Cannabinoid Receptors Help Reduce Parkinson’s Disease (PD) Inflammation

Our body’s natural cannabinoid receptors may play an important role in reducing inflammation in Parkinson’s Disease (PD).

Parkinson's disease patient showing a flexed w...

Parkinson’s disease patient showing a flexed walking posture pictured in 1892. Photo appeared in Nouvelle Iconographie de la Salpètrière, vol. 5. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Once again, ground breaking cannabinoid research is announced by researchers at Madrid’s Complutense University. Chronic inflammation anywhere in our bodies is a destructive process; in the brain it is particularly insidious. “Inflammation is an important pathogenic factor in Parkinson’s disease (PD),” remind the Spanish researchers in this new study. Inflammation can “kill dopaminergic neurons of the substantia nigra and to enhance the dopaminergic denervation of the striatum.”

Among the many functions of your endocannabinoid system is control of inflammation., and more generally, protecting nerve cells (neuroprotection). Your cannabinoid system activates from interaction with your natural endocannabinoids such as anandamide. Plant cannabinoids such as THC and CBD, and synthesized research cannabinoids can also modulate your endocannabinoid system, through its receptors CB1 and CB2, (and other receptors and processes).

This new Spanish research focused on receptor CB2.

Unlike CB1 receptors which are found primarily in the outer layer of neurons in the brain and throughout the body, CB2 receptors are more associated with the immune system. This research looked at CB2 in brain cells, not in neurons, but in microglia support cells. About one out of seven of your total brain cells are these microglia immune cells; macrophage-like, they serve as a sensitive as house-keepers, removing damaged neurons and other waste material. When need be, microglial cells mount a powerful protective force against bacterial and other threats to your neurons.

The Spaniards write:

The cannabinoid type-2 (CB2) receptor has been investigated as a potential anti-inflammatory and neuroprotective target in different neurodegenerative disorders, but still limited evidence has been collected in PD. Here, we show for the first time that CB2 receptors are elevated in microglial cells recruited and activated at lesioned sites in the substantia nigra of PD patients compared to control subjects.

In an earlier study, some of the same researchers examined the possible use of the cannabinoid THCV (tetrahydrocannabivarin) . See Symptom-relieving and neuroprotective effects of the phytocannabinoid Δ⁹-THCV in animal models of Parkinson’s disease. Again, activation of CB2 receptors was the focus. The researchers concluded:

Given its antioxidant properties and its ability to activate CB(2) but to block CB(1) receptors, Δ(9)-THCV has a promising pharmacological profile for delaying disease progression in PD and also for ameliorating parkinsonian symptoms.

Cannabis Oil: A Medical Marvel For Your Skin?

Back massageAs medical and personal use of marijuana become increasingly legal, many new ways to intake cannabis are now available. In addition to inhaling smoke, people can benefit from the medical cannabinoids in cannabis by vaporizing, ingesting, and absorption via the skin.

Plant cannabinoids, such as THC and CBD,  are fat soluble and readily absorbed by the skin. These medicinal molecules may well be most perfectly administered, for many conditions, via topical products applied directly to the skin’s surface, such as cannabis-infused massage oil. To clarify, this is not “hemp oil” from the seeds of low cannabinoid hemp, but made from the flowers (buds) themselves, and filled with cannabinoids.

© freshidea - Fotolia.com

© freshidea – Fotolia.com

The importance of the endocannabinoid system (ECS) to the healthy functioning of the skin is only now becoming clear, as the profound ways the ECS effects all our systems are continually discovered. This system,with natural receptors (CB1 and CB2) found in brain, immune and most types of cells, including those in the skin, and natural endocannabinoids our bodies produce, are perhaps the greatest discoveries in human physiology of the last 50 years.

During these same time, researchers discovered the ability for plant based cannabinoids from cannabis, including THC and  CBD, to activate the ECS.  These cannabinoids offer great potential for preventing, treating, and curing common skin diseases. Massages using cannabis infused oil may be an optimal way to address skin maladies. Cannabinoids may be very useful in treating skin cancer.

The endocannabinoid anandamide (AEA) has been found to play a key role in the health of the skin, prompting these Italian researchers to study cannabinoids cannabidiol (CBD), cannabigerol (CBG), and  cannabidivarin (CBDV) to study effects on skin cells. The Italian study skipped THC because of its psychoactivity, but THC has been shown to be powerfully therapeutic. THC is actually closer to AEA in function than is CBD, so it would have been interesting if it were included in the study.

Many skin conditions are inflammatory in nature and the anti-inflammatory effects of cannabinoids on skin cells have been demonstrated. Both THC and CBD show anti-inflammatory effects.

Cannabinoids also act on the genetic level to help calm skin diseases. The field of Epigenetics studies how “molecular mechanisms in the environment control gene activity independently of DNA sequence.” Activities such as exercise and factors such as nutrition and stress can change how genes are expressed. Endocannabinoids made by your own cells and phytocannabiniods from cannabis sativa also can change genetic expression in medically useful ways, addressing diseases from psoriasis to cancer.

The report concluded: “These findings show that the phytocannabinoids cannabidiol and cannabigerol are transcriptional repressors that can control cell proliferation and differentiation. This indicates that they (especially cannabidiol) have the potential to be lead compounds for the development of novel therapeutics for skin diseases.”

THC infused oils may offer many benefits missing from potions without this main cannabinoid. One of these benefits might be the “psychoactivity” seemingly dreaded by cannabinoid researchers. Patients may well enjoy the blissful experience, and even consider it part of the cure.

Watch for Part 2 of this series for more on the science, on the new found epigenetic capabilities of cannabinoids, how marijuana’s amazing molecules adjust gene expression to protect skin.

Memory Improvements from Exercise use Endocannabinoid System!

Hippocampus Word CLoud - © intheskies - Fotolia.com

Hippocampus Word Cloud – © intheskies – Fotolia.com

Exercise has been long known to be among the few things that can help memory. In physiological terms, “physical exercise has positive effects on cognitive functions and hippocampal plasticity.”  Plasticity refers to the brain’s ability to change from experience and is  closely related to learning and memory.  The hippocampus is a deep brain structure closely tied with memory, so hippocampal plasticity is a good thing, but brain scientist were not sure how exercise exerted these positive changes. A likely answer has been published by Brazilian researchers in the journal Hippocampus, and has to do with positive effects exercise has on the brain and memory stem from its simulation of the endocannabinoid system. The research paper is entitled “A role for the endocannabinoid system in exercise-induced spatial memory enhancement in mice.”

The endocannabinoid system is fairly recently discovered and major regulatory system in humans and other animals. The system was first discovered in relation to cannabis, as protein receptors on cell membranes turned out the be the target of marijuana and the reason for its medical and psychoactive effects. The CB1 receptor is activated by THC in cannabis and was the focus of study is this research. They conclude, “Our results suggest that, at least in part, the promnesic effect of the exercise is dependent of CB1 receptor activation and is mediated by BDNF.” Promnesic refers to memory promoting as is the opposite of amnesic. BDNF is brain-derived neurotropic factor, a secreted protein that helps support and grow brain cells.

 

 

Cannabinoids Combat Alzheimer’s Disease

It may be that small clumps of beta-amyloid protein begin causing Alzheimer’s disease (AD) by destroying the synapses between brain cells well before they form the plaques that have been associated with this memory-eroding and personality-robbing disorder. New research out of Stanford University reported in Science Digest (Scientists Reveal How Beta-Amyloid May Cause Alzheimer’s) found that these small bits of beta-amyloid protein clump together and, as bunches, bind with receptors on neurons.  This displaces connections with other neurons, destroying the synapses between that, in very real ways, make us who we are. Too many synapses destroyed  and soon you can’t remember Uncle Bob. Or your spouse.

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© freshidea – Fotolia.com

Although in a way this is bad news–damage is taking place even before the plaque formation long thought to be the problem–the good news is that the finding may point to ways to help prevent the cruel disease with earlier intervention. Even better news is that a whole new class of preventive and therapeutic agents, cannabinoids, have been found to be very useful in curbing the ravages of Alzheimer”s disease. Cannabinoids are compounds that modulate specific receptors on brain cells, immune cells and other cells in the body. Three types of cannabinoids  exist: They can be produced by our bodies, by the plant cannabis, and synthetically in the laboratory. Last year Spanish researchers documented in the Journal of Neuroinflammation how cannabinoids are neuroprotective and anti-inflammatory agents with therapeutic potential,

Their research, entitled Prolonged oral cannabinoid administration prevents neuroinflammation, lowers β-amyloid levels and improves cognitive performance in Tg APP 2576 mice. The Spaniards found that oral dosing with cannabinoids “ameliorates cognitive performance, decreases neuroinflammation and Aβ levels, likely by increasing its transport to the periphery.”  The cannabinoid treatment boosted memory and cognition, reduced brain inflammation and helped carry away the beta-amyloid tangles. What’s not to like! Yet again have cannabinoids been found to have powerful and beneficial medical effects, providing neuroprotection against one of the more cruel diseases to strike modern humans.

The Spanish research investigated synthetic cannabinoids, but earlier research found powerful AD preventive effects from THC, the primary psychoactive component of cannabis9-tetrahydrocannabinol). Astoundingly, researchers found when “compared to currently approved drugs prescribed for the treatment of Alzheimer’s disease, THC is a considerably superior inhibitor of Aβ aggregation, and this study provides a previously unrecognized molecular mechanism through which cannabinoid molecules may directly impact the progression of this debilitating disease.”  The enzyme acetylcholinesterase (AChE) promotes beta-amyloid clumping; THC prevents this clumping by binding with receptors on AChE molecules. Some pharmaceutical drugs use the same tactic, but THC was far more effective! On another AD front, researchers in 2013 declared that deficiency in density of CB1 receptors, the receptors activated by THC to produce psychoactivity along with a host of preventive, curative and palliative effects, resulted in worsened AD symptoms.

Fear of losing their memory and personalities to cruel diseases like Alzheimer’s is the number one anxiety of those over 50 years of age. This group should be aware that cannabinoids, even THC, can provide protection for brain cells help stave off dementia-producing inflammation and beta-amyloid clumping.

Copyright © Don Fitch

Cannabinoid Receptors and Pain Relief with Acupuncture

Acupuncture has long been shown to relieve pain, but medical science lacked a mechanism to explain how it works. Now research out of Shanghai China reported in Evidence-Based Complementary and  Alternative Medicine finds that the cannabinoid system provides an answer.

The new research is entitled Electroacupuncture inhibition of hyperalgesia in rats with adjuvant arthritis: involvement of cannabinoid receptor 1 and dopamine receptor subtypes in striatum. The cannabinoid system is the regulatory system discovered and revealed over the past 25 years to play major roles in homeostasis and pain relief.  The cannabinoid receptor 1 mentioned is usually abbreviated CB1, and is the main receptor activated by cannabis (marijuana) and also by natural endocannabinoids produced by our bodies.

Based on their knowledge that dopamine D1/D2 receptors are involved in electroacupuncture analgesia, they conjectured that the  ” CB1 and dopamine systems sometimes interact and may operate synergistically in rat striatum.”  They found at the sites of two pain relieving acupuncture points “that the levels of CB1 expression in the repeated-EA group were much higher.”  They conclude, “these results suggested that the strong activation of the CB1 receptor after repeated EA resulted in the concomitant phenomenon of the upregulation of D1 and D2 levels of gene expression.” Activating these CB1 receptors turned on the D1/D2 receptor genes.

The authors conjectured, “One unproved but intriguing idea is that endocannabinoids may set the analgesic tone of the

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© StockHouse – Fotolia.com

body, with the level of their production acting as a kind of pain thermostat.” Again, the cannabinoid receptor system shows its huge importance in human physiology. Electroacupuncture and cannabis both activate the CB1 receptor and both result in pain relief.

Your Brain on CBD: Neurogenesis and Brain Growth!

Neurogenesis in hippocampus

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We rightfully mourn the loss of brain cells, neurons, as we age. As they die we lose memories and capabilities – even our personalities. We are only as robust as our brains, composed mainly of neurons. Formerly, it was thought the as adults we already have all the brain cells we will ever have, and the path was only downward as we lose neurons to stress, alcohol and aging. Happily, this bleak picture was changed when neuroscientists discovered that, under certain conditions, even adult brains can grow new neurons, neurogenesis. New neurons refresh and rejuvenate, and lift mood.

The principal area where neurogenesis can take place is in the hippocampus, a dual area deep within the brain. Although small, hippocampal health appears important to memory and brain organization. It can be damaged. Excess alcohol and many drugs can cause it to lose neurons and shrink, resulting in fading memories and depression.

On the other hand, several conditions seem to spur brain growth. Physical exercise is one: rigorous physical activity spurs the growth of new neurons in the hippocampus, most probably providing a rejuvenating effect and boosting memory. Physical activity is crucial in keeping old brains young. Your hippocampal health is one of dozens of great reasons to exercise every day of your life.

Certain anti-depressant drugs are also associated with neurogenesis.  Indeed, it is now thought that the depression relieving effects of SRIs- serotonin reuptake inhibitors – might have more to do with neurogenesis than increasing serotonin levels. Some now believe that the depression lifting effects of these drugs are due to new, young brain cells refreshing the hippocampus.

In 1995 it was reported that cannabinoids, too, can spur neurogenesis. Cannabinoids are molecules from three different sources: 1) Our body produces endocannabinoids that activate our endocannabinoid regulatory systems, pricipally anandamide and 2-AG. 2) Phytocannabinoids come from the plant Cannabis Sativa, AKA marijuana. THC is the best known and produces the psychoactive and some of the medicinal effects of cannabis.  3) Cannabinoids can also be synthesized in the lab.

A Canadian research group reported that Cannabinoids promote embryonic and adult hippocampus neurogenesis and produce anxiolytic- and antidepressant-like effects. This research used a synthetic cannabinoid to activate the same CB1 receptors activated by the plant cannabinoid THC. They attributed the anxiety-relieving and depression-lifting effects of long-term treatment were “likely via promotion of hippocampal neurogenesis.”

Another new study has shown that the cannabinoid CBD from cannabis also promotes neurogenesis. Researchers from the Complutense University in Madrid, along with Brazilian researchers found that CBD relieved stress in mice and it did so by increasing neurogenesis in the hippocampus. They concluded, the “anxiolytic effect of cannabidiol on chronically stressed mice depends on hippocampal neurogenesis: involvement of the endocannabinoid system.”

CBD, Cannabidiol is an exceedingly interesting molecule, brimming with beneficial health effects. It is one of over 60 cannabinoids produced by the hemp plant Cannabis Sativa. Unlike the better known THC, CBD is not psychoactive, although it may modulate the effects of THC. Both cannabinoid molecules interact, in different ways, with our cannabinoid receptors CB1 and CB2. The medical potential of CBD has been inadequately studied because of the idiotic illegality of Cannabis Sativa. Even so, the known health effects are impressive: Like THC, CBD is an antioxidant with neuroprotective properties. Like THC, CBD is anti-inflammatory. It relieves pain.  CBD appears to have anti-tumor properties.

So on top of all these medical benefits, CBD may well contribute to neurogenesis, brain rejuvenation and growth! What’s not to like? Well, the DEA does not like these medical benefits and does not allow research on them because it likes the draconian Schedule I – no medical benefits – of cannabis to extend the lucrative war on drugs. This bureaucratic turf battle keeps the DEA in the dough but denies Americans the health-giving, even life-saving benefits of medical cannabis, even non-psychoactive CBD-dominant strains.

Americans should demand access to natural plant molecules such as CBD, along with THC, THCV and dozens of other medical cannabinoids. CBD and these other cannabinoids can help prevent many maladies, can treat dozens of diseases and can provide palliative comfort to the rest.  Along with refreshing and growing our very brains with neurogenesis. If Americans gain their medical freedom with a down-grading of cannabis from ridiculous Schedule I tyranny, the planet’s other six billion people would also gain greater access. Study of this remarkable  plant cannabinoid would blossom world-wide as anti-cannabis doctrine crumbles in the face of huge medical and health benefits.

Copyright © 2013 Don Fitch

THCV: A Marijuana Cannabinoid for Weight Loss and Diabetes Prevention?

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Fotolia

The cannabis sativa plant, marijuana, produces dozens of cannabinoids. The THC cannabinoid that elicits psychoactivity, and numerous medical benefits, is but one of over 60 phyto (plant-based) cannabinoids found in cannabis. Cannabidiol or CBD, is a second, now under intense study for its anti-inflammatory and other health properties. Another of these phytocannabinoids is  tetrahydrocannabivarin or THCV. Cannabis strains favoring this cannabinoid might serve as tools for weight loss and preventing diabetes.

Medical research on cannabinoids has flourished in recent years and most research points to health positive effects of medical cannabis for a wide range of conditions. Cannabis has been found to be neuroprotective, anti-painantioxidant, antiseptic, anti-inflammatoryanti-tumor as well as cardioprotective. One area, though, where research is less positive is in the metabolic effects of cannabinoid receptor activation. Activation of the endocannabinoid regulatory system, an effect of THC and human endogenous cannabinoids anandamide and 2-AG, seemed to correlate with some health-negative metabolic conditions. Conversely, blockage of this activation with synthetic cannabinoid antagonists (e.g. rimonabant) correlated with health positive cardio-metabolic changes. As listed by the European RIO study, some positive changes induced by blocking CB1 receptors include positive changes in body weight, waist circumference, HDL cholesterol, triglycerides, adiponectin, fasting insulin and insulin resistance.

Because of these effects on the endocannabinoid system, it has long been assumed that cannabis consumption would tend to cause weight gain. These metabolic effects and enhanced eating because of amplified taste, i.e. “munchie effects” would theoretically make marijuana users ravenous and fat. To the surprise of many, several studies have now found that cannabis users are actually less fat than their abstaining counterparts. As reported here, marijuana users tend to be less obese and less diabetic than non-users.  Their waists were smaller. These real life observations seem to contradict the supposed munchie effect and predicted effects of CB1 activation. Such health positive indication by cannabis users may even be amplified with development of THCV-heavy cannabis weight loss products e.g. edibles for appetite suppression.

For some people eating does often follow use of THC-heavy marijuana.  Indeed, important medical uses of cannabis include treatment of the wasting syndrome and lack of appetite from chemotherapy. But by no means does everyone using cannabis each time become ravenous. Depending on the person, the setting and the cannabis, consuming cannabis is often a prelude to cardiovascular exercise, not gluttonous indolence. As much as taste enjoyment is enhanced by cannabis for some, for others (or for the same people at other times.) the sensory enjoyment of exercise is enhanced. With cannabis, activities like running can hurt less and feels better, even ecstatic. Might a higher THCV-content cannabis both dampen appetite and create an energetic cannabis experience encouraging exercise?

For a short time in 2005 and 2006, it looked this CB1 receptor antagonist, the synthetic cannabinoid rimonabant, might be a powerful anti-obesity drug. Problems arose for this promising weight loss and metabolic drug, though, from its blockage of the endocannabinoid system. Ananadamide and THC are blissful, because they activate this system. Blockage of the system, it seems, is anti-blissful, with feelings of anxiety and depression common. Also worrisome was blockage of the positive health effects of medical cannabis, e.g. glaucoma reduction and pain relief. For example, cannabis is an anti-nausea drug offering immense relief to chemotherapy patients. And indeed, nausea was another of the symptoms bothering those taking this synthetic “anti-marijuana.” Depression and nausea are probably not part of an effective weigh loss program.

After approval in Europe and other countries, rimonabant was rejected by the FDA. It has since lost favor in Europe. An obese world lost a potentially useful weight control product. Could there be other options? As it turns out one of the phyto-cannabinoids from the cannabis plants, THCV, may have potential. Although its interactions with THC, other cannabinoids and the cannabinoid receptor system are complex, recent research found that THCV is a CB1 and CB2 receptor antagonist. Seemingly, this would make for “downer cannabis,” blocking the CB1 receptors that THC activate, but that does not seem to be the case. It is possible THCV intensive cannabis might offer the appetite reduction and  and positive cardiometabolic effects of Rimonabant without the negatives of the synthetic drug. This is especially true when the THCV is mixed, with other cannabinoids, as found in cannabis. A cannabis with high THCV and low or moderate THC and CBD might be ideal.

Seminal cannabis researcher and discoverer of THC, Raphael Mechoulam, in British Journal of Pharmacology in 2005, discussed the apparent unique properties and posed several research questions. He notes, as has Scottish researcher Roger G. Pertwee, that THCV content can be very high in hashish from Pakistan. Despite these high levels of the supposed CB1 receptor antagonist THCV, Pakistani hashish has no apparent  “downer” aspect depressing the user. Perhaps this is due to the presence of the other 60 cannabinoids.

THCV’s appetite-reducing and fat loss potential await studies, as do new cannabis cultivars enhancing this cannabinoid. Except, of course, no studies on the medical potential of cannabis are allowed in the USA by the DEA.  Americans, so in need of useful weight loss products, will have to wait until the research is done in places like Israel, Spain and Portugal.

Copyright © 2013 Don Fitch

Your brain on exercise: rewarded with dopamine by cannabinoid receptors.

Lack of enough physical activity is a huge problem in the obesity-plagued modern world. With much of physical activity removed from work and daily life, to be fit and not obese, we have to exercise for extended periods of time, in activities like jogging, fast walking, bike riding and other aerobic exercise. Our willingness to exercise in this way is really a cornerstone of our health, and our society’s health. Probably more than anything single factor, our health care system would benefit from people getting more exercise. New research now reports the crucial role of cannabinoid receptors and our endocannabinoid regulatory system in our motivation to keep moving.

Research out of France, reported in Biological Psychiatry shows how small protein cannabinoid receptors operating in the walls of nerve cells in the  brain reward exercise. This unlocks a key to voluntary exercise, and perhaps ways to promote it.  Also reported in ScienceDaily, the research reported that the endocannabinoid system, especially CB1 receptors in certain parts of the brain, reward our bodies and minds with pleasurable sensations. This research was with mice, not humans, but the physiology and responses are very similar. Lack (or blockage) of these receptors caused a sharp drop in the amount of exercise control mice were willing to do.

For us to continue to exercise, rather than stopping, depends a lot on how we feel. If tired and uncomfortable we might well stop; if exhilarated and “in the zone,” we continue. How we feel during exercise, it turns out, depends much on how much of the feel-good substance, dopamine, our brains produce and receive.  Our dopamine levels, this research shows, are controlled in part by our endocannabinoid systems and CB1 receptors in certain parts of the brain. CB1 receptors are activated by our natural endocannabinoids such as anandamide. They also fit like lock and key and are activated by plant cannabinoids, especially THC, from cannabis.

Dopamine is an organic chemical produced in several areas of the brain. Many brain functions involve dopamine, especially learning, voluntary movement, reward and motivation. We feel higher dopamine levels as enjoyment and are rewarded by the experience, making us want to continue or repeat. Drugs like cocaine increase and prolong dopamine levels. The Bordeaux, France researchers studied dopamine producing nerve cells in the brain’s ventral tegmental area (VTA) known to play an important role in motivation. By working with mice with CB1 receptors present or absent or blocked, they found marked difference in how much running wheel time the rodents would spend.

The researchers had previously found “that the endogenous stimulation of cannabinoid type-1 (CB1) receptors is a prerequisite for voluntary running in mice,” but did not understand the mechanisms. In experiments involving “in vivo electrophysiology, the consequences of wheel running on VTA dopamine (DA) neuronal activity” on mice with combinations of CB1 blockage and GABA blockage. GABA is an inhibitory neurotransmitter that reduces levels of dopamine produced by other neurons. Cannabinoid receptor activation in GABA neurons inhibits this inhibitory effect on dopamine. This “inhibition of inhibition” results in an increased level of dopamine produced in this motivation area of the brain.

Exercise promotes endocannabinoid activation of CB1 receptors and this activation encourages continued exercise. If we exercise enough to allow them, our bodies reward us for the physical activities that are so good for us.

Not mentioned in this research, the “runner’s high” is likely a function of endocannabinoids, along with the endorphins. For earlier evidence of the runner’s high association with the endocannabinoid system check Runner’s high – your body rewarding exercise.

Runner’s high – your body rewarding exercise.

Runners have long noted that euphoria and sense of well-being are often felt during and after a hard run. Indeed, this mental and physical reward is the reason many runners exercise. The ability to run quickly and for long distance is obviously an important evolutionary advantage, as in the capability  to catch food or not.

The “high” experienced by runners and others exercising vigorously has long been explained by endorphins and the opioid receptor system. But since this explanation came the discovery of the endocannabinoid (eCB) regulatory system consisting of receptors on nerve and other cells and natural cannabinoids (CBs) that activate these receptors,. For nearly a decade many have thought that this system better explains the mental lift and euphoria people often feel during and after robust exercise.

Now a study in the Journal of Experimental Biology, “Wired to run: exercise-induced endocannabinoid signaling in humans and cursorial mammals with implications for the ‘runner’s high“,  expands on the evolutionary importance of this pleasurable signalling.  The term “cursorial” means well adapted to running. Human being and dogs are cursorial, ferrets, not so much. In this research, intense exercise dramatically raised the levels of endocannabinoids in humans and dogs, in ferrets, not so much. The researchers concluded, “Thus, a neurobiological reward for endurance exercise may explain why humans and other cursorial mammals habitually engage in aerobic exercise despite the higher associated energy costs and injury risks, and why non-cursorial mammals avoid such locomotor behaviors.

This “neurobiological reward” occurs when your body’s own eCB, anandamide, activates cannabinoid receptors CB1 on nerve cells in brain and body.  Anandamide (AEA) and similar 2-AG, activate these nerve receptors in much the same way as does the plant cannabinoid THC, from the plant cannabis sativa. Activation of CB1 receptors by any of these cannabinoids provides a euphoric effect. As the release of anandamide is stimulated by intensive exercise such as running, your body provides a rewarding euphoria for a hard run or workout.

Regrettably perhaps, achieving this runner’s high requires fairly robust levels of exercise. Seemingly we must “pay for” the experience with quite hard physical labor; walking did not increase CB levels in this study. But don’t let that discourage you from walking; it offers dozens of other rewards, even health itself.

Your heart on nitric oxide: protectant effects of exercise.

Say YES to NO with exercise!

Say YES to NO with exercise!

Regular robust exercise protects (and extends) your health in dozens of ways.  Recent research at Emory University focused on how exercise protects your heart by stimulating your heart into generating and storing the gas, nitric oxide. To be clear, this gas is not nitrous oxide (N2O), the anesthetic “laughing gas.”

The chemical formula for the important cellular signaling gas nitric oxide is NO. One of the main signalling functions of NO is the relaxation of smooth muscles surrounding blood vessels. The resulting vasodilation allows blood to flow easier and in greater volume. Blood pressure is reduced. Dr. Oz includes a graphic of NO molecules widening blood vessels in YOU: Staying Young. He advocates nose breathing to promote NO. NO plays an important role in erections through this blood flow mechanism and is a mechanism employed by Viagra.

In addition to vasodilation, NO protects the heart and arteries, specifically the endothelial lining of blood vessels, in other ways. NO, which is produced primarily in this endothelium, also helps the heart and arteries by preventing fatty deposits. Plaque build up is reduced. Oxidation in artery walls is lessened. Stickiness of platelets and monocytes is limited. All these factor help keep arteries clear and healthy.

In the heart, the Emory research showed that this nitric oxide creation and storage in the heart of NO metabolites, nitrite and nitrosothiols proved cardio-protective. They also point to the role of endothelial nitric oxide synthase a (eNOS) and β3-adrenergic receptors (β3-ARs). They conclude, “Our findings clearly demonstrate that exercise protects the heart against myocardial ischemia–reperfusion injury by stimulation of β3-ARs and increased cardiac storage of nitric oxide metabolites (ie, nitrite and nitrosothiols).”

This cardio-protective effect lasted about a week after ceasing exercise, presumably through the release of stored NO from its metabolites remaining in the heart. So say “yes” to NO by not letting a week go by without a good session of cardiovascular exercise. Ideally, it is a very good and healthy practice to exercise hard and long enough to produce quickened breathing and sweating on a daily basis.

Much of what is known about physiology is being redefined by the recent discovery and research into the endocannabinoid regulatory system. Few physiological processes seem untouched by this system and NO production is no different.