The Human Endocannabinoid System, the one they don’t teach you about in school.

“But whyyy?” they ask with judgment, insinuating your answers were not sufficient.

“Doesn’t it make you feel lazy?” they question, making a half-hearted attempt to reason with you and expecting you to provide an answer that they can accept. Despite their disbelief, you know something magical happens inside of you when you consume cannabis. Not the kind of magic that makes you light headed or that helps you “go to a different place”, but the type of magic that brings balance and peace to an overwhelmingly tense or uncomfortable situation, space or feelings.  And while you may not be able to articulate that magical experience, it is what keeps you coming back to cannabis when you experience those sharp pains in your belly, that dull ache in your lower back or feel the pressures of the world bringing on your migraine.  When your anxiety or PTSD begins to takes over, or maybe you had a long day and you just want to relax, you know that you prefer to use cannabis over most prescription and over the counter medications.  

Our bodies have over a dozen biological systems, each of which performs a specific, yet essential function to keep us alive and healthy. You may be very familiar with some of them such as the muscular system, the digestive system, and the skeletal system.  There are a handful of biological systems you may be less familiar with such as the integumentary system, also known as the body’s largest organ because it includes the skin, hair, nails, glands and nerve receptors. Another example would be the endocrine system, which is made up of the pituitary gland, thyroid gland, parathyroid glands, adrenal glands, pancreas, ovaries, and testicles. Together these glands produce hormones that regulate our metabolism, growth, development, tissue function, sexual function, reproduction, sleep, and mood.

But there is a lesser-known system that like the others, provides an essential function to life, yet gets little attention. This is the endocannabinoid system, the system responsible for creating that magical experience you feel when you consume cannabis. Today we are going to talk about the human endocannabinoid system, the one they did not teach you about in school.  

So what exactly is an endocannabinoid system and what does it do?

The human endocannabinoid system is a complex network of protein-based receptors called cannabinoid receptors and endogenous fatty acids called cannabinoids. These cannabinoid receptors are programmed to make and use cannabinoids. The cannabinoid receptors are tiny sensors that pick up bio-chemical cues from their surroundings. An endogenous cannabinoid describes the cannabinoids produced within the body. Phytocannabinoids are cannabinoids produced inside the cannabis plant. Endocannabinoids and phytocannabinoids naturally stimulate the cannabinoid receptors within the human body.

Cannabinoid receptors are extremely concentrated within our brains, especially the hippocampus, which controls our memories; the cerebral cortex, which controls our higher cognitive abilities; the cerebellum, which controls our motor coordination; the basal ganglia, which controls movement; the hypothalamus, which regulates our 

appetites; and the amygdala which controls our emotions. All of these areas are responsible for the mental and physiological processes we experience within our bodies. Cannabinoid receptors can also be found in other organs, connective tissues, glands, and immune cells.  

What is homeostasis?

Every cannabinoid receptor within our endocannabinoid system has a unique task to perform. Each unique task results in the same goal: promoting and maintaining homeostasis. Homeostasis is the maintenance of a stable internal environment despite fluctuations in the external environment. Translation: The endocannabinoid system is an important body system because it has the ability promote and maintain a stable equilibrium within the body. Cannabis literally balances our bodies by destroying abnormal cells and this helps us to stay healthy. Considering that many illnesses and diseases within our bodies stem from some type of imbalance, I would consider this is a major medical discovery. Since its discovery in 1990, the endocannabinoid system has been considered the most important physiologic system involved in establishing and maintaining human health because cannabinoids promote homeostasis at every stage of biological life.

When was the endocannabinoid system discovered?

On July 18, 1990, Lisa Matsuda announced that she and her colleagues from the National Institute of Mental Health (NIMH) located the exact DNA sequence to encode a THC-sensitive receptor. In 1992, Raphael Mechoulam, William Devane, and Dr. Lumir Hanus located a special neurotransmitter. This neurotransmitter was a naturally-occurring “endocannabinoid,” which attached to the same brain-cell receptors as THC. They named it “anandamide,” deriving from the Sanskrit word for bliss.  How perfect is that name? In 1995, Mechoulam and the other scientists discovered the second endocannabinoid 2-arachidonoylglycerol, or “2-AG” and 2-AG locks onto the CB1 and CB2 receptors. Since this research is less than 30 years old, we are still at the beginning stages of learning how important our endocannabinoid system really is and how the endocannabinoid system works in conjunction with the other biological systems inside our bodies. 

What is clinical endocannabinoid deficiency?

Many common chronic medical conditions have been linked to deficient or overactive neurotransmitters within our bodies. In other words, common chronic medical conditions have been linked to an unbalanced internal environment. For instance, Parkinson’s disease is caused by a dopamine deficiency. Alzheimer’s disease is caused an acetylcholine deficiency. It would make sense that there would also be a disease caused by a cannabis deficiencythis disease is called Clinical Endocannabinoid Deficiency (CECD) and it can happen to anyone, regardless of age or gender. CECD occurs when there is:  

  • not be enough endocannabinoids synthesized;
  • not be enough cannabinoid receptors;
  • too much of the enzymes that break down endocannabinoids; or
  • not enough endocannabinoid signaling happening within the body.

So now when you are asked, “why do you use cannabis?” and you are stumbling through your thoughts of “it evens me out” or “because it makes me feel better” and you can’t capture the words to explain the magic that is happening, just tell them that you have a disease called clinical endocannabinoid deficiency and cannabis is how you treat it. They still may judge you and that is okay.

Closing thoughts & questions for the readers

Can one be so in tune with their body that they can detect the earliest signs of endocannabinoid deficiency as a craving? In other words, if cannabis promotes and maintains balance within the body, does the body crave cannabis when it is coming out of balance? Like how our bodies crave water or liquid when thirsty and how that craving is interpreted as the early signs of dehydration? These are important questions for some cannabis consumers, and since research is still relatively young, these answers are still unclear. However, I would like to believe as our endocannabinoids levels start to drop one of the ways our bodies communicate this drop, is to initiate a cannabis craving.  After all a craving is just one of the ways our bodies can communicate or signal that they need something. Sometimes that something is cannabis. Sometimes it is a nap. Sometimes it is a sandwich. Sometimes it is all three.

The endocannabinoid system might be one of the ways to explain the magical feelings you have when you consume cannabis. The balance it restores to your body might be the reason your nausea is calmed and your creativity soars. But, just like any other consumable, cannabis is not the only thing you should consume in order to be more balanced and healthy. Just like you wouldn’t eat unhealthy foods and exercise, or drink tons of coffee and not sleep, you shouldn’t treat cannabis as a cure-all for any negative symptoms you have that hint at unwellness. Cannabis is just another tool in your toolbox and should be treated as part of a wellness system.

Do you believe that this explains your cannabis cravings? Do you think that this might be an explanation as to why cannabis helps you achieve some of your goals? Might this be the reason for the good effects you feel when you can’t otherwise explain them? Do you believe that new knowledge that we learn about the endocannabinoid system over time will help shine a light onto how homeostasis is achieved in the body?

Let’s talk about your research and experiences. How has cannabis helped heal you inside out?

Sources & good reading material:

http://reset.me/story/beginners-guide-to-the-endocannabinoid-system/

https://halcyonorganics.com/the-human-endocannabinoid-system/

http://seshatasensi.com

http://www.beyondthc.com/wp-content/uploads/2012/07/eCBSystemLee.pdf

http://norml.org/library/item/introduction-to-the-endocannabinoid-system

https://www.learngreenflower.com/articles/51/could-your-illness-be-explained-by-clinical-endocannabinoid-deficiency?gfm=true

http://www.unitedcannabis.us/wp-content/uploads/2014/07/UCANN_FP_DECK.pdf

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Sweet ReLeaf = Sweet Life

Since 2011, I have suffered from a persistent pain located on the left side of my pelvic region and the diagnosis and treatment are always the same: ruptured ovarian cyst & pain medication.  If you are unaware, an ovarian cyst is a horrible little fluid filled sack that forms on the ovaries.  In my case, this sack grows and ruptures on my left ovary, every month.  

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So far there is not a cure, so all I can do is manage my pain and inflammation.  Most months the pain is just painful cramping and I manage by taking an ungodly amount of ibuprofen.  Then there are months when the pain is so severe, I have to go to the emergency room where I am given morphine intravenously. 

After years of constant ibuprofen use, I started experiencing stomach and hearing issues. So in 2014, I decided to stop taking ibuprofen.  I started researching natural ways to manage my constant pain and inflammation.  I kept coming across one answer: cannabis.  For centuries, the cannabis plant has been used in numerous ways to treat pain, inflammation, and a vast number of other ailments and diseases.   After doing my research, I realized I needed some type of cannabis-infused ointment that I could easily apply when in pain.  I have tried numerous cannabis-based ointments and they just didn’t work as well as they claimed.  So when a friend suggested giving Sweet ReLeaf  a try I was very skeptical. But at this point I was also desperate. 

I went to their website, which claims to provide, “help where it hurts” and since I was definitely in need of help where I was hurting, I decided I needed to test this stuff out myself.  A little information about this body butter: Sweet ReLeaf is an all natural, cruelty-free, non-psychoactive, cannabis-based body butter which contains cannabis trichomes, coconut oil, shea butter and a proprietary blend of essential oils.  Translation: This is a bomb ass body butter that will eliminate your pain without getting you high.  
Original-Sweet-ReLeaf-Deeply-Soothing-Body-Butter-4-oz.

According to their website, Sweet ReLeaf soothes many conditions like:

  • moderate, severe and chronic pain
  • arthritis and joint pain
  • muscle tension and soreness
  • inflammation, swelling
  • circulation
  • diabetic foot pain
  • strains, sprains, twists
  • burns, scrapes, stings, cuts + wounds
  • migraines and headaches
  • insomnia
  • psoriasis, eczema, dermatitis, rosacea
  • fibromyalgia
  • pressure sores
  • cramps
  • spasms
  • shingles
  • gout
  • post-surgery

On the last day of my next period following the product suggestion, when my left side pain became unbearable, I applied Sweet ReLeaf, drank some turmeric tea, and set myself up in a restorative yoga asana.  Three hours later, I woke up virtually pain free from a very restful slumber.  No ibuprofen or any other kind of pain medication was used, just Sweet ReLeaf.  I couldn’t believe it worked.  Maybe it was the restorative pose?  Maybe it was the turmeric tea?  I needed to do another test to know for sure.  

A couple days later, when my left side pain came back, I applied Sweet ReLeaf, laid down on my couch and watched Orphan Black (#cloneclub).  No turmeric tea.  No restorative yoga pose.  Just Sweet ReLeaf.  My pain was drastically reduced by the time the show was over.  I have been using Sweet ReLeaf to manage my left side pain ever since.

While Sweet ReLeaf does not completely eliminate my pain, this amazingly decadent body butter does significantly reduce my pain levels without all the negative side effects associated with taking manufactured over-the-counter medicines.  This body butter smells sooooo freaking amazing and it comes in three different formulas: original, extra strength, and unscented.  I am currently using the original formula, and each time I use it has significantly reduced my pain levels within 30–45 mins.  Once I finish the original formula, I plan on trying the extra strength formula because it is twice as strong.  I have a feeling I will be completely pain free after using it!

Bottom line: Sweet ReLeaf is the shit and it has definitely become a staple product in my home for natural pain relief.  If you would like to try this cannabis-based body butter yourself use the code: AshleyAsatu and save 10% off your next order!  Since I have been taking Sweet ReLeaf life has been so much sweeter!  Get it?!  Corny, but still true.  

Have you tried any cannabis based products to manage your pain?  If so, what is your favorite product?

XoXo,

Ashley