Marijuana is a natural product. It comes from the Earth and it has many beneficial qualities for us. It helps us relax, can help deal with anxiety and more. A big reason for this is the fact that our bodies have several weed receptors that allow cannabis to help us both physically and mentally. This is all thanks to the endocannabinoid system, which is the most complicated signaling system within our bodies. The discovery of this system is relatively new, with scientists learning of it in the 1980s. The discovery came about thanks to an effort to understand why marijuana gets people high.
This work began in 1964 when researchers were looking to understand THC in cannabis and how it impacts the body. In 1988, investigators eventually found the first evidence of an endogenous signal system for the chemical in the body. This was done through looking at a receptor in a rat brain that was bound with a synthetic version of THC. Blocking this receptor in humans would then block the high that is experienced with marijuana. This receptor, known as CB1, was found in other mammal brains, including in humans. A second receptor, CB2, was found in 1993 and was found in a rat spleen. This showed that the endocannabinoid system functions throughout the body.
By 1995, the system was identified completely, and scientists even found related enzymes in fungi that first evolved 156 million years ago. This showed that endocannabinoids evolved earlier than cannabis plants.
Here is a rundown of the cannabinoid, or weed, receptors found in the body.
- CB1: Located in the brain and present in the central nervous system.
- CB2: Found in the peripheral organs, including cells in the immune system.
- TRVP1: Found in the blood, bone, marrow, tongue, stomach, liver and kidneys.
- TRPV1: Found in the skin, muscles, kidneys, stomachs and lungs.
- GPR 18: Found in the spleen, marrow, lymph nodes and testicles.
- GPR55: Found in the bones and brain.
- GPR 119: Found in the pancreas and the intestinal tract.
While THC and CBD are the two most common cannabinoids that are focused on, there are believed to be hundreds more out there that still must be identified.
The endocannabinoid system, which is full of weed receptors, is a major player in our body for health and disease. Recently, scientists discovered that the endocannabinoid system sends signals to the gut that drives the overeating found in the Western World. A high-fat and high-sugar diet has been tied to elevated levels of endocannabinoids in our blood and gut. This then pushes the body to want more fatty foods, which causes severe weight game. Researchers found that by blocking endocannabinoids from the weed receptors in the body can decrease the overeating in lab animals. For this reason, pharmaceutical companies are very interested in targeting the endocannabinoid system to create a diet pill that reduces appetite.
The weed receptor system in our bodies is still relatively mysterious but scientists are learning more about what exactly it does. We do know that the activation of CB1 receptors increases food intake and impacts our energy metabolism. For those with Type 2 Diabetes, it has been found that endocannabinoids and their receptors are upregulated, which builds up fat, liver scarring, cell death and cell proliferation.
One interesting fact about the weed receptors in the body is that those who are chronic users of marijuana have been found to not have an increase in the incidence of diabetes or obesity. This is because the chronic use of cannabis causes a down regulation in the CB1 receptors in the body. This creates a tolerance that helps to keep things in check. Another possibility, found in 2015 through research, is that the use of cannabis on a regular basis alters the microbiome in our gut. This prevents weight increase and changes our food intake.
The weed receptors of the body are still not well-understood, and this creates a problem. While it is interesting to see how the endocannabinoid system works, and its varied roles in the body, this also makes it difficult for drugs to target properly. Therefore, synthetic cannabis is so dangerous. Over the past decade, two drugs have been created to target the endocannabinoid system like marijuana does, but both have had severe impacts on the human body when the compounds passed the blood-brain barrier. The effects on other organ systems have also had severe impacts on the human body and the reproductive system of women.
The off-target effects on the organs through synthetic drugs meant to target this system are a major roadblock for many companies. Researchers are now looking at ways to target peripheral systems instead. One such product is seen as a treatment for non-alcoholic fatty liver disease. This compound does not enter the brain as previous drugs did. This allows it to treat liver disease without causing any side effects on the brain in animal testing.
Since endocannabinoids provide indirect access to the brain, the system is seen as a great way to treat disease. With the system serving as a major highway between the gut and the brain, the weed receptors could be highly beneficial to dealing with overeating and obesity. The real challenge is to identify the way to regulate how much people eat, without ever getting near the brain with a drug. Thanks to the system, it may be one day be possible to control the brain from the gut.
What does this all mean though? It means that cannabis is something highly beneficial to the body. The body produces cannabinoids and we have receptors designed to accept them. This shows proof that cannabis can be a medicine for the body. The pain-killing effects of THC are well-known, and the anti-inflammatory aspects of CBD are also well-known. More and more medical professionals are seeing the positive impact of cannabis on the body, and that is a very good thing for all of us.