How the Endocannabinoid System Signals the Brain

How the Endocannabinoid System Signals the Brain
Written by Maryanna Phinn

All mammals have a complex internal biological network called the endocannabinoid system (ECS). It acts as a cellular signaling system throughout the body, impacting the central nervous and immune systems. The horse endocannabinoid system and the dog endocannabinoid system function the same way as the human endocannabinoid system. Its primary role is to maintain homeostasis or keep the body stable and balanced in response to any internal or external stimuli.  

Scientists first discovered this system after conducting decades of research on how the cannabis sativa plant, especially hemp and marijuana, affect humans and animals.  Interest in CBD products such as those derived from hemp for horses and hemp for dogs, as well as humans, has increased significantly over the past decade as more is known about the endocannabinoid system.

Dog endocannabinoid systemIn dogs, horses, humans and all other complex vertebrates, ECS helps maintain balance in core areas such as appetite and digestion, learning and memory, emotions and mood, pain and inflammation, reproduction and fertility and coordination and movement.

When ECS becomes unbalanced, problems can quickly escalate and cause stress and anxiety, fear and paranoia, equilibrium and balance problems, chronic pain and inflammation or sleep, eating and digestive irregularities.

In order to understand how ECS impacts bodily systems overall, it is important to know how ECS works with the brain.

The Brain and ECS Working Together

In general, human and animal brains are structurally similar. The brain sends out signals and instructions at the cellular level to all major organs in the body and the immune system. As the body’s command center, the brain’s complex communications system consists of many neurons or nerve cells often called “gray matter.” Their main job is to convey, transmit and receive messages from the brain to the body and immune system.[i] Neurons communicate via nerve fibers called axons and dendrites or “white matter” which are connected by synapses. These are found within this communications network at the location where neurons send signals to other neurons.[ii]

ECS is found throughout the body of mammals in many nerve cells and immune cells. The brain and ECS work together in this intricate communications network through the major components that make up ECS – receptors, endocannabinoids and enzymes.

ECS receptors are called CB1 and CB2 and are found on the surface of cells. Most CB1 receptors are found in the brain and spinal cord of the central nervous system and other cells throughout the body. When CB1 receptors are activated by either internal or external environmental factors, many different bodily functions may be impacted or become unbalanced.[iii]

CB2 receptors are primarily in the peripheral nervous system especially the immune system.  When CB2 receptors are activated, the body may respond to problems with pain and inflammation, for example.[iv]

The second component of ECS is cannabinoids. Cannabinoids activate the CB1 and CB2 receptors. All mammals have naturally occurring endocannabinoids in their bodies. Horse endocannabinoids, dog endocannabinoids and human endocannabinoids have the same function. These natural cannabinoids stimulate the receptors. The goal is to always maintain homeostasis and achieve balance and a stable equilibrium.

Hemp is a Phytocannabinoid

Sometimes naturally occurring cannabinoids are not enough to keep things balanced. That’s when phytocannabinoids come into play. Phytocannabinoids are found externally and are plant-based products. Many phytocannabinoids are sourced from hemp. High quality CBD products from hemp for horses or CBD from hemp for dogs are available in several forms. Doc’s Hemp CBD powders, and oils, for example, act as a booster to an animal’s natural system to support general health and mental calmness.

The third component of ECS is enzymes. Their role is to specifically break down endocannabinoids in the body after they have completed their job.

When nontoxic hemp-derived CBD products, such as those available at Doc’s Hemp, are given to an animal they provide extra support to encourage the animal’s body to use its own natural endocannabinoids.

Of note, CBD extracted from clean hemp plants does not cause any “high” effect like THC, the intoxicant compound found in marijuana. It is vitally important to use only CBD products that fall below the legal limit of 0.3% THC level. Doc's Hemp CBD falls between 0.00% and 0.07%, well below the legal limit of 0.3% in THC. 

Need for More Research

The endocannabinoid system was not officially identified by researchers until the early 1990s -- almost the end of the 20th century. In the United States, hemp-derived CBD products are proliferating in the marketplace now that laws are changing at the state and local levels. This will undoubtedly impact research on ECS and how it affects the brain and other major organs in the body.

There are more than 100 cannabinoids in hemp but CBD and THC have gotten the most attention. Fortunately, as legal, scientific and social biases resolve regarding hemp and its cannabinoids, future research may open up new avenues for hemp-related CBD products and therapeutics that will help and support the brain health and wellness of animals and humans throughout the 21st century and beyond.

[i] Britannica, The Editors of Encyclopedia. "Brain". Encyclopedia Britannica, 21 Mar. 2020. britannica.com/science/brain.

[ii] https://dogdiscoveries.com/dogs-neurons/; Farricelli, Adrienne. I am your dog’s neurons. 2016, July 18. DogDiscoveries.com.

[iii] https://fullscript.com/blog/endocannabinoid-system; What is the endocannabinoid system? 2020, October 1; fullscript.com.

 [iv] https://tanasi.com/blog/cb2-receptors/; CB2 receptors – What is their role? 2020, November 28. Tansai.com.

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