In 1964, researchers in Israel discovered the therapeutically active substances in cannabis that have come to be called cannabinoids and isolated the most popular and possibly effective cannabinoid, THC (tetrahydrocannabinol). More than 20 years later, in 1988, researchers identified the human body’s endocannabinoid system.
Endocannabinoids are the special molecules naturally produced in the human body that are closely related to proper functioning of the immune system and nervous system and that are mimicked by the cannabinoids found in the cannabis plant.
Cannabinoids contained in cannabis, referred to as phytocannabinoids, simply imitate endocannabinoids. Cannabinoids fit perfectly into specialized receptors found throughout the nervous and immune systems, serving to enhance, or improve upon, the body’s own ability to maintain homeostasis (balance) and health.
Endocannabinoids, also called endogenous cannabinoids, are molecules made by your body. They’re similar to cannabinoids, but they’re produced by your body.
Experts have identified two key endocannabinoids so far:
- anandamide (AEA)2
- arachidonoylglyerol (2-AG)
These help keep internal functions running smoothly. Your body produces them as needed, making it difficult to know what typical levels are for each.
certain pathologies are associated with too low or too high (compensatory) AEA and 2-AG levels:
Irritable bowel syndrome (IBS): low gastric AEAF
ibromyalgia: low cerebrospinal fluid AEA
Migraine: low serum AEA and 2-AG
Multiple sclerosis: low cerebrospinal AEA and 2-AG
Post-traumatic stress syndrome: low serum 2-AG and AEA
Huntingdon’s disease: low numbers of CB1 receptors