Just as the wellness world once buzzed about gut health, it’s now shining a spotlight on the endocannabinoid system.
According to Jeff Chen, M.D., director of the UCLA Cannabis Research Initiative, there is one word that sums up the endocannabinoid system, and it is homeostasis. “The endocannabinoid system is present throughout the human body and regulates a wide variety of physiologic processes,” says Chen. “For example, in the brain, it regulates sleep, appetite, mood, and memory. In the fat, it regulates energy storage. In immune cells, it regulates inflammation. In peripheral nerves, it regulates pain transmission. In the reproductive organs, it regulates fertility.” Chen notes that there is even evidence to suggest that the runner’s high, which was once attributed to the release of endorphins, actually stems from the release of endocannabinoids. It’s no surprise then that industry insiders are looking to the endocannabinoid system as the next frontier in achieving overall wellbeing.
Much of the attention comes from the buzz surrounding the legalization of cannabis and CBD. “THC accessibility due to state legalization of cannabis and CBD accessibility due to federal legalization of hemp have brought these compounds, and conversations around them, to the forefront of mainstream attention, and inevitably, a discussion of cannabis or cannabinoids will result in a discussion as to why they work,” says Chen. “And they work, in part, by interacting with our endocannabinoid system.”
While attention is focused on substantiating the purported benefits of CBD, other cannabinoids are also poised to move into the spotlight. “THCV is one cannabinoid that has very preliminary, but promising, human data for treating disruptions in metabolism and blood sugar in type 2 diabetes,” says Chen. Shauna Blanch, cofounder and COO of Color Up, is paying close attention to CBC (cannabichromene), CBG (cannabigerol), CBDA (cannabidiolic acid), and CBN (cannabinol). “The thing that piques my interest the most is the therapeutic benefits that are enhanced when these cannabinoids interact with one another,” she says. “Not just when they are all together in a full-spectrum or broad-spectrum form, but when they are isolated and then intentionally formulated together.” According to her, CBC has powerful anti-inflammatory effects that may prove beneficial in skincare products, and CBN is showing promise in being paired with other cannabinoids to amplify their effects.
Nick Christensen, cofounder of Cannabliss Organic, is also excited about CBG. “CBG displays a multitude of potential health benefits, including working as a neuroprotectant; having antioxidant properties; aiding skin ailments as an antibacterial and antifungal agent; reducing inflammation; showing promise in fighting cell-proliferation issues in cancer; and lowering interocular pressure, which may benefit glaucoma patients,” says Christensen.
While more research is needed on the potential benefits these cannabinoids may provide, the industry and consumers are already looking for the next CBD. “As we learn more about how each cannabinoid can increase or decrease the efficacy of another cannabinoid, we can really start to pair them together to combat specific conditions and diseases,” says Blanch. Although it remains to be seen what doors the endocannabinoid system opens to achieving overall wellbeing, the industry is certainly on its way.
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