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Unlock Your Wellness With The Endocannabinoid System This World Health Day

As World Health Day approaches on April 7th, we aim to shed light on a system many may not be familiar with but plays a crucial role in our well-being: the endocannabinoid system (ECS).

*While most of us are aware of certain transmitter systems in our bodies, like the sympathetic nervous system triggering the fight-or-flight response, fewer are familiar with the ECS. Despite its recent discovery (discovered in 1988), the endocannabinoid system is the **largest receptor system and the master regulator of homeostasis in the human body and is fundamental to nearly every aspect of our daily functions. Currently, the endocannabinoid system stands at the forefront of international research and drug development efforts.

The ECS comprises a complex network of chemical signals and cellular receptors distributed throughout our brains and bodies. Notably, the cannabinoid receptors in the brain, known as CB1 receptors, outnumber many other receptor types, acting as regulators of various neurotransmitters. These receptors maintain equilibrium by balancing the activity levels of different bodily systems, such as hunger, temperature, and alertness, through immediate feedback mechanisms.

To activate these receptors, our bodies produce endocannabinoids, molecules structurally similar to those found in the cannabis plant. Anandamide, the first discovered endocannabinoid, derives its name from the Sanskrit word for bliss, highlighting the inherent connection between these molecules and our well-being. The cannabis plant, utilised by humans for thousands of years, influences our physiological processes by interacting with this ancient cellular machinery.

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In addition to CB1 receptors, another type known as CB2 receptors primarily exists in our immune tissues, playing a crucial role in immune function regulation and inflammation management. Unlike CB1 activation, stimulating CB2 receptors does not induce the psychoactive effects associated with cannabis consumption, making them promising targets for drug development.

**Scientific research underscores the endocannabinoid system’s pivotal role in learning and memory, evident from studies on THC administration and its effects on short-term memory and brain function. Moreover, insights into the endocannabinoid system’s involvement in forgetting present avenues for PTSD treatment, offering hope for those grappling with intrusive memories and associated symptoms.

As we unravel the mysteries of the endocannabinoid system, we are poised to make groundbreaking discoveries and develop novel therapeutic interventions for debilitating diseases.

Despite the increasing interest in medicinal cannabis, stringent regulations pose challenges to educating the public on its potential health benefits. The Cannabis Clinic, New Zealand's premier healthcare provider, remains committed to advocating for the industry and offering tailored care in plant-based medicine. Since 2019, the clinic has consulted with over 30,000 individuals on their journey to improved health, serving as a beacon of hope for those seeking alternative treatments.

Dr. Waseem Alzaher, co-founder of the Cannabis Clinic, highlights the urgent need to address regulatory barriers hindering education and access to medicinal cannabis.

“We have had numerous talks with health advocacy groups that want to partner with us in holding webinars or educational events on the benefits for their patients in regards to using medicinal cannabis, but we are unable to do so due to existing regulatory restrictions.”

***A recent survey conducted by Arthritis New Zealand resulted in 86% of respondents saying they would consider participating in a Clinical Trial Involving Medicinal Cannabis. The survey highlighted that more than half the sample indicated they had used a type of medicinal cannabis at some point (56% vs. 42% who said no). Over three-quarters (76%) of respondents have wanted to use medicinal cannabis in the past but reported not knowing how to or couldn’t access it. 42% of the sample have tried medicinal cannabis in oil form.

This highlights the demand for information on medicinal cannabis among patients, emphasising the need for policy reforms to facilitate educational access to safe and effective medicinal cannabis.

*****Medicinal cannabis users continue to climb, with an estimated 266,700 New Zealanders using cannabis for medicinal purposes.

Concerns over purchasing through illicit channels underscore the importance of legal avenues for harm reduction. ******Recent research from Massey University highlights the potential health risks associated with unregulated products obtained through unofficial sources, emphasising the need for stringent quality controls and regulatory oversight. Startlingly, 85% of medicinal cannabis users admitted to not seeking a prescription from healthcare providers. Among these respondents, 56% cited the prohibitive cost as the primary reason for avoiding medical consultation, while 44% pointed to the enduring stigma surrounding medicinal cannabis.

Dr. Alzaher advocates for a shift in perception surrounding medicinal cannabis, stressing the importance of dismantling stigma and reducing financial barriers to accessing legal, and effective treatments.

On World Health Day, we reflect on the strides made in the medicinal cannabis industry and look forward to a future where equitable access to natural health solutions is a reality.





****Medical Cannabis Handbook -

*****NZ Drug Foundation

******Massey University's Shore and Whāriki Research Centre

NB - Medicinal Cannabis products are unapproved medicines, and most have not been evaluated for safety and efficacy by Medsafe.

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