Many people wrestle with chronic health problems that are considered difficult or impossible to recover from. These include chronic pain, neurological disorders like autism and seizures, psychological problems like bipolar mood disorder, neurological diseases like Alzheimer's and Parkinson's, autoimmune disorders, cancer, and glaucoma. Today, however, there is new-found hope for recovery from these serious conditions thanks to the discovery of a new body system—the endocannabinoid system.
Researchers discovered this chemical messaging system of the body while researching the effects of cannabis (also known as hemp or marijuana). It was named after the plant in the same way opioid receptors were named for the opiates from the poppy plant that affect them.
This remarkable system appears to help maintain homeostasis, the normal balance of healthy conditions in the body. When we are injured or stressed, the body releases chemical messengers called endocannabinoids that help return the body to a normal state. These internal signaling compounds help to reverse inflammatory processes, ease pain and balance brain and nerve function.
Cannabis contains many compounds that affect the endocannabinoid system, but researchers are discovering cannabinoids in other plants, including echinacea, kava kava, and chocolate. These plant-based compounds, known as phytocannabinoids, can help move the body back to a healthy balance, promoting faster healing.
The research has also uncovered the terpenes, compounds found in essential oils, also interact with the endocannabinoid system, which opens up new insights into why aromatherapy can be so effective.
One phytocannabinoid, known as CBD, is becoming increasingly well known for its ability to help balance the endocannabinoid system without producing psychoactive effects. It appears to work by making the body’s own cannabinoid receptors work better.
Get the facts about the endocannabinoid system, CBD, and much more in this month’s Sunshine Sharing Hour.