The endocannabinoid system was discovered in the early 1990’s by scientists studying the effects of THC and CBD. Both CBD and THC are taken up by this system and work with receptors that release neurotransmitters in your brain which affect things like pain, mood, sleep, and memory.
The name “endocannabinoid” implies that plant-based cannabinoid compounds, THC and CBD, influence cannabinoid receptors on cell membranes. “Endo” refers to something formed within the body.
The endocannabinoid system plays a significant role in the normal functioning of the body’s systems that include:
- Central nervous system
- Cardiovascular system
- Gastrointestinal system
- Reproductive system
- Skeletal system
- Immune system
- Metabolic processes
The endocannabinoid system is an important mediator in regulating:
- Memory and learning
- Appetite, fat and glucose metabolism
- Stress response
- Pain sensation
- Drug addiction
Studies suggest endocannabinoid deficiency and a disturbed homeostasis may be the cause for certain diseases such as migraine, fibromyalgia and irritable bowel syndrome.
CBD (cannabidiol) and THC (tetrahydrocannabinol) are the most common cannabinoids found in cannabis products. THC and CBD are in both marijuana and hemp. Marijuana contains much more THC than hemp, while hemp has more CBD.
There are two main endocannabinoid receptors: CB1 receptors, which are mostly found in the central nervous system, and CB2 receptors, which are mostly found in your peripheral nervous system, especially immune cells.
Endocannabinoids can bind to either receptor. The effects will depend on where the receptor is located and which endocannabinoid it binds to.
For example, endocannabinoids might target CB1 receptors in a spinal nerve to relieve pain. Others might bind to a CB2 receptor in your immune cells to signal that your body’s experiencing inflammation, a common sign of autoimmune disorders. THC may help to reduce pain and stimulate your appetite. But it can also cause paranoia and anxiety in some cases. Because THC binds with receptors that are mostly in the brain, they can make you feel euphoric and give you that so-called high.
CBD doesn’t cause that high. Instead, it’s thought to work with other elements in the body linked to feelings of well-being.
Like hormone and nerve cells, the endocannabinoid system is a cellular communication system. The system also helps maintain homeostasis, creating stability in response to changes in the environment and throughout the body.
Unlike other neurotransmitters, endocannabinoids are not stored in the nerve cells. Endocannabinoid precursors are present in the fat molecules in the cell membrane and are released upon demand when the endocannabinoid receptors are activated.
Endocannabinoid receptors are concentrated in the brain, but are also present in nerve tissues all over the body. When you have an injury, a fever or an infection disrupts the body’s homeostasis, the endocannabinoid system helps restore the body’s homeostasis.
The endocannabinoid system is neuroprotective, meaning that it shields brain cells against damage and age-related changes. The glial cells in the brain are support cells that are vital to normal brain function. The endocannabinoid system maintains their function supporting brain cells, preventing inflammation, and guarding against neurodegeneration.
As we age, the endocannabinoid system becomes less active. Our ability to form new nerve cells declines. This leads to accelerated aging and increased susceptibility to disease. The endocannabinoid system increases neurogenesis, helping to maintain learning and memory.
The ability of our synapses, where neurons communicate, to adapt to new information also diminishes as we age. The endocannabinoid system strengthens synaptic plasticity.
In the past few years CBD products have become increasingly popular. Because CBD interacts and supports the endocannabinoid system, many people are looking for good quality and efficacious products.
Unlike cannabinoids from cannabis, these four endocannabinoid supplements do not have psychoactive effects. There are four plant compounds that influence the endocannabinoid system in multiple ways.
- Oleolethanolamide (OEA) is a fatty acid that is naturally produced in the body. Because obesity has been recognized as a chronic low-grade inflammation disorder, the use of OEA as a complementary pharmacotherapy agent could be effective in improving inflammation and oxidative stress in obese people A sluggish endocannabinoid system is also involved in the development of obesity. OEA suppresses inflammation and regulates metabolism and appetite control. Can be bought online at Botany.
- Biochanin Anandamide is found in clover, peanuts, chickpeas, and soy. Anandamide is a natural pain reliever and biochanin A may be useful in treating chronic pain. Anandamide plays an important role in regulating motivation, pleasure, and mood.
- Guineensine is a compound isolated from black pepper and boosts both the levels of anandamide and 2-AG. Together with biochanin A, guineensine blocks anandamide breakdown, letting it remain in the body at a higher level and for longer.
- Beta-Caryophyllene is found in rosemary, clove and black pepper. This compound activates an important endocannabinoid receptor, known as CB2. CB2 receptors are found throughout the body. Activated by beta-caryophyllene, CB2 receptors can reduce inflammation in brain cells and improve insulin function, blood glucose, lipids, and vascular inflammation. They also protect again age-related cognitive decline and inhibit breast cancer cell growth.
Life Extensions has a product called Endocannabinoid System Booster.
Za’atar is a mix of spices, including dried oregano, thyme, or marjoram, sumac, and toasted sesame seeds. It dates back to 13th century. It was derived from the Greek word “Thumus” which means courage of strength. It was used to treat infections of bacteria and fungus for medical purposes.
It is mostly used as a table condiment which is stirred into olive oil. In Lebanon, it is dusted on oatmeal, eggs and yogurt. It is widely used in salads and also as seasonings in vegetables.
Za’atar is known to have health benefits such as suppressing coughing and lowering blood pressure but research also shows that za’atar can:
- Lower internal parasites.
- Assist digestion and prevent the chances of allergic reactions.
- The mixture of Za’atar, honey and boiling herb treats whooping cough, stomach problems, sore throat and catarrh.
- It elevates mood, stimulates brain and improves memory.
- It is anti-inflammatory and helps to cure psoriasis and eczema.
- It also treats insect bites.
- It cures conjunctivitis, pink eye and styes
Za’atar is loaded with organic compounds as well as nutrients such as gallic acid, thymol, quercetina and carvacrol. It has tangy, toasty and nutty flavor. It is packed with minerals, flavonoids and nutrients which works wonder for the health.
- Treating Chronic Diseases: Sumac provides a healthy supply of quercetin, it is able to neutralize free radicals and prevent cancer proliferation.
- Clear Respiratory Tracts: When it is brewed as tea, it provides expectorant properties. Thyme can help to clear out the respiratory tracts, causing you to cough out phlegm and mucus. The immune-boosting abilities of the herbs in za’atar also help to ward off illnesses.
- Boost Cognition: There are strong traditional beliefs about the cognitive impact of za’atar, including its possibility of improving memory. People used to sleep with za’atar beneath their pillow. The circulation-boosting powers of za’atar, as well as the rich mineral content, boosts brain power and stimulates neural activity.
- Soothe Inflammation: It is used as salve or paste on the inflamed areas such as aching joints and bug bites. If consumed, it provides anti-inflammatory properties for gout, arthritis, stomach and respiratory system.
- Increase Energy: The high concentration of polyphenols and flavonoids found in za’atar boosts the metabolism. It also can help you sleep better due to the presence of magnesium.
- Improve Mood: Studies and traditional evidence have linked za’atar with improved mood and decreased depression. This use has been popular for generations in the Middle East. The phenol that comes from thyme and oregano may have direct mood-boosting effects by impacting the hormones being released and regulated throughout the body. Carvacrol is associated with increase in energy and cognitive function.
- Strengthen Bones: Za’atar has high content of copper, calcium, magnesium and iron. The regular consumption of Za’atar helps to prevent the risk of osteoporosis as well as degenerative bone conditions.
- Circulatory Effects: Za’atar helps to promote oxygenated blood circulation due to its iron content. Iron is essential for the formation of hemoglobin which transports red blood cells all over the body and organs.
- Immune System Aid: Za’atar has anti-microbial, anti-fungal and antiseptic properties. If applied externally or taken internally, za’atar helps to maintain skin, gut, nervous system, respiratory system
- Heal the Skin: This spice has anti-inflammatory properties promotes the skin’s appearance, speeds healing of wounds and also fades blemishes and age spots.
How to Buy
Za’atar is made with a wide range of ingredients in varying proportions. Most grocery store will have it in their dried herb section. You might have to sample a few different varieties and decide which is the best ratio for you.
When buying za’atar, look for very green (a sign that the dried herbs are new and potent), and not clumpy. It is best of you can find locally-made za’atar, since it’s likely to be fresher.
How to Store
Za’atar is like any spice and will lose flavor over time. Buy it in small batches that you’ll use up before your stash goes stale. You will know it’s no good when it no longer smells fragrant.
How to Cook
If you can’t find za’atar at the store, experiment with making an approximation at home. Play around with different quantities of crushed dried oregano, dried thyme, and dried marjoram, and add sumac, toasted sesame seeds, and, if you want, salt.
Sprinkle za’atar on sliced tomatoes, add it to a salad, roast veggie with it. Consider adding it when you’re looking for a spice mix that’s earthy, savory, and tangy. In the Middle East, za’atar is often eaten with oil-dipped bread.
If you are not going to be heating up za’atar in the cooking process, you can bring out the most flavor by blooming it in hot oil or butter. Heat the fat in a small skillet, take it off the heat, and add the za’atar, then drizzle over popcorn or toast.
Gluten Free Manakish Za’atar (Middle Eastern Pizza)
Sarah Nevins of the Saucy Kitchen
- 1 1/4 cup at about 110°F
- 3 teaspoons sugar, divided
- 2 1/4 tsp active dry yeast, ensure gluten free (one packet)
- 1 1/2 cup white rice flour
- 1 1/2 cup tapioca flour
- 1 tsp salt
- 2 tsp xanthan gum – It isn’t recommended to omit the xanthan gum. If you’re intolerant to xanthan you can use guar gum in its place. The xanthan helps hold on to the moisture in this dough and without it the dough stays more like a batter making it hard to form.
- 2 tbsp | 30 ml olive oil
- 1/4 cup
- 6 tablespoons Za’atar Spice
- 1/2 Shredded Dairy-free Mozzarella
- Dissolve 2 teaspoons sugar in the warm water. Once dissolved, whisk in the yeast until fully combined. Set aside the yeast-water mixture for about 10 minute until the yeast has foamed up.
- In a large mixing bowl: Whisk together the rice flour, tapioca flour, xanthan gum and salt until well combined.
- Pour the foamed up yeast-water into the flour mixture along with the two tablespoons olive oil. Use a large spoon to mix the wet and dry ingredients together until a thick, smooth batter-like dough forms. Scrape down the sides and make sure no flour pockets remain. Your dough will look and feel sticky at this point.
- Cover the dough with a kitchen towel, store in a warm, dry place and let rise for 45-60 minutes. The dough should rise in volume by at least 1/3 of its original size.
- Preheat your oven to 400°F. Place a couple of large baking sheets inside your oven to heat up.
- While the dough is rising, prepare the Za’atar blend. In a small bowl: whisk together the olive oil and Za’atar spice form a thick paste. Set aside until later.
- Line a baking sheet with parchment paper. Divide the dough between 5 or 6 portions. Scoop the dough portions out of the bowl and plop down onto your baking sheet. Leave about 5 inches in between each portion. You will likely need to divide the dough between two baking sheets.
- Get a little bit of olive oil on your hands and pat the dough to form round discs, about 5 inches across. The dough will be very sticky so pat it down quickly to prevent it from sticking to your hands too much.
- Once your dough has been formed, assemble the manakish. If you’re using gluten-free cheese, sprinkle the cheese over the centre of each piece of dough. Spread the za’atar over the cheese or across the top of the dough. Leave about 1/2 inch around the sides, untouched.
- To bake: remove the baking sheets from the oven. Slide the baking paper with the manakish onto the hot sheets and place in the oven to bake for 12-14 minutes.
- Remove from the oven and let sit for at least 10 minutes before serving and enjoy.
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Nicolussi S, Viveros-Paredes JM, Gachet MS, et al. Guineensine is a novel inhibitor of endocannabinoid uptake showing cannabimimetic behavioral effects in BALB/c mice. Pharmacy Res. 2014 Feb;80:52-65.
Di Sotto A, Romaniello D, Freddoni G, et al. new insights in the anti tumor effects of beta-caryophyllene in breast cancer cells: the role of cannabinoid and adrenergic systems Annals of Oncology. 2018;29:94P.