Plant-Based Wellness: Herbalism, Cannabis & Your ECS

Herbalism, the practice of using the healing properties of plants, can be considered the oldest form of medicine, with written records dating back 5,000 years across numerous cultures. Today, herbal remedies are experiencing a renaissance—and cannabis is just one of hundreds of plants that are being used by herbalists.

So what exactly is cannabis?
Both hemp and marijuana are taxonomically the same plant with different names for
the genus Cannabis. While marijuana comes from both the cannabis indica or cannabis sativa plant, hemp belongs solely to the cannabis sativa family. Within the cannabis plant, there are more than 100 cannabinoids, each one producing different effects in the body while promoting health and wellbeing. The two most familiar cannabinoids are THC (Tetrahydrocannabinol) and CBD (Cannabidiol). The biggest difference is that THC gets you high and CBD does not.

Where does cannabis fit in with herbalism?
Unlike Western medicine, which typically seeks a “cause and effect” by pairing medication and clinical diagnosis, herbalism seeks to achieve an optimal balance in your body. One plant-based alternative to pharmaceuticals is commonly known as an adaptogen and works within the systems of our body to promote health and harmony. Some commonly known adaptogens include Astragalus, Ginseng, Turmeric, and Tulsi (Holy Basil).

While cannabis is not “officially” classified as an adaptogen, both scientists and herbalists believe that small, regular doses of cannabis can help regulate the various systems of the body—ie: gastrointestinal, cardiovascular, adrenal, endocrine, etc. This ability to help regulate the body’s systems is due to one “master” system that not many of us have heard of: the Endocannabinoid System (ECS), discovered in 1988. The ECS regulates and controls many of our most critical bodily functions such as learning and memory, emotional processing, sleep, temperature control, pain control, inflammatory and immune responses, and eating.

The ECS contains Endocannabinoid receptors found throughout the body that work with the various cannabinoids found in cannabis. There are two main endocannabinoid receptors: CB1 receptors, which are mostly found in the central nervous system; and CB2 receptors, which are mostly found in your peripheral nervous system, especially immune cells.

It is through the CB1 and CB2 receptors that the ECS keeps the body in homeostasis, meaning “steady,”—the body working to keep itself stable and balanced. It is an internal feedback system that stabilizes and balances our body’s chemistry, so that our organs work smoothly and efficiently with each other. Sickness is the disruption of homeostasis, which doctors often treat with medicine. But medicine commonly adjusts one homeostatic mechanism by disrupting another, which leads to more sickness and more medicine, with more side effects and adverse reactions.

Instead, herbalism seeks to achieve optimal balance in and with your body. By providing your body what it needs to function, one is able to naturally support their wellbeing. So whether it’s cannabis or other herbs and plants—we invite you to explore plant-based wellness and how your body was built with the ability to heal itself.

Cathleen Mitchell is owner of Kaya Hemp Co., a holistic boutique focused on handcrafted, sustainable goods and premium CBD & wellness products. To learn more, please visit kayahempco.com or visit the store at 6102 N 16th Street Phoenix AZ 85016

DISCLAIMER: We are not suggesting any of these herbs or plants be used in place of medicine or as medicinal alternatives. We do suggest you work with your chosen herbalist, healer and/or physician to best integrate these and other herbal remedies. Please use plant medicines carefully and intentionally. Discuss any questions or doubts directly with a healthcare practitioner.