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Endocannabinoid Deficiency: What it is and How to Prevent It

Updated: Jun 2, 2022

We tell our customers to think of CBD (as well as the litany of other cannabinoids) as a nutrient we are all deficient in, as opposed to just a "supplement". And thats why it works so well, for so many. Cannabidiol (CBD) and all analogs thereof, was made legal with the passing of the 2018 Farm Bill. But human consumption dates back to the dawn of the written word. Hemp products must now meet any applicable FDA requirements and standards, as with any other FDA-regulated products. When it comes to cannabis, ought we consider it a drug, a food, or a supplement? And what happens if we, as individuals, as a species; are chronically deprived of these compounds?

Abacus growing on our homestead.

As we discussed in a previous post, cannabis is not only a herb, but also a flowering vegetable. In the eyes of the aforementioned FDA, CBD could be considered not only a food, but also a drug, as well as a supplement - all depending on its "intended" use. For purposes of this conversation we refer to cannabis as a food (herb), as we promote the use of (raw) organic cannabis in its whole-plant form - chlorophyll, terpenes, minerals, and all. Furthermore, the human body does not become sick from a man-made "drug" deficiency, but rather from a nutrient deficiency. Think of the millions of sailors who senselessly perished from scurvy - a vitamin C deficiency.

Interestingly, just as Alzheimer's appears to be caused, at least in part; by a deficiency of the neurotransmitter acetylcholine (pre-cursors of which are found in eggs, seafood, & dairy), or Parkinson's brought on by a lack of dopamine (pre-cursors found in nuts, seeds, beans, & seafood), neurologist Dr. Ethan Russo suggests that certain afflictions, such as fibromyalgia, migraine headaches, and irritable bowel syndrome can all be linked to a deficiency in our endogenously produced cannabinoids.

"Migraine, fibromyalgia, IBS and related conditions display common clinical, biochemical and pathophysiological patterns that suggest an underlying clinical endocannabinoid deficiency that may be suitably treated with cannabinoid medicines."

Rather than turning to the isolated, often synthesized (and thus patented) pharmaceutical imitations (like GW Pharmaceutical's Sativex) we encourage our readers again, to search for local, organically and sustainably grown, whole-plant options for themselves. Learn to utilize the plant for not just the flowers, but for the seeds, leaves, roots, and oils as well. All of which contain their own ratio of unique cannabinoids and various nutrients.

Similar to other adaptogenic foods like ginseng root, and medicinal mushrooms like reishi; certain cannabinoids appear to showcase immune-regulating properties. As explained in a 2016 Cannabis Conversation with Dr. Russo:

Project CBD: "Well usually when we think of a drug, it goes in one direction or the other. But you’re suggesting that CBD really has a bi-directional effect. It can balance either excess or deficiency. Can you explain how that works?"

Russo: "Looking at the endocannabinoid system, it is sort of a buffer. So CBD can be thought of as a buffer as well – a buffer is something that will work both ways as need be. So, for example, in the endocannabinoid system, one of its main roles in the brain is to regulate neurotransmitter function and again, if there’s too much of one kind of neurotransmitter it will bring it down, if there’s too little it will bring it up."

Remember, the endocannabinoid system (ECS) is a widespread neuromodulatory system that plays important roles in central nervous system (CNS) development, synaptic plasticity, and the response to internal and external stress. If we aren't getting the proper amount of phytocannabinoids, or endocannabinoid precursors (found in raw chocolate, truffles, & berries) from our diet, we may not be able to produce a sufficient amount of endocannabinoids, and thus experience certain neurological symptoms.

Cannabinoid interaction at the synaptic cleft.

Phytocannabinoids connect with cannabinoid receptors in the ECS. Once they join, they mimic the natural endocannabinoid pain relievers that the body produces. Compounds like anandamide and 2-AG are natural cannabinoids that connect with cannabinoid receptors in the brain to bring about homeostatic balance. The most abundant cannabinoid receptor is the CB1 receptor, however; CB2 receptors, transient receptor potential channels, and others are also engaged by some cannabinoids.

Dr. Russo: "We’re also interested in non-drug approaches. This would include herbal approaches that would affect the endocannabinoid system with agents that aren’t intoxicating. Additionally, it would include lifestyle and dietary approaches. And there’s a large body of evidence now to show that diet can positively influence the endocannabinoid system and its balance."

This has been supported by a 2021 article which stated: "Two complex systems are emerging as being deeply involved in the control of energy metabolism. The intestinal microbiota, with its warehouse of genes, proteins and small molecules, that is, the gut microbiome; and the endocannabinoid system...Both systems can become perturbed following bad dietary habits and during obesity, thus contributing to exacerbating this latter condition and its consequences in both peripheral organs and the brain."

ECS receptors & their enzymes. credit:

Both of the major receptors of the endocannabinoid system (CB1 and 2), along with their associate enzymes, are found in your digestive system. The ECS plays numerous roles in the gut depending on the type of receptor, the location of the receptor, and the overall state of digestive system health. It may help modulate inflammation, balance the metabolism, and even regulate communication with the brain.

Insoluble fiber helps clean the gut.

People should avoid the unnecessary use of antibiotics, as they damage the natural microbiome balance. Adding prebiotics and probiotics to your diet will also aid in the function of those microscopic symbiotes. Avoid inflammatory foods - fatty, fried, sugary "dead" calories.

Instead, opt for Earth grown fibrous foods like legumes, berries, and nuts & seeds; as they help eliminate toxins and cleanse the digestive tract.

Russo wraps up his conversation with Project CBD by referring to a category of compounds known as cannabimimetics - a group of compounds that differ structurally from cannabinoids, yet impart the same, or similar effects. He states: "New Zealand Liverwort. It’s recently been shown to have a cannabinoid agent that works at CB1, the same receptor where THC binds."

Dozens of compounds have been discovered showcasing an interaction with the ECS. Salvinorin A, the main compound found in the dis-associative (not hallucinogenic) salvia plant, is a terpinoid that interacts with a third cannabinoid receptor that appears only in an inflamed environment.

N-acylethanolamines (NAE) are also fatty acid compounds that interact with the ECS. Anandamide is actually a NAE, and can be found in black truffle mushrooms. Other well researched NAEs include OAE, PEA and LEA. N-oleoylethanolamine (OEA) and N-linoleoylethanolamide (LEA) are found in raw cacao. N-alkylamides, like those found in various echinacea species, interact with CB2 receptors and may be responsible for the flower's powerful impact on immune function.

Remember, dairy cows here in America ate feral hemp, and pigs, chickens, and other livestock were fed excess hemp. Flax seeds, another common animal feed, contain CBD, or a structure extremely similar. Cannabinoids were thus likely present in their milk, meat, and eggs, albeit in minor amounts. It was the regular consumption of these foods (as well as utilizing cannabis as medicine) that ensured our bodies received the proper amount of these plant based nutrients. That is, until cannabis cultivation was criminalized in 1937,.

While certainly attributable to a multitude of variables, could the rapid increase heart disease, obesity, diabetes, cancer, as well as immune deficiency & neurological disorders be attributed to, at least in part; to a cannabinoid deficiency? Perhaps it's time we stopped viewing cannabis as a "supplement", and respected it as the "nutrient" that it is. A nutrient that most of us have been chronically, and generationally deficient in.


The sources cited are primarily intended for the casual reader. Each source however, has been carefully chosen to include scientific sources linked within. Living with today's industry funded, pseudo-scientific journals, we encourage you to "research the research".

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