The human body also produces cannabinoids, the same molecules produced by the cannabis plant.
The hemp plant produces phytocannabinoids, such as THC, CBD, ... The human body produces what are called endocannabinoids.
What is an endocannabinoid?
The word Endocannabinoid is derived from the Greek word ἔνδον"(endon) meaning "inside" and cannabinoid, those molecules that can bind with cannabinoid receptors.
Endocannabinoids are "signalling" molecules synthesised by the body to activate the endocannabinoid system. These neurotransmitters bind to cannabinoid receptors found throughout the peripheral and central nervous system of vertebrates, the so-called endocannabinoid system receptors.
Types of endocannabinoids
Dr Raphael Mechoulam has isolated two types of endocannabinoids in the human body
1. Anandamide: Arachidonoylethanolamide (AEA)
These 2-AGs and Anandamides are retrograde signalling molecules, i.e. they travel in the opposite direction to other neurotransmitters: from a postsynaptic neuron to the presynaptic neurons. These neurotransmitters have a great influence on sleep, memory, mood, learning and appetite.
Dr Mechoulam named anandamide after the Sanskrit wordanda, which means 'bliss, happiness and joy', as it is a mood enhancer. Secondly, anandamide produces an effect similar to THC when it binds to cannabinoid receptors.
Anandamide is also an important ingredient in chocolate and is responsible for the feeling of pleasure we get from eating it.
2-arachidonoylglycerol is the main endogenous cannabinoid that binds to CB1 and CB2 receptors in the central nervous system.
How are endocannabinoids produced?
Endocannabinoids are produced on demand in postsynaptic neurons.
Both endocannabinoids are fat-based molecules.
After binding to specific receptor sites, they are rapidly degraded by specific enzymes.
How do endocannabinoids work in our bodies?
Like other cannabinoids, endocannabinoids interact with the body as agonists or antagonists on specific receptors (CB2 and CB1) located in the endocannabinoid system. It is like a lock and key system where cannabinoids act as keys and cannabinoid receptors act as a lock.
Our endocannabinoid system acts as a balancing mechanism and regulates balance when it detects a problem in the body. It also activates cannabinoids as tools, and our body produces endocannabinoids when we need them for homeostasis.
What are phytocannabinoids?
Sometimes the body's autoimmune system does not support the body's function, as in autoimmune diseases, when the immune system attacks healthy organs or tissues. Similarly, when the body lacks endocannabinoids, it can obtain cannabinoids from an external source.
Phytocannabinoids are bioactive terpenoids synthesised mainly from the hemp plant Cannabis Sativa. They have also been found in species of rhododendron, certain legumes and mushrooms.
The word Phyto means "Of or from plants". Nearly 100 phytocannabinoids have been discovered in the cannabis and hemp plant.
Although it is present throughout the plant, it has a higher concentration in the slimy glandular structure of the plant known as the trichomes.
Types of phytocannabinoids
The most common plant-based phytocannabinoids are cannabidiol (CBD) and tetrahydrocannabinol (THC). Other important neutral cannabinoids are
- CBDV: Cannabidivarin
- CBGV: Cannabigerivarin
- CBC: Cannabichromene
- CBN: Cannabinol
- THCV: Tetrahydrocannabivarin
- CBCV: Cannabichromevarin
- CBG: Cannabigerol
The acidic phytocannabinoids are :
- THCA: Δ9-tetrahydrocannabinolic acid
- CBGA: cannabigerolic acid
- CBCA: Cannabichromic acid
- THCVA: tetrahydrocanabivaric acid
- CBDA: Cannabidiolic acid
- CBDVA: Cannabidivaric acid
- CBGVA: Cannabigerovaric acid
- CBCVA: Cannabichromevarinic acid
The "A" at the end means 2-carboxylic acids
How do the two types of cannabinoids differ from each other?
Phytocannabinoids and endocannabinoids differ from each other in their origins. Phytocannabinoids are derived from plants, while endocannabinoids are located in the body of mammals, as the prefix Endo means endogenous in nature, while Phyto means derived from plants.