balance of our organism, and that of many species that are very far from us in evolutionary terms. It is probably necessary for the survival of the species that possess it. It already appears in the first weeks of gestation in some species, so its function is necessary for the correct embryonic development, also in mammals, of course.

“They all act in the same way, through the ECS receptors”

Dr. Mariano García de Palau

Video: What is the endocannabinoid system

Dr. Mariano García de Palau explains the basics of the endocannabinoid system.

English subtitles available

Interaction of Cannabis in the Endocannabinoid System

There are different molecules that can act on ECS, but not all of them generate the same effects and above all they are very different in toxicity in many cases.

The ECS is a complex regulatory system, probably the most complex one we have. This complex network of receptors, which determines multiple targets on which we can act with phytocannabinoids, needs to be studied in depth in order to control and treat many pathologies or diseases that share common symptoms. Phytocannabinoids are very non-toxic molecules, and we know their side effects, which we can easily foresee and solve.

They are probably not the most powerful analgesics or anti-inflammatory drugs, compared to other drugs, nor are they the most effective antiepileptic drugs, nor are their anxiolytic effects the most powerful, but they do offer us the possibility of treating patients who no longer have any therapeutic options or who want to reduce the toxicity of some prescribed treatments, with very interesting results, due to the appearance of side effects that contraindicate the treatment. This is where phytocannabinoids are very useful for many patients, improving their quality of life with the safe and controlled use of cannabinoids.

Phytocannabinoids have never shown toxicity that could generate a vital risk for the patient, nor has acute intoxication been a direct cause of death in any user.

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