There’s a little known system regulating your body’s equilibrium and it can explain away all your burning cannabis Qs. Here’s everything you need to know.
Writer: Anna Duckworth, Miss Grass
Humans have been using cannabis for thousands of years, but you’d be right to say the science hasn’t always been there. The prohibition era maintains its stronghold on so many people and with the current government slowing up legalization even further, cannabis researchers are only just beginning to find their seats at the science table.
The consequences of prohibition, the War on Drugs, and the systemic racism surrounding the plant, need urgent remediation. But progress relies heavily on these scientific studies to debunk the prevailing mythology and the narrative that cannabis is a dangerous substance deserving of a Schedule 1 classification alongside heroine. Access to research really is a matter of social justice and a first step to dismantling the stigma and to rebuilding communities that have been directly impacted by the War on Drugs.
The truth is that cannabis is a safe and therapeutic plant that has broad applications from cancer to pain management, sleep to epilepsy, anxiety to psoriasis.
So while finding a cannabis study to support every issue under the sun remains a pipe dream for now, it’s important to shine a light on all the great research that is happening. As legalization gains momentum and the data speaks for itself, even the biggest skeptics are eating their words.
So, how can one little plant treat so many conditions—each one so different from the next?
One of the greatest discoveries in cannabis science happened in Israel in 1992 when the grandfather of cannabis, Raphael Mechoulam, stumbled on a physiological system that would change the course of history.
The endocannabinoid system (ECS) is a network of receptors found in every vertebrate species. Its purpose is to maintain the body’s equilibrium or homeostasis — which is fancy speak for regulating things like pain, appetite, sleep, immune function, neurogenesis and stress. But taken a step further, homeostasis is this idea that biological systems are regulated by the body to maintain conditions with a certain degree of precision. And that makes sense: When was the last time you were comfortable being too hot or too cold, too hungry or too full?
In order for our bodies to perform at their optimal levels, conditions need to be just so and that’s where the ECS comes in. Even when things start to go awry, its distinct function is to restore those levels to that narrow range — also known as the Goldilocks zone.
Okay, but where does cannabis play in the endocannabinoid system?
Well, the ECS is also what interacts directly with the active ingredients in cannabis. The mechanics of the system look something like a series of locks and keys throughout the body. The locks (or internal receptors) sit dormant until the keys (or cannabinoids) come along to activate them.
These cannabinoids can either come from our bodies or can be artificially introduced. Yep, our bodies actually produce cannabinoids on their very own, which we call endocannabinoids. But our bodies also welcome cannabinoids from the outside world and, in particular, respond very well to the types of cannabinoids found in the cannabis plant, which we call phytocannabinoids.
THC (or tetrahydrocannabinol) is the phytocannabinoid that is responsible for making you high, while CBD (or cannabidiol) is the non-psychoactive one that’s taken the wellness world by storm lately. Both endo- and phytocannabinoids bind to and activate the internal receptors in the ECS and can actually stimulate the body in similar ways.
Thanks to Mechoulam, we now know that when the right endo- or phytocannabinoids interact with the ECS’ internal receptors, patients experience a fundamental reduction in everything from pain to inflammation, psoriasis to epilepsy, anxiety to difficulty sleeping.
This discovery may well hold the key to dismantling the prohibition era by introducing the scientific proof that cannabis is all powerful. And that could change the course of history — in short order.
About Miss Grass:
Miss Grass is an online shop and magazine for women and cannabis, with a broader wellness mandate. Our mission is to shift the narrative around the plant and make cannabis accessible to the masses.