New Approach to Combatting Anxiety States, Pain, and Inflammation

Volume 14    |   Issue 27

If you're like most of my readers, you're always on the lookout for natural ways to treat illnesses, particularly when the related drug treatments may have serious side effects. That's why I'm excited about a new area of research that's investigating the endocannabinoid system and how it affects the brain and the immune system. The researchers have uncovered some interesting information about how we can approach issues such as anxiety and inflammation by tapping into this system.

If you see "endocannabinoids" and immediately think of cannabis, or marijuana, you're not far off. Cannabis has a similar effect to endocannabinoids, but the latter are actually produced by our own bodies (endocannabinoids is a shortened version of endogenous cannabinoids). They're similar to fatty acids, and because the body makes them on its own, it can't overproduce them. That means you can't overdose on them the way you could with cannabis or any drug, for that matter.

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These University of Bern researchers have been trying to activate select endocannabinoids in the brain in order to treat neuropsychiatric disorders like anxiety. They've recently figured out how to influence the transport route of endocannabinoids in mice's brains, benefiting their stress levels and supporting their immune systems. This manipulation also seemed to have anti-inflammatory, analgesic (pain-killing), and anxiolytic (anti-anxiety) effects in the mice.

The researchers are looking for ways to influence this transport system further, and to do so, they've been studying the purple coneflower, also known as Echinacea purpurea. If you've ever used Echinacea to treat a cold, you know how effective it can be, and it seems that it works at least in part by affecting the endocannabinoid system. When researchers introduce inhibitors to the system, the cells have trouble taking in the endocannabinoids. This tells the brain to activate cannabinoid receptors throughout the nervous and immune systems, which presses "pause" on stress and inflammation and helps the body restore equilibrium.

This area of research has great promise when it comes to treating anxiety and inflammation. But until the researchers develop more specific action steps, investigate other natural ways to treat these conditions. You can learn more about suggestions by checking out the Women's Health Letter archives. I've written about both of these topics at length. And stay tuned for updates on the endocannabinoid system and how we can best harness its powerful effects throughout the body.

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