If there’s one defining characteristic of humanity, it’s the tendency to consume substances that affect the brain. Chocolate, caffeine, alcohol, or necessary psychiatric medications, we consume many compounds to feel different or better. All of these substances affect certain receptors in the brain that affect how we think and act.

THC is no different in that regard. It connects to specific THC receptors in the brain, affecting how the brain works for a little while. What sets THC apart is its specificity. There is an entire set of receptors in the brain now known as the “endocannabinoid system,” dedicated to receiving molecules like THC.

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What Is the Endocannabinoid System?

Your body produces thousands of compounds every day that keeps your organs and internal functions healthy and working correctly. So far, two of these compounds have been identified as “endocannabinoids.” Basically, these molecules (anandamide and 2-arachidonoylglyerol) are shaped very similarly to certain molecules found in cannabis.

Throughout your brain and many cells in the rest of your body, there are receptors built to receive your body’s natural endocannabinoids. These receptors control a number of your body’s functions, from your metabolism and appetite to your immune response to your sleep cycle.

Despite its name, the endocannabinoid system didn’t evolve just to accept the compounds of the cannabis plant. Instead, cannabis evolved to contain cannabinoids that just so happened to mesh well with the receptors humans already had. When humans realized that this one particular plant had pleasant and useful effects, they began to cultivate it. The result is the cannabis plant of today, which can help with everything from recreation to chronic pain.

How the THC Receptors in the Brain Affect Your Health

Because of how well cannabinoids like THC mesh with endocannabinoid receptors, using cannabis can affect your health in several ways.

For example, the THC receptors in the brain are theorized to help regulate your sleep cycles. If your body is producing too few endocannabinoids, then you may have a hard time falling and staying asleep. Using cannabis allows THC and other cannabinoids to supplement your natural endocannabinoids, potentially helping you sleep sooner and better.

Similarly, a malfunction of the endocannabinoid system appears to be linked to problems like chronic neuropathic pain and muscle spasms. Using moderate amounts of cannabis has been shown to help relieve these problems without some of the adverse side effects of other pain relief options. More study needs to be done to find the perfect dosage for every patient. However, the research shows that cannabis extracts may be one of the best treatment methods available for problems with the endocannabinoid system.

THC receptors in the brain did not evolve because of cannabis, but they may offer the best option for treating several chronic conditions. They are also a safe and healthy form of recreation, similar to alcohol or caffeine. Whether you’re looking to enjoy yourself or relieve uncomfortable symptoms, your brain has specific receptors that make cannabis and THC an excellent choice.