Mice treated with tetrahydrocannabinol (THC) show suppression of long-term potentiation in the hippocampus, a process that is essential for the formation and storage of long-term memory. These results may concur with anecdotal evidence suggesting that smoking cannabis impairs short-term memory. Consistent with this finding, mice without the CB1 receptor show enhanced memory and long-term potentiation indicating that the endocannabinoid system may play a pivotal role in the extinction of old memories. One study found that the high-dose treatment of rats with the synthetic cannabinoid HU-210 over several weeks resulted in stimulation of neural growth in the rats’ hippocampus region, a part of the limbic system playing a part in the formation of declarative and spatial memories, but did not investigate the effects on short-term or long-term memory. Taken together, these findings suggest that the effects of endocannabinoids on the various brain networks involved in learning and memory may vary.
Role in hippocampal neurogenesis
In the adult brain, the endocannabinoid system facilitates the neurogenesis of hippocampal granule cells. In the subgranular zone of the dentate gyrus, multipotent neural progenitors (NP) give rise to daughter cells that, over the course of several weeks, mature into granule cells whose axons project to and synapse onto dendrites on the CA3 region. NPs in the hippocampus have been shown to possess fatty acid amide hydrolase (FAAH) and express CB1 and utilize 2-AG. Intriguingly, CB1 activation by endogenous or exogenous cannabinoids promote NP proliferation and differentiation; this activation is absent in CB1 knockouts and abolished in the presence of antagonist.
Induction of synaptic depression
Endocannabinoids are known to influence synaptic plasticity, and are in particular thought to mediate long-term depression (LTD), although short-term depression (STD) has also been described (see the next paragraph). First reported in the striatum, this system is known to function in several other brain structures such as the nucleus accumbens, amygdala, hippocampus, cerebral cortex, cerebellum, ventral tegmental area (VTA), brain stem, and superior colliculus. Typically, these retrograde transmitters are released by the postsynaptic neuron and induce synaptic depression by activating the presynaptic CB1 receptors.
It has further been suggested that different endocannabinoids, i.e. 2-AG and anandamide, might mediate different forms of synaptic depression through different mechanisms. The study conducted with the bed nucleus of the stria terminalis found that the endurance of the depressant effects was mediated by two different signaling pathways based on the type of receptor activated. 2-AG was found to act on presynaptic CB1 receptors to mediate retrograde STD following activation of L-type calcium channeles, while anandamide was synthesized after mGluR5 activation and triggered autocrine signalling onto postsynapic TRPV1 receptors that induced LTD. These findings provide the brain a direct mechanism to selectively inhibit neuronal excitability over variable time scales. By selectively internalizing different receptors, the brain may limit the production of specific endocannabinoids to favor a time scale in accordance with its needs.
Evidence for the role of the endocannabinoid system in food-seeking behavior comes from a variety of cannabinoid studies. Emerging data suggests that THC acts via CB1 receptors in the hypothalamic nuclei to directly increase appetite. It is thought that hypothalamic neurons tonically produce endocannabinoids that work to tightly regulate hunger. The amount of endocannabinoids produced is inversely correlated with the amount of leptin in the blood. For example, mice without leptin not only become massively obese but express abnormally high levels of hypothalamic endocannabinoids as a compensatory mechanism. Similarly, when these mice were treated with an endocannabinoid inverse agonists, such as rimonabant, food intake was reduced. When the CB1 receptor is knocked out in mice, these animals tend to be leaner and less hungry than wild-type mice. A related study examined the effect of THC on the hedonic (pleasure) value of food and found enhanced dopamine release in the nucleus accumbens and increased pleasure-related behavior after administration of a sucrose solution. A related study found that endocannabinoids affect taste perception in taste cells In taste cells, endocannabinoids were shown to selectively enhance the strength of neural signaling for sweet tastes, whereas leptin decreased the strength of this same response. While there is need for more research, these results suggest that cannabinoid activity in the hypothalamus and nucleus accumbens is related to appetitive, food-seeking behavior.
Energy balance and metabolism
The endocannabinoid system has been shown to have a homeostatic role by controlling several metabolic functions, such as energy storage and nutrient transport. It acts on peripheral tissues such as adipocytes, hepatocytes, the gastrointestinal tract, the skeletal muscles and the endocrine pancreas. It has also been implied in modulating insulin sensitivity. Through all of this, the endocannabinoid system may play a role in clinical conditions, such as obesity, diabetes, and atherosclerosis, which may also give it a cardiovascular role.
While the secretion of glucocorticoids in response to stressful stimuli is an adaptive response necessary for an organism to respond appropriately to a stressor, persistent secretion may be harmful. The endocannabinoid system has been implicated in the habituation of the hypothalamic-pituitary-adrenal axis (HPA axis) to repeated exposure to restraint stress. Studies have demonstrated differential synthesis of anandamide and 2-AG during tonic stress. A decrease of anandamide was found along the axis that contributed to basal hypersecretion of corticosterone; in contrast, an increase of 2-AG was found in the amygdala after repeated stress, which was negatively correlated to magnitude of the corticosterone response. All effects were abolished by the CB1 antagonist AM251, supporting the conclusion that these effects were cannabinoid-receptor dependent. These findings show that anandamide and 2-AG divergently regulate the HPA axis response to stress: while habituation of the stress-induced HPA axis via 2-AG prevents excessive secretion of glucocorticoids to non-threatening stimuli, the increase of basal corticosterone secretion resulting from decreased anandamide allows for a facilitated response of the HPA axis to novel stimuli.
Exploration, social behavior, and anxiety
These contrasting effects reveal the importance of the endocannabinoid system in regulating anxiety-dependent behavior. Results suggest that glutamatergic cannabinoid receptors are not only responsible for mediating aggression, but produce an anxiolytic-like function by inhibiting excessive arousal: excessive excitation produces anxiety that limited the mice from exploring both animate and inanimate objects. In contrast, GABAergic neurons appear to control an anxiogenic-like function by limiting inhibitory transmitter release. Taken together, these two sets of neurons appear to help regulate the organism’s overall sense of arousal during novel situations.
In laboratory experiments, activation of cannabinoid receptors had an effect on the activation of GTPases in macrophages, neutrophils, and bone marrow cells. These receptors have also been implicated in the migration of B cells into the marginal zone and the regulation of IgM levels.
See also: Cannabis in pregnancy
The developing embryo expresses cannabinoid receptors early in development that are responsive to anandamide secreted in the uterus. This signaling is important in regulating the timing of embryonic implantation and uterine receptivity. In mice, it has been shown that anandamide modulates the probability of implantation to the uterine wall. For example, in humans, the likelihood of miscarriage increases if uterine anandamide levels are too high or low. These results suggest that intake of exogenous cannabinoids (e.g. cannabis) can decrease the likelihood for pregnancy for women with high anandamide levels, and alternatively, it can increase the likelihood for pregnancy in women whose anandamide levels were too low.
Autonomic nervous system
Peripheral expression of cannabinoid receptors led researchers to investigate the role of cannabinoids in the autonomic nervous system. Research found that the CB1 receptor is expressed presynaptically by motor neurons that innervate visceral organs. Cannabinoid-mediated inhibition of electric potentials results in a reduction in noradrenaline release from sympathetic nervous system nerves. Other studies have found similar effects in endocannabinoid regulation of intestinal motility, including the innervation of smooth muscles associated with the digestive, urinary, and reproductive systems.
At the spinal cord, cannabinoids suppress noxious-stimulus-evoked responses of neurons in the dorsal horn, possibly by modulating descending noradrenaline input from the brainstem. As many of these fibers are primarily GABAergic, cannabinoid stimulation in the spinal column results in disinhibition that should increase noradrenaline release and attenuation of noxious-stimuli-processing in the periphery and dorsal root ganglion.
The endocannabinoid most researched in pain is palmitoylethanolamide. Palmitoylethanolamide is a fatty amine related to anandamide, but saturated and although initially it was thought that palmitoylethanolamide would bind to the CB1 and the CB2 receptor, later it was found that the most important receptors are the PPAR-alpha receptor, the TRPV receptor and the GPR55 receptor. Palmitoylethanolamide has been evaluated for its analgesic actions in a great variety of pain indications and found to be safe and effective.
Modulation of the endocannabinoid system by metabolism to N-arachidinoyl-phenolamine (AM404), an endogenous cannabinoid neurotransmitter, has been discovered to be one mechanism for analgesia by acetaminophen (paracetamol).
Anandamide and N-arachidonoyl dopamine (NADA) have been shown to act on temperature-sensing TRPV1 channels, which are involved in thermoregulation. TRPV1 is activated by the exogenous ligand capsaicin, the active component of chili peppers, which is structurally similar to endocannabinoids. NADA activates the TRPV1 channel with an EC50 of approximately of 50 nM.[clarify] The high potency makes it the putative endogenous TRPV1 agonist. Anandamide has also been found to activate TRPV1 on sensory neuron terminals, and subsequently cause vasodilation. TRPV1 may also be activated by methanandamide and arachidonyl-2′-chloroethylamide (ACEA).
Increased endocannabinoid signaling within the central nervous system promotes sleep-inducing effects. Intercerebroventricular administration of anandamide in rats has been shown to decrease wakefulness and increase slow-wave sleep and REM sleep. Administration of anandamide into the basal forebrain of rats has also been shown to increase levels of adenosine, which plays a role in promoting sleep and suppressing arousal. REM sleep deprivation in rats has been demonstrated to increase CB1 receptor expression in the central nervous system. Furthermore, anandamide levels possess a circadian rhythm in the rat, with levels being higher in the light phase of the day, which is when rats are usually asleep or less active, since they are nocturnal.
Anandamide is an endogenous cannabinoid neurotransmitter that binds to cannabinoid receptors. The ECS is also involved in mediating some of the physiological and cognitive effects of voluntary physical exercise in humans and other animals, such as contributing to exercise-induced euphoria as well as modulating locomotor activity and motivational salience for rewards. In humans, the plasma concentration of certain endocannabinoids (i.e., anandamide) have been found to rise during physical activity; since endocannabinoids can effectively penetrate the blood–brain barrier, it has been suggested that anandamide, along with other euphoriant neurochemicals, contributes to the development of exercise-induced euphoria in humans, a state colloquially referred to as a runner’s high.
Preheat the vaporizer to the recommended temperature. Insert a small amount of dried (cured) cannabis flower or extract into a vaporizer. Press the button and inhale. The cannabis will be heated to a temperature below its combustion point, but still hot enough to release the medicinal compounds.
Vaporizers are available in a wide array of shapes and sizes, from fancy home units to pocket-friendly pens. One pro is this delivers instant relief. One con is vaping units can be very expensive.
Start small! Inhale lightly (i.e. “take a small hit.”). There is no need to hold the smoke in your lungs…exhale. Wait a few minutes. If you don’t feel the desired effect, or you want to feel a greater effect, take another hit.
Once upon a time, edibles were limited to homemade brownies that tasted pretty awful and contained a mystery dose of THC. Nowadays you can find medicated cookies, popcorn, crackers, nut mixes, lollipops, ice cream, gummy bears, chocolate bars, chews, and many other kinds of food. The culinary science has evolved enough that most products are yummy—you can hardly tell they contain cannabis.
Pro provides long-lasting relief. Con Can take half an hour to several hours to kick in.
Only use edibles under the supervision of a doctor. Dosages vary widely depending on your weight, metabolism, experience level, and other factors. Doctors we know have suggested starting with a small amount—2 mg or less—and waiting at least an hour before eating more.
Extracted cannabinoids are mixed into an alcohol, glycerin solution or MCT Oil (Medium-Chain Triglyceride), which in many cases is coconut oil. These sublingual products usually come in a small bottle. Just squirt or spray it under your tongue and let it absorb through the thin tissue of the mouth.
Pro Doesn’t hurt lungs like inhaling cannabis. Con Can be expensive for people who require a high dosage of cannabinoids.
Start with just a few drops and wait ten minutes. If you don’t feel relief, try a few more drops. Eventually you’ll figure out your ideal dosage—for most people, it’s between half a dropper and a couple of droppers at a time.
Apply patch to a clean, dry and hairless skin surface. Many medical professionals recommend adhering the patch on the inner-wrist area, top of foot or ankle. This is the ideal method for any patients who rather not inhale the medicine. If you have explored multiple options without success, this might be the right path for depending on your choice of high you are trying to reach.
Pro no smoking required. Cons some individuals may develop an allergic reaction. Most transdermal patches come in 10mg dosed patches. They can be cut in half for smaller doses.
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