The endocannabinoid system is a group of neuromodulator lipids and their receptors that exist in the brain and nerve cells of mammals. This system plays an important role in the physiological processes that maintain homeostasis.
Homeostasis is the maintenance of a healthy equilibrium of the body’s interdependent elements by responding to external stimuli and internal changes. In order to help the body maintain homeostasis, the endocannabinoid system plays an important role in regulating the impulses related to appetite, pain response, mood, immune function, muscle spasm, sleep, and memory.
The nervous system can be understood as the body’s communication system. It senses external stimuli and changes within the body through nerves. That information is passed through those nerves to the brain, where it is processed and responded to either consciously or by impulse. The endocannabinoid system helps relate this information and coordinate the body’s response.
Sometimes these neural pathways become damaged from injury, disease, or genetic predisposition, and this causes a response that triggers painful symptoms such as inflammation or nausea.
What cannabinoids appear to do is bind to the receptors of the body’s endocannabinoid system, supplementing the endogenous cannabinoids, or ‘endocannabinoids’, produced by the human body, thereby improving the physiological response.
Neuroprotectants & Antioxidants
By mediating immune response and neural communication, cannabinoids are highly potent antioxidant neuroprotectants. CBD is especially effective at clearing glutamate, a toxic chemical that accumulates following traumatic brain injury. Cannabinoids have also shown consistent effectiveness both in vivo and in vitro studies to protect nerve cells damaged by MS, Parkinson’s, and Alzheimer’s.
Probably the foremost reason why patients and doctors should consider cannabinoid therapy is its safety profile. The active constituents of the cannabis plant are remarkably non-toxic.
Minimal Side Effects
One of the most problematic aspects of traditional pharmacopoeia are the side effects of prescription medications. Side effects can range from mild discomfort to the life threatening. Side effects of cannabinoid therapy have consistently been shown to be minimal in trials. Those that do arise are effectively managed when the regimen is overseen by a qualified health professional.
Another reason why cannabinoid therapy is a safe and effective form of treatment is because of the anti-inflammatory properties of cannabinoids. Inflammation is both a cause and symptom of many disease states. It is also a major contributor to pain. Reducing inflammatory response is an important aspect of treating disease and injury. Unfortunately many traditional pharmaceuticals cause inflammation. There are many prescription and over-the-counter medications that treat inflammation, but most have side effects or pose toxicity risks.
Low Risk of Dependence
Many drugs used to treat chronic disease or pain carry some risk of physical or mental dependence. Opiate pain medication, in particular, is highly addictive, and, unfortunately, one of the few effective means that doctors have to treat pain. Cannabinoid medicine offers an effective alternative that largely avoids the risk of dependence.