“…Humans have used cannabis for thousands of years for a variety of purposes. All vertebrates, including mammals, birds, fish and reptiles, have receptors for and produce substances known as endocannabinoids. Discovered only in the late 1980s, the endocannabinoid system helps maintain balance, or homeostasis, in most body functions and systems. Because is so vitally important, it has been the subject of thousands of research studies conducted around the world in recent years.
The central nervous system, immune, cardiovascular, reproductive, gastrointestinal systems and urinary tracts all contain cannabinoid receptors and are regulated by cannabinoids—with one important exception: the brainstem where, among other vital functions, respiration is controlled. This is why cannabis, unlike opiates, does not suppress breathing, even at high doses.
Endocannabinoid production declines as people age, a process that may play an important role in the development of age-related and degenerative diseases such as atherosclerosis and cardiovascular disease, arthritis, osteoporosis and possibly a number of cancers as well as Alzheimer’s disease and Parkinson’s disease.
And so it would seem to be a natural conclusion that replacing declining endocannabinoid levels with outside sources of cannabinoids would be desirable. As it happens, the only source of cannabinoids outside the human body is the cannabis plant.
It is little wonder then that cannabis has been used as a medicine for thousands of years or that, after decades of neglect and vilification, it is again assuming an important role in treating and possibly preventing a great many medical conditions. Stay tuned. The most exciting part of the story is yet to come…”
Excerpts from “The Endocannabinoid System” by Alan Shackelford, M.D.