Disclaimer: My Rationale for Understanding the Science
Not everyone loves learning the scientific specifics, but lucky for you I do. And what I like to do with this information is gather it up, trim the fat, translate the jargon, and present it to you. Everything I explain has a point. I want you to experience an Informed High. I want to help create informed consumers making informed decisions.
The Nervous System, for Stoners
Muscles help us move; bones hold us up, organs process that second helping of turkey, our eyes collect incoming light, etc.. Everything has a purpose. Our Nervous system control its all. The Nervous system picks up stimuli (any actual thing, like pressure or light) and processes it, sending communications up and down the system. This system reacts to internal and external stimuli. And we have this continuous and bidirectional loop, continually sending and receiving messages, such as producing hormones or muscle fibers. If our body was a country, the nervous system would be the top leader president down to electrical and communication cables connecting the nation. These lines of communication and power power the highways and roads of a transportation nextwork, which are the blood vessels of the human body.
The Central and Peripheral Systems
The human body is one organism that functions as a whole. We can break down the human body into different ‘things’ based on structural and functional differences, but it is a continuous entity. And so in the name of science, we will divide up the Human Nervous Tissue two connected systems, each divided into two more parts.
The Central Nervous System (CNS)
Conceptualized into two parts: the Brain and the Spinal Cord (nervous tissue inside of your spine). The spinal cord is an extension of the brain, acting as a bridge between the brain and parts of the body below the neck. The CNS receives, processes, assesses and stores incoming sensory information. Information or stimuli like taste, smell, colour, sound, pressure, or the state of internal organs.
The spinal cord itself has reflexes, that can receive and send messages without the involvement of the brain. The brain is involved in basic functions like breathing and blinking. The brain also houses areas involved with executive functions (or cognitive controls) like memory or problem-solving.
The Peripheral Nervous System (PNS)
Basically, all portions of the nervous outside the brain and nervous system. The PNS Handles the input and output (bring a sense of touch from your finger into your CNS). It involves long Neurons (Nerve Cells) that reach from near or within the spinal cord and brain, down to the tips of our fingers and toes. These nerve cells are of often described by what they do, such as sensory nerves or motor nerves. The PNS further breaks down into the Somatic Nervous System (SMS) and Autonomic Nervous System (ANS)
The Somatic Nervous System (SNS)
The SNS involves voluntary sensory receptors (like those involved touch) and voluntary actions, like lifting your head. Unlike the ‘smooth muscles’ surrounding blood vessels, ‘skeletal muscles’ take commands directly from our consciousness. While we do not have to think about the specifics, but we control the action.
The Autonomic Nervous System (ANS)
The ANS is involved with functions that are automatic, not requiring conscious effort. Heart rate, digestive functions, and gland secretions, blood flow. Broadly you can think of the ANS as taking care of your vessels, glands and internal organs (without any effort from your conscious). This system includes sympathetic and parasympathetic systems (Don’t worry about them for now).
What does this all have to do with Cannabis??
Within our nervous system, we have two major Cannabinoid receptors (shorthand CB1 and CB2). CB1 Receptors are densely packed in the CNS. CB2 receptors are found in various places, including on immune cells (around the body and within the brain), in the digestive tract, and in peripheral tissues.
Active Components of Cannabis
The primary active components of Cannabis are THC and CBD. THC can activate (like a key into a lock) the CB1 Receptors, making it a Phytocannabinoid. One of the Endocannabinoids that targets CB1 Receptors is Anandamide (AEA). The Phytocannabinoid CBD targets CB2 receptors as well as CB1 Receptors, just like the endocannabinoid 2-AG. Cannabis also has effects on systems that are not directly under conscious control, such as our digestive system specifically and ANS in general. Cannabis has been proven to reduce nausea associated with chemotherapy due to actions at the level of the ANS.
TL;DR: A Review for those who skipped to the end
Each human body has one nervous system, that is continuous and complete. We conceptualize this nervous system as having two parts, a Central Nervous System and Peripheral Nervous system. The Central Nervous System includes the brain and spinal cord. The Peripheral Nervous Systems includes the Autonomic Nervous System and Skeletal Nervous System. This all matters to you, because the weed you smoke, or the cannabis you consume in whatever form, affects the human nervous system is a variety of ways. Whether you are a recreational user wanting to get high, or a medicinal patient trying to improve your quality of life and reduce symptoms, a better understanding of this science will help you achieve your goals.