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Naturally Chill



— January 29, 2018

Naturally Chill

It improves sleep. It reduces stress

and calms anxiety. It protects the brain. It cools inflammation. It eases pain. It improves skin health and enhances beauty. Actually, there isn’t a single aspect of well-being it can’t improve.

It has been used for centuries and now is backed by a wealth of modern research. But it has only recently appeared on health food store shelves. You’re probably unfamiliar with it, even though you’ve certainly heard of it before.

It’s Cannabis sativa.

This plant species has many varieties.

You’re probably most familiar with the ones known as marijuana, its Spanish name. And you’re certainly aware that these varieties are widely seen as illicit drugs due to THC, the compound responsible for marijuana’s psychoactive effects.

But there’s a whole other side to Cannabis sativa. Many people don’t know that varieties known as hemp—which contain practically no THC—have been consumed for centuries and are entirely legal.

Billions of dollars are spent by people who seek the effects of THC. But if people knew the extent to which the non-THC substances found in hemp could improve their lives, Cannabis sativa would be viewed very differently.

What hemp does contain is a family of powerfully therapeutic compounds known as phytocannabinoids—primarily the non-psychoactive ones. What’s more, scientists have discovered that the body produces an analogous set of substances called endocannabinoids and has cannabinoid receptors that touch every organ, system and physiological function in the body. Collectively, this is known as the endocannabinoid system (ECS), and it has existed in the body since the beginning of time.

But it is only in the past couple of decades that researchers have even learned of the existence of the ECS. A whole new system that influences every other system of the body…that science didn’t know about? That’s like discovering a whole new bone or vital organ.

Knowing that this newly discovered system influences every other tissue in the body is a huge game-changer.

It means that if you can improve the function of the ECS, you can improve the health of practically every system it touches—that is, all systems.

The compounds found in hemp work well with the body’s own ECS, which explains hemp’s sweeping array of benefits. To date, more than 100 related phytocannabinoids have been identified in hemp.

Unlocking Health

Cells in just about every organ—really, everywhere researchers have looked— have been found to have receptors that respond to cannabinoids. These receptors act as tiny locks on the surface of the cells; they will accept only cannabinoid “keys,” which then allows certain compounds to communicate with the cell. This lock-and-key mechanism allows the ECS to act as a master switchboard that connects our minds to systems throughout the body, directing the actions of neurotransmitters, hormones and other substances from the brain to the muscles in the feet—and everywhere in between.

Who could benefit from phytocannabinoids? “Anyone who’s breathing,” says Earl Mindell, PhD.

Not surprisingly, this gives the ECS the ability to profoundly affect how the body performs. Here are only a few examples:

Pain response: The body’s endocannabinoids play a role in regulating the perception of pain through receptors in the joints and other tissues.

Anxiety: The ECS governs neurotransmission, memories, and components that quiet the brain and keep people calm.

Digestive functioning: The ECS helps control gut motility, or the rate at which food moves through the digestive tract, and works with what is referred to as the gut-brain axis, the connection between neurons in the gastrointestinal tract and the brain.

Skin health: There are more endocannabinoids in the skin then there are in the brain. The global function of the ECS in the skin is to control cell proliferation and differentiation; disruptions in this process are directly related to conditions such as seborrhea, eczema, psoriasis, acne and age spot development.

Researchers believe that insufficient production of cannabinoids in the body is associated with conditions including fibromyalgia, migraines, irritable bowel syndrome and many others which have puzzled physicians for years. Poor ECS function may also account for an extremely common health concern—chronic low-level inflammation, which can spend decades silently damaging the body’s tissues before symptoms become noticeable. “The basis for many health issues are inflammatory problems,” says Earl Mindell, PhD, pharmacist and author of Healing with Hemp Oil (Square One). “Inflammation is not necessarily bad, but when it gets out of sync it’s a problem.”

Mind, Body and the ECS

Endocannabinoids also control how the body responds to stress. In studies, stress has been found to upset levels of different endocannabinoids within the brain with far-reaching effects such as increases in anxiety and pain, and problems with memory. What’s worse, ongoing stress can cause an unhealthy feedback loop in which the proper functioning of the ECS becomes more and more impaired.

Basically, the relationship between the ECS and stress helps explain why, for instance, constant work pressure can lead to profound fatigue, make sleep hard to come by and weaken the immune system, leaving someone prone to colds and other infections.

No wonder that the ECS has been referred to as the bridge between mind and body. “Every physiological physical function is governed by the endocannabinoid system,” says Carl Germano, RD, CNS, CDN, board-certified clinical nutritionist and author of the upcoming title Road To Ananda: The Simplified, Illustrated Guide To The Endocannabinoid System. “The ECS is all about maintaining

Hemp was more than just therapeutic. Native Americans used the durable hemp fibers for thread, cloth, paper, and food. Colonial Americans followed their lead, as both George Washington and Thomas Jefferson grew industrial hemp. This plant even did its patriotic part during World War II, when the US government produced a film called “Hemp for Victory” that explained hemp’s various uses and encouraged farmers to grow as much as possible.

The action in hemp isn’t just limited to its use as a revolutionary dietary supplement. Hemp seeds, and the milk made from them, are becoming popular kitchen items, as well as clothing based on hemp fiber, which is strong, lightweight and weather-resistant.

health and well-being, or homeostasis. You cannot be healthy if your endocannabinoid system is not nourished and functioning properly.”

The ECS part of the Cannabis sativa story isn’t well known because researchers only discovered how extensive the endocannabinoid system is—and how plant-based cannabinoids interact with it—about two decades ago, and have been uncovering the full magnitude of the ECS ever since. That explains why most people outside of the scientific community aren’t aware of how powerful phytocannabinoids truly are.

Hemp to the Rescue

Problem is, the body can actually go into a state of endocannabinoid deficiency. One reason, as we’ve seen, is stress, which can cause the ECS to go off-kilter. What’s more, Germano says, “Poor omega-3 status can interfere with proper ECS functioning. When you are omega-3 deficient, your cannabinoid receptors are not as active and you don’t produce enough of the body’s own cannabnoids.” Cannabinoids can be found in foods including black pepper, cloves, oregano, and chocolate. But these foods are not particularly rich sources of these crucial nutrients.

“If your body is not producing enough endocannabinoids on its own, you then must rely on your diet,” says Germano. “And hemp is the richest source.”

Hemp’s effects can be dramatic. Mindell says phytocannabinoids “can eliminate mild to moderate pain and eliminate the need for opioids, which has become a major problem in the US.” Studies indicate that these substances may be particularly helpful when inflammation is present.

Cannabinoids in hemp can also help reduce anxiety and create a more restful sleep. According to Mindell, receptors in the brain for serotonin (the feel-good neurotransmitter) respond to cannabinoids. That creates an anti-anxiety and anti-depressant effect, which also reduces stress.

“It helps produce REM sleep [deep sleep], which you don’t get from sleep medications like Ambien,” Mindell adds. These substances have even been studied as a possible way to help fight seizures.

One report has described the ECS’s effects on the digestive system as a “major player in human health and disease.” This explains why scientists are looking at phytocannabinoids as a way to help ease symptoms associated with irritable bowel syndrome, such as inflammation, bloating and pain. Certain phytocannabinoids are also seen as providing a way to help curb appetite, especially for the kinds of high-fat, high-sugar foods that promote excessive weight gain.

Bottom line: Phytocannabinoids work with the body’s own ECS to promote overall wellbeing, which makes them crucial for everyone, no matter their age or what particular health issues they may be dealing with.

“Our focus is to feed and nourish the endocannabinoid system on a daily basis. And the best way to do that is with hemp oil extract rich in phytocannabinoids,” says Germano. “Just like we take a multivitamin, we need to take phytocannabinoids to nourish the system that nourishes all others. In a way, they act as a multivitamin for the ECS.”

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