How marijuana works

The Science of Marijuana : How It Works

Marijuana is a complex plant. It contains a diverse set of chemical molecules called cannabinoids. These constituents attach themselves to special receptors in the human body, which make up the endocannabinoid system. Experts frequently describe this process with a “key and lock” metaphor: Your body has specific binding sites, or “locks,” on many of its cell types, and your body produces various endocannabinoids, or “keys,” which bind to those cannabinoid receptors to activate and “unlock” them. Back in 1992, scientists discovered, for the first time, an endogenous substance that binds itself to cannabinoid receptors. Known as anandamide, this substance originates from the word “Ananda,” which is Sanskrit for bliss, and “amide,” which relates to its chemical structure. Then, in 1995, researchers found a second endocannabinoid, 2-arachidonoylglycerol, or simply 2-AG. Anandamide and 2-AG are the most studied endocannabinoids today. We now know about hundreds of cannabinoids, but these resemble the body’s …

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