Cannabinoids are more familiar than you think
Have you heard of Omega-3 and Omega-6 fatty acids? They are important right? What is less generally well known is why they are important. They are the building blocks of endocannabinoids, which are the cannabinoids produced naturally within the body. They are the gate keepers of the EndoCannabinoid System (ECS). This is a complex signalling system in the body and one of the ways that cells are able to communicate. This system is thought to be largely responsible for homeostasis; the ability to maintain balance in a constantly changing environment, particularly, inflammation and immune response. The point being that it is not Omega-3 and Omega-6 that have the most important functions in maintaining health, but the cannabinoids that they are converted into inside the body.
Studies have suggested that Omega-3 could play a role in helping those suffering with depression. Animal studies have suggested that Omega-3 could play a role in lowering anxiety and improving cognitive function. One study suggested that omega-3 may be of benefit to Parkinson’s patients. In 2012, the Nutritional Journal published a paper that suggested that five weeks of daily omega-3 intake did have the potential to improve cognitive function in those aged between 51 – 72 years old. It also appears that the anti-inflammatory effects of Omega-3 could benefit those with rheumatoid arthritis, helping to reduce pain and the need for certain medication. Studies also show that omega-3 helps prevent heart disease and stroke, may help control lupus, eczema and protect against certain cancers. In other words, the EndoCannabinoid System is so important that everyone would know about it now had it been given a different name.
It is worth pointing out that the ratio of Omega-3 and Omega-6 intake is an equally important factor in overall health, and by sheer coincidence, hemp seeds and hemp seed oil are one of the few foods that contain what is thought to be a near perfect ratio for humans. It’s best to consult your GP before taking supplements.
OK. What about good old paracetamol (known as acetaminophen outside the UK)? Surely that doesn’t have anything to do with the endocannabinoid system? Surprisingly, after over 100 years of use there is no consensus on exactly how paracetamol works. It is now considered that paracetamol works in a number of ways, and two of them involve the Endocannabinoid System. Paracetamol changes in the body and activates the same receptor as delta9-tetrahydrocannabinol (THC) whilst simultaneously boosting endocannabinoid levels, in a similar way to that proposed for cannabidiol (CBD). There is so much more to learn, maybe if it had been named the endoparacetamol system we would already have a better understanding.
Unfortunately this is a case of a politically sensitive word, such as cannabis, stopping potentially life changing research in it’s tracks. Following recent events in the news with cases such as Billy Caldwell, attitudes surrounding Cannabis Sativa and Cannabis Indica are slowly changing.