Cannabinoid receptors play a vital role in our bodies; several vital roles, in fact. While the government likes to tell us that “stimulating our receptors” is bad for us, the truth is exactly the opposite. Let’s take a look at their history and why these receptors are so important.
The history of cannabinoids
In 1964, a study of the cannabis plant by Raphael Macheoulam, an Israeli professor of Medicinal Chemistry and Natural Products at the Hebrew University of Jerusalem in Israel uncovered for the first time the active substance THC (tetrahydrocannabinol), in addition to CBD, CBG, and other compounds.
The strength of their effects on the body led to a search for a naturally occurring compound in the body which must produce a similar effect. Soon, the compound Anandamide, an endogenous (within the body) pain reliever was isolated. The discovery of this naturally occuring compound led to the hypothesis that there must be a corresponding Cell Membrane Receptor that responds to the chemical. Receptors in the body come in different types, each responding only to the class of chemicals it is designed for. Estrogen, Testosterone, Opiates, and Insulin each have their own receptor class. The discovery of the Endocannabinoid system was made. A system that is in fact shared by all tetrapod vertebrates (amphibians, reptiles, birds and mammals.)
What does this system do?
It turns out that cannabinoid receptors play a host of vital roles in our bodies. Found in nerve tissue, lung, liver, intestine, kidney, lymphatic tissue, and the spleen, the CB1 and CB2 receptors play roles in our immune system and blood formation functions. Other processes they control include cognition, memory, anxiety, motor behavior, sensory, autonomic and neuroendocrine responses, Glucose metabolism and insulin resistance, inflammatory effects, control of the vomiting reflex, nausea, hunger, and appetite control. This system is also responsible for the pleasure we get from exercise, commonly known as the runner’s high, previously believed to be caused by endorphins.
What would we do without it?
There is a direct association with lack of cannabinoid receptors in the colon and increased rates of colon cancer. Cannabinoids have a direct effect on stopping and killing cancers while ignoring healthy cellular functions.
Pharmaceutical companies correlated the stimulation of these receptors with increased appetite, and tried to develop a compound to block the cannabinoid receptors, creating a “smart diet-pill”. Their premise was their previous success with an opiate-receptor blocker called Narcan. It could be given to overdose patients to block the respiratory suppression and the high from opiates. Unfortunately, as with most drugs created by these companies, there were side-effects… lots of them.
Side-effects? You don’t say…
The drug was called Acomplia, or more commonly Rimonabant. It effectively blocked the CB1 receptors, which bind with THC, causing happiness, hunger, and sleepiness. Apparently these things are bad. This drug did the opposite. Side-effects included suicide, major depression, agitation/aggressiveness, anxiety, insomnia, and seizures. Needless to say, the drug was taken out of production.
More modern studies have found that while THC causes an increase in appetite, CBD, another compound found in cannabis, acts as a balance by inhibiting hunger. This is why some strains give the “munchies”, while some don’t. An easier approach to the idea of a diet pill would have been extracting other compounds from the cannabis and adding them to the pharmacopeia.
Do you agree that the greatest medicines of the modern era have all originated with plants? Do you think that cannabis should be decriminalized because it’s only side effects are positive ones? Share your thoughts with us on our social media page or in the comments section below.
Do you have a story you'd like to see on HERB? Send us your idea!