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The Endocannabinoid System & Stress

The Endocannabinoid System

There are over 60 cannabinoid compounds found in cannabis, THC and CBD being the most abundant. In 1988 it was found that the brain has receptor sites that respond to cannabinoids and not long after it was discovered that humans and all mammals have a system working throughout our central and peripheral nervous systems that act on cannabinoids that our bodies manufacture called endocannabinoids. The system was named the Endocannabinoid System or ECS.

The ECS is involved in regulating a number of physiological and cognitive processes including appetite, pain, mood, motivation, memory, immune function and more. Two cannabinoid receptors are now known. CB1(Cannabinoid Receptor 1) is found mainly in the brain and CB2(Cannabinoid Receptor 2) is found mainly in the immune system. 

 Woman with head in hands, stressed

Stress & The Brain 

Studies link stress with inflammation in the brain which is linked to memory loss and depression. Larry Parsons of Scripps Research Institute explained in 2009 at an International Cannabinoid Research Society Meeting that, "An increase in endocannabinoid levels serves as a buffer to physiological and behavioral stress.”

Recent research has suggested that the ECS may also play a role in the regulation of the stress response in the gut-brain axis. The gut-brain axis is a complex communication system between the gut and the brain that plays a crucial role in the regulation of stress. The ECS has been found to modulate the gut-brain axis by regulating the release of neurotransmitters and hormones that are involved in stress responses, such as serotonin and cortisol. Moreover, some studies have suggested that the ECS may play a role in the regulation of sleep, which can be disrupted by stress. The ECS has been found to modulate the sleep-wake cycle by regulating the release of neurotransmitters and hormones such as melatonin, which is important for regulating sleep. Research has shown that the ECS can promote deep, restful sleep and supporting the ECS may be beneficial for individuals who have difficulty sleeping due to stress or anxiety. 

Physical, mental and emotional stress can take a toll on our health. Certainly there are many things we can do such as healthy eating, exercise and self care to reduce stress and improve our health. Perhaps these actions also improve our ECS functioning, but what about plant cannabinoids?



Plant Cannabinoids & Clinical Endocannabinoid Deficiency

Research suggests that some conditions may be the result of a deficiency in cannabinoids called Clinical Endocannabinoid Deficiency (CECD). CECD is a concept first proposed in 2004, that suggests a deficiency in the body's endocannabinoid system (ECS) may contribute to the development of certain medical conditions. The ECS plays a critical role in maintaining homeostasis in the body, regulating various physiological processes such as appetite, pain, inflammation, and mood. It is thought that a deficiency in the ECS may result in an imbalance in these processes, leading to the development of various health conditions. Some researchers have suggested that CECD may be involved in the pathophysiology of conditions such as migraines, fibromyalgia, irritable bowel syndrome (IBS), and even certain psychiatric disorders such as anxiety and depression. 

It has also been proposed that supplementing the ECS with plant cannabinoids could provide therapeutic benefits. A more recent review in 2014 and further studies and clinical observations have provided further evidence to support the notion that endocannabinoid deficiencies may contribute to medical conditions such as migraine, fibromyalgia, and irritable bowel syndrome, among others.

Plant cannabinoids have been found to interact with the ECS in a similar way as our own endocannabinoids. Both plant-derived cannabinoids (such as THC and CBD) and endocannabinoids (such as anandamide and 2-AG) bind to and activate the same cannabinoid receptors in the body, CB1 and CB2 receptors. They also interact with enzymes that are responsible for the breakdown and recycling of endocannabinoids in the body. However, there are some differences in the way that plant cannabinoids and endocannabinoids interact with the ECS, as plant cannabinoids can bind to other receptors and have different effects on the body compared to endocannabinoids. Overall, the interaction between plant cannabinoids and the ECS is complex and still being studied to fully understand the mechanisms involved.

In conclusion, consuming full spectrum CBD, which is rich in a variety of plant cannabinods and other beneficial components, may be an important addition to many individuals wellness plans and a promising approach to potentially supporting the ECS, improving sleep quality in individuals who experience stress-related sleep disturbances, reducing inflammation and improving the bodies overall functioning. 



It is important to consult with a healthcare provider before using full spectrum CBD, as it can interact with certain medications and may not be suitable for everyone. The information presented here is not a substitute for or alternative to information from health care professionals. 



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