Achieving Homeostasis Naturally
“Homeostasis”, from the Greek words for “same” and “steady”, refers to the self-regulating systems the body uses to maintain internal balance and stability, including the body’s natural ability to heal. Homeostasis includes many bodily functions that work to maintain a stable internal environment despite changes in our external environment.
While maintaining body temperature and blood pressure are well-known examples of homeostasis, a lesser-known but critical physiological system our body uses for this is the endocannabinoid system (ECS). The ECS is a master regulatory system that supports homeostasis by helping the brain and body respond to perceived changes and can act as a bridge between the mind and body. It plays a role in a wide variety of health-related functions including reducing pain, relieving anxiety and depression, lowering inflammation, regulating sleep, controlling hunger and metabolism, mood balance, immune function, reproduction, reward and pleasure, memory, and modulating drug and alcohol cravings.
When most people first hear the word “cannabinoid” they assume this involves the use of cannabis (marijuana). However, use of cannabis is not required to experience the endocannabinoid system’s benefits. The reason the system’s name is connected is that the effects from the cannabis plant were described first, while the ECS receptors were discovered later. Recent discoveries have also led to new terpene-based products that provide many of the same health benefits as cannabis, but without its intoxicating effects.
The ECS consists of three main components: endocannabinoids (AEA and 2-AG), cannabinoid receptors (CB1 and CB2), and enzymes, which work to eliminate the endocannabinoids once they’ve done their job. “Endo” is short for endogenous, meaning “within” - as the body produces endocannabinoids when required to restore balance.
When the body is not in homeostasis, it produces endocannabinoids as needed to restore balance. The two primary endocannabinoids are AEA (anandamide) and 2-AG (2-arachidonylglycerol). Made on-demand, they activate the cannabinoid receptors (CB1 and CB2), like a key fitting into a lock.
Often called “the bliss molecule,” AEA (anandamide) is associated with feelings of pleasure and contentment – it’s effectively a mood enhancer. It’s stimulated by chocolate, black truffles, and exercise (researchers think it may be responsible for the “runner’s high”). The effect can be similar to THC, the psychoactive phyto- or plant-based cannabinoid in marijuana that binds to CB1 (cannabinoid receptor 1). Low levels of AEA are associated with unhappiness, anxiety, and an inability to cope with stress.
You can increase anandamide levels by eating foods that contain kaempferol including apples, blackberries, grapes, peaches, raspberries, broccoli, lettuce, potatoes, spinach, squash, and tomatoes. This can be supported with foods like fatty fish and meats that contain arachidonic acid, an omega-6 fatty acid required by the body to produce AEA.
PEA (Palmitoylethanolamide) is a naturally occurring compound derived from egg yolk, peanuts, and soybean lecithin that has been shown to boost anandamide levels. While it is produced by the body, studies have found that PEA supplements are effective at treating nerve pain (including sciatica), inflammatory pain, and pain from endometriosis and interstitial cystitis. Doing something you love, where your focus seems to make time stand still, can also help increase anandamide levels in the brain.
2-AG is involved in regulating the release of neurotransmitters. It activates the CB1 receptors and is the most prevalent endocannabinoid in the brain. It’s involved in a wide range of physiological functions including energy, pain sensation, neuro-inflammation, cognition, and emotion. 2-AG is important for controlling seizures, cardiovascular health, and like anandamide, it may influence hunger and appetite while regulating a variety of essential processes.
Cannabinoid receptors is where the magic happens, as they respond to the endocannabinoids. CB1 is most abundant in the brain and central nervous system, but there are CB1 receptors present in the testes, retina, sperm, colon, adrenal glands, heart, lung, prostate, uterus, and ovaries.
While activating the CB2 receptors won’t result in euphoria or a “high,” it does help the body relax, repair, and reduce pains, without affecting cognition. CB2 receptors are more prevalent in the peripheral nervous system and throughout the immune system.
Anti-inflammatory activity appears to be one of the main benefits of CB2 activation, but unlike CB1, it does not result in any psychoactive effects. This is where beta-caryophyllene (a major non-intoxicating terpene found in cannabis) enters the picture, but it has also opened the door for ongoing research into terpenes, the aromatic oils that are found not only in cannabis but also in many other plants. An affordable alternative to cannabis-derived products, terpene products can have complementary (and in some cases better) physiological benefits.
Research has found that many of the health benefits derived from terpenes are not exclusive to the cannabis plant. The complex natural compounds that give plants and flowers their unique aroma, terpenes are the “active ingredients” in essential oils. Due to their availability in common plants and trees, terpenes have been studied even longer than cannabinoids. Due to their ability to act on receptors and neurotransmitters, terpenes can act as serotonin uptake inhibitors, enhance norepinephrine and dopamine activity, and increase GABA levels. Many terpenes have broad antibiotic, anti-inflammatory, and mood effects. Some terpenes found in cannabis, but also other plants include:
- Alpha Pinene is found in pine needles and cones and can help promote alertness, improve short term memory, and increase focus.
- Limonene is found in citrus fruit peels and has been shown to boost mood and act as a powerful antidepressant. A Japanese study found limonene produced antidepressant effects comparable to SSRIs, and half the patients were able to stop taking the drugs.
- Linalool is a terpene found in lavender with powerful antidepressant and anti-anxiety effects. Lavender is well known to help people sleep and relax, and many find it effective as a headache remedy.
- Beta-caryophyllene is found in many essential oils including clove, rosemary, and hops, and it’s responsible for the spiciness of black pepper. It has antimicrobial, anti-inflammatory, antioxidant, and antibacterial properties and has been shown to help relieve anxiety and pain, reduce cholesterol, prevent bone loss, and treat seizures.
- Humulene is sourced from the flowering cone of the hops plant, but it’s also found in sage, basil, clove, black pepper, and coriander. Well known for giving beer its hoppy flavour, humulene is antibacterial, anti-inflammatory, and can help promote weight loss and reduce pain.
Naturopath and researcher Dr. Lee Know founded Cannanda, an award-winning Canadian company that has developed a remarkable line of terpene products. Cannanda’s CB2 products activate the CB2 cannabinoid receptors within the ECS using specialized terpene blends. These products provide many of the health benefits of cannabis, including reducing pain and anxiety without the “high,” and are available at health stores without a prescription. Terpene products are completely legal and are not considered addictive. Most people find a benefit within the first week or two, but for those that don’t, Cannanda offers a money-back guarantee.
As nutritional support, Cannanda’s CB2 may also be able to help with other conditions including cardiovascular health, insulin sensitivity, dementia, MS, arthritis, migraines, insomnia, and drug and alcohol dependence. Depending on the situation and user preference, these products can be ingested (or used sublingually under the tongue), inhaled as aromatherapy, and even used topically to reduce localized pain. They’ve also developed a line of products for dogs. CB2 Dog-Ease is a CBD alternative with the same effective treatment for pain and anxiety found in their CB2 products for humans.
Research continues to discover more about how the ECS affects all aspects of our health. This research leads to truly personalized medicine, as terpene products can help give your body support whenever it’s out of balance.
CB2™ products are a licensed trademark of Cannanda/3D Medicine.