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The endocannabinoid system is found in all vertebrate animals and even some invertebrates are reported to have an ECS. According to some reports, the number of endocannabinoid receptors in the human body is greater than all of the other neuromodulatory systems combined, including serotonin and dopamine. In other words, the endocannabinoid system is critically important to maintaining health and homeostasis.

Implicated in a growing number of physiological functions, the ECS is recognized as an important system in the function of brain, endocrine and immune tissues. In humans, the system controls energy homeostasis and influences the function of food intake centers in both the central nervous systems and gastrointestinal tract. The ECS is said to regulate central and peripheral mechanisms of food intake, and also the synthesis and turnover in the liver. It is also involved in glucose metabolism in muscle cells.1 

Where the ECS becomes particularly significant is in the research that is developing around the potential for modulating the system to promote therapeutic promise in a wide range of diseases, disorders and common ailments. These include, among others, Parkinson’s and Huntington’s disease, neuropathic pain, spinal injury, multiple sclerosis, stroke, glaucoma, osteoporosis, cancer and spinal cord injury.2 

Because the ECS is vitally involved in the balance of the body, scientists have started to observe changes in the system’s activity in a number of diseases. Neurodegenerative disorders, cancer and rheumatoid arthritis have all shown changes in endocannabinoid levels and more significant receptor expression. What this suggests, say researchers, is that the ECS could well be an effective target for restoring homeostasis in the body and, simply, promoting good health in humans and other mammals.

While the primary roles of the ECS has recently been charted, its secondary responsibilities are only now beginning to be discovered. Though physicians and researchers are only scratching the surface of the full power of the endocannabinoid system, the future seems bright. And as more studies are conducted on the ECS, so too will the full power of the system quickly start to take shape.

  1. “The role of the endocannabinoid system in the regulation of endocrine function and in the control of energy balance in humans.” https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/17369778
  2. “The endocannabinoid system as an emerging target of pharmacology.” https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC2241751/

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