The scientific evidence is that both chocolate and cannabis have healing properties. Their combination is well known to many who are unwilling to consume marijuana in a more conventional manner. There are several more reasons why you should be tempted by this unique duo.
Cannabinoids are fat-soluble, often therapeutic, chemicals found in plants and mammals. These substances can also be made synthetically. The most famous natural cannabinoid chemical is Delta-9-tetrahydrocannabinol (THC). THC is the primary psychoactive factor found in certain types of cannabis plants. Currently, about 85 different cannabinoids have been discovered that have been isolated from cannabis, including the well-known medicinal compound cannabidiol (CBD).
The search for more cannabinoids in plants took an interesting turn in 1996 when Daniele Piomelli and other scientists isolated the cannabinoid neurotransmitter anandamide (n-arachidonoethylethanolamine, or AEA) in chocolate. The interesting thing about anandamide is that it is a naturally endogenous cannabinoid found in the human brain and nervous system that plays a role in the sense of well-being.
The word “anandamide” means “chemical bliss” because it is released when we feel great. Anandamid comes from the Sanskrit word “Ananda” which means bliss and “mide” which describes chemistry.
The original discovery of anandamide in the early 1990s and its presence in chocolate came about as a result of research into cannabinoid receptor sites. The receptor site is a structure on the cell surface that can lock certain molecules, allowing the signal to pass through the cell wall – a “lock and key” system. It has long been known that the human brain contains receptor sites that interact with THC. It was inevitable that endogenous, naturally occurring, chemical anandamide would also be considered to elucidate the presence of these receptors.
Cannabinoids such as THC, CBD, and anandamide are the keys that match the mammalian cannabinoid receptor sites. Agonists are chemical compounds that bind to specific receptors on cell membranes (in this case, the cannabinoid receptors) and which then trigger responses in those cells. For example, THC agonizes the cannabinoid receptors in the human body, causing not only the classic marijuana “kick” effect, but also having a medical effect that can protect certain cells or cause the destruction of mutated cells by the immune system. Anandamide, on the other hand, has a slightly different structure than THC, so it produces slightly different effects. Eating chocolate provides a mild, weaker (though similar) feeling of relaxation. Chocolate anandamide also affects cells responsible for mood, memory, appetite, pain sensation, and may, in fact, provide therapeutic benefits similar to THC.
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There are currently two known major cannabinoid receptor subtypes: CB1 and CB2 – a third group of CB3 is still under investigation. The CB1 group of cannabinoid receptors is found mainly in the brain (central nervous system), but also in the kidneys, liver and lungs. CB2 is found in cells of the immune system (T and B lymphocytes, macrophages) and in hematopoietic cells (stem cells that produce red blood cells).
The healing benefits of cannabinoids
It is worth noting that the CB2 group of cannabinoid receptors is found among immune cells. This discovery confirmed that cannabinoids act to modulate immunity with overt therapeutic benefits. Scientific research shows that the cannabinoids in marijuana and chocolate can positively affect:
- gastrointestinal tract (reducing the risk of inflammatory bowel disease, ulcerative colitis, and Crohn’s disease),
- increasing immunity,
- reducing the risk of cancer cells.