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I’m A Nutrition PhD & This Is Like A Thermostat For Your Stress Levels

If you’ve never heard of the ECS, you wouldn’t be alone. The system, which has receptors throughout the body and brain, hasn’t been as widely studied in the U.S. over the years–in part because one of its main feeders was deemed illegal for a time! “Thankfully, international research conducted by the brilliant Raphael Mechoulam and others carried on, and the ECS and its key components and pathways were discovered over the past 40 or so years,” explains Ferira. And, since the passing of the 2018 Farm Bill that removed hemp and hemp-derived products from Schedule I status, a new wave of research has demonstrated its importance in regulating many essential physiological processes.

Ferira describes the ECS as a “fancy thermostat” for homeostatic balance, able to bring the body back to baseline during times of stress. We know that this master regulatory system can help us calm down, sleep, and maintain a healthy inflammatory response, and that may be just the beginning. “There is not a human experience the ECS does not affect, from fertility and conception to moderating pain, mood, mental health, learning, sleep, and appetite as we grow and mature, to modulating brain health as we age,” Jessica Knox, M.D., MPH, co-founder of the American Cannabinoid Clinics, previously told mbg.

During the 50-odd years that hemp was off the market in the U.S., though, Ferira notes that the ECS was missing a valuable input. “There’s this entire system in our body waiting to be nourished by phytocannabinoids,” she explains. She likens this to if other powerful plant compounds (phytonutrients) like carotenoids were outlawed for decades. Illegal carrots? Since carotenoids are essential for eye health, our vision as a nation would suffer. Considering the key role that phytocannabinoids play in supporting a healthy stress response, it isn’t so hard to believe that their absence could be contributing to the record levels of anxiousness we’re seeing today.*

So, yes, research shows that the phytocannabinoids in hemp (including CBD) can evoke calm and ease stress.* But beyond that, nutrition scientist and dietitian Ferira notes that they also feed a fascinating system that is constantly working to keep our bodies and mind in balance.*

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