The Fascinating Discovery of the Endocannabinoid System

endocannabinoid system brain

Hemp has been consumed by human beings since long before the European discovery of the New World, but though such a substance has a deep-rooted history in the Americas, our scientific understanding of it is really only just beginning. Over the past few decades, more researchers have become engaged in understanding the presence of cannabinoids in the human body, and our knowledge of such a unique and fascinating phenomenon has been rapidly expanding.

The endocannabinoid system (ECS) is a natural regulatory occurring in the central nervous systems of most mammals. The discovery of the endocannabinoid system, it seems, presents the possibility for dramatic changes across numerous major industries in the United States. The increased economic prevalence of hemp products, oils, and clones are all indicative of such sudden and rapid change. Because it produces one of the greatest yields per acres, because it has such a vast number of personal and industrial applications, and because demand has been consistently increasing across the country, hemp has proven itself to be an increasingly popular crop choice amongst American farmers.

How was the endocannabinoid system discovered?

Though the initial prohibition of industrial hemp production has hindered the amount of research that can be done on such a uniquely interesting plant, recent legal and scientific breakthroughs have allowed it to become better understood than ever before. Plant research began to increase discretely in the 1960s, and became more open by the 1990s. The endocannabinoid system (ECS), which is an essential physiological system in human beings, was fully discovered in the late 1980s and the two types of receptors it is known to contain (CB1 and CB2) were first successfully cloned in 1990 and 1993, respectively.

The endocannabinoid system is a series of naturally occurring cannabinoid receptors (natural bodily regulators) existing throughout the human body and affecting nearly all aspects of human life. The system directly influences the moods, pains, and appetites we feel, and—whether we have ever consumed hemp-derived products or not—it is absolutely vital to regulating day-to-day human life.

Ironically, the benefits and function of this unique system was discovered by researchers at the National Institute of Drug Abuse (NIDA) who were tasked to learn about the effects hemp consumption presents to the human brain. Ultimately, what was discovered instead was that the human brain already contains a vast number of cannabinoid receptors, and when we consume hemp we are not introducing such receptors, rather, we are merely manipulating the ones that already exist by nature.

Having realized that the endocannabinoid system is something that already exists as a natural part of the human body, the potential uses of hemp products seem to have become unbounded. There are a lot of reasons to be excited about the future of the industry in the United States; though more research is—inevitably—still necessary before we can understand the ways in which hemp can be fully utilized, it seems that nearly all research is pointing in a positive direction.

What are the implications of discovering such a system?

Because cannabinoid receptors are present in every human being throughout their entire body, it seems the implications of discovering the form and function of the endocannabinoid system are virtually limitless. The endocannabinoid system directly influences the ways in which we think, feel, and exist, and its presence is not something that cannot be ignored nor muted in any sort of medically justifiable sense. As we continue to uncover the nature and presence of such a unique system, our ability to directly control the way in which our bodies operate falls directly into our own hands.

Some research suggests that manipulating cannabinoid receptors can be used to address a wide variety of different conditions, specifically, those that are consequences of what has been termed endocannabinoid deficiency. There still exists a substantial amount of disagreement amongst scientists and doctors regarding the legitimacy of such treatment, but it seems that the more it is researched, the more possibilities present themselves.

The industry has emerged as a competitive threat to other industries, such as the pharmaceutical industry, the timber industry, and numerous others. These industries have defended their monopolies through legislation, prohibition, and numerous other tactics; but as an increasing number of states have democratically rolled-back the war on hemp, these industries are all subject to dramatically change.

The pharmaceutical industry, for example, is one in which the (apparent) end goal is to provide consumers with treatment options that allow them to feel the best they can. But if there is a way to do that without the external introduction of the more addictive and damaging chemicals presented by traditional pharmaceuticals, it seems such a monopoly will eventually be threatened. Likewise, the timber industry is one whose end goal is to provide cheap and durable material goods; but if hemp can produce materials that are even cheaper and more durable than timber, eventually, it seems the plant will “win out”.

What does the future of the industrial hemp industry look like?

The future of the hemp industry—particularly in the United States—is bright, and as the rights of industrial hemp farmers continue to increase nationwide, it seems such a future will continue to grow brighter. In the states that have already legalized the full cultivation of hemp and hemp-derived products, the industry has been among the fastest growing. Farmers are realizing they can acquire a greater yield per acre than seemingly any other crop of its kind, investors are realizing these businesses are presenting an unprecedented return on investment, and researchers are realizing the presence of seemingly limitless new opportunities.

Hemp—native to North America—has perhaps a greater variety of uses than any other plant. Specifically, the use of CBD (a non-psychoactive component of industrial hemp) is believed to have a wide range of benefits without causing a “high”. As discussed, the possibilities presented by the controlled manipulation of cannabinoids in the human body are tremendous. But beyond this, hemp is an industrially useful plant as well. Hemp can be used as an industrial fiber that can be used to produce rope, cloth, paper, and numerous other products, and as more farmers begin focusing on hemp crops to be used for medical purposes, the demand for industrial grade hemp is expected to increase as well.

The industry trends simply do not lie; each year, the demand for hemp-derived products, hemp clones, and hemp derivatives continue to exponentially increase. The full legalization of hemp products has been opening a new door that it seems possesses too much momentum to be closed anytime soon. The world is changing, as it has before, and will continue to do, and the future is one that will indeed be much greener—in every conceivable sense of the word.

Ultimately, it seems that we exist upon a frontier of unique possibilities that—following the curtailing of an ineffective century of prohibition—seems to never have been this open before. The future use and cultivation of industrial hemp make it an investment that is sure to earn an excellent return, and as we continue to better understand the unique properties of hemp, its wide variety of usage is sure to increase in response.