ECS: Mind-Body Medicine

In the early 1600’s, a philosopher / mathematician named Rene Descartes first drew a line of distinction between the “mind” (a thinking, but non-acting thing) with the body (an acting, but non-thinking thing). For hundreds of years we have followed the concept of mind-body separation. However, beginning especially in the 1970’s, the separation of mind and body began to dissolve and the link began to emerge. With the discovery of the ECS, the 300-year-old wall between mind and body came tumbling down.

There is no separation between mind and body; we are one thing. We are who we are as a whole person.

Think of the Endo-Cannabinoid System (ECS) as having two distinct personalities. On the one hand, the ECS communicates from the mind to the body. On the other hand, the ECS communicates from the body to the mind. But, rather than being two different systems, think of the ECS as a continuous conversation between every cell in the human body and brain with every other cell in the body and brain.

They ECS system is an amazing link joining mind and body through our immune system. The ECS system has two receptors. The first, CB-1 is possibly the most abundant receptor in our brain. It is also present in our heart, gut and bones – our so-called ‘non-thinking’ organs. The second ECS receptor, CB-2 is abundant in our immune system, muscles, skin and nerves. It is also the predominant ECS receptor in our bones, gut and heart. So, the connection between the two sides of the endocannabinoid system becomes obvious: it is the mind-body connection!

Hemp, Chocolate and Beer

Scientists named the ECS brain chemical (neurotransmitter) anadamide. It means bliss in Sanskrit. Substances that turn-on the ECS-anadamide system are found in many plants that induce bliss. Take chocolate, for example. Though chocolate contains many, many chemicals associated with changes in body function, the improvement in our mood (bliss!) facilitated by chocolate comes from the activation of the ECS and anandamide. Though cannabinoids were first discovered in Cannabis plant species such as hemp, cannabinoids that activate the ECS system are found in many non-cannabis plant species. These include chocolate, hops (the secret ingredient in beer), spices from black pepper, chilies, curry and cloves and vegetables such as carrots (rabbits have ECS bliss-receptors as do most other animals).

The discovery of COX enzymes and the way aspirin reduces pain and inflammation opened our horizon to discover many other plants that behaved in a similar manner as aspirin. For example, ginger, turmeric and frankincense all reduce COX enzymes in their own, unique way. Could it be that the discovery of the ECS would help us understand the activity of other plants as well?

Author: Brazos Minshew, Msc, ND