Cannabinoids and the Endocannabinoid System
When advocates of medicinal cannabis begin discussing some of the symptoms that cannabis can ameliorate, listeners are often skeptical. How can a simple plant extract effectively treat symptoms as diverse as muscle spasms and intestinal distress? Most people are (and should be) dubious of claims that a medicine can treat a wide range of disease states. Snake-oil panaceas have been around since the advent of medicine and when it comes to health one should rely on science, not salesmanship. To understand how and why cannabis medicine holds so much promise, it helps to begin with an understanding of cannabinoids and the endocannabinoid system.
The endocannabinoid system consists of receptors on the cells of various organ systems, and the chemicals the body produces to interact with them. These receptors appear in cells in most of the body but are concentrated in the nervous system and in the immune system. Each set of receptors is responsible for specific tasks, but their overall purpose is to promote homeostasis, the protection of a cell’s inner composition when external factors change. The endocannabinoid system is thought to help various organ systems effectively communicate. Therefore, the endocannabinoid system plays a crucial role in regulating pain, inflammatory response, appetite, memory, and immune system functions.
Cannabinoids are chemicals that interact with the endocannabinoid system. The human body produces some of them internally which are known as endocannabinoids. Some examples of these include anandamide and 2-arachidonoylglycerol (2-AG). Phytocannabinoids are cannabinoids found in plants. The richest known source of these is the cannabis plant, though they can be found in smaller concentrations in other plants.
It is hypothesized that the reason for cannabis’ efficacy in treating a wide range of conditions is due to the stabilizing effect its cannabinoids have on the body’s endocannabinoid system. Increasing the amount of cannabinoids in the body is thought to promote homeostasis.
While there are thousands of published papers on the endocannabinoid system and cannabinoids, there is still much work to be done to unlock their secrets and therapeutic potential. CITIVA’s research and development arm intends to advance the science of cannabinoid medicine and create viable, effective, and naturally sourced medicines from that work.
Cannabis, Chronic Pain, and Sleep
One of our targeted areas of treatment is chronic pain management and associated sleep disorders. Pain management is an important aspect of overall healthcare. Studies have consistently shown that when an effective pain management regime is integrated with other treatments, it improves the overall prognosis.
Cannabinoids can play a crucial role in pain management for several important reasons:
- Cannabinoids can ease inflammatory response. One of the primary functions of the endocannabinoid system is to regulate the inflammatory response. The right combination of cannabinoids can help the body adjust its inflammatory response.
- Cannabinoids can improve sleep. One of the most problematic aspects of chronic pain is its effect on the sufferer’s sleep. Certain formulations of cannabinoids can help induce restful sleep while easing inflammation. Improved sleep not only improves the quality of life, it also improves overall health.
- Cannabinoid therapy is very safe. Unlike other types of pain and sleep medication, cannabinoid therapy is very safe. Tens of thousands of Americans die every year from overdoses of pain and sleep medication. Some medications can suppress the central nervous system, reducing heart and breathing rates to dangerous levels, while others pose toxicity risks. In all of recorded history, there has not been even one documented case of a cannabinoid overdose. This is because cannabinoids are non-toxic and do not interfere with the body’s essential functions such as breathing and heart rate.
- Cannabinoids carry a low risk of dependency. Prescription drug dependency is a large a growing problem. Not only to sufferers of chronic pain become dependent on their sleep and pain medications but their tolerance for these drugs can become very strong requiring them to take larger and larger doses. Cannabinoids carry no risk of physical dependence and tolerance plateaus very quickly. Also, patients can often manage their pain with cannabinoid formulas that do not produce any psychotropic effects. For more information, please view the documentary ‘The Science of Cannabis’.