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Cannabis Culture

What are cannabinoids?

What are cannabinoids?

If you’re wondering what the brain’s endocannabinoid system is and how it interacts with cannabis, take a look at the article below to find out!

Cannabinoids are compounds found in the cannabis plant. The two most famous of these are tetrahydrocannabinol, also known as THC, and cannabidiol, better known as CBD. THC is the psychoactive component of cannabis, meaning that the way in which THC alters the nervous system function is responsible for the “high” feeling you get when you consume cannabis. 

What are phytocannabinoids?

You might hear multiple terms around the topic of cannabinoids. There are cannabinoids (the overall category), phytocannabinoids (produced by plants), and endocannabinoids (the human cannabinoid system). 

THC and CBD, for example, are phytocannabinoids that act on the endocannabinoid system within the human body when cannabis is smoked or ingested. 

What are the main phytocannabinoids?

THC, CBD, and CBN are often referred to as the major cannabinoids. The reason is because they’re often the most prevalent. There are other cannabinoids that research shows are also quite prevalent, so we could include CBC in the category of major cannabinoids also. 

The ratios of the cannabinoids to each other are important considerations when purchasing cannabis products. For example, we see a lot of 2:1 THC to CBD ratios, or the opposite with very high CBD and very low THC like 20:1 CBD:THC. The reason why this is important is because the different doses will be appropriate for treating different ailments. 

How do cannabinoids interact with the brain?

The endocannabinoid system is a system in the human brain that helps regulate mood, memory, and stress. The main signaling molecules in the system are known as endocannabinoids, and they bind to cannabinoid receptors called CB1 and 2. The two major molecules are anandamide-AEA and 2-arachidonoylglycerol-2AG. These are molecules which interact with receptors normally, though THC and CBD interact with the same receptors when you consume cannabis. 

When cannabis is introduced to the body, it can produce a range of sensations. For the pleasurable sensations, you can thank the effects of cannabis on a region of the brain known as the nucleus accumbens. 

What is the nucleus accumbens?

When the THC binds to CB1 receptors it leads to the release of a neurotransmitter called dopamine into the nucleus accumbens. The effects of THC are well above normal, which is what leads to the sensation of euphoria. CB1 receptors are also found in the basal ganglia and cerebellum. These are regions of the brain that are involved in controlling movement. 

What this means for you, is that smoking cannabis can slow you down and affect your activity level and motor control. Some people experience a change in perception such as visual distortions or an altered sense of reality. There are many reasons we might use cannabis and the way we use it may change over time. We might use it to feel better, to connect with others, or reduce feelings of worry or anxiety. 

What does the endocannabinoid system do?

The endocannabinoid system is involved in pretty much everything you do. Whether you relax, eat food, sleep, or try to memorize something, the ECS system is behind the scene working to put everything in your body back to the baseline (homeostasis). Because this system is involved in so many actions, it regulates many complex functions associated with body development. 

The endocannabinoid system plays a part in the development and maturation of our immune system. It also resolves inflammation, helps with perceiving and resolving pain, and forming emotional memories.

How does cannabis use affect the endocannabinoid system?

The reason why humans have such strong interactions with cannabinoids is because we have the natural architecture of our endocannabinoid system to interact with the phytocannabinoids. 

It’s thought when someone uses cannabis products frequently, the body and brain will reduce their own production of endocannabinoids. This means heavy and frequent use of cannabis can change our nervous system, and over time we might feel more anxious or depressed. On the opposite side, some people use cannabis and experience no major harm. 

Why does cannabis sativa produce cannabinoids?

Plants produce cannabinoids as a form of defense against insect feeding or a stressful environment. The types of stress might include UV light, or water stress in the form of dessication. 

The human body produces cannabinoids also for survival through activation of homeostasis. We need to activate a check and balance system to maintain the homeostasis of our body for optimal living conditions. 

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