Depending upon your industry perspective, when I use the term “cannabis science” you may be thinking of optimal plant growth conditions, the latest extraction techniques, or manufacturing technology. Cannabis science is broadly used and has many applications.
From my perspective, cannabis science relates to the interactions that take place in the body following consumption of a cannabinoid-containing product. By definition, a cannabinoid is a substance that binds to a specific cannabinoid receptor and can be produced in one of three ways: it can be produced in the body, derived from plants, or chemically.
The focus of this article is on the “why and how” that enables cannabis to act in the body.
The Endocannabinoid System
Why cannabis is able to cause biological effects because of the endocannabinoid system (or ECS). Only identified in the last 20 years, The ECS is increasingly recognized as essential to maintaining homeostasis, or balance, in the body. Detected in diverse species ranging from mushrooms to rats to humans, the ECS plays critical roles for regulating mood, sleep, pain and inflammation.
The components of the ECS include the cannabinoid receptors CB1 and CB2, the endocannabinoids that bind to the receptors, including Anandamide, NADA and 2AG, and the enzymes that synthesize and degrade these compounds. It is a “lock and key” system that allows only certain keys to open the locks and initiate a cascade of effects. Each endocannabinoid binds differently to the receptors to activate or inhibit their responses. The pieces of the ECS work together to synthesize the endocannabinoids “on demand” and transmit chemical messages between cells.