We all have little ninjas in our body. Metaphorically, of course. Cannabinoids molecules, which come from the cannabis plant, also exist in our bodies and fight for good. They’re found naturally in every creature on the planet (except for insects). It’s pretty fascinating!
About 600 million years ago, there were no humans on the planet. There were flowers, but no major land organisms. However, there were many sea-dwelling organisms – one of them being the sea squirt, which had a genetic mutation that created the endo-cannabinoid system in its body.
This mutation eventually led to subsequent offspring in its family tree also having endo-cannabinoid systems. This is a natural feedback system in the body that regulates the behavior of cells. Neurotransmitters are sent out – these little ninjas – in the form of cannabinoids that help cells go back to normal. Homeostasis. Take inflammation, for example: the endo-cannabinoids go in and bring the inflammation down.
The cannabis plant came along about 35 million years ago, so it’s much younger than the actual system in our bodies that receives cannabinoids. That’s an interesting fact, but one of the theories behind how cannabinoids were formed in the cannabis plant is really amazing.
Cannabis was growing at the foothills of the Himalayas. Each year the plant grew closer to the sun, which stressed the plant. So, the plant mutated. It developed cannabinoids, these resin molecules, to protect the plant. These little ninjas helped the surface of the plant remain free of stress from the sun and UV light. They also protected against pathogens, microbes, bacteria, and bugs. Insects can even get stuck in the resin and prevent them from attacking the cannabis plant.
Think about that for a second. We have a system in our bodies that is 600 million years old. We have a plant that delivers these same chemicals that is 35 million years old. And get this, only 13% of medical schools in North America study the endo-cannabinoid system. The endo-cannabinoid system was discovered in the 1990s, so quite recently in terms of understanding physiology in humans and animals. The ninjas go about doing their work in the shadows.
We’re not studying it medically; however, scientists around the world are researching it and writing papers about this important feedback system in the body. Scientists can measure what happens when the endo-cannabinoid system is either turned off or is activated in mice. This is why there’s so much scientific research on the endo-cannabinoid system, even though fear and confusion around cannabis means it is not FDA approved and considered a Schedule I drug with no medicinal benefits in the United States.
Scientists all over the world are perfectly comfortable sharing information from their studies. It’s quite strange that in America we have access to legalized medical marijuana in over half of the states in the country, and yet there’s a gap in the public knowledge. A real missed opportunity to understand what these little ninja molecules do in our body.
So, what do they do?
The primary function of cannabinoids is to regulate, whether they’re being delivered from the plant or working inside of us. They’re looking for cells that are out of balance, looking for something wrong with the system and seeking to correct it.
Our bodies have two main cannabinoids. We have anandamide, which is mimicked by THC. This is a natural chemical we all produce when we exercise. People speculate that runner’s high is anandamide flooding the system, making us feel good by releasing endorphins and reducing inflammation. The second cannabinoid, 2AG, is mimicked by CBD. It’s a much subtler compound, toning the system like a trainer for the endo-cannabinoid system.
Anandamide is most concentrated in the uterus. This THC-like chemical is concentrated there because of pain. When women are menstruating and they’re having period cramps, anandamide helps reduce the inflammation and pain that’s occurring there. It’s also essential for cell proliferation at conception. When the fetus is conceived, you have a massive increase of cells and the endo-cannabinoid system is present in this era of the human body to help cells build and grow.
But because it’s a regulator, it’s also seeking to decrease cell activity and proliferation when there’s a problem. This is where you get the claims of cannabis fighting cancer. Cannabinoids are not going to cure cancer, but they have been shown to slow down or reverse cancer. They go into cells that are proliferating out of control, latch onto the cell, and turn that cell off. It’s their ninja moment.