You don’t need scientific research to tell you that cannabis has a unique impact on the body. People have used cannabis since ancient times for medicinal and ceremonial purposes without knowing the details on the chemical interactions of cannabinoids.
But in modern times, it’s understandable that people want to know more about exactly what cannabinoids do to the body.
Cannabinoids are a group of chemical compounds that interact with the body’s endocannabinoid system. This complex biological system plays a role in regulating a wide range of physiological processes, including mood, appetite, pain, and inflammation.
To understand what cannabinoids do to the body, it’s important to first understand the endocannabinoid system.
What Is the Endocannabinoid System?
The endocannabinoid system (ECS) is a complex signaling system that helps the body regulate various physiological and cognitive processes. They include appetite, pain sensation, mood, and memory. Scientists consider the endocannabinoid system essential for maintaining balance and homeostasis. Studies associate dysfunction in this system with a variety of conditions, including chronic pain, anxiety, and depression.
Endocannabinoids essentially act as neurotransmitters that send nerve impulses to the brain to trigger different effects on the body. The system is composed of three key components: endocannabinoids, receptors, and enzymes.
The body naturally produces endocannabinoid molecules that function in a way that is similar to the cannabinoids found in cannabis. Both the naturally produced molecules and cannabinoids from the cannabis plant activate what are called the CB1 and CB2 receptors found in the brain, immune system and the peripheral nervous system.
The role of enzymes involves breaking down endocannabinoids once they serve their purpose, preventing over-accumulation of molecules in the body.
What Cannabinoids Do To The Body When Ingested or Inhaled
When cannabinoids are ingested or inhaled, they bind to the CB1 and CB2 receptors, activating endocannabinoid molecules. “Because cannabinoids (from cannabis) look and act like endocannabinoids (from the body), the brain recognizes them and allows cannabis to affect behavior, mood, coordination, and more,” according to GoodRx Health.
This interaction impacts the body in a variety of ways. The effects of cannabinoids vary depending on factors such as the type of cannabinoid, the dose, and the method of consumption. However, some of the common effects include the following.
- Pain relief. Cannabinoids such as THC have been shown to have analgesic properties, meaning they help relieve pain.
- Anti-inflammatory effects. Cannabinoids such as CBD have been shown to have anti-inflammatory effects. This can prove beneficial for a variety of conditions such as arthritis, inflammatory bowel disease, and multiple sclerosis.
- Appetite regulation. THC can stimulate appetite, which can be helpful for individuals with conditions such as cancer or HIV/AIDS who may experience loss of appetite and weight loss.
- Mood regulation. Cannabinoids impact mood. THC, in particular, can have psychoactive effects that lead to feeling euphoria or relaxation.
- Neuroprotective effects. Some cannabinoids, such as CBD, may have neuroprotective effects, which may be beneficial for individuals with conditions such as epilepsy or Alzheimer’s disease.
When it comes to medical cannabis and what cannabinoids can do to the body, It is important to consult with a healthcare professional before using cannabis to treat a specific condition.