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Your ECS & You!

A family member of mine recently asked me why the treats they were giving their dog didn’t seem to have the same effect as the previous brand they had been using. After inspecting the bottles, one contained “full spectrum hemp extract” and the other contained “hemp oil derived from seeds”. There is a big difference between these two oils. They both come from the hemp plant (aka Cannabis s.) but only one of them contains compounds that fit receptors we evolved to monitor events happening within our bodies and within cells. These are the receptors that make up our Endocannabinoid System.

The Endocannabinoid System (ECS) is a series of lipid-based retrograde neurotransmitters expressed throughout the central and peripheral nervous system and has been under investigation and studied since the late 1960s. So far, scientists have identified two main receptors: Cannabinoid Receptor Type I (CB1), and Cannabinoid Receptor Type II (CB2). Being retrograde neurotransmitters, when the ECS is activated, it sends signals backwards up the synaptic pathway to the brain. Research shows CB1 receptors are expressed heavily in the central nervous system, including the neocortex, hippocampus, basal ganglia, cerebellum, and hypothalamus. CB2 receptors are expressed mostly within immune tissues, such as the white blood cells, tonsils, and spleen. Now, as the research has shown, CB1 and CB2 receptors are pervasive throughout our body, so the need to study the ECS and how it can be manipulated to help our bodies help themselves (or stop over helping) is extremely important.

All vertebrates (and, fun fact, some sea sponges) evolved an ECS. Our bodies produce endocannabinoids that act as ligands for the CB1 and CB2 receptors but at extremely small levels, sometimes to a detriment. We’ve discussed these briefly in other blog posts, but most notably anandamide (ADA) and 2-arachidonoylglycerol (2-AG). ADA acts as an agonist for CB1 receptors and an antagonist for CB2 receptors, while 2-AG acts oppositely. CB1 receptor agonists have been especially studied regarding the release of neurotransmitters such as serotonin, dopamine, and glutamate, whereas CB2 receptors are still under investigation as to what they do exactly but are thought to help with immune system function and response to cellular and structural repair.

Now, onto cannabinoids and their relationship to the ECS. As discussed previously, our bodies produce endocannabinoids. Phytocannabinoids, or cannabinoids derived from plants, fit into the CB1 and CB2 receptors just like ADA and 2-AG. Some cannabinoids fit tightly into CB1 and CB2, some affect the receptors only slightly, and others we’re still researching. For example, THC (and other cannabinoids structured like THC) binds tightly to CB1. Scientists all but know that this is the reason THC is psychoactive and produces the well-known “high”, and why other structures like CBN (structurally related to THC) are also psychoactive but less so and produce related effects such as sedation. CBD, CBG, and other well-known cannabinoids that are non-psychoactive seem to negate some of the negative effects of CB1-binding cannabinoids, such as anxiety induced by high amounts of THC. The thing we don’t yet understand fully is what part of the ECS or other neurotransmitter pathways non-psychoactive cannabinoids act upon. There are studies regarding CBD’s effect on inflammation and its anxiolytic properties (among others), but since research shows it doesn’t bind to CB1 or CB2, scientists are still trying to find out how. The effects are clinically shown and range from person to person, but the how is still being studied.

Now, onto the fun part: Isolate vs. Broad Spectrum vs. Full Spectrum and their relationship to the “entourage effect”. There are a lot of different definitions out there regarding these four terms, but what we here at Blackhouse Botanicals believe in what science has backed up. Isolate is a cannabinoid that has been singled out from crude resin extracted from the hemp plant. Many of these are crystalline lipids such as CBD or CBG, but THC and other cannabinoids that don’t crystalize naturally can also be found on the market most of the time as an oil with the help of chromatographic separation. Broad spectrum and full spectrum are the terms that have had the most debate around them and why it is important to look at the contents of a product and decide if it’s what you’re looking for. We hold strong to the definition of broad spectrum being a product with hemp extract in some form including two or more cannabinoids but doesn’t include THC. Full spectrum contains 2 or more cannabinoids and includes THC. This is where the entourage effect comes in: studies have shown the effectiveness of one cannabinoid is enhanced when in the presence of other cannabinoids. Terpenes can also play a large role in this effect, in fact, showing a greater contribution than just a mixture of cannabinoids alone. Full spectrum products are more of what the Cannabis plant intended and this is why at Blackhouse Botanicals, we use a proprietary method of not only cold extraction but also tedious and specific post-processing, to not only preserve the integrity of the extract and all its other components, but also the much more volatile terpenes.

Cannabinoids are incredible compounds that we have only just started to scratch the surface on. As you can see, there is a lot of work that has already been done to understand what Cannabis s. has to offer, and how it can positively affect our lives, but more studies and research are needed and necessary. We at Blackhouse Botanicals are excited to see what the future holds and ecstatic to share that work with you all!

Next time we’ll discuss reading and understanding a certificate of analysis so you know what dosage is right for you and how to get the most out of products on the market, including ours!

Email us at with any questions or discussion topics you’d like to see posted and don’t forget to check out the links below! Thanks!

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