Healthy Living; The Endocannabinoid System

The endocannabinoid system (ECS) is a complex cell-signaling system identified in the early 1990s by researchers exploring THC, a well-known cannabinoid. Cannabinoids are compounds found in cannabis.

Experts are still trying to fully understand the ECS. But so far, we know it plays role in regulating a range of functions and processes, including:

  • sleep
  • mood
  • appetite
  • memory
  • reproduction and fertility

The ECS exists and is active in your body even if you don’t use cannabis.

There are two main cannabinoid receptors – cannabinoid receptor type 1 (CB1) and cannabinoid receptor type 2 (CB2).

Powerful Ways to Boost Your Endocannabinoid System

There is an increasing amount of research linking a number of illnesses and symptoms to low endocannabinoids levels, including:

  • Major depression
  • Generalized anxiety disorder
  • Post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD)
  • Multiple sclerosis
  • Attention-deficit/hyperactivity disorder (ADHD)
  • Sleep disorders
  • Fibromyalgia
  • Parkinson’s

Some researchers are convinced that when your body doesn’t produce enough endocannabinoids (anandamide and 2-AG), you’re more likely to develop these diseases.

But if you have one of the above conditions, don’t worry!

You can stimulate and support your endocannabinoid system naturally, which can lead to a number of brain and mental health benefits:

  • Less stress and anxiety
  • Improved mood and increased feelings of pleasure and optimism
  • Better focus and concentration
  • Less hyperactivity and impulsivity
  • Higher BDNF levels
  • Increased rate of neurogenesis
  • Increased myelin formation
  • Deeper sleep
  • Lower cortisol levels
  • Fewer headaches and migraines
  • Reduced activity in the amygdala, the fear center of the brain
  • Reduced inflammation

Here are just a few ways to stimulate and support your endocannabinoid system naturally.

1. Cold Exposure

Cold exposure has been shown to increase endocannabinoid levels. Researchers have also found that cold exposure significantly increases the density of CB1 neurons. 

To support your endocannabinoid system, take a cold shower every day, and go outside with minimal clothing in the winter. You can also ease yourself into it by simply sticking your face in ice cold water.

Cold exposure also stimulates the vagus nerve.

2. Sex Hormones

Male and female sex hormones also stimulate and support the endocannabinoid system. Both testosterone and estradiol have been shown to upregulate CB1 receptors. Both men and women get their hormones checked regularly.

3. Coffee

Drinking coffee is another way to stimulate and support your endocannabinoid system. 

Regular caffeine consumption has been shown to enhance the activation of CB1 receptors by endocannabinoids.

It’s also a good idea to try to consume the whole coffee fruit, instead of just the coffee bean or pure caffeine. Scientists have discovered that ingesting whole coffee fruit concentrate significantly increases brain function. 

4. Extra Virgin Olive Oil

Olive oil has numerous health benefits, particularly because of its strong anti-inflammatory effects. It’s also been shown to upregulate CB1 receptors.

Be careful though. A lot of the cheap extra virgin olive oils in grocery stores are not actually “extra virgin.” Many so-called extra virgin olive oils contains other cheaper, refined vegetable oils, such as soybean, corn and canola. 

5. Cannabidiol (CBD) Oil

Cannabidiol (CBD) is one of the active cannabinoids in cannabis. It is not psychoactive but it has a wide range of medical applications.

Research shows that CBD enhances the expression of CB1 receptors in the brain.

6. Flavonoids

Flavonoids are a diverse group of plant compounds found in almost all fruits and vegetables.

Chocolate, tea, wine, and some beans, herbs, spices, nuts and seeds contain them. Overall, the more colorful a food is, the richer it is in flavonoids. It’s best to consume fruits and vegetables in their raw forms to receive the highest number of flavonoids (cooked fruits and vegetables have less).

7. Tea

Tea contains catechins, which are antioxidant compounds that have anti-inflammatory and neuroprotective effects.

Researchers have found that catechins in tea target and bind to cannabinoid receptors in the central nervous system. Epigallocatechin gallate (EGCG) is the most well known catechin. It’s found in green tea. I take a concentrated green tea extract with EGCG to support my endocannabinoid system. 

8. Probiotics

Research suggests that some probiotics can stimulate and support the endocannabinoid system. Lactobacillus acidophilus, a specific probiotic species, increases the expression of CB2 receptors. Probiotics have also been shown to stimulate the vagus nerve and help with depression

9. Dark Chocolate

Most people know dark chocolate is rich in multiple antioxidants, such as flavonols and polyphenols, which reduce oxidative stress.

But interestingly, it also contains the endocannabinoid anandamide, which stimulates your endocannabinoid system. 

10. Omega-3 Fatty Acids

Omega-3 fatty acids are essential fats that your body cannot produce itself. They are necessary for the normal electrical functioning of your brain and nervous system. Decreased Omega-3 is connected to moodiness.

11. Agmatine

Agmatine is a metabolite of the amino acid arginine, which can help reduce pain, treat drug addiction, and protect the brain from toxins. 

It has been shown to enhance the painkilling effects of cannabinoids. 

12. Caryophyllene

Caryophyllene is a compound found in many plants and essential oils, including clove, rosemary, basil, oregano, lavender, and hops. It also contributes to the spiciness of black pepper. 

Caryophyllene has been shown to have anti-inflammatory, neuroprotective, antidepressant, anti-anxiety and anti-alcoholism effects, likely because it binds to the cannabinoid receptors. 

It can also help reduce neuropathic pain through the CB2 receptor. 

13. Echinacea

Echinacea is a Native American medicinal plant and one of the most popular medicinal herbs.

People often use it to reduce flu symptoms and shorten the duration of the common cold. It’s also sometimes used to reduce anxiety and relieve fatigue.

Compounds in Echinacea, called alkylamides, have been shown to reduce inflammation by binding to the CB2 receptor and increase the effect of endocannabinoids. 

14. Black Truffle

Tuber melanosporum, also called the black truffle, is an edible mushroom native to Southern Europe. Researchers have found that black truffles contain the endocannabinoid anandamide. 

15. Curcumin

Curcumin is the most heavily researched compound within turmeric, the spice that gives curry its yellow color.  It’s one of my favorite natural compounds for optimal health.  

Researchers have found that supplementing with curcumin for 4 weeks reduces depression by binding to the CB1 receptor and increasing endocannabinoid levels in the brain.

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s