Endocannabinoid System: Encouraging Powerful Positive Emotions

In this article, we’ll look at six peptides that most positively influence your emotional balance and explore ways to help your body keep them in supply so you can continue to be the best expression of you. 

The endocannabinoid system (ECS) is the primary cellular signaling system, balancing the central nervous system and the immune system by controlling the availability of other peptides. 

Peptides – amino acids, hormones, and neurotransmitters – are the biological signals of your emotions. When a receptor in the endocannabinoid system and peptide hook up, changes in the cell occur that ultimately control your expression of health and wholeness and your sense of well-being.

Cannabinoids & the Endocannabinoid System

When a receptor in the endocannabinoid system and peptide hook up, changes in the cell occur that ultimately control your expression of health and wholeness and your sense of well-being.

Almost all of the trillions of cells that make up you have endocannabinoid receptors, which makes sense, since cannabinoids turn the flow of the other peptides on and off. The two receptors in the endocannabinoid system we know of are identified as CB1, found mostly in the central nervous system, and CB2, expressing most often in the rest of the body. 

The endocannabinoid system is always trying to balance the system in any way it can. The body appears to express endocannabinoid receptors wherever they’re needed, despite the fact that a particular receptor might not have normally been on that cell. As an example, with brain injury, the endocannabinoid system supplies more CB2 receptors to the brain to tamp down inflammation and get to the work of repair. 

Cannabinoids are created, in part, from lipid molecules stored in the cell membrane. They’re created at the moment they’re needed, with the precise coding of the signal that a particular endocannabinoid system receptor needs to make the appropriate cellular response. 

Cannabis creates phytocannabinoids that can mimic the signaling job of your body’s endocannabinoids. I like to think of cannabis as a source of reserve troops in this stress-filled world we’ve created together. 

NOTE: All disease is complicated by inflammation. Although THC is indicated for many of these peptides, CBD plays an important part in making THC work more efficiently.  Among its many other actions, multitasking CBD helps the immune system eliminate the pain of inflammation. A diversified cannabinoid medicine is often the best choice, if the choice can be made.

If you want to learn more about the roles of THC and CBD, make sure you check out this post.

Let’s learn a little more about those feel-good peptides and how you can influence their expression, including using cannabis to help create balance.

Choose the right THC:CBD ratio to facilitate the response you need from your endocannabinoid system.

Peptide + Cannabis

Anandamide is a major cannabinoid player in the endocannabinoid system. 

  • Anandamide is nicknamed “the bliss molecule” for its ability to create a euphoric sense of well-being. 
  • THC mimics many of the signaling actions of anandamide.
  • Although we’re not really sure how anandamide relieves pain, we do know that THC induces the release of pain-relieving endorphins.
  • Anandamide inhibits cancer cell movement, limiting the spread of tumor cells. 

With cannabis: Choose products with a 1:1 balance of THC:CBD to influence both CB1 and CB2 receptors. 

Acetylcholine is the neurotransmitter keeping your memory intact and well-organized.

  • It keeps the reasoning parts of your brain working together. 
  • Acetylcholine influences arousal and motivation. It fuels your passions.
  • Acetylcholine also keeps your muscles contracting, both in the autonomic nervous system where things go on without your awareness and in the voluntary nervous system, controlling your skeletal muscles. 

With cannabis: Choose products with higher THC to activate your endocannabinoid system’s CB1 receptors. 

Endogenous opioids are the body’s pain medicine. 

  • There are five different types of these pain-relieving peptides: beta-endorphins, enkephalins, dynorphins, endomorphins, and nociception
  • Together, endogenous opioids do their part to influence your cells back to a place where mental, physical, emotional, or spiritual pain isn’t interfering with your quality of life. 
  • Endogenous opioids reduce oxidative stress on cells. 
  • Opioids, like the cannabinoid anandamide, create euphoria. 

With cannabis: Choose products with higher THC to activate CB1 receptors within the endocannabinoid system.

Gamma-aminobutyric acid (GABA) is produced right in the brain by glutamate.

  • GABA acts to inhibit the release of other peptides.
  • GABA creates a balanced psyche that opens you to more possibility, since a balanced mind is more likely to recognize that chance for positive change than one overcome with anger, depression, or panic. 
  • The endocannabinoid system keeps glutamate and GABA in balance. 

With cannabis: Choose products with higher THC to activate CB1 receptors in the endocannabinoid system.

Oxytocin is both a hormone and a neurotransmitter. 

  • It’s best known for the way it increases birth contractions and the milk let-down reflex in breastfeeding mothers. 
  • It’s part of the wound-healing process.
  • Oxytocin may be the molecule that helps us connect with each other. It signals the release of endorphins that increase your feelings of emotions like intimacy, trust, and commitment.
  • Hugs release oxytocin. The peptide only lasts for seconds in the bloodstream, so get more hugs when you can. 

With cannabis: Choose products with higher THC to activate your endocannabinoid system’s CB1 receptors.

Serotonin is found primarily in the digestive tract, which runs from your mouth to your anus. 

  • About 90% of serotonin is used by the gut. 
  • The gut can signal its discontent to the rest of the body in a way no other system can, which explains why negative emotions are felt so strongly and have such a dramatic effect on the stomach and bowels.  

Serotonin is the body’s own happy pill. There’s a direct correlation between mood and serotonin levels. 

  • Good mood = increased serotonin 
  • Bad mood = decreased levels of serotonin 

Healthy levels of serotonin reduce the response of chronic stress, and by extension, the often debilitating effects of a system living in fear. 

With cannabis: Choose products with higher CBD to activate CB2 receptors in your endocannabinoid system.

Your emotions and the action of your cells will be influenced by the levels of these peptides in your body.

ANANDAMIDEcalm, capable, confident, socially comfortable, acceptingintimidated, judged, anxious, fearful, depressed, tense, sickYour body won’t make too much anandamide.
ACETYLCHOLINEaroused, attentive, aware, motivatedcluttered thinking, less creative drive, trouble sleepingramped up, fear, restless, anxious
ENDOGENOUS OPIODSfree from pain, aligned, belonging, hungry, euphoric, elated, trusting, intimate, generoushurting, stressed, hopeless, isolatedYour body won’t make too many endogenous opiods.
GABAsafe, relaxed, equanimity, peace of mind, balancedtired, depressed, panicked, anti-social, irritable, anxious, fearfulYour body won’t make too much GABA.
OXYTOCINlower blood pressure, fearless, trusting, bonded, empatheticalone, depressed, socially anxious, eating disorders, low libidoYour body won’t make too much oxytocin.
SEROTONINhappy, carefree, flexible, optimistic, safe, sensual, relaxed, satisfiedanxious, depressed, irritable, impulsive, unfocused, distractedMedication is the only cause of an overload of serotonin and the results can be fatal.

Stacking the deck in your favor

Hemp seeds contain essential amino acids that your body cannot produce on its own.

Nutritional choices: Food choices like hemp seeds offer the body more raw materials by supplying complete proteins. Complete proteins contain the nine essential amino acids your body can’t create on its own.

Breathe: The fastest way to balance emotions is to breathe your way back to center. Learning effective breathing techniques will also increase oxygen in the body, a good way to limit the effects of disease. 

Obviously cannabis is an immediate source of cannabinoids, among them the anandamide mimic THC. It’s cannabinoids that signal the availability of all the other peptides in your endocannabinoid system.

Some other ideas to increase feel-good molecules

Spending time outside & exercising are fantastic ways will promote positive emotional peptides.
Pamper yourself 
  • Talk nicer to yourself. You deserve it. 
  • Spend time outdoors. 
  • Laugh frequently and heartily with friends.
  • After you’ve mastered breathing techniques, try meditation to increase acetylcholine, anandamide, and GABA.
  • Get a massage to release the pain-killing endogenous opioids and your happy pill, serotonin.
  • Build a diverse emotional repertoire. Deliberately practice positive feelings.
  • Get as many hugs as you can to keep oxytocin flowing freely.
Move your body and play
  • Challenge your mind with memory games and life-long learning to increase acetylcholine. 
  • Exercise will increase the flow of all of these positive-signaling molecules. Thoughtful exercise increases GABA, and strenuous exercise increases anandamide and endogenous opioids.
  • Singing and dancing will increase cannabinoids in the brain by over 40%.
  • Sex increases the availability of endogenous opioids and oxytocin.

So get out there and have some fun, with or without cannabis. Allowing yourself the indulgence of play strengthens your body’s ability to counter stress and stay healthy.  Play keeps your mind active, open, ready to find new solutions and continue to view the world with wonder. 

Have some thoughts to share about positive peptides or your endocannabinoid system? Leave them and any questions you may have about them below so we can learn more from each other.