Since hemp was legalized in 2018, millions of Americans have tried a CBD product. In fact, according to a 2019 Gallup poll, 14% of adults in the United States say that they use CBD. Yet despite the popularity of CBD, many people are unfamiliar with the science behind it and many of the terms used in the CBD world.
One example is cannabinoids, a substance that is critical to maintaining balance in our bodies. While many people are aware that cannabinoids can be extracted from the hemp plant, they may not know that our own bodies also produce cannabinoids. The main difference between plant-based cannabinoids (phytocannabinoids) and our bodies’ cannabinoids (endocannabinoids) is where they are produced.
Cannabinoids play an important role in our overall health and wellbeing. Boosting our natural endocannabinoids by taking a phytocannabinoid like CBD may assist our bodies with a number of conditions. Below, we explain more about what cannabinoids are – and how phytocannabinoids may benefit us.
What Are Cannabinoids?
If you are familiar with the term “cannabinoid,” you may associate it with cannabis or marijuana. This term is typically used to describe naturally-occurring substances found in the cannabis or hemp plant. To date, scientists have identified more than 100 cannabinoids, including cannabidiol (CBD) and tetrahydrocannabinol (THC), which is known for being the psychoactive component in marijuana.
These cannabinoids may also be referred to as phytocannabinoids. The prefix “phyto” simply means that the cannabinoids are derived from a plant source (such as the cannabis sativa plant). Most people drop the “phyto,” and simply refer to these compounds as cannabinoids.
However, the human body also produces its own cannabinoids, known as endogenous cannabinoids, or endocannabinoids. The prefix “endo” means within, which indicates that these cannabinoids originate within the body. Endocannabinoids play a crucial role in maintaining balance in our bodies.
The difference between phytocannabinoids and endocannabinoids is where they are produced. Phytocannabinoids are produced by plants, while endocannabinoids are produced by mammals (including dogs and cats). Both types of cannabinoids are linked to the endocannabinoid system (ECS).
Understanding the Endocannabinoid System
The endocannabinoid system, or ECS, is a complex system in our bodies that helps to maintain homeostasis, or balance. Scientists discovered the ECS in 1992 while performing research on THC. Their discovery of an endocannabinoid in the human brain confirmed that the human body produces cannabinoids of its own.
The ECS consists of three primary components: endocannabinoids, receptors and enzymes. As described above, endocannabinoids are molecules that are made by our bodies. So far, experts have identified two critical endocannabinoids: anandamide (AEA) and 2-arachidonoylglyerol (2-AG). The human body produces these endocannabinoids as needed.
Endocannabinoid receptors are found throughout the body. There are two main receptors: CB1, which are found in the central nervous system, and CB2, which are found in the peripheral nervous system. Endocannabinoids bind to either receptor based on what is necessary to maintain homeostasis in the body.
Finally, enzymes are responsible for breaking down endocannabinoids after they have performed their function. Fatty acid amide hydrolase breaks down AEA, which monoacylglycerol acid lipase usually breaks down 2-AG.
While scientists have not yet discovered all of the ECS’ functions, research has connected it to a number of functions in the human body, including:
- Chronic pain
- Appetite and digestion
- Motor control
- Bone remodeling and growth
- Liver function
- Learning and memory
- Cardiovascular system function
- Reproductive system function and fertility
- Liver function
- Skin and nerve function
- Stress response
The ECS kicks in when something is out of balance in your body. For example, if you hurt your back, the ECS may release endocannabinoids to target CB1 receptors in a spinal nerve to relieve pain and reduce inflammation – bringing your body to homeostasis. Importantly, because endocannabinoids are produced when needed, there isn’t a standard level of endocannabinoids that should be present in your body.
Low levels of endocannabinoids, or ECS dysfunction, may be linked to certain conditions, such as migraines, fibromyalgia, and irritable bowel syndrome. These conditions often do not have a clear underlying cause, so scientists have theorized that clinical endocannabinoid deficiency (CECD) may be the reason that some people develop these issues. Although the research into CECD is still emerging, it is possible that taking phytocannabinoids – such as CBD – could help people who have low levels of endocannabinoids.
Can Taking Phytocannabinoids Benefit Me?
Adding a phytocannabinoid, such as CBD, CBG, CBN and other phytoannabinoids to your diet may boost your health and wellness in a number of ways. While research into CBD is still in its early stages, scientists have found that phytocannabinoids like CBD may help to alleviate certain conditions, including:
Because CBD affects people in different ways – and may interact with certain medications – you should always consult with your doctor before taking CBD or another supplement. Your doctor may also be able to advise you about proper serving sizes and other potential benefits of CBD.
If you are interested in trying CBD for yourself, be sure to look for products that have been independently tested, with the results available online for your review. Because CBD is not currently regulated by the Food and Drug Administration (FDA), this is the best way to ensure that you are getting what you pay for – and not getting anything that you don’t want.
Considering CBD? We’re Here to Help.
Although scientists aren’t exactly sure how CBD interacts with the ECS, they have discovered a range of potential benefits. If you want to add CBD to your diet, we can help. Our team is highly knowledgeable about CBD, and can guide you towards products that meet your unique needs. We have a few options to help you learn more: The Endocannabinoid System Explained or Our Beginner’s Guide to CBD
At Green Wellness Life, we aren’t doctors, and cannot diagnose or treat any medical condition. What we can do is offer you our personal experience and knowledge alongside the latest scientific research into CBD. To learn more, call us at 888-772-7875 (Monday to Friday, 9 a.m. to 4 p.m. EST), press the live chat button, or fill out our online contact form.