So how exactly does it work? The ECS seems to have two main components that interact with each other to exert its effects:
While scientists are still trying to understand the specific mechanisms by which the ECS modulates each of these different effects, it has to do with the fact that the ECS modulates neurotransmission (i.e., nerve signaling), according to integrative medicine physician Robert Rountree, M.D.
The endocannabinoid system 101.
Phytocannabinoids can influence the ECS in two ways, Rountree explains. “They either activate the receptors directly,” essentially acting like endocannabinoids themselves or “they block the enzymes that normally break down endocannabinoids,” which supports the production and preservation of the body’s own endocannabinoids.
Also known as the “master regulatory system,” the ECS is a cellular-level communication network responsible for maintaining homeostasis across all the body’s organs and physiological functions. “There is not a human experience the ECS does not affect, from fertility and conception to moderating pain, mood, mental health, learning, sleep, and appetite as we grow and mature, to modulating brain health as we age,” says Jessica Knox, M.D., MPH, co-founder of the American Cannabinoid Clinics and a preventive medicine physician. “The activity of the ECS is extremely complex, and we still have a lot to learn, but nevertheless, it provides a new framework with which to understand human health and wellness.”
But don’t confuse a full-spectrum hemp oil supplement with a product containing isolated CBD extract, which neither Rountree nor Knox recommend. “A full-spectrum product is always preferred because it will most closely represent the phytochemical composition of the source plant,” says Knox.
Read more about the legality of hemp oil here.
Cannabinoid Receptor 1 (CB1) is associated with various effects:
Hemp, which is made up of the stalk and seeds of the cannabis plant, must contain less than 0.3% THC to be considered a legal product .
Endocannabinoid System FAQs
Cannabidiol (CBD) is a type of phytocannabinoid. Scientists have identified as many as 90 phytocannabinoids.
PUFAs are precursors and homeostatic regulators of endocannabinoids, lipid signaling molecules of the ECS that bind cannabinoid receptors like CB2. Thus, PUFAs represent a key step in maintaining the health of the ECS . Studies have shown that dietary supplementation with fish and/or fish oil containing DHA and EPA promotes specific modulation of the CB2 receptor.
These effects are due to CB1’s activation by tetrahydrocannabinol (THC). Cannabinoid receptors in the brain are mostly expressed as CB1. CB1 is also found in adipocytes (fat cells), hepatocytes (liver cells), and musculoskeletal tissues.
The ECS is responsible for basic homeostatic roles: