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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?

Linking the Known with the New

Plants have been used in medicine for thousands of years. Often, we knew that plants were effective, but we didn’t know why. Take for example white willow bark. For thousands of years this plant had been used in medicine to reduce pain and inflammation. A drug had even been synthesized from white willow bark called aspirin. It was miraculous, but we didn’t know how it worked until science discovered the inflammatory enzymes called cyclooxygenase and the specific enzyme designated COX-2. Now, we know that acetylsalicylic acid from white willow bark may be used to temporarily reduce the COX-2 enzyme associated with pain and inflammation. Thus, linking “the known” (white willow bark is good for pain and inflammation) with “the new” (acetylsalicylic acid blocks the COX-2 enzyme) leads us to the discovery of the miracle drug aspirin.

A similar pathway led to the discovery of our endorphin system. Plants from the poppy species were used to numb extreme pain and slow down a racing heart. Later, these plants were refined to create opium and morphine. These substances were traced to specific receptors in the brain, later called endorphin receptors. This knowledge of how these substances work inside the human body opened the way for discovering why we are happy when we exercise, why relaxation training improves heart function and why people in love experience less suffering with physical pain. Thus, linking “the known” (poppies, deep relaxation, exercise and love reduce physical pain and make us happy) with “the new” (opioids numb extreme pain) leads us to the discovery of the miracle drug morphine.

A third pathway of discovery helped us find the endocannabinoid system (ECS). The endocannabinoid system was first postulated in 1973 when researchers at Johns Hopkins University began to apply the scientific method of inquiry to the Cannabis plant species. But is wasn’t until 1990 at a meeting of the National Institutes of Health that the endocannabinoid system (ECS) receptors were explained. Now, Cannabis plant species have used in human nutrition and health for thousands of years. What awaited these scientists were ‘new’ discoveries from a well ‘known’ family of plants.

Conclusion

The discovery of the ECS system has opened the door to understanding how the foods and spices we eat impact our immune system. It also helps us peek into the way our infinite range of emotions impact our immune system, heart, bones, intestines and other organs. Further, it shines the light on the foolishness of restricting healthy foods such as hemp proteins, fats and fibers from our diet because of contravening economic policies. To be healthy in mind, body, community and species we must nourish the endocannabinoid system.

Abattis Medical Advisory Board Chairman Brazos Minshew spotlights Bisphenol A (BPA), a chemical linked to infertility and other health problems.

There is a simple way to describe your endocrine system: it is the glands and organs that make hormones. Hormones are messengers: they deliver commands to your body. Once the command is completed, other hormones reply with messengers of their own. The cycle is intricate, but the steps are simple. When it comes to hormones, we “make” them, we “use” them and we “get rid of them” through detoxification.

BPA is a hormone disruptor, also called an EDC: Endocrine Disrupting Chemical. BPA is in a family of chemicals that prevents us from making the right blend of hormones, prevents us from using them correctly and blocks us from detoxifying them appropriately. This leads to hormone imbalances and a toxic soup of fake, inflammatory hormones circulated and stored inside of us. 

In 2013, scientists from Brigham and Women's Hospital published findings showing that BPA exposure can affect humans. The authors add: "The detrimental effects on reproduction may be lifelong and transgenerational." That means it may ruin your health and be passed on to your children and grandchildren.

Infants and young children are said to be especially sensitive to the effects of BPA. Products that contain BPA include water bottles, baby bottles, skin care and cosmetics packaging, and sports equipment.

A review of previous studies, published in 2015, found evidence that BPA can interfere with endocrine function involving the hypothalamus and the pituitary gland. According to the article, Thyroid effects of endocrine disrupting chemicals (Boas M, et al. Mol Cell Endocrinol. 2012) “…there is now reasonably firm evidence that bisphenol A may have thyroid disrupting properties.

One way to promote proper detoxification of Bisphenol A is by eating foods high in Quercetin – such as Saskatoon berries and Hawthorn berries. Quercetin balances the detoxification system for BPA (called glucuronidation). Quercetin improves the enzymes that “get rid of” BPA and prevents BPA from interfering with the way we “make” hormones.

It is important to prevent as much BPA exposure as possible by selecting BPA-Free products. This is especially true for children, women who are pregnant and both women and men who are planning a family. It is also important to consume high-quercetin foods to balance detoxification and promote hormone health.

Abattis Medical Advisory Board Chairman Brazos Minshew, MSc, ND presents Thyroid Cancer Update in Austin, Texas USA

The Chairman of Abattis’ Medical Advisory Board presented an update to physicians on the explosive growth in thyroid cancer diagnosis in North America. He states, “While many cancers are in decline in North America - especially those related to smoking cessation - the number of thyroid cancers are increasing at an alarming rate. Today, thyroid cancer diagnosis is the fastest growing diagnosis among women and men. Thyroid cancer is the most common cancer in women age 20 to 34.”

Statistics support these assertions. According to the American Cancer Society, the chance of being diagnosed with thyroid cancer has tripled over the last three decades. The predominant clinical feature of thyroid cancer is the thyroid nodule. Up to 70% of people will have a thyroid nodule. Up to 5% of these nodules are malignant. “That means that in a gathering of 20 people, 14 people will have a thyroid nodule on ultrasound and one of them will likely be cancerous at some time” says Minshew.

Quoting an article in the Journal, Endocrine Related Cancer (2014) Minshew continues, “Repositioning of established non-cancer pharmacotherapeutic agents with well-known activity and side-effect profiles is a promising avenue for the development of new treatment modalities for multiple cancer types... For instance, the derivatives of cannabis and an anti-diabetic agent, metformin, both are able to inhibit ERK, which is commonly activated in Thyroid Cancer cells.” -Kushchayeva

The function of Abattis Medical Advisory Board is to continually shine a spotlight on the importance of phytocannabinoids and the Endocannabinoid System in the treatment of immune-related disorders.