The Endocannabinoid System

What is the Endocannabinoid System?

As one learns in biology, the human body has many systems – the circulatory, respiratory, digestive, and nervous systems to name a few. Each system has parts: for example, the nervous system is made up of the brain, spinal cord, and nerves. By the late 1980s, science identified a new human system – the endocannabinoid system (ECS) – also referred to as the cannabinoid system. There is a cannabinoid system present in all mammals – to include humans and 15,000 other species. 

The ECS has two main parts: cannabinoids, which are chemical neurotransmitters, and two receptors called “CB1″ and “CB2.” Cannabinoids activate receptors found throughout the body – in all organs, actually. In fact, all systems in our bodies are modulated by the cannabinoid system. This means that as a body system changes, it uses the ECS to do so. 

Science and popular search sites like Wikipedia use three classifications of cannabinoids:

1.  Endogenous cannabinoids (also referred to as endocannabinoids), which are produced by the human body

2.  Herbal cannabinoids, the kind found in the cannabis sativa plant

3.  Synthetic cannabinoids, produced and distributed by pharmaceutical companies

In each tissue in which it is present, the cannabinoid system performs different tasks, but the goal is always the same: homeostasis, the maintenance of a stable internal environment despite fluctuations in the external environment.

Cannabinoids promote homeostasis at every level of biological life, from the sub-cellular, to the organism, and perhaps to the community and beyond. Here’s one example: autophagy, a process in which a cell sequesters part of its contents to be self-digested and recycled, is mediated by the cannabinoid system. While this process keeps normal cells alive, allowing them to maintain a balance between the synthesis, degradation, and subsequent recycling of cellular products, it has a deadly effect on malignant tumor cells, causing them to consume themselves in a programmed cellular suicide. The death of cancer cells, of course, promotes homeostasis and survival at the level of the entire organism.

Endocannabinoids and cannabinoids are also found at the intersection of the body’s various systems, allowing communication and coordination 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.

The endocannabinoid system, with its complex actions in our immune system, nervous system, and all of the body’s organs, is literally a bridge between body and mind. By understanding this system we begin to see a mechanism that explains how states of consciousness can promote health or disease.

In addition to regulating our internal and cellular homeostasis, cannabinoids influence a person’s relationship with the external environment. Socially, the administration of cannabinoids clearly alters human behavior, often promoting sharing, humor, and creativity. By mediating neurogenesis, neuronal plasticity, and learning, cannabinoids may directly influence a person’s open-mindedness and ability to move beyond limiting patterns of thought and behavior from past situations. Reformatting these old patterns is an essential part of health in our quickly changing environment.


For more information on the endocannabinoid system, and a variety of other cannabis-related topics, visit NORML here.

 

Sativa

Sativa strains of cannabis, similar to their Indica cousins, have a wide variety of health benefits. Some of the more notable benefits include

  • Relief from depression
  • Mind stimulation
  • Increasing focus, and
  • Treating PTSD

Examples: Cinex, Haze Wreck, Jack Herer


Sativa plants are found throughout the world. Potent varieties such as Colombian, Panamanian, Mexican, Nigerian, Congolese, Indian and Thai are found in equatorial and sub/equatorial zones. These plants require a long time to mature because they originated in areas that have a long season. They are usually very potent, containing large quantities of THC. The highs they produce are described in such terms as psychedelic, dreamy, spacey, and creative. The buds usually smell sweet or tangy and the smoke is smooth, sometimes deceptively so.

Sativa plants grow in a conical, Christmas-tree form. The leaves have long, narrow serrated blades, wide spacing between branches, and vigorous growth. They often grow very tall outdoors and are difficult to control indoors.

Sativas have long, medium-thick buds when grown in full equatorial sun; under artificial light with inadequate intensity, or even under the temperate sun, the buds run, or are thinner, longer and don’t fill out completely. In areas with short growing seasons, the buds often don’t mature before frost.


Sativa at a Glance

Height: 5′ to 25′ (1.5 to 7.5 m)

Shape: Tall, Christmas-tree shape

Branching: Moderate branching, wide at its base, single stem at top

Nodes: Long stem length between leaves

Leaves: Long leaves, thin long blades

Color: Pale to medium green

Flowers: Long sausage-shaped flowers

Odor: Sweet to spicy

High: Psychedelic

Flowering: 8 to 15 weeks

Open Letter To Doctors

Open Letter to Doctors About Medical Marijuana

Dear Doctor,

I recently opened Substance, a community agency that provides safe access to cannabis in a judgement-free environment. Marijuana has become increasingly relevant in patients’ health care choices. I would therefore like to introduce our organization and facility as a resource, and share what we’re seeing and hearing from clients. More importantly, I would like to understand your views, issues, and concerns about cannabis use.

Substance is a comfortable space for individuals who have been self-medicating in isolation to associate; we believe in the humanizing power of emotional connection. We have been seeing clients who are medicating with cannabis primarily in effort to reduce their use of prescription narcotics. Our clients are commonly reporting using cannabis to help them eat, sleep, and successfully function.

They report cannabis providing therapeutic relief that their traditional medical care does not offer. For example, one of our clients is a hospice patient who is sleeping through the night for the first time without morphine — and wakes with less lethargy. Despite the relief found with cannabis, many clients struggle continue to struggle with its marginalization.

Powerful stereotypes around cannabis clubs and biased media coverage misrepresent the role a well-run organization like Substance can play in the lives of patients. Perhaps outdated beliefs may hinder the best provision of patient care; physician awareness and involvement could even lead to a change in prescribing habits.

The conversation about cannabis is shifting in this country and community. Substance is on the forefront of that shift and is committed to being a reliable partner to the medical and patient community.

We are unclear what local doctors think about medical cannabis and would therefore love to hear from you. I welcome you and your staff to tour our facility. If you are too busy to get away from your office, I would be delighted to come see you too. Let’s talk, please. Be part of the conversation.

Jeremy Kwit