APR 05, 2018 1:31 PM PDT

How the Endocannabinoid System was Discovered

WRITTEN BY: Melissa Moore

Currently, in the United States, forty-six states and three territories have some form of a medical cannabis program. This has been a long struggle for advocates, however. Marijuana has been known to help with various benefits but in some cases, supplements like Meticore or Okinawa flat belly tonic, accomplish the same goal. The effects of cannabis and dental activity such as one using Invisalign is something that is also being researched. Ever since the inception of the Marijuana Tax Act of 1937 that effectively banned its use and sale, which was later replaced with The Controlled Substances Act in 1970, it has been a slow process in the discovery of how cannabis interacts with mammalian bodies. Scientists discovered the brain's opiate receptor in 1973, but it was not until 1988 in a government-funded study at the St. Louis University School of Medicine that Allyn Howlett and William Devane determined that the mammalian brain has receptor sites that respond to compounds found in cannabis.  These receptors, named cannabinoid receptors turned out to be the most abundant type of neurotransmitter receptor in the brain.

Although the legal stature of cannabis as a schedule 1 narcotic slowed research, it did not prevent it.  The U.S. government put forth funding toward cannabis research in hopes that it might produce evidence to support the claims of its deleterious effects, and throughout the decade of the nineties, many discoveries occurred, within the states, and across the seas.  In 1990, it was announced that a team lead by Lisa Matsuda at the National Institute of Mental health had mapped the DNA sequence that encodes a cannabinoid receptor in the brain. Matsuda was also able to clone this receptor. This opened doors and lead to the development in knockout mice that lacked the G-coupled protein receptor. When THC was administered to the knockout mice it was shown that THC had no effect, proving THC works by activating cannabinoid receptors in the brain.

A second cannabinoid named CB2 was also identified at this time, which takes presence throughout the immune system and the peripheral nervous system. The discovery of these receptors resulted in the uncovering of naturally occurring neurotransmitters called endocannabinoids. In 1992, at the Hebrew University in Jerusalem, Dr. Lumir Hanus along with American researcher Dr. William Devane discovered the endocannabinoid anandamide.  The same team later discovered a second-major endocannabinoid 2-arachidonoylglycerol (2-AG) and went on to uncover the less known endocannabinoids; homo-gamma-lineleoul ethanolamide, docosatetraenoul ethanolamide (DEA), and noladin ether (2-AGE).  Including N-arachidonoyldopamin (NADA), there are over a handful of endocannabinoids that have been identified, along with another handful of G- coupled protein receptors that interact with these endocannabinoids. 

In the pursuit of unearthing the metabolic pathways of phytocannabinoids and endocannabinoids, scientists came across an unknown molecular signaling system within the body that is involved in regulating a broad range of biological functions. This system was named the endocannabinoid system (ECS). The ECS performs multiple tasks, but the goal is always to maintain a stable environment despite fluctuations in the external environment. It is the system that creates homeostasis within the body. When an imbalance is detected within our internal environment, the body synthesizes endocannabinoids that interact with the cannabinoid receptors. This stimulates a chemical response that works to return the physiological process back to homeostasis. However, in some cases, there is a deficiency in ECS signaling. This condition is known as Clinical Endocannabinoid Deficiency. Reasons to as why this condition occurs ranges from our body not synthesizing enough endocannabinoids, our bodies not producing enough cannabinoid receptors, an abundance of enzymes that break down cannabinoids, or outside sources such as foods and medications that decrease ECS signaling. The phytocannabinoids contained in cannabis can be used to supplement this deficiency. By stimulating and supporting your endocannabinoid system one can find relief from a multitude of illnesses and conditions.

 

Sources: 

Hanus. Lumir. O. (2007). Discovery and Isolation of Anandamide and Other Endocannabinoids. Chemisty and Biochemistry. Vol. 4. Pages 1828-1841.

Lee, Martin. A. (2012). Smoke Signals - A Social History of Marijuana Medical, Recreational and Scientific. New York, New York: Scribner.

Pertwee. Roger. G. (2006). Cannabinoid Phamacology: the first 66 years. British Journal of Pharmacology. Vol. 147. Pages 163-171.

 

About the Author
Bachelor's of Biology
Currently working with Pharmacannis, a dispensary in Buffalo, NY. Resided in Northern California for the past 15 years working in the cannabis industry as a farmer, breeder, and chemical analyst. Received a bachelor's degree in biology at Keuka College in NY. Studied nursing at Mendocino College in CA, and currently attending University at Buffalo for a Master's of Education in Science and the Public. I have a passion for research with a focus in the field of endocannabinology.
You May Also Like
APR 15, 2022
Health & Medicine
The Link Between Fetal Cannabis Exposure and Obesity
APR 15, 2022
The Link Between Fetal Cannabis Exposure and Obesity
A recent study published in The Journal of Clinical Endocrinology & Metabolism found a mother’s cannabis consu ...
JUN 03, 2022
Cannabis Sciences
Seeds matter when growing cannabis
JUN 03, 2022
Seeds matter when growing cannabis
Seeds are where it all begins when growing high quality weed. Here's how to select the right ones.
JUN 17, 2022
Cannabis Sciences
Projected Increases in Cannabis Use in States Legalizing Recreational Cannabis
JUN 17, 2022
Projected Increases in Cannabis Use in States Legalizing Recreational Cannabis
A study published in the scientific journal Addiction found that people will be more likely to use cannabis as their sta ...
AUG 01, 2022
Cancer
Cannabis Helps Cancer Patients Combat Nausea and Vomiting
AUG 01, 2022
Cannabis Helps Cancer Patients Combat Nausea and Vomiting
A growing number of states have legalized marijuana for medical and/or recreational purposes.  Cannabis is a plant ...
AUG 12, 2022
Cannabis Sciences
Study Shows Water Soluble CBD Has Better Absorption than Oil-Based CBD Products
AUG 12, 2022
Study Shows Water Soluble CBD Has Better Absorption than Oil-Based CBD Products
Colorado State University researchers examined the pharmacokinetics of cannabidiol (CBD) and its impact on liver functio ...
SEP 11, 2022
Cannabis Sciences
Smashing Stereotypes of Cannabis Users
SEP 11, 2022
Smashing Stereotypes of Cannabis Users
A new study conducted by University of Cambridge researchers shows that cannabis users and non-users do not demonstrate ...
Loading Comments...