So what’s this Endo/Phyto thing all about and why should I care?

One of the reasons cannabis works so well to regulate our internal systems is that the ‘phyto’ (or plant) cannabinoids have a similar structure to and can mimic the effects of the ‘endo’ (or our internally produced) cannabinoids.

Cooooooool.

Want an example? Allow me to introduce you to anandamide – our body’s version of THC.

an·an·da·mide
noun

1. a naturally occurring arachidonic acid derivative, present in some foods and in mammalian brains, where it acts as a messenger molecule and plays a role in pain, depression, appetite, memory, and fertility.

Fun fact: Ananda is the Sanskrit word for ‘bliss.’

Anandamide binds to CB1 receptors found primarily in the brain and nervous system, and to CB2 receptors mainly found in immune cells.

Anandamide and THC can stimulate these receptors and produce a wide range of effects altering everything from blood pressure and pain response to appetite and sleep patterns. It’s why patients are urged to adopt a ‘low and slow’ dosage regime when THC.

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To recap: Anandamide is our body’s equivalent to THC. The body produces anandamide. THC is the plant equivalent of anandamide. It plays a critical role in the regulation of appetite, pleasure and reward, and so many other physiological processes.

If the body is not maintaining the production of endocannabinoids, or receptor activity is faulty, THC can step in and mimic anandamide to reach the desired effect.

The fascinating Dr. Dustin Sulak has been on the forefront of cannabis treatment (also called cannabinopathic medicine).

In an interview with Project CBD, Dr. Sulak describes the endogenous cannabinoid system as “perhaps the most important physiologic system involved in establishing and maintaining human health. In each tissue, the cannabinoid system performs different tasks. But the goal is always the same: homeostasis, the maintenance of a stable internal environment despite fluctuations in the external environment.”

This helps explain why so many of us have tried to self-medicate with cannabis for centuries. We are seeking balance.

The takeaways here are that like any other system we are trying to balance in the body, less is often more. The ‘minimum effective amount’ may be your mantra for cannabis use. Keep a journal and know that dosages and strain effect are incredibly individual for every one of us, just as the present and fluctuating state of our endocannabinoid systems.

Oh, and look up interviews with Dr. Dustin Sulak! Here’s a short video to introduce you:

 

— Kait Shane, Director of Community Outreach Natural Health Services. Follow Kait on Twitter @Medikait.

For further insight into all things cannabis, don’t forget to check out The Cannabis Show (new episodes every Wednesday) and connect with us on FacebookTwitter and Instagram. The Cannabis Show is also available as an audio podcast, subscribe on iTunes, Google Play, Stitcher, TuneIn, and Overcast.

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