It is good to be homeostatic. Homeostasis, according to Britannica: “any self-regulating process by which biological systems tend to maintain stability while adjusting to conditions that are optimal for survival. If homeostasis is successful, life continues; if unsuccessful, disaster or death ensues.” On the surface, this seems important.
Upon further investigation, homeostasis is, in fact, very, very important; it is considered “a unifying principle of biology” and it maintains spheres of influence in the areas of blood pressure, body temperature, glucose management, pH balance, hydration, respiration, reacting to toxins – the list is long and every component part is tied to a series of feedback-and-adjustment systems in the human body, which make up the wire-fine edges that divide health from the innumerable permutations of its opposite.
We are going to play a little game here this week. I am going to let you guess which plant, with its evolutionary roots in the rugged lands of Central Asia, the plant with taxonomical designations of indica, sativa, and ruderalis, the plant with a rich recent history of targeted cultivation that is as helpful as anything found in nature for the maintenance of the homeostasis governed by such organs as the liver, kidneys, skin, lungs, cell walls, and pancreas.
Yes! Great guess! It is cannabis, specifically, the plant’s eponymously named “cannabanoids,” chemical combinations that closely mirror the human body’s own cannabanoid, anandamide – a fat-based neurotransmitter produced by all healthy mammals with a chemical composition nearly identical to that of the best known plant-based cannabanoid, THC. CBD, the next-best known, has an internally-created mirror known as 2-Arachidonoylglycerol. The mammalian brain and nervous systems contain a series of receptors designed specifically to interact with these compounds in an intricate dance that results in proper systemic function.
There are two main types of cannabis receptors, known as CB1 (present primarily in the brain and nervous system) and CB2 (centered in the immune system) that have been known to science and studied for decades (in places where the government does not interfere with cannabis research). Recent discoveries of additional receptor sites promise an even better understanding of the processes involved in the body’s use of both internally and externally generated cannabanoids.
THC and CBD are the best known cannabanoids, but they are definitely not the only two. There is a virtual alphabet soup of compounds present in each and every marijuana plant – CBN, CBG, THCA, THCV, CBC, and dozens more. There are more than 80 that have been discovered and scientific analysis is now working to understand how each functions, alone and in combination with each other. Additionally, terpenes, which are natural aromatic oils that imbue specific strains with their own special aromas, interact with cannabanoids to promote wellness. Terpenes are found across the plant kingdom (and are even manufactured by some insects). Cannabanoid “mirrors,” known as cannabamimetics, are also available in a variety of plants, including echinacea, electric daisy, Peruvian maca, liverwort, and others. The molecules in these plants also work with the cannabanoid receptors, offering promise for future research and relief for a wide range of maladies.
Year after year, in laboratories around the world, our understanding of the healthy relationship between marijuana and our bodies comes to be more understood. Cannabanoids have been shown to be a powerful ally in our pursuit of health and wellness. So put something in your pipe this week and smoke it in the name of homeostasis.
Christopher Gallagher lives with his wife and their four dogs and two horses. Life is pretty darn good. Contact him at [email protected].