Until recently, there was little evidence and research related to marijuana and how it interacted with the body. In fact, it wasn’t until the late 1960’s that research in this field had its first significant breakthrough when Gaoni and Mechoulam identified the correct chemical structure of Δ9-tetrahydrocannabinol, otherwise known as THC. This was a monumental achievement and helped pave the way for future research findings, such as the identification of the endocannabinoid system and its receptors.
What is the endocannabinoid system?
In the late 1990’s and early 2000’s, scientists discovered a series of receptors (CB1 and CB2) in mammals that respond specifically to 60 or so cannabinoids found in marijuana. These receptors and their biological responses, now known as the endocannabinoid system, play a role in numerous functions of the body, including but not limited to: digestive, cardiac (heart), immune, and nervous system responses. Due to the wide-range and function of this system, researchers and clinicians alike believe it can be a great target for medicinal therapies.
What are CB1 and CB2 receptors and where are they found?
As discussed earlier, one of the most significant breakthroughs in the field of marijuana research was the identification of THC’s chemical structure. Scientists deduced that since THC had a “psychoactive” response on the body, that the receptor most likely resided in the brain. As luck would have it, they were correct. CB1 receptors reside mainly in the brain and central nervous system as well as in the gut. Soon after, scientists began to identify the structure of other cannabinoids, such as CBD. Due to CBD’s anti-inflammatory properties, scientists were guided to look in peripheral systems in the body that was related to neuroinflammation and pain, thus leading them to identify CB2 receptors.
How can the endocannabinoid system be targeted to help patients?
As the research progresses in medical marijuana, scientists have begun to speculate that the endocannabinoid system can be targeted by cannabinoids in marijuana to treat medical conditions such as arthritis and chronic pain, epilepsy, and GI disorders just to name a few. Scientists, such as those at AltMed, are hard at work to discover efficacious ways to modulate the endocannabinoid system and uncover how best to deliver these medicinal cannabinoids to the body.
Medical Marijuana Clinical Resources and Guidelines
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