Thirty years after its discovery, a UK company seeks to drive awareness of the endocannabinoid system and train medical professionals in the newly found field of ‘Endocannabinology’.
Research has linked the endocannabinoid system to sleep, fertility, stress, nerve function, digestion, appetite, metabolism, mood and inflammation. But most people have never heard of it.
Former vascular specialist, Dr Ranna is Chief Medical Officer at Endoverse, a company on a mission to educate the general public and inform medical professionals about the benefits of endocannabinology – the study of the endocannabinoid system (ECS).
The endocannabinoid system is a lipid signalling system which takes care of the body’s homeostasis, or its ability to maintain a stable internal state. The ECS achieves this through the activation of receptors; the most well-known being CB1, which is found in various organs in the body, and CB2, which is primarily affects the body’s immune system.
As the UK’s first organisation dedicated to balancing the endocannabinoid system, the company hopes to recruit medical professionals in the UK to take part in training programmes and gain a certification in the emerging field of ‘endocannabinology’.
Speaking to Cannabis Health, Dr Ranna explains: “ECS is involved with every function in our body and the balance of it is directly related to our health status.”
As the ECS was only discovered 30 years ago, academic understanding of it remains incomplete and there is still very little public understanding of how it affects the body and the mind.
Although the ECS was discovered as a result of research into THC, cannabis is just one of many ways to affect the function of the ECS.
In fact, Dr Ranna says that amongst the medical community, one of the main reasons it is misunderstood is because of its association with the controversial plant. But she asserts that it has “nothing to do with cannabis except in name”.
Dr Ranna says: “The complexity [of ECS] means that searching for evidence is complicated and the knowledge base surrounding the system is expanding every day.
“ECS is not only CB1, CB2 receptors and endocannabinoids. There is a growing family of other receptors and active molecules, including gut and microbiome, involved.”
Existing data suggests that the ECS is linked with a number of chronic health conditions. For example, there is strong evidence that the ECS is connected with epilepsy and metabolic syndrome.
For a short time, a medicine called Rimonabant was used for the treatment of metabolic syndrome. The substance blocked CB1 receptors which are primarily found in the brain as well as other parts of the body such as the liver.
Although the treatment successfully reduced appetite, cravings and fat, it had adverse side effects which increased anxiety and depression. It was quickly withdrawn for these reasons, however it proved that the CB1 receptors are involved in the regulation of metabolism.
Dr Ranna highlights a number of theories that suggest some illnesses are connected to the under-activation and over-activation of the ECS.
Modern western lifestyles are commonly associated with high levels of stress, unhealthy diets and a relatively sedentary day-to-day life. This is thought to result in the over-activation of the body’s ECS.
Looking back circa 500 million years ago, when scientists believe the ECS first began to develop, humans lived very different lives, with an inconsistent source of food and challenging environmental conditions.
Dr Ranna explains: “For the majority, the endocannabinoid system’s existence helped us to survive.
“In the environment of unstable food intake, the energy conserving role of CB1 receptors developed. Activation of CB1 receptors increase hunger, attractiveness of fat and sweet food, fat accumulation and insulin secretion.
“It encourages reward seeking behaviour – we feel good after eating the food and I am sure ancient people felt great after hunting a mammoth.
“The up-activation, when there was enough food, was needed to store fat for tougher times. Episodes of up and down activation were changing according to access to food through the year.”
Flashforward to 2020 and we are in a completely different world, where for most people, real hunger is rarely experienced.
Dr Ranna says the continuous offer of food chronically over-activated our ECS, leaving humans in a “pitfall” of over-activation.
Thankfully, rebalancing the endocannabinoid system is simple. Regular exercise and adopting techniques for controlling stress helps the body achieve homeostasis and improve overall health.
Scientists believe the most important factor for balancing the ECS, however, is diet. A change in eating habits to incorporate more nutritious foods with low processed fat and sugar levels has been shown to help treat metabolic syndrome, anxiety, depression, autoimmune diseases and many more conditions.
Dr Ranna explains: “The ECS is a lipid system. It means that our own endocannabinoids are produced from fatty acids, such as omega 6 and omega 3. Some of these are essential, meaning out body is not able to produce them, and so we have to eat them.
“Western diet contains a large amount of saturated and trans fatty acids, but there is a lack of polyunsaturated acids (PUFAs). Generally, we need to eat PUFAs in a ratio of between 3:1 and 5:1.”
For Dr Ranna, key to improving public health and reducing cases of obesity is taking more responsibility as individuals and educating children from a younger age.
“As individuals we all have a part to play and must take more responsibility for our own health,” Dr Ranna adds.
“There are many people who already do, but we all have a chance to live healthier lives.
“We need to teach our children how to cook and eat properly, deal with stress and take care of themselves. Once they learn ways to balance their ECS in their childhood, they will not have to face an over activation in the future.”
CBD guides: Could CBD help with women’s intimate healthcare?
The endocannabinoid system can play a huge role in helping women’s health issues.
As the number of intimate care CBD products on the market continues to increase, we examine how CBD could help.
CBD has been associated with women’s health issues such as period pain relief, menopause insomnia and even hormonal acne. But as CBD is also thought to help us achieve homeostasis (balance) in the body, could it help to maintain vaginal health?
Women’s health and the endocannabinoid system
The endocannabinoid system is thought to regulate different functions in the body such as sleep, mood, appetite, memory and fertility. It is made up of receptors, enzymes and endocannabinoid that are found naturally all over the body. There are two major receptors called CB1 and CB2.
CB1 is usually found in the central nervous system, while CB2 is found in the peripheral nervous system. Endocannabinoids bind to the receptors to help with different problems such as pain.
The vagina, bladder and urinary tract also have endocannabinoid receptors.
CBD, unlike THC, does not bind the receptors. CBD may supplement the endocannabinoid system helping to regulate your system. The cannabinoids travel the receptor that has been stimulated and needs extra help to achieve a balance.
Depending on the dose and which receptor it is, CBD is thought to help anxiety, sleep problems, inflammation and pain.
This could be especially useful for those struggling with conditions such as endometriosis, painful periods or anxiety around sex.
When it comes to vaginal health and women’s health concerns in general, how could CBD help?
CBD may help with painful periods due to its anti-inflammatory properties. During a period, the uterus contracts to shed its lining while releasing hormone-like substances called prostaglandins. These substances are involved in inflammation and pain while triggering muscle contractions. Higher levels of prostaglandins may mean more painful menstrual cramps.
One study from 2019 revealed that women with endometriosis self-rated cannabis or CBD as most effective for soothing pain. This was compared with other practises such as yoga and stretching.
Another study, which was focused on arthritis in rats, found that CBD gel applied to the area may help to reduce pain and inflammation.
Endometriosis is an extremely painful condition that can be debilitating. The tissue from the uterus can become attach itself to other organs in the body such as fallopian tubes, ovaries or pelvis.
Studies have shown that women are increasingly turning to CBD for help alleviating the pain of endometriosis. There are on-going studies into how exactly CBD suppositories or tampons may help endometriosis but there are no results as of yet.
A study into fibromyalgia and pelvic pain for women from 2021 revealed that over one-third of the women surveyed were current CBD users with 81 per cent of this group stating the use had ‘improved their pain.’ A further 76 per cent of users said they were able to substitute CBD for other medications including opioids, NSAIDS, gabapentinoids and benzodiazapams.
There are many different reasons for vaginal dryness including menopause, medication and even particular times of a menstrual cycle.
CBD may help to soothe any redness or irritation caused by vaginal dryness. If the skin is more sensitive as a result the anti-inflammatory properties may reduce any swelling or issues of eczema or dermatitis.
CBD is thought to be potentially anti-fungal which may help with yeast infections.
However, its important to note, before you grab your CBD oil, that there are no direct studies for yeast infection. CBD may be able to boost the effects of caryophyllene oxide or beta-caryophyllene. Both of these are terpenes that are found in the cannabis plant. An older study from 1999 highlighted caryophyllene as a potential help for fungal infections in nails and the skin.
CBD may also offer some relief for irritated or itchy skin as a result of fungal infections such as candida. This is due to its potential anti-inflammatory properties which can help to reduce redness or swelling.
What is the best CBD to use internally?
While it may be tempting to use our existing CBD products in our intimate areas, it’s best not to.
CBD products for intimate areas are formulated to be used internally which means they are safe. Oils or topicals may contain ingredients or perfumes that can cause infections. The vagina contains a type of bacteria, a Lactobacillus. It produces lactic acid and helps to lower the pH of the vagina, but any form of imbalance can result in infections or thrush.
How to use CBD internally
The most common ways to use CBD vaginally are lubricants and suppositories.
While suppositories may seem scary, they can be one of the easiest ways to take CBD. They are made from from oils such as coconut, that can melt at body temperature. The CBD can take a few minutes to be absorbed by the body once it has melted the oil. It is worth noting that it can be a bit messy when the oil melts, so using something like a sanitary pad can place a barrier between your clothing and the oil.
Sex and women’s health
Latex and safety
Another way that oil-based products may cause a problem, is with latex. Oil can erode latex condoms or glide dams causing them to break or split. If CBD products are being used during sex, always make sure that the CBD being used is water-soluble.
Some people can feel really anxious around sex, due to past experiences, pain or being intimate with a new partner.
A lot of the studies conducted on anxiety and sexual anxiety appear to be focused on men. However, more general anxiety and CBD studies do have a more mixed-gender ratio.
A review from 2020 suggested that CBD could help with anxiety disorders. In reducing anxiety, a person’s libido may increase helping them to feel like sex more.
When the vagina is aroused, the mucous membranes in the vulva and vagina begin to produce a natural lubricant. This is also referred to as vasodilation, the natural process of our bodies expanding our blood vessels to allow more oxygen into certain tissues.
Some studies show that CBD may help with this process by increasing sensitivity and blood flow around the body. CBD is absorbed through the mucous membranes in the vagina and straight into the blood vessels. It is one of the quickest ways to absorb a dose of CBD as it doesn’t have to pass through the digestive system.
CBD suppositories and lubricants are designed to be used internally.
Does the endocannabinoid system have an effect on exercise euphoria?
What causes a runner’s high? Is it CBD, endorphins or our endocannabinoid systems?
The euphoric feeling after exercise, often referred to as a ‘runner’s high’, is associated with a reduction in pain, stress and anxiety.
Research now links the runner’s high to our endocannabinoid system, suggesting that the exercise-induced endorphin release it was always attributed to, is not solely responsible.
But what is our endocannabinoid system? And how does it work?
We examine endocannabinoids, endorphins and how CBD plays a part in balancing the body and exercise
What is the endocannabinoid system?
The endocannabinoid system is thought to regulate different functions in the body such as sleep, mood, appetite, memory and fertility. It is made up of receptors, enzymes and endocannabinoids.
Endocannabinoid receptors are found naturally all over the body. There are two major receptors called CB1 and CB2.
CB1 is usually found in the central nervous system, while CB2 is found in the peripheral nervous system. Endocannabinoids bind to the receptors to help with different problems such as pain. It is not fully understood how cannabinoids bind with receptors.
Endocannabinoids are actually naturally produced molecules that are similar to cannabinoids. So far, researchers have identified two key endocannabinoids: anandamide (AEA) and 2-arachidonoylglyerol (2-AG).
Enzymes break down the endocannabinoids once they are no longer needed. The two major enzymes are fatty acid amide hydrolase, which breaks down AEA and monoacylglycerol acid lipase, which typically breaks down 2-AG.
What is the difference between endocannabinoids and endorphins?
Endorphins are chemicals released by the body in response to pain or exercise. They were traditionally associated with the euphoria felt after a run. However, endorphins cannot cross into the brain through the blood-brain barrier which exists to protect the brain from toxins and pathogens.
How does CBD feature in all of this?
CBD interferes with the receptors found in the endocannabinoid system to help them balance the body. However, it is not fully understood how this happens.
CBD, unlike tetrahydrocannabinol (THC), another cannabinoid found in the plant, does not bind the receptors. CBD may supplement the endocannabinoid system helping to regulate your system. The cannabinoids travel the receptor that has been stimulated and needs extra help to achieve a balance. Depending on the dose and which receptor it is, CBD is thought to help anxiety, sleep problems, inflammation and pain.
This is why a lot of runners or athletes depend on CBD as part of their recovery routine after a strenuous workout. It may help to alleviate some of the muscle pain they endure during a run.
How this US brand is helping veterans access free CBD
“U.S. military veterans are some of the most selfless individuals so we thought the project would be a perfect fit.”
US vaping supply brand, CCELL, has partnered with the Veteran’s Walk and Talk project to provide free access to CBD.
CCELL will be partnering with the Veterans Walk and Talk (VWAT) to gift its members with limited edition CBD vapes that highlight their military service.
Veterans Walk and Talk is a community project based in the US, offering support, psychedelic therapy and cannabis.
It was founded in 2016 by Colin Wells, who served in the US Army, as a way for veterans in Southern California, Sacramento and Oklahoma, to take control of their health journey.
The project now holds regular community outreach events that provide veterans with a one-on-one psychedelic or cannabis walk and talk therapy or group hikes. They also hold trail and beach clean-ups where the community come together to give back to nature along with book clubs and comedy nights.
To mark the firm’s fifth anniversary, the CCELL team decided to join forces with VWAT.
Speaking with Cannabis Health, Joe Strain, vice president of CCELL said: “VWAT started with veterans in mind. Founder Colin Wells, who served in the US Army and experienced withdrawal traumas, began posting on social media to see if anybody wanted to join him on his hikes as a means to relieve stress.
“On these hikes, he’d provide free cannabis, education and a safe space for people to talk. These hikes inspired him to start VWAT as a way to give back to his community, with the main goal of reducing the suicide epidemic among veterans. Now, VWAT has 12 chapters across the country, all carrying the same mission.”
Joe added: “US military veterans are some of the most selfless individuals, so we thought they would be a perfect fit. We heard about what VWAT is doing for veterans and decided to support the organisation on its mission to help improve the lives and health of veterans by providing them with CBD vaporisers. The alignment was undeniable, and we’re honoured to be a part of helping them further their mission.”
Mental health and veterans
Mental health conditions such as anxiety, depression and post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) can be common among veterans. The symptoms of PTSD can be debilitating causing flashbacks, nightmares or physical effects such as nausea or pain.
A study from 2017 highlighted the difference in PTSD between veterans and civilians. In the study of 5,826 veterans, researchers recorded a rate of 13 per cent with PTSD. This is almost double the seven per cent of the US population with a PTSD diagnosis.
Studies show CBD may help PTSD by interacting with the endocannabinoid receptors in the body.
Joe explained: “It’s known that many veterans deal with PTSD after they have served. Studies have shown that CBD can be effective in reducing PTSD symptoms. This can potentially afford members the opportunity to manage their symptoms without excessive pharmaceutical drugs, which often cause side effects.”
He added: “CCELL has produced limited edition CBD vapes which will signify that the users of the vapes are members of Veteran’s Walk and Talk. Not only is this great for the members, but it is also significant for this non-profit organisation as it helps to spread awareness about the great work that VWAT does and will help encourage more people in need to join.”
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