We recently read an article about endocannabinoids. Yes, cannabinoids just like the active ingredient in marijuana, THC, or tetrahydrocannabinol. The part of the article that was most intriguing to me was the fact that these chemicals are completely natural in our body, as in we make them. Endocannabinoids act like a relay system in our body. Our neurotransmitters are released and bind post-synaptic neurons, which releases endocannabinoids. This tells the pre-synaptic neuron to stop releasing neurotransmitters. THC has a similar effect on the body. Here is where our discussions got interesting. THC acts exactly like a chemical our body already produces but has a huge stigma around it. Because of this stigma, one of the potentially beneficial parts of marijuana, cannabidiol, is often forgotten about. Cannabidiol is another cannabinoid, so it acts like the ones our body produces and THC. However, cannabidiol is far less psychoactive than THC. Cannabidiol is the part of marijuana that is often linked with the positive effects, such as preventing tumors and stopping seizures. In fact, a fairly recent article on CNN talked about how a specific strain of marijuana that was high in cannabidiol and low in THC was used to treat a girl with Davet’s Syndrome, a severe version of epilepsy. So we have natural endocannabiniods and cannabidiol that are generally helpful, but THC is the most commonly heard of and causes a lot of stigma for all cannabiniods. I wonder were the stigma came from in the first place. It does make you think, we have these chemicals are body uses for regulation that are also found in a plant. Some people use the plant to get high, others use it for health benefits. Should we be utilizing this plant, even though it is illegal now? Who knows, but cannabinoids are an interesting chemical nonetheless.
The Cobbers on the Brain blog is a component of the Neurochemistry course at Concordia College in Moorhead, MN, and written by students.
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