We’re all familiar with tetrahydrocannabinol (THC) and Cannabidiol (CBD), cannabinoids that come from the cannabis plant. But did you know your body naturally produces its own cannabinoids too? The cannabinoids made by our bodies are called “Endocannabinoids,” the Greek prefix “Endo” meaning “within,” these are cannabinoids made within the body. The cannabinoids in plants are called Phytocannabinoids, with the Greek “Phyto” meaning “plant.” Just like a serotonin deficiency can result in a range of physical problems and mental disorders, so can a deficiency of Endocannabinoids. People whose bodies produce too few Endocannabinoids are said to have a condition known as Clinical Endocannabinoid Deficiency (CECD).
Meet your CB Receptors
Before getting into CECD, we need to better understand our endocannabinoid system (ECS). The ECS is made up of two parts, the endocannabinoids it produces and the receptor sites where endocannabinoids and phytocannabinoids interact to produce medicinal and psychoactive effects. Let’s talk about those receptor sites first.
The two primary receptors that make up the ECS are called CB1 and CB2, named for the order they were discovered in. Your body’s CB1 receptors are primarily in the central nervous system and to a lesser degree the immune system and reproductive systems. CB2 receptors are found to spread throughout the body. The CB1 receptor is known to be the reason THC makes people feel “high,” and since CBD has no interaction at CB1, it does not. In addition to CB1 and CB2, there are a few other sites where endo and phytocannabinoids have been shown to have interactions, specifically, the TrpV1 vanilloid receptor, the 5-HT1A receptor, and the GPR 55 orphan receptor.
Phytocannabinoids and Endocannabinoids
Now that we have some idea of where cannabinoids interact, let’s talk a bit more about those endocannabinoids our bodies make that interact with the receptors in our ECS. The first endocannabinoid discovered was anandamide in 1992, and that discovery began all our knowledge of the ECS, until then we had no idea that our bodies made cannabinoids or had CB1 receptors. Anandamide is also known as Arachidonoylethanolamine (AEA) and primarily interacts with the CB1 receptor, though it also interacts with CB2 to a lesser extent. Since it interacts at the CB1 receptor, just like THC, anandamide can produce euphoria, which is why the name is derived from the Sanskrit word for joy, “Anand.”
A couple of years later, researchers described 2-Arachidonoylglycerol (2-AG), an endocannabinoid that binds to both CB1 and CB2 fairly well. In the early 2000s, three more endocannabinoids were identified, 2-Arachidonyl glyceryl ether (Noladin ether), N-Arachidonoyl dopamine (NADA), and Virodhamine. Both Noladin ether and NADA bind much stronger to the CB1 receptor site, and some controversy exists around if noladin ether should be called an endocannabinoid. More recently, research on the GPR55 receptor has shown Lysophosphatidylinositol (LPI) to be the sixth endocannabinoid. These are natural parts of human development, so natural, that endocannabinoids have been found in breastmilk.
If you haven’t guessed already, the only reason any of the phytocannabinoids in cannabis (or other plants for that matter) have an impact on our bodies is because of the ECS and those same receptor sites we just discussed.
Not just people, pets have an ECS too!
The cannabis and hemp industries today aren’t just focused on providing products to people, but to animals too. You may be wondering, “does my dog or cat have an ECS?” And the answer is yes, ECS has been found in animals! Your dogs, cats, bunnies, guinea pigs, fish, birds, lizards, and even frogs all have an ECS. In short, if something has a spine it has an ECS, even some invertebrates do, though insects appear to completely lack any ECS, so, unfortunately, pet tarantulas are out of luck.
What is Clinical Endocannabinoid Deficiency (CECD)?
Our bodies are complex mixtures of neurotransmitters and other chemicals, and sometimes the mix gets thrown off for one reason or another, resulting in a deficiency or abundance of a given chemical or chemicals. CECD is a clinically recognized deficiency of endocannabinoids, much like a person can have a serotonin deficiency. While we do know there are a few different cannabinoids, not enough is known about CECD to differentiate individuals by which endocannabinoid is deficient.
When was CECD first discovered?
The theory of CECD was first proposed in 2001 by the eminent cannabis researcher, Dr. Etrhan Russo, who was looking into treatments for migraines. Dr. Russo expanded on his theory with a literature review in 2004, which examined the ECS’s role in “migraine, fibromyalgia, irritable bowel syndrome, and other functional conditions.” Dr. Russo did a more in-depth literature review a few years later and followed up with another study in 2016. With every one of these studies, the evidence has become more and more conclusive, that the ECS is real and needs to be considered by medical professionals.
What are the symptoms of CECD?
Research has indicated that the ECS has many roles in our body, including “the maintenance of homeostatic balance,” which includes temperature regulation and other important functions. So the symptoms of CECD are as broad as the bodily systems the ECS helps regulate and they can manifest in many different ways. Some of the more pronounced “symptoms,” or medical conditions, that develop from CECD are the same ones Dr. Russo has been studying for the past two decades, primarily migraine, fibromyalgia, and irritable bowel syndrome. Most recently, Dr. Russo has noted that CECD plays a role in post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD), bipolar disease, phantom limb pain, glaucoma, cystic fibrosis, and many more.
How do you treat the Clinical Endocannabinoid System (CECD)?
The way to treat CECD is by improving the “tone” of your ECS, which is the term used by Dr. Russo to describe this broad-focused, yet poorly understood, bodily system. Dr. Russo has a few helpful tips people can use in their daily lives to improve the functioning of their ECS and combat endocannabinoid system deficiency symptoms. The most basic things you can do to improve your tone are to get a good amount of sleep and eat a healthy diet.
In addition to those basics, you should exercise regularly and try to live a stress-free life (as much as you can during this pandemic). Tied into a proper diet, you should seek to cultivate a healthy gut microbiome which can mean consuming both pre-and probiotics. Finally, you should look into your family health history, as there are genetic components to the ECS.
It is important to fuel your endocannabinoid system with phytocannabinoids to keep it optimized. If you are looking to try some USDA Certified Organic full-spectrum CBD as a tool to help boost your endocannabinoid system and promote better mental and physical health you can find the best CBD products at Ojai Energetics.