The Endocannabinoid System: A History of Endocannabinoids and Cannabis

Have you ever wondered why marijuana affects us the way it does? What is it that makes THC and CBD react with our bodies, healing and offering relief to the ill? What makes this plant such a diverse medicine, able to treat such a large number of vastly different conditions?

If you had asked this question fifty years ago, there wouldn’t have been an answer for you to find. Unfortunately, the extraction methods available in the early 1900s made it difficult to determine which one of the 80+ cannabinoids found in cannabis was the psychoactive cannabinoid responsible for the effects of marijuana.

The truth is, it’s only been in the last couple of decades that scientists have truly even begun to understand the ways cannabis works within our bodies.

It all started with a scientific breakthrough in 1964, when a scientist from Israel named Raphael Mechoulam was able to identify and isolate THC for the first time – just prior to which they were able to identify CBD as well.

Being able to isolate these cannabinoids for the first time was the first stepping stone in discovering the endocannabinoid system – a biological system that can be found in just about any living thing with vertebrae.

“By using a plant that has been around for thousands of years, we discovered a new physiological system of immense importance,” says Raphael Mechoulam, the dean of the transnational cannabinoid research community. “We wouldn’t have been able to get there if we had not looked at the plant.”

In 1988, the first cannabinoid receptor was found in the brain of a rat. Initially found by Allyn Howlett and William Devane these cannabinoid receptors turned out to be plentiful in the brain – more so than any other neurotransmitter receptor.

Soon after this discovery researchers started using a synthetic form of THC (which is actually FDA approved these days, to treat severe nausea and wasting syndrome) to start mapping the CB receptors in the brain. Not much of a surprise, the receptors were located primarily found in the regions responsible for mental and physiological processes including memory, higher cognition, motor coordination, appetite and emotions among other places.

 

 

 

Read the full article at Marijuana Times.