What if you’re not feeling well because of a deficiency in your Endocannabinoid system? First we’ll look at the Endocannabinoid system, and then we’ll look at the Endocannabinoid deficiency theory. Plus, we’ll get in to possible treatments.
Reminder that this article is for information purposes only and is not to be taken as medical advice. For medical advice speak to your doctor about whether medical cannabis is right for you.
Do you want to listen rather than read? If so, click the big Green Triangle below to listen to the podcast version of this article.
What is the Endocannabinoid System?
Humans have been smoking and using Cannabis for thousands of years but it was just 30 years ago that we finally discovered WHY it has an effect on us.
It was in the late 1980’s that scientists discovered we have cannabis receptors within our body. We call these Cannabinoid receptors. They are called CB1 and CB2. The phytocannabinoids from the Cannabis plant, like THC, can interact with our Cannabinoid receptors.
Then in the early 1990’s scientist discovered we make our own cannabis! Or, shall I say more specifically we make our own Endocannabinoids. The two main Endocannabinoids that we make are Anandamide and 2-AG.
So we make our own Endocannabinoids to interact with our own Cannabinoid receptors.
And Cannabis happens to make molecules (the phytocannabinoids) that can also interact with our Cannabinoid receptors and affect our Endocannabinoids.
Why do we have Cannabis receptors in our body?
Is it just to get high or stoned from the plant?
We have these Endocannabinoids and Cannabinoid receptors in our body as part of the Endocannabinoid system (or ECS for short).
This system is a large regulatory system within our body.
The purpose of the ECS is to help maintain homeostasis. Which is a fancy word for keeping things within a normal range. Not too high, and not too low: to keep it within a normal range.
Does the ECS help regulate just one thing?
Scientists have discovered that the Endocannabinoid system helps regulate a variety of functions within the body including: memory, sleep, pain, appetite, inflammation, and lots more.
So this Endocannabinoid system doesn’t help normalize just one thing in our body…it helps maintain balance for a large variety of functions in our body.
Does that start to give you a sense just how important this system can be to our overall health and wellness?
(For more information on the Endocannabinoid system check out my other article here.)
What is an Endocannabinoid Deficiency?
If we are supposed to make enough of our own Endocannabinoids to stimulate our own Cannabinoid receptors to help keep our system in balance, this brings up the question: what if we don’t make enough of our own endocannabinoids.
Or what if our own Endocannabinoid system is not functioning properly?
The Endocannabinoid Deficiency Theory
The neurologist Dr. Ethan Russo has published a scientific paper about the possibility of an Endocannabinoid deficiency.
He believes that certain medical conditions including fibromyalgia, irritable bowel syndrome, and migraine may be due, at least in part, to an Endocannabinoid deficiency.
These conditions are typically difficult to treat with standard pharmaceuticals, and as Dr. Russo states, “… all lack characteristic tissue pathology or easily accessible objective laboratory findings.”
This means doctors can’t look at a tissue sample or lab test, and say “Yes, this is what is causing it.”
This can be very frustrating for patients and many patients have a decreased quality of life due to these medical conditions.
Can you treat an Endocannabinoid Deficiency?
Is there help for an Endocannabinoid deficiency?
Yes there is.
This is how or why cannabis may help as a medicine.
If we do not make enough of our own Endocannabinoids, this is where we can “borrow “them from the plant.
We can use the phytocannabinoids from the plant to help “top up” our Endocannabinoid system.
This is where we want to take just enough phytocannabinoids from the plant to top up our ECS and get us into the normal range.
If cannabis could help patients that suffer from these conditions – even help them a small amount – then that could lead to a huge improvement in their quality of life. And isn’t that what it ultimately comes down to: quality of our lives.
Can CBD help with an Endocannabinoid Deficiency?
CBD is a popular non-intoxicating molecule made by the Cannabis plant.
A lot of people like the idea of getting “help without the high” of THC.
But first off, I think it is important to note that THC is intoxicating when you take too much or more than your body is used to.
THC can stimulate our CB1 receptor. It is called a weak partial agonist. So it weakly stimulates the receptor.
And as Dr. Russo himself points out, “..small doses of a weak partial agonist (e.g., THC) should be considered…” for an Endocannabinoid deficiency. Take just enough to get us into the normal range. (For reference article, click here.)
CBD may help to boost the levels of our own Endocannabinoids, like Anandamide, by blocking the enzyme that is responsible for breaking down Anandamide. This enzyme is called FAAH. So CBD is a FAAH-inhibitor therefore increasing the levels of our own Endocannabinoids.
This would aid our Endocannabinoid system by “topping up” our own Endocannabinoids.
Topping up our Endocannabinoid System with Phytocannabinoids
And remember we want to take just enough of the phytocannabinoids from the cannabis plant to get our Endocannabinoid system functioning properly…to “get it in the normal range.”
And because I can’t tell by looking at you the state of your Endocannabinoid System, I can’t tell you whether you’ll need a lot of cannabis to get you in the “normal range” or whether you’ll need just a little.
That is why it’s important to START LOW AND GO SLOW.
We are just aiming to boost you up into the normal range...not to overstimulate the system.
When you over-stimulate a system you’ll develop tolerance. (Your receptors down-regulate. This means they get tired of being stimulated all the time so your body makes less receptors.)
This is why you’ll hear medical cannabis doctors and consultants tell you to start low and go slow (for most conditions).
Thank you. I hope you’ve gained something from this article.
If you have any comments please leave them below. I’d love to hear from people who have migraines, IBS, or Fibromyalgia and whether Cannabis has helped them (and if so what product/strain do you use?).