Key Points About our Endocannabinoid System and CB1 and CB2 Receptors
How did cannabis, a drug that was illegal for decades, suddenly get approved for medical use? It was due to the discovery of our endocannabinoid system. Our bodies actually make chemicals similar to what is found in cannabis and we have receptors that respond to them to cause positive changes in the body. These self-made chemicals are called “endogenous cannabinoid receptor agonists.”
When you take cannabis, there are two receptor types in particular that respond to the cannabinoids in the drug. These are called CB1 and CB2. These cannabinoids are also “agonists” for these receptors, which is biology-speak for “activators.” They turn on the receptors just like our self-made (endogenous) cannabinoids do.
CB1 and CB2 receptors can be unlocked by three kinds of cannabinoids
Endocannabinoids- produced naturally in the body (anandamide & 2AG)
Phytocannabinoids – (THC & CBD found naturally in cannabis)
Synthetic Cannabinoids (created in the lab)
Here are where these receptors are located and what they control.
CB1 Receptors – In the brain and the nervous system
Basal Ganglia – movement
Cerebellum – movement
Medulla – nausea/movement
Cerebral Cortex – higher cognitive function
Hypothalamus – appetite
Hippocampus – learning memory, stress
Spinal Cord – peripheral sensation, including pain
CB2 Receptors – In peripheral tissue and immune system
Peripheral Nerve System
If you look through a list of the diseases that respond to cannabis, you can see how activating the receptors in these areas deal with the symptoms. Once this discovery was made, scientists were able to back up the claims made by people using it illegally for medication and build the case for legal medical marijuana.
In addition to working with these receptors, these chemicals also have other properties. They reduce the risk of cancer cell growth and reduce vomiting and nausea. More study needs to be done to see if these effects are also done through the endocannabinoid system. As a final bonus, cannabis contains lipoproteins full of good cholesterol which can protect against heart disease.
Since the discovery of the endocannabinoid system, the road to legal medical cannabis was opened to millions of people who suffer from serious diseases. By helping our body’s natural systems, cannabis has far fewer side effects and allows people with these diseases to have a higher quality of life.
Antagonist— When the cannabinoids prevent the receptor from binding to the naturally-occuring compound, causing the resulting event to be altered or diminished.
This definition isn’t needed unless the source provides information about cannabinoids or other chemicals that are antagonistic to CB1 and CB2.