The Science of the Human Endocannabinoid System

Science in New Zealand is yet to catch up with the rest of the world, however in many countries around the world Cannabis is currently undergoing one of the most exciting developments in modern science, unfortunately a lot of that science is being under-reported.

In fact, a previously unknown and completely natural biochemical communication system in the human body was discovered after research on the effects of cannabis. It led directly to the discovery of the Endocannabinoid System, a system which plays what we are now learning to be a significant and crucial role in regulating our physiology including our immune system, our hormones, nervous system (senses, memory, emotion, mood and thought), reproductive system, circulation and more.

Cannabis, Cannabidiol and Cannabinoids in Human Biology

Scientists discovered that there are receptors in our brains that respond pharmacologically to cannabis. From this, they subsequently identified endogenous cannabinoid compounds in our own bodies that bind to these receptors. Research in to cannabis and cannabinoids has significantly advanced our understanding of human biology including how the endocannabinoid system can affect human health, and disease.

What are cannabinoids?

Cannabinoids including the many other naturally occurring components of cannabis can modulate the physiological systems in the human brain and body, this is an established scientific fact. Cannabinoids are essentially chemical compounds which trigger the cannabinoid receptors in the human body.

Cannabis genomics research has discovered over 100 cannabinoids including marijuana molecules, tetrahydrocannabinol (THC) and cannabidiol (CBD), both of which are the most well known and have been studied most extensively.

In addition to the cannabinoids produced by the marijuana plant, there are endogenous cannabinoids, including 2AG and anandamide which not only occur naturally in the mammalian brain and body but also in synthetic cannabinoids created by scientests and pharmaceutical researchers.

What is cannabidiol or CBD?

The U.S. government sponsored extensive preclinical research in to the effects of some of the compounds in cannabis, one of them being the cannabinoid known as cannabidiol or “CBD” – This highly regarded research showed that CBD has potent anti-tumoral properties. leading to advancements in anti-cancer research.

Cannabidiol was also found to have significant antioxidant, anti-spasmodic, anti-psychotic, anti-convulsive, and neuroprotective properties. They also found that Cannabidiol can cause an antidepressant effect by directly activating serotonin receptors.

Can cannabidiol cure cancer?

In recent years, scientists associated with the International Cannabinoid Research Society (ICRS) have elucidated a number of molecular pathways through which CBD exerts a therapeutic impact.

A preclinical study by Dr. Sean McAllister and his colleagues at the California Pacific Medical Center in San Francisco published research on how CBD can destroy breast cancer cells by down-regulating a gene called ID-1, which is implicated in a number of different types of aggressive cancer. The silencing of the ID-1 gene is now considered a potential strategy for cancer treatment.

Although much more research needs to be carried out, Cannabidiol now offers cancer sufferers some hope of a non-toxic therapy that may treat some forms of aggressive cancer without any of the painful side effects of chemotherapy.

What is the difference between CBD and THC?

The synergy between CBD and THC is very important. According to the California Pacific Medical Center and Dr. Sean McAllister’s lab, the most effective medical cannabis results were obtained when CBD was administered at the same time with THC. The therapeutic advantages of combining both CBD and THC as a treatment have been underscored in several studies, particularly for treating peripheral neuropathy, a painful condition associated with many types of cancer, diabetes, arthritis, multiple sclerosis (MS) and other neurodegenerative ailments.

CBD vs THC for pain relief

A common misconception about CBD is that it is an effective painkiller on it’s own, without the psychoactive effects of THC. Clinical research conducted by British company GW Pharmaceuticals has shown that CBD is most effective as an analgesic (painkiller) when administered in combination with whole plant THC.