Cannabis has increased in popularity recently with the decriminalization of its use in many countries around the world, including Spain. Here in Barcelona we have a thriving cannabis culture, with our weed clubs and cannabis associations where people can find the highest quality marijuana products on the menu. In fact, marijuana in Barcelona is widely considered one of the best in the world thanks to the region's favorable climate for growing the plant.
Although we have avid and knowledgeable consumers when it comes to strains and practices, there are still scientific terms and chemical processes that occur at the molecular level that most people are not aware of. You may have heard the word endocannabinoid before, but you may not be certain what it means. In this article, we'll take a look at what they are and what the differences are between cannabinoids and endocannabinoids.
Not many people know that inside 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, such as pain, mood, appetite, and immune function, among others.
What is an endocannabinoid?
Endocannabinoids are a type of molecule that occurs naturally within the human body and are 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 diverse group of chemical compounds that can interact with the body's endocannabinoid system, regardless of whether or not the substance comes from the marijuana plant. This is because over time, scientists have discovered that cannabinoids are not unique to the cannabis plant and can also be found in other plants and in the human body. Therefore, although 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
More than 100 cannabinoids have been identified in the cannabis plant, but the best known are THC and CBD. THC is responsible for the "high" effect associated with marijuana use, while CBD is a cannabinoid known for its relaxing and sedative effects that has been used for various medicinal purposes. Some of the other known cannabinoids include cannabigerol (CBG), cannabichromene (CBC) and cannabinol (CBN).
CBG is known for its possible antibacterial effects, as well as for its ability to stimulate appetite. CBC has been studied for its possible 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 thought to have sedative effects and may be useful for sleep.
While research on these cannabinoids is still in its early stages, all show promise for their potential therapeutic effects. Many cannabis products now include these other cannabinoids in addition to THC and CBD, as consumers seek the potential benefits of the "whole plant" approach to cannabis therapy.
Endocannabinoid System Receptors
Our endocannabinoid system is primarily composed of two types of receptors: CB1 receptors, which are found in the brain and central nervous system, and CB2 receptors, which are found in the immune system and skin. Our body produces endocannabinoids as needed to help maintain balance and homeostasis in the body, and these chemicals bind to CB1 and CB2 receptors. But as mentioned earlier, the cannabinoids found in the marijuana plant resemble those produced in our body and, therefore, can bind to the same CB1 and CB2 receptors. Depending on the cannabinoid, different effects will be produced in our brain and body. For example, THC is known to produce a euphoric effect and loss of coordination, but it also causes additional effects and provides some health benefits, such as pain relief, relaxation, anxiety regulation, vomiting and seizures.
Cannabinoids and endocannabinoids are names for similar chemical compounds, with the difference being that the latter are produced and found in the human body. Both types of molecules can bind to receptors found in our brain and/or skin, and depending on the particular cannabinoid, they 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.