The endocannabinoid system (ECS) is the system in all animals that creates and processes cannabinoids. The ECS is found throughout the human body in the brain and the nervous system and is involved in pain modulation, appetite, digestion, reproduction, motor learning, stress, and memory. Because the ECS is involved in so many different physiological regulation pathways, it has been the target of many new drugs and therapies, with increasing research focused on cannabinoid-based treatments. The receptors in the ECS are the most abundant neuronal receptors in the central nervous system and have been shown to heavily influence cardiovascular and immune systems.
Despite its noted relevance to human physiological functions, relatively little attention has been paid to its study until more recently. In a 2013 survey conducted by the Medical Cannabis Evaluation in Sacramento, the directors from all 157 accredited American medical schools were asked a series of questions regarding their school’s study of the ECS. Out of the 157 medical schools, only 21 had the endocannabinoid system mentioned in any course. This, however, is changing. The Western world is seeing a resurgence of medicinal interest in cannabis, and this “has triggered an exponential growth of studies exploring the endocannabinoid system and its regulatory functions in health and disease.” That being said the majority of studies have been conducted by pharmaceutical giants, for studies that are more relevant to consumers we must wait for governments to increase their interest.
The ECS plays an important role in the human body because of its critical role in maintaining a state of homeostasis. Its influence in the brain, endocrine, and immune systems make it a “master regulator”. Because of our body’s abundance of cannabinoid receptors and the reach of the ECS, researchers believe using cannabis-based drugs could be a very promising avenue in treating a large number of diseases with little or no cure.
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