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What Is The Endocannabinoid System?

The Endocannabinoid system was first discovered by scientists who were carrying out research into why cannabis had the effect on people that it did, hence the name Endocannabinoid System. “Endo” is an abbreviation of endogenous, which refers to something that originates inside of the body. Cannabinoid is the term used to describe the compounds that are responsible for activating the endocannabinoid system.

The Endocannabinoid system is the biological system that is responsible for the effects that cannabis has in altering the psychosocial behavior and physical well-being of people. It has also been discovered that the endocannabinoid system plays a major role in regulating many important functions within our pets’ bodies.

Given the many roles that the endocannabinoid system can have in dogs and cats, and the potential for using the stimulation of such systems to treat or regulate multiple diseases, this area of phyto-pharmacy has recently become the subject of much scientific research. Scientists are beginning to understand the basic functioning of the endocannabinoid system, however, at this point, we are just scratching the surface when it comes to understanding the exact mechanisms of action and multiple applications behind the use of this gentle therapeutic option.

Cannabinoid Receptors

The endocannabinoid system relies on the stimulation of cannabinoid receptors (CB). There are multiple CB receptors in the pet's body, however, the most commonly known are receptors CB1 and CB2.

CB1 receptors are primarily located in the nervous system and can be found in multiple areas of the brain, like the hypothalamus and amygdala, etc. as well as in the peripheral nerve endings. It is these receptors that are responsible for some of the pain control benefits and calming properties of CBD.

CB2 receptors can be found in the nervous system, the immune system, and other organs. These CB2 receptors are known to downregulate inflammation, providing some of the anti-inflammatory and pain control properties of the CBD.

Endocannabinoids are molecules that are produced naturally within the body. It’s these molecules that bind with the cannabinoid receptors and activate them. The body only creates endocannabinoids when they are needed. When Cannabinoids are introduced into the body from an external source, they also activate these receptors, thus creating the various effects that we are starting to understand. The most common Cannabinoid compounds are THC (the psychoactive ingredient in marijuana) which primarily binds to CB1 receptors and CBD (non-psychoactive component). Current research shows that CBD binds to the CB1 and CB2 receptors, providing most of the medicinal properties of the cannabis plant without any of the psychotropic effects.  

There is a large body of research in human medicine on the multiple effects of CBD, including those that happen out of the endocannabinoid mechanism. For example, CBD binds and inhibits a gene that is responsible for certain types of cancers. It has also been discovered that the CBD binds to other receptors that are responsible for modulating inflammation out of the endocannabinol system.

This is a very superficial description of this fascinating body system and given the large amount of ongoing research, we expect to develop a deeper knowledge on the multiple effects and benefits of this generous plant compound.