It’s a hot topic in the news and among our law makers today — controversial cannabis oil and its therapeutic value. We know that cannabinoids, the compounds found in cannabis that allow for the plant’s many health benefits, can help to improve a number of serious diseases, from cardiovascular disease to schizophrenia.
But using the plant for medicine doesn’t come without concerns, like its potential side effects, such as a decrease in concentration, memory and the ability to think straight, and its psychoactive ingredient, THC.
Cannabinoids and the Endocannabinoid System
The endocannabinoid system plays a role in many cognitive and physiological processes, and is responsible for maintaining homeostasis, or a stable, well-functioning internal environment.
It wasn’t until scientists started studying the beneficial effects of cannabis that they discovered this biochemical communication system in the human body. And now it’s thought to be one of the most important physiological systems involved in maintaining our health. This incredible system is made up endocannabinoid receptors that respond to cannabinoid compounds, which can be found in cannabis and a number of other plants.
6 Herbs & Superfoods that Mimic Cannabinoids
1. Essential Oils of Rosemary, Black Pepper, Ylang Ylang, Lavender, Cinnamon and Cloves
Terpenes, the aroma molecules found in essential oils, engage CB2, the cannabinoid receptor that’s found predominately in the immune system. Black pepper, lavender, clove, rosemary and cinnamon essential oils contain a sesquiterpenoid that’s called beta-caryophyllene (βCP).
In vivo studies show that βCP selectively binds to the CB2 receptor and that it’s a functional CB2 agonist, meaning that it initiates a physiological response. βCP is a major component in cannabis and a common constituent found in essential oils of numerous spice and plant foods. Therefore, essential oils containing βCP have natural cannabimimetic effects and can be used as functional non-psychoactive CB2 receptor ligands that have anti-inflammatory and immune-boosting effects.
Echinacea is a coneflower that’s known as a powerful immune system stimulator. People often use echinacea to reduce the chances of catching a cold and reducing the duration of cold symptoms. Some other echinacea benefits include its ability to alleviate pain and improve mental health.
Echinacea contains fatty acid compounds called N-acylethanolamines, which are known to bind to and activate cannabinoid receptors. When engaging with CB2 receptors, these compounds in echinacea help to regulate immune function and reduce inflammation.
Recent research shows that truffles, specifically black truffle, or Tuber melanosporum, contain anandamide and the major metabolic enzymes of the endocannabinoid system. Anandamide is a mood-enhancing compound that might play a role in the truffle’s maturation process and its interaction with the environment, according to research published in Phytochemistry.
Studies show that anandamide is well-equipped with endocannabinoid-binding receptors and releases chemicals in the human brain that have a similar biological mechanism as THC. That’s why some scientists are even calling anandamide a “bliss molecule,” as it may help to improve your mood, appetite, memory and fertility.
Like black truffles, cacao nibs contains anandamide, an endocannabinoid that’s produced in the brain and is known as the bliss neurotransmitter. Cacao also works to deactivate fatty acid amide hydrolase (FAAH), which is an enzyme that’s part of the endocannabinoid system and breaks down anandamide. This allows the body to retain the bliss-promoting compound at higher levels, allowing you to feel more relaxed and euphoric.
Helichrysum italicum is a plant that’s known for its anti-inflammatory, antioxidant, antibacterial and antifungal properties. The plant has been used for its medicinal properties for thousands of years and today, helichrysum essential oil is often used as a natural mood stabilizer and immune-booster.
Helichrysum is a major producer of compounds that mimic cannabigerol (CBG) and cannabigerol acid (CBGa). These particular compounds are known to be one of the most structurally diversified types of phytocannabinoids that are found in the cannabis plant. More research is needed to determine exactly how these non-cannabis CBG compounds work within the body, but researchers believe that it begins from the plant’s aromatic acid.
6. Omega-3 Fats
You’ve probably heard about the many omega-3 benefits before, but researchers are discovering that some of these benefits come from the body’s ability to convert omega-3 foods into endocannabinoids.
A recent study conducted at the University of Illinois found that cannabinoids are produced naturally in the body from omega-3 fatty acids. When scientists analyzed animal tissue, they discovered an enzymatic pathway that converts omega-3-derived endocannabinoids into more powerful anti-inflammatory molecules that bind to receptors in the immune system.
This means that omega-3 fats can actually produce some of the same medicinal qualities as cannabis, like supporting the immune system and reducing inflammation, without the psychotropic effects.