Cannabinoid substances don’t just grow in marijuana plants. Your own body produces them.
The endocannabinoid system (ECS) is one of the most important components of the human body. The number of physiological processes it is responsible for or involved in is truly amazing. The ECS plays an integral role in biology and appears in many surprising and unexpected places.
The endogeneous cannabinoid system is perhaps the most important physiological system involved in establishing and maintaining human health. Endocannabinoids and their receptors are found throughout the body: in the brain, organs, connective tissues, glands, and immune cells. In each tissue, the cannabinoid system performs different tasks, always with the same goal, homeostasis or the maintenance of a stable internal environment despite fluctuations in one’s external environment.
At every level of biological life cannabinoids promote homeostasis, from the sub-cellular level to the organism, and perhaps to the community and beyond. For example, autophagy, a process in which a cell sequesters part of itself to be self-digested and recycled, is controlled by the ECS. This process keeps normal cells alive, allowing them to maintain a balance between the synthesis, degradation and subsequent recycling of cellular products, and has a deadly effect on malignant tumor cells, causing them to consume themselves in a programmed cellular suicide.
Endocannabinoids and cannabinoids are also found at the intersection of the body’s various systems, allowing communication and coordination between different cell types.
Besides regulating our internal and cellular homeostasis, cannabinoids influence one’s relationship with the external environment. Socially, the administration of cannabinoids clearly alters human behavior, sometimes promoting sharing, humor and creativity. By mediating neurogenesis, neuronal plasticity and learning, cannabinoids may directly influence a person’s open-mindedness and the ability to move beyond limiting patterns of thought and behavior from past situations or circumstances.
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