The endocannabinoid system (ECS) is one of the secrets to your cannabis experience.

Much of our cannabis knowledge comes from discoveries made in the last forty years – we’ve barely scratched the surface of understanding the ancient plant’s full potential and benefits. Still, there’s enough information out there to help Colorado dispensary shoppers optimize their cannabis experience. 

The endocannabinoid system, or ECS, is tied directly to the effects cannabis can have on your mental and physical state; we’ll get you up to speed on what the ECS does and why you should care. 

First thing’s first – guess what, you have an endocannabinoid system.

Researchers identified the endocannabinoid system after decades of scientific exploration. Their discovery arrived only a few years after scientists found the CB1 and CB2 receptors (the two primary endocannabinoid system receptors). In uncovering the endocannabinoid system, scientists unearthed a network of enzymes, receptors, and biochemical pathways connected to the naturally occurring cannabinoids in our bodies (yes, our bodies produce cannabinoids). 

The CB1 and CB2 receptors allow us to receive the benefits of cannabis when cannabinoids like THC bind to them. Connecting the ECS discovery to its corresponding receptors led to most of what we understand today when it comes to cannabis’ effect on our bodies and minds. 

(The discovery of terpenes also plays into our current understanding, but we’ll leave that topic for another day.)

Endocannabinoid System - Lightshade Dispensary

Let’s talk a little more about the CB1 and CB2 receptors. 

Most of your CB1 receptors are in the central nervous system; however, they exist elsewhere but in lower quantities. Activating the CB1 receptors produces behavioral and cerebral effects, explaining why the receptor plays a direct role in emotion, motor control, appetite stimulation, pain perception, cognition, and memory. 

THC likes to interact with our CB1 receptors – that’s one reason you’ll experience euphoria (among other effects) when consuming high-THC strains. 

CB2 receptors are commonly found in our immune system cells, where they moderate pathogen response and ease inflammation. Stimulating the CB2 receptors won’t produce a heady and euphoric high, but it can help you relax and provides general pain relief without impairing cognition. Strains high in the peppery terpene Beta-caryophyllene easily bind to the CB2 receptors and are thought to have anti-inflammatory benefits (just follow your nose). 

Many cannabinoids (the chemical compounds in cannabis) bind to both receptor types, but CBD has a different relationship with CB1 and CB2. Instead of triggering the receptors, CBD modifies their ability to bind with cannabinoids like THC, which explains why CBD mellows some of THCs psychoactive effects. 

Here’s a pro tip: if you’ve overconsumed, reach for a CBD-heavy product – a tincture, for example – it’ll help you return to earth.

Let’s get back to the ECS.

Your endocannabinoid system is a complex web of receptors, biochemical pathways, and enzymes (we said this above, but it’s worth repeating). 

The ECS is the central regulatory bodily system responsible for maintaining homeostasis (internal balance). It’s your body’s thermostat, so-to-speak, and keeps you comfortable, among other things. Through this complex system, cannabinoids interact with your body, triggering its beneficial effects. Despite the ECS’s vital role in how our bodies function, it was discovered relatively recently, and we’ve only begun to fully understand its significance. 

“The endocannabinoid system (ECS) plays a vital role in the human body for our survival. This is due to its ability to play a critical part in maintaining the human body’s homeostasis, which encompasses the brain, endocrine, and immune system, to name a few.”—The Endocannabinoid System, Our Universal Regulator, Chad A. Sallabaryy and Laurie Astern, 2018

You need to take care of your endocannabinoid system.

Because you have to care for it, you must understand a few endocannabinoid system basics. 

It’s easy to throw your ECS out of balance. Diet, stress, and exercise (or a lack thereof) influence the endocannabinoid system. Unfortunately, modern life is taking its toll on this influential bodily network (especially this year). 

Fortunately, cannabis purchased from a legal Colorado dispensary can help if you’re trying to counteract an internal imbalance. There are hundreds of cannabis cannabinoids, and each uniquely interacts with your CB receptors in a way that helps to support homeostasis. Cannabis can help ensure that your body is working with enough cannabinoids, and it’ll be your friend as we try to get through the stressors of 2020. 

Cannabis is complicated, but we’ll simplify the plant for you.

It’s been our mission to simplify the cannabis purchasing experience for Denver dispensary customers since our founding. We’re here to help you find the best products for your lifestyle. Drop by your favorite (or nearest) Lightshade Colorado dispensary and let our budtenders be your guide.