In the late 1980s researcher Allyn Howlett discovered a receptor in the brain that the cannabinoid THC binds to. Another primary receptor was identified and the pair became known as
CB1 and CB2.
CB1 receptors can be found in abundance in the brain, nervous system, glands and organs, while CB2 receptors are found in the immune system.
CB1 receptors are primarily stimulated by cannabinoids like THC, and are responsible for effects on memory, mood, sleep, appetite and pain sensation.
CB2 receptors appear to be activated by cannabinoids like CBD (and THC to a lesser degree) and work to reduce inflammation and immune response.
In 1990, Israeli cannabis researcher Raphael Mechoulam discovered what became known as the Endocannabinoid System (ECS), a biological regulatory system that promotes balance and well-being in all mammals. Not only did it explain how cannabinoids work with the body’s receptors, the system was discovered to have involvement in numerous, vital physiological functions- including its ability to directly affect our body’s response to injuries and inflammations This profound discovery could be called one of the twenty first century’s greatest scientific breakthroughs, and it ushered in a flurry of studies. In fact, there are now over 22,000 published studies or reviews in scientific literature pertaining to the cannabis plant and its cannabinoids – nearly half of which were published in the last ten years.
The ECS is always at work. The receptors are activated either by the body’s own endogenous (internal) cannabinoids, or by plant cannabinoids (also called phytocannabinoids) like THC and CBD.
The cannabinoids and receptor mechanism is often described as a lock and key system. When the ECS is working properly, signals are firing and optimal functioning is happening in the body.
When the endocannabinoid system is not functioning properly, phytocannabinoids can be introduced, plug in to the receptors, and switch the ECS on to do its job. The better the ECS is working, the more our bodies are in equilibrium, and the less likely we are to develop disease. Here are some of the capabilities of the ECS that have been discovered so far:
Balances and strengthens the nervous and immune systems
Initiates pain control
Initiate neurogenesis (production of new nerve cells)
Involved in protective mechanisms against illnesses including neurological diseases and nerve damage