All vertebrate animals have an endocannabinoid system. But what is the endocannabinoid system? Etymologically speaking, this means that our own bodies have the ability to produce and interact with cannabinoids. Endo means “within”, so endocannabinoid is “cannabinoids within our bodies”. When Israel researchers first synthesized THC during the 1960s, it led them to further analyze how cannabis compounds, or cannabinoids, interacted with the human body. This is how they realised that humans and other animals have their own biochemical communication system to interact with this cannabinoids. According to Project CBD, “the Endocannabinoid System, which plays a crucial role in regulating our physiology, mood, and everyday experience”.
Because this system is part of our biological composition, cannabis is just one of the multiple ways to enhance or boost the endocannabinoid system (ECS). There are many ways to experience the benefits of the ECS besides smoking or consuming cannabis.
Here’s a list of 7 ways to boost your Endocannabinoid System without cannabis
Exercise and the Endocannabinoid System
Exercise can be as addictive as any other drug. Physical activity creates chemical and physiological reactions in the body. After running, for example, people often feel a kind of euphoria. Also, studies suggest that the effect of exercise can reduce the state of pain and discomfort. This is what people know as the “runner’s high”.
Initially, it was believed that endorphins were the ones in charge of this effect. But studies conducted in Germany found out that endorphins are not the ones in charge of creating the feeling of runner’s high. The chemical substance responsible is anandamide, our very own and self-produced cannabinoid. They also observed how anandamide levels rise in mice after they spent some time in the running wheel.
Anandamide is also known as the “bliss molecule”. It comes from the Sanskrit word “ananda”, that means “happiness, “bliss” and “joy”. It was first discovered in Israel on 1992. Scientist revealed that after exercise, the brain produces anandamide, which interacts with the Endocannabinoid System, activating CB1 and CB2 receptors. When anandamide interacts with the ECS, it can produce the effects of euphoria and pain relief.
Regular exercise is always recommended and it will keep your body healthy. Besides, you can boost your endocannabinoid system while you are at it. It’s a win-win!
Meditation and endocannabinoids have a lot in common. And not just to “expand your mind” or to open the “doors of perception”. Taking aside the psychoactive effects, some cannabinoids like THC, CBD and meditation produce very similar effects in both mind and body when they boost the Endocannabinoid System.
Meditation, as well as running, has a direct effect on the endocannabinoid system. A study proved that anti-stress activities, such as meditation, help the ECS work in perfect conditions. Studies proved that one of the most harmful things to the ECS is stress. According to their research, “stress-reduction techniques, such as meditation, deep breathing exercises and yoga impart mild cannabimimetic effects”.
This means that when you meditate, your body will experience similar sensations to the ones generated by some cannabinoids. In this case, the cannabinoid that gives the same effects as meditation is CBD. Cannabidiol has the property of anti stress and relaxation, and some studies even suggest that it can even be a treatment for high blood pressure and cardiovascular diseases. People often use meditation as an alternative treatment to anxiety. And guess what? You can also do that with CBD. As you can see, both meditation and CBD have very similar effects on us when they interact with our bodies through the endocannabinoid system.
Foods that Boost your Endocannabinoid System
Yes. There is another good reason why you should eat more chocolate. And not just any chocolate, but dark chocolate. A study conducted in Italy proved that cacao powder contains compounds that have a very similar chemical structure to cannabinoids. Researchers noted that these compounds in cacao powder can stimulate the production of the brain’s own endocannabinoids, such as anandamide. This means that when you are eating chocolate, these chemical compounds are unlocking the endocannabinoid receptors, creating similar reactions as cannabinoids present in the cannabis plant.
These compounds are more present in dark chocolate and raw cacao. So if you want to boost your endocannabinoid system, try eating 70% dark chocolate or higher. This will improve the chances of getting the compounds that will make your ECS start working.
Drinking coffee is another way to enhance your endocannabinoid system. Researchers in Rome, Italy, studied the effects of coffee in mice. They proved that there is a direct connection between the psychoactive effect of coffee and the endocannabinoid system.
They concluded that regular coffee intake has the ability to enhance the activation of CB1 receptors. Also, their findings suggest that caffeine reduces the “pathological consequence of stress”, which is produced when CB1 receptors are downregulated after social defeat stress activities.
But remember that caffeine can also be harmful in excess, or if you want a good night’s sleep. Try to take one cup in the morning and one in the afternoon after lunch. Avoid coffee late at night.
Omega-3 & Omega-6 Fatty Acids
As we explained previously, the endocannabinoid system is all about balance. Well, that is something you should apply to your dietary habbits. Omega-3 and Omega-6 fatty acids are essential to your health. But they need to be in balance in order to see the full benefits in your body.
Omega-6 is pretty easy to find in every supermarket. Most of the cooking and vegetable oils are rich in Omega-6. Eggs, poultry and nuts are also good dietary sources. However, for your body to take the most out of fatty acids, there need to be a balance (1:1 ratio) between Omega-3 and Omega-6. Unfortunately, typical western diet has a 1:16 ratio.Omega-3 is rich in cold water fish like salmon and sardines. You can also find Omega-3 in eggs, but only if they are produced by hens fed on a rich-diet of insects and greens. If you are vegetarian, you can find Omega-3 in flax seeds and oil, chia seeds and walnuts.
Tea, plants and herbs
If you are not a coffee lover but you still want to give your endocannabinoid system a little boost, tea is the perfect solution. Tea contains catechins, which are antioxidant compounds present in some plants. It has anti-inflammatory and neuroprotective effects as well. According to a study published in 2009, these compounds present in tea bind with cannabinoid receptors located in the central nervous system. Therefore, they also interact and enhance your endocannabinoid system.
Other plants and herbs besides cannabis
Cannabis is not the only plant that can activate the endocannabinoid system. Here’s a list of some of them:
- Kava: This is another plant used to treat anxiety and sleep disorders, just like cannabis. This plant has a chemical compound called yangonin, because it binds with CB1 receptors. After stimulating the endocannabinoid system, this is why it has anti-anxiety effects. Some people have experience a similar reaction on kava as the one they feel when drinking alcohol. If you want to try it, please do it carefully.
- Turmeric: This plant is native from India and other regions in Southeast Asia. Turmeric powder is a key ingredient in Indian food. It has a yellow color and has an aroma similar to mustard. If you have tried curry chicken, you have tried turmeric powder.
- Black Pepper: “Add salt and pepper”. There is no recipe that doesn’t include this line. Pepper is a must in almost every dish.Pepper interacts with the endocannabinoid system through beta-caryophyllene. This terpene is also found in oregano, and cinnamon, among other herbs.
- Echinacea: Echinacea is one of the most popular medicinal herbs on earth. Ancient cultures used it to enhance the immune system when an infection attacked the body. If you have the flu, echinacea can take care of those annoying symptoms. Studies suggest that alkylamides, a compound found in echinacea, binds with CB2 receptor and reduces inflammation. This compound increases the effects of endocannabinoids.
Now you know what to eat, but keep in mind what to avoid
As you can see, there are a lot of different ways to enhance your endocannabinoid system besides cannabis. Meditation, exercise and other relaxing and anti-stress activities are a good way to set it in motion. A variety of food and drinks like salmon, eggs and coffee also stimulate CB1 and CB2 receptors in your brain. Condiments such as turmeric and pepper have terpenes that also bind with cannabinoid receptors in your brain.
Furthermore, cannabis is not the only plant with the ability of stimulating your ECS. Other ancient medicinal plants such as kava and echinacea have similar medicinal properties, therefore are acting directly with your ECS.
But there are also a few things you need to avoid. Pesticides are very disruptive for the endocannabinoid system. So when you are buying food, choose only organic food. Also, if you bring your lunch to work, avoid heating it directly in your plastic container. Phthalates are substances used in the production of most plastics. When heated, this substance is very dangerous to your body and it can disrupt hormonal activity. It is better to store your food in glass containers. This also applies to water: don’t reuse your plastic bottles. Replace them with glass bottles, or other materials you can drink water in.