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Homeostasis And CBD – Do They Go Hand In Hand?


The entire medical community has cannabis to thank for the discovery of the endocannabinoid system. It was cannabis and cannabinoid research that led to the discovery of the endocannabinoid system, arguably the most vital signaling system in the human body. 

The endocannabinoid system reaches out to almost every vital organ, and for this reason, cannabinoids are effective medicines for a lot of different people. In fact, CBD’s ability to target the body’s main regulatory system makes it more versatile than any pharmaceutical drug that has ever been manufactured. 

Homeostasis: The Highlights

  • Homeostasis refers to the overall balance, stability, and equilibrium between cells, organs, systems and other interdependent parts of the human body.
  • The main function of the endocannabinoid system is to maintain this overall balance, stability, and equilibrium between different systems of the body.
  • Endocannabinoid deficiency or dysfunction can lead to a number of different illnesses and symptoms such as Crohn’s disease, Parkinson’s and fibromyalgia.
  • Introducing phytocannabinoids such as THC and CBD can trigger the endocannabinoid system, encourage homeostasis and restore balance.
  • The endocannabinoid system is not exclusive to the human body but exists in every vertebrate and invertebrate, and in this way the endocannabinoid system can be seen as a greater system that permeates all of nature.

What Is Homeostasis?

Homeostasis can be likened to the body’s natural rhythm, the process by which the body maintains and restores stable living conditions for survival. The human body is a complex machine, and in order for it to function properly, the different components must be in constant communication and equilibrium with each other. 

A basic example of homeostasis is the way in which the body regulates blood glucose levels. When glucose levels get high in the blood, the pancreas releases the hormone, insulin. This encourages cells to absorb glucose and metabolize it. When blood glucose levels drop, the hormone glucagon is released. 

This hormone tells the liver to release glucose into the blood. Although this is a hormone-regulated system, the endocannabinoid system is a mediator between many of the regulating systems of the body.

Why Is Homeostasis Important For Your Wellbeing?

Imagine none of the organs in your body ever communicated with each other. Imagine each organ just went along doing its own thing without any regard for any other parts of the body. For example, your stomach and intestines go on digesting even if there’s nothing in there to digest. 

Or your cells kept metabolizing sugar even after blood sugar levels were really low. The body would stop functioning within a matter of minutes. This is how important homeostasis is for your wellbeing.

There are certain responses from the body that are valuable and effective at one time but not at another. Let’s have a look at anxiety. Neuronal excitement is a very important response, especially during times of threat, but can lead to rapid heartbeat and shakiness. 

The central nervous system has a way of balancing when is the time to switch off this excitatory response so that no unnecessary neuronal excitement takes place. It is sometimes hypothesized that anxiety is excessive neuronal excitement that is never properly switched off. 

Thus, the regulatory system which switches off such a response is not working. This is another example of why homeostasis and balance are important for wellbeing. Essentially, homeostasis is the body’s ability to restore itself to the “resting” phase after it has been hard at work.

Homeostasis And The Endocannabinoid System

The endocannabinoid system plays a vital role in the maintenance of homeostasis of a number of different physiological systems including the central nervous system, the endocrine system, and the immune system. 

The endocannabinoid system is, in essence, a signaling system. However, it works predominantly backward. That’s to say, it sends signals from the postsynaptic neuron to the presynaptic neuron, giving it the title of the “master regulator”. 

Plus, the endocannabinoid system influences almost the entire human body because there are cannabinoid receptors basically everywhere – on the skin, on basically every vital organ, in the brain and in the gastrointestinal system. 

The Effects Of The Endocannabinoid System On Mood, Stress, And Emotion

There are cannabinoid receptors located almost everywhere in the central nervous system. Cannabinoid receptors are dotted all over the limbic region of the brain, ideally situated to have an effect on mood and stress response. 
In fact, for this reason, CBD and other phytocannabinoids are being investigated for their ability to treat mood disorders such as depression and anxiety. It is even hypothesized that endocannabinoid deficiency leads to depressive disorders.  The endocannabinoid system is therefore heavily implicated in mood, stress, and emotion.

How The Endocannabinoid System Regulates Your Metabolism

The role of the endocannabinoid system in the metabolism of foods and energy is complex and involved. This is because, as well as affecting parts of the brain that deal with appetite and food intake, there are also cannabinoid receptors in other cells important for metabolism: adipocytes, endocrine pancreas, skeletal muscles, and the gastrointestinal tract. 

Overaction of the endocannabinoid system is hypothesized to cause visceral obesity and that’s why phytocannabinoids are a target for obesity. Ethan Russo, cannabis researcher and Ph.D. also says that underlying irritable bowel syndrome and Crohn’s is an endocannabinoid deficiency. Restoring endocannabinoid levels promotes good digestion and proper metabolism. 

The Endocannabinoid System And The Immune System

The endocannabinoid system plays a huge role in immunoregulation, which comes as no surprise as many use CBD as an anti-inflammatory. There is a lot of biochemical evidence to suggest that endogenous cannabinoids are produced and digested by various immune cells including macrophages and leukocytes. 

They are produced and released on “demand” when required, which is why the endocannabinoid system is considered regulatory and is considered to be different to the central nervous system (which uses neurotransmitters stored in vesicles to send messages). 

The main behavior of endogenous cannabinoids in the immune system is inhibitory, meaning it has the main quality of switching off the immune response. The effect is transient meaning there are no long term side effects and immune stimulation is switched on again when required by the body. 

CBD And The Endocannabinoid System

You can only imagine what it meant to cannabis research when scientists discovered that humans harbor their very own cannabinoids and endocannabinoid system. It all of a sudden became quite obvious exactly why humans love cannabis so much and gave us a better framework for understanding exactly how we are affected by cannabinoids. 

Naturally, when humans ingest a phytocannabinoid such as CBD, the endocannabinoid system is directly affected. And because the endocannabinoid system is prevalent virtually all over the body, it is a target for treating a wide range of conditions that affect many different parts of the body.

Can CBD Influence Homeostasis?

If there is an imbalance in natural endocannabinoid levels (levels of anandamide and 2AG), different medical conditions ensue. Ingestion of CBD or other phytocannabinoids may help to restore the balance of endocannabinoids or may help to do the job that endocannabinoids for one reason or another can’t perform. 

Inflammation is a perfect example. In many conditions that afflict the modern world such as cancer, rheumatoid arthritis, and chronic pain, inflammation is a huge factor. 

For one reason or another, inflammation goes on untreated and starts to cause severe damage to cells. CBD influences homeostasis by switching off the immune response and having an anti-inflammatory effect. 

CBD also inhibits the behavior of a certain enzyme called FAAH. This enzyme is responsible for breaking down natural endocannabinoid, anandamide. When there is less serum anandamide, there may be a disruption in endocannabinoid function. CBD naturally elevates levels of anandamide for the body’s inherent endocannabinoid function.

The Effects Of CBD Supplementation On Homeostasis

Overall, CBD supplementation can restore homeostasis. However, it only really has this effect in a body that is imbalanced or unstable. This is not necessarily true for THC because it is inherently psychoactive and affects the way we cognitively process. For the most part, CBD supplementation may have benefits for a healthy body, but it is more effective when used as a medicine. 

For example, in patients with Crohn’s disease, there is an issue with endocannabinoid expression in the colon. Ingestion of CBD may enhance endocannabinoid expression in this part of the body, therefore restoring homeostasis to an otherwise dysfunctional colon and bowel. Therefore, CBD can restore homeostasis, but basically only when homeostasis has been lost.

Homeostasis And CBD – Final Thoughts

The most important thing to take away from all of this information is that the endocannabinoid system is the central driver of homeostasis in the human body. Modern thinkers such as Ethan Russo even propose that underlying many treatment-resistant conditions is a deficiency or dysfunction of the endocannabinoid system. 

This understanding gives us a whole new way to target certain medical conditions. This may be life-changing for those who have an endocannabinoid deficiency, but for many of us whose endocannabinoid systems are perfectly in check, ingestion of CBD may have very little effect.