Did you know that THC wasn’t even discovered until 1964? Until then, we had no idea what provided marijuana with its kick. Israeli researcher Dr. Raphael Mechoulam and his team were responsible for the finding, and it helped us understand more about the drug and how our bodies reacted to it — but very little to influence U.S. laws.
Surprisingly, it was Mechoulam’s research that helped other scientists discover the body’s endocannabinoid system in the ‘80s. Even today, plenty of research is devoted to really understanding the system, but we know it probably regulates many of the body’s processes, “including fertility, pregnancy, pre- and postnatal development, various activity of the immune system, appetite, pain-sensation, mood, and memory, and in mediating the pharmacological effects of cannabis.”
Would you find mention of marijuana on the wikipedia page for this system? Nope! But you will find a few references to cannabis and THC.
Basically, the endocannabinoid system is responsible for letting the body interact with — and react to — THC and similar chemical compounds. You’ve probably heard the word “homeostasis” uttered in high school biology, but you might not remember what it means. If your body temperature gets too high, you get a fever. If it gets too low, you get hypothermia. The zone in between is an example of homeostasis. Our bodies need a certain set of conditions to be just right to function efficiently. When those conditions begin to fall outside of the necessary parameters, our bodies start to break down fast.
The endocannabinoid system helps us maintain homeostasis. The three main parts of this system include cannabinoid receptors (which should obviously sound familiar if you like marijuana and THC), endocannabinoids, and metabolic enzymes. The receptors help transmit important information to the brain about what is happening in our cells.
The endocannabinoids are molecules that help activate the receptors. And the enzymes break apart all the endocannabinoids that our bodies have already used — like THC.