The endocannabinoid system (ECS) is not new or unique to humans, yet it was only discovered in the early 1980’s and is still not something that is taught in medical schools or nursing programs. The ECS runs throughout the human body and has a strong effect on several internal systems including nervous system, digestion, sleep cycles, REM, and blood pressure to name a few. The human body creates some natural cannabinoids (endocannabinoids) and may also use phytocannabinoids, derived from the cannabis plant. When a consumer uses phytocannabinoids from the natural source, burning dried flower and inhaling the smoke or consuming cannabis extracts that retain or have re-introduced terpenes. Natural and other plant based terpenes can also be found in cannabis products, and these terpenes will interact with the cannabinoids causing variation in the expected effects on the body.
As more physicians begin researching how the ECS works in the body some have suggested that there may be known physical ailments that medical research doesn’t understand well, and that may be caused wholly or in part by a cannabinoid deficiency. There are thousands of examples of public anecdotal research, and over the past several years we can now find thousands of international research studies showing how introducing additional cannabinoids into this system will affect the body. There are many movement disorders and seizure disorders that doctors don’t fully understand, but we know that a significant number of cannabis consumers have found relief from basic cannabis consumption methods. There is even an ancient princess found frozen in the Siberian dessert who was discovered to have died from cancer and had been buried with female cannabis plants. This research will become significantly easier as United States’ Federal Regulations loosen.
The endocannabinoid system can be found in all animals and we all create some volume of endocannabinoids, for example, breast milk is rich in several cannabinoids that you may also find in the cannabis plant. The cannabis plant is the greatest known resource of natural phytocannabinoids. Cannabinoids cause several different reactions in the body including sleepiness, mental relaxation, forgetfulness, dry mouth, elation, mood elevation, relief from spasms, muscle relaxation, and focus. Interestingly, cannabinoids in the brain cause the neural receptors to work backwards when interacting with cannabinoids, this is partly why cannabis works so well for pain management. The anti-inflammatory properties may help with both internal and external swelling issues. The ECS can be stimulated through ingestion, inhalation, sublingually, and through transdermal applications.
There are several ways to receive cannabinoids, most popular is burning dried cannabis flowers and inhaling the smoke, second most popular is likely eating “pot-brownies”. Cannabinoids are found inside sticky resinous glands that are produced on the cannabis flower. Their purpose is to catch the pollen from male plants that floats in the air. When female plants are kept away from male plants they will over produce those resin glands. The plant when in full bloom is harvested and dried allowing the glands become hard and brittle. Those crystals are full of cannabinoids and terpenes and may have as many as 400 compounds in any give bud.
Through several different methods the trichomes can be separated from the cannabis plant, cannabinoids are lipid soluble, essentially making any oil, fat, or butter easy to infuse with cannabis. Cannabis flowers are much richer in THC-A which needs to be decarboxylated through a heating process in order to change form into THC that would allow the end user to experience a high. However, cannabinoids and terpenes are highly volatile and vaporize at relatively low temperatures, changing structure and purpose when they are heated making some infused dishes difficult to create.
Cannabinoids, being lipid soluble, bond to fats in the body and that is why cannabis may stay in the body for up to a few months based on consumption levels and amount of fat in the body. Those who are leaner and drink lots of water may reach non detectable levels more quickly. However, there is no long term physical or psychedelic effects on the body.