The Endocannabinoid System
Each of us has a unique biological system in our body known as the endocannabinoid system. It serves as the primary biological harm reduction system tasked with bringing the body back into balance (or homeostasis) whenever it is challenged by stress, infection, injury or lifestyle. The endocannabinoid system is comprised of three core parts including endocannabinoids, CB1/CB2 receptors and enzymes.
Endocannabinoids are created naturally in the body to regulate this balance but sometimes they are unable to keep up with the demand from the endocannabinoid system. In cases where it cannot, cannabis can be ingested to counteract. The level of imbalance varies from person to person and a strain that works for the same condition for one individual, might not work for another. Trial and error is a critical part of finding what works.
Cannabinoids & CB1/CB2 Receptors
The reason cannabis benefits so many different ailments boils down to the fact that a class of chemicals produced in the cannabis plant, known as cannabinoids, mimic those endocannabinoids produced naturally in the human body. In fact, the cannabinoid THC found in the cannabis plant has a very similar molecular structure to the endocannabinoid anandamide. Anandamide is a chemical produced by the brain that affects pain, appetite and memory within the ECS.
Cannabinoids work by bonding with these receptors to signal the ECS to act towards better balance. The two primary endocannabinoid receptors in the human body are the CB1 receptor, located mostly in the brain and central nervous system and the CB2 receptor, which is more abundant throughout the extremities and the immune system. The enzymes then are responsible for breaking down cannabinoids once they’ve carried out their function.
Common Cannabinoids and their Therapeutic Effects
What are Terpenes?
Terpenes are the essential oils that occur naturally and exist in all plants, trees and flowers, including the cannabis plant. They are secreted alongside cannabinoids in the trichome glands and are responsible for giving cannabis its unique aroma, color and flavor. In fact, nearly 200 terpenes have been identified in the cannabis plant. Although terpenes offer therapeutic value of their own (as seen in the chart below), they are truly designed to work synergistically with cannabinoids. Every strain of cannabis contains a unique blend of cannabinoids and terpenes, resulting in varying physiological and psychoactive effects.
It is standard for cannabis cultivators to include cannabinoid content on product packaging but more and more are including terpene profiles as well. This is in an effort to help consumers find the best product for them in a market crowded with different names for what could easily be the same or a very similar strain.
Common Terpenes and their Therapeutic Effects
Aroma: Cloves, musky, earthy, herbal
- Potential effects: Sedating, relaxing
- Potential therapeutic value: Antioxidant; treatment of insomnia, pain, and inflammation
- Also found in: Mango, lemongrass, thyme, hops