What is the endocannabinoid system?
Within the human body, the endocannabinoid system (ECS) is a set of signaling molecules in the central and peripheral nervous system that helps regulate processes of the body such as appetite, pain, mood, and memory. A signaling molecule is a chemical that passes information from cell to cell. In the ECS, these molecules are primarily signaling lipids called endocannabinoids, fatty molecules that bind to receptor proteins thus triggering a response. The chemical make-up of endocannabinoids and the responses they elicit are mimicked closely by cannabis, which is sometimes used to trigger an increase in appetite, a lessening of pain, and a lifting of mood.
The ECS involves two main ligands, anandamide (AEA) and 2-arachidonoylgycerol (2-AG), which are produced and released inside the body. It is thought that cells produce endocannabinoids as they are needed, rather than having a constant stock within the cell. The ligands bind to two cannabinoid receptors, CB1 and CB2, in order to produce a response. These responses in the ECS regulate several of the body’s processes, including the sensation of pain, appetite, mood, memory, learning movement skills, and the regulation of the nervous system. Because cannabis contains compounds called cannabinoids that are chemically like endocannabinoids, the introduction of cannabis into the body can produce some of the same responses.
In the 1980s, it was discovered that chemical compounds within cannabis bind to cannabinoid receptors within the nervous system, much in the same way that endocannabinoids bind to the cannabinoid receptors. The three principle cannabinoids present in cannabis are tetrahydrocannabinol (THC), cannabidiol (CBD) and cannabinol (CBN). Those that bind to CB1 are thought to be responsible for the mood lifting and anti-convulsive qualities. The cannabinoids that bind to CB2 are thought to contribute to the anti-inflammatory, or anti-swelling, qualities that help to dull pain.
While our bodies produce endocannabinoids as needed, we do not store endocannabinoids so constant stress, inflammation and pain would tend to deplete our reserves.
Effects of Caffeine and Cannabinoids
A study published in The Journal of Internal Medicine found that coffee and cannabis activate some of the same pathways in the brain. That being reported, “… both caffeine and CBD inhibit adenosine signaling,” says neuroscientist Leigh Winters. “Adenosine acts as a central nervous system sedative, which is super useful in regulating our wake/sleep cycle. When you have a cup of coffee in the morning, it makes you feel awake and more alert because the caffeine actually blocks adenosine receptors in your brain.
” CBD is also believed to interact with adenosine and its receptors, but it seems to have a different impact than coffee. “What happens in the brain is that CBD delays neurons’ ability to ‘re-uptake’ adenosine. Without getting too technical, [this] is greatly connected to reducing inflammation in the body and heart. That’s why CBD is being studied in MS, heart disease, and other inflammatory-rooted conditions,” Winters says.
A conundrum, or is it? While no rigorous clinical research has been conducted on the topic, a few preliminary studies shed a little more light on the potential relationship between the two. One may make you think twice about the trend: It found that CBD’s anti-inflammatory powers were weakened when an adenosine antagonist entered the picture—and, as mentioned before, caffeine is itself an adenosine antagonist. “It hasn’t been verified either way whether caffeine diminishes the potency of the CBD or not,” says Zimmer. She also notes that drinking lots of coffee has been found to deplete the endocannabinoid system, but it’s not clear whether adding CBD to the mix can help bolster the system in return. “There’s still so much to learn.”
Boosting the body’s endocannabinoid supplies can be accomplished by proper nutritional support. Methods available include beverages, tinctures, edibles and vape/smoke products. Additionally, the many forms of endocannabinoid support provided by industrial hemp (cannabis) can be divided into two main categories; those that contain THC and those that don’t (less than .3% THC). While the controversy about the actual benefits of THC is often heated, it is thought that all the nutritional needs of the human body can be met without THC.
The formulations available in the industrial hemp arena are further divided into Broad Spectrum which includes a full array of cannabinoids including trace amounts of THC, Full Spectrum which includes several different cannabinoids without any THC, and Isolate which includes specific, targeted cannabinoids (usually CBD) in a standalone form. As can be imagined, lowering one’s anxiety, lessening pain and decreasing inflammation tends to cause on to become drowsy and distracted.
Balanced Endocannabinoid Nutrition – BEN
The answer to the drowsiness and confusion that is often associated with cannabinoid use can be easily offset with the use of caffeine. Combining select cannabinoids with appropriate doses of caffeine will produce balanced endocannabinoid nutrition.