endocannabinoids and stress
endocannabinoids and stress

Stressed Out? - Your Endocannabinoid System Is Out of Whack, Here Is How to Fix It and Go Stress Free

New study looks at how the endocannabinoid system can treat stress-related conditions

Posted by:
DanaSmith on Monday Oct 2, 2023

endocannabinoids and stress

New Study Suggests Endocannabinoid System Is Key To Treating Stress-Related Conditions


It’s no secret that stress is a silent killer.


When we are exposed to chronic stress, it has a significant impact on the immune system, which is responsible for protecting the body from disease. It’s important for humans to be in homeostasis so that all bodily functions can be performed optimally. However, chronic stress interrupts homeostasis and puts us all at risk for conditions such as PTSD, depression, and anxiety.


When we are exposed to long periods of stress, this can result in psychological as well as physical ailments. It leaves us feeling depleted and suffering from mental fatigue, and it can pave the way for other diseases to creep in over time – most especially if we deal with stress by consuming high-inflammatory substances such as alcohol and tobacco.


Now, studies are showing that the endocannabinoid system may be the key to treating stress-related conditions.


A new animal study conducted by researchers at Northwestern Medicine takes a deeper look into what happens in the brain under stress. They utilized a new protein sensor designed to identify the presence of endogenous cannabinoid molecules in the brain in real time. They found that the amygdala, which is the emotion headquarters of the brain, produces our very own cannabinoid molecules when we are stressed out. The release of these endogenous molecules helps calm down the stress alarms sounded by the hippocampus. 


Additionally, the sensor revealed that these cannabinoid molecules in mice were produced when exposed to different types of stress. The scientists also removed the CB1 receptors, which are the target of the endogenous cannabinoids; they found that this led to a decreased ability to cope with stress. The mice became immobile when exposed to stress, and were less motivated to drink water sweetened with sucrose. This can refer to anhedonia, one’s lack of pleasure; a symptom many patients experience with severe depression as well as PTSD.


Their findings led the researchers to hypothesize that the production of endogenous cannabinoid molecules can naturally help the body cope with stress.


Dr. Sachi Patel, who sits on the chair of psychiatry and behavioral sciences at Northwestern University’s School of Medicine, and the corresponding author of the study, explained that these findings were significant in understanding how stress impacts the brain at a cellular level and leads to disease. “Understanding how the brain adapts to stress at the molecular, cellular and circuit level could provide critical insight into how stress is translated into mood disorders and may reveal novel therapeutic targets for the treatment of stress-related disorders,” he shares.


“Determining whether increasing levels of endogenous cannabinoids can be used as potential therapeutics for stress-related disorders is a next logical step from this study and our previous work,” Dr. Patel said. “There are ongoing clinical trials in this area that may be able to answer this question in the near future,” he adds.


Why Understanding The Endocannabinoid System Is So Important For Human Health


Despite the growing use and popularity of cannabis to treat a wide range of illnesses, many doctors are still lacking the education needed to properly comprehend how cannabis works in the human body. In fact, they aren’t even taught about the human endocannabinoid system in school.


Most doctors these days will talk about the cardiovascular system, nervous system, and other systems that are known about. The endocannabinoid system is the least understood but yet it’s just as important because understanding it contains vital cues that can help doctors treat patients more efficiently. This is especially important for mental health disorders.

Anxiety disorders, for example, are the most common among all mental health problems that afflict Americans and the rest of the world. Is it then a wonder, why cannabidiol (CBD) is also so widely consumed? Thousands of people are self-medicating with CBD because it works better than many other pharmaceutical drugs for treating anxiety. And that is no easy feat because treating anxiety without side effects is difficult.


The main role of the endocannabinoid system is to promote homeostasis in humans. It helps regulate many important processes such as memory, body temperature, pain, appetite, mood, sleep, immunity, metabolism, and much more. The endocannabinoid system works through endocannabinoid compounds, which are quite literally neurotransmitters that we produce in the human body. When we consume cannabinoids in marijuana, such as THC and CBD, they are chemically identical to these neurotransmitters and do interact with the drug receptors.


The inflammatory systems in the human body respond to stress by releasing reactive oxygen species, resulting in an oxidant imbalance. As a result, we suffer from oxidative stress and it will lead to even more dysfunction when it isn’t addressed. Countless studies have shown that consuming THC and CBD can counteract these responses in the body thanks to their powerful antioxidant and anti-inflammatory properties.




There is still so much we don’t know about the endocannabinoid system, though the number of studies has grown. Decades of research has verified that the endocannabinoid system plays an important role in balancing our bodily functions and thus reducing inflammation, stress, and oxidation – treating stress by targeting several functions all at once.


It’s nothing short of exciting to be living at a time when new drugs can still be developed to help alleviate the suffering of millions of people around the world.





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