The Endocannabinoid System
At a conference about medical marijuana that I attended recently, a medical marijuana researcher was presenting and put up a list of 20 conditions that can be addressed with cannabis. After he put it up, he said, "This should make any good doctor very skeptical. How can any one medicine be useful for so many different conditions? The answer lies in the function of the endocannabinoid system."
While humans have known and used cannabis for over 5000 years it has only been in the last 50 that we have acquired a partial biochemical understanding of how it works. THC was first synthesized in 1964 and the receptors that it binds were not identified until the 1980s. From there, the question became, "Why do we have receptors for THC in the first place and how does our body use these receptors normally?"
This lead to the identification of the endocannabinoid sytem and we are just beginning to understand it's complicated physiology. The endocannabinoid system is an evolutionarily ancient system and can even be found in invertebrates like sea anemones. Endocannabinoid receptors are found almost everywhere throughout the body with the exception of the brain stem, where breathing and alertness are regulated. This explains the safety of marijuana compared with pharmaceuticals.
It appears that the endocannabinoid system works to keep neurotransmitter function running smoothly and decreases systemic inflammation in response to stress. Typically in western medicine, we use pharmaceuticals to push a system or process in one direction. Activating the endocannabinoid system, however, appears to push several key bodily systems toward homeostasis regardless of which way they have been disturbed. My impression is that when properly used, with attention to CBD ratios and dosing, cannabis supports the body's ability to heal itself. This explains how marijuana can be safely used to treat so many different conditions related to pain, inflammation, fatigue, anxiety, depression, etc.
Josh Short MD, Stillwater Medicine
-Stillwater medicine is currently accepting patients and our physicians are ready to help you determine if and how cannabis can support your health.