Cannabis has increased its popularity lately with a recent decriminalization of its use in many countries of the world, including Spain. Here in Barcelona we have a thriving cannabis culture, with our weed clubs and dispensaries where people can find the highest quality of marijuana products in the menu. In fact, weed in Barcelona is widely regarded as one of the best in the world thanks to the favorable climate of the region for the growth of the plant.
Even though we have avid and knowledgeable consumers when it comes to strains and practices, there are still scientific terms and chemical processes that occur at a molecular level of which most people are unaware. You might have heard the word endocannabinoid before but perhaps you are unsure about what it means. In this article we will take a look at what are and what are the differences between cannabinoids and endocannabinoids.
Not many people know that within our body we have a complex system of receptors, enzymes, and signaling molecules called the Endocannabinoid System (ECS). The ECS helps regulate various physiological processes, including pain, mood, appetite, and immune function, among others.
What is an endocannabinoid?
Endocannabinoids are a type of molecule that is produced naturally within the human body that is part of the endocannabinoid system (ECS). Endocannabinoids are similar in structure to other chemicals found in the cannabis plant called cannabinoids, hence the similarity in their names.
What are cannabinoids?
The term «cannabinoid» was first coined in the 1940s when scientists isolated and identified the psychoactive compound THC from the cannabis plant. Since then, the term has been used to refer to a group of diverse chemical compounds that can interact with the body’s endocannabinoid system, regardless of whether the substance actually comes from the marijuana plant or is produced elsewhere. That is because over time, scientists have discovered that cannabinoids are not unique to the cannabis plant and can be found in other plants and in the human body. So while most cannabinoids are found in the cannabis plant, the term «cannabinoid» is now used more broadly to refer to a class of compounds that interact with the endocannabinoid system, regardless of their origin.
Cannabinoids found in the cannabis plant
There are over 100 cannabinoids that have been identified in the cannabis plant, but the most famously known are THC and CBD. THC being the one responsible for the “high” effect associated with the consumption of weed and CBD being a cannabinoid known for its relaxing and sedative effects that has been used for several medicinal purposes. Some of the other well-known cannabinoids include cannabigerol (CBG), cannabichromene (CBC), and cannabinol (CBN).
CBG is known for its potential antibacterial effects, as well as its ability to stimulate appetite. CBC has been studied for its potential anti-inflammatory and analgesic effects, as well as its ability to promote neurogenesis (creation of new neurons). CBN is a mildly psychoactive cannabinoid that is believed to have sedative effects and may be helpful for sleep.
While research on these cannabinoids is still in its early stages, they all show promise for their potential therapeutic effects. Many cannabis products now feature these other cannabinoids in addition to THC and CBD, as consumers seek out the potential benefits of the «whole plant» approach to cannabis therapy.
Endocannabinoid system receptors
Our ECS is primarily made up of two types of receptors: CB1 receptors, which are located in the brain and central nervous system, and CB2 receptors, which are located in the immune system and the skin. Our body produces endocannabinoids on an as-needed basis to help maintain balance and homeostasis within the body, and these said chemicals bind to the CB1 and CB2 receptors. But as mentioned before, the cannabinoids found in the marijuana plant resemble the ones produced in our body and thus can bind to the same CB1 and CB2 receptors. Depending on the cannabinoid will produce different effects in our brain and body, THC for example is known to produce a euphoric effect and loss of coordination, but will also cause additional effects and provide with some health benefits like pain relief, relaxation, regulate anxiety, vomit and convulsions.
Cannabinoids and endocannabinoids are names for similar chemical compounds with the difference that the latter is produced and found in the human body. Both types of molecules can bind to the receptors found in our brain and/or skin and depending on which particular cannabinoid it is will produce different effects, and could help regulate sleep, mood, anxiety or appetite, or prevent nausea or brain tremors or decrease inflammation, among other things.