Acupuncture and the Endocannabinoid System

Posted on 10/06/22 | Updated 06/10/22 Reading: 4 minutes


Although acupuncture has ancient oriental roots, it was only in the 1970s that this technique started gaining momentum in the West, spurring scientific research that linked acupuncture to the relief from various symptoms. Some examples include nausea and vomiting from chemotherapy, chronic pain, muscle pain, and migraine headaches.

Acupuncture involves inserting needles into specific points on the body to produce positive body responses. Because the nervous system signaling plays a crucial role in this process, there exists a close relationship between acupuncture and the endocannabinoid system. In this post, we will explain this relationship further.


What is the relationship between acupuncture and the endocannabinoid system?

Em 1997, o National Institute of Health (NIH) reconheceu os efeitos terapêuticos da Acupuntura para certas condições, como dores crônicas e sequelas do acidente vascular cerebral (AVC). Desde então, as pesquisas científicas na área ganharam maior espaço, trazendo perspectivas bastante otimistas para essa prática terapêutica.

Currently, the most accepted hypothesis by researchers is that the stimulation of acupuncture points activates certain nerves that, in turn, send signals to the brain and spinal cord through different nerve pathways. In addition, this stimulation induces numerous neurological effects, such as pain relief and neuroprotection.

The endocannabinoid system is a collection of receptors, ligands, and enzymes that act as signaling pathways between cells. Endocannabinoid receptors and endocannabinoid substances are distributed throughout the body’s organs and systems, performing different functions to maintain the stability of physiological functions.

Because most of the endocannabinoid receptors in our body are concentrated in the central and peripheral nervous systems, it is understandable that the endocannabinoid system plays an important role in acupuncture, especially by regulating pain perception levels and anti-inflammatory effects of this therapy.


How does acupuncture stimulate the endocannabinoid system?

Studies involving acupuncture and pain relief have led scientists to hypothesize the endocannabinoid system as one of the primary mediators, as well as factors regulating the beneficial effects of acupuncture.

Uma dessas scientific researches mostrou que, ao induzir artrite em ratos e realizar o procedimento de eletroacupuntura, houve um aumento da expressão dos receptores CB1 e CB2, que são os principais receptores do Sistema Endocanabinoide.


The CB1 receptors predominam no Sistema Nervoso Central (SNC), principalmente nas regiões cerebrais do córtex, cerebelo, hipocampo e núcleos da base. Mas, também, estão presentes no Sistema Nervoso Entérico (SNE), nas células adiposas, células endoteliais, fígado e trato gastrointestinal. 


The CB2 receptor agonists, por sua vez, predominam nas células e tecidos do sistema imunológico e se apresentam em menor grau nas células do SNC como a microglia e astrócitos , evidenciando o potencial antiinflamatório e imunomodulador desses receptores.


By adding or subtracting compounds that affect the expression of CB1 and CB2 receptors, researchers have shown that both receptors function independently: while CB1 is primarily responsible for pain perception, CB2 moderates the anti-inflammatory effects of acupuncture.


Why integrate acupuncture and cannabinoid derivatives?

The relationship between acupuncture and the endocannabinoid system is close, assertive, and scientifically based. Several patients resort to acupuncture not only to improve immunity but, above all, to treat chronic pain and even emotional imbalances resulting from anxiety, stress, and sleep disorders, among others.

The use of cannabinoid derivatives associated with acupuncture can optimize the therapeutic results of this process, considering that both favor the functional tone of the endocannabinoid system.

Among these derivatives, phytocannabinoids such as cannabidiol (CBD), delta-9-tetrahydrocannabinol (THC), and terpenes stand out. These compounds, when used together, act in synergy to optimize the therapeutic effects of each other and modulate potential adverse effects.


Do you want to learn more about medical cannabis and prescribing practices? Learn about the WeCann Academy learning journey and become part of this global community of study on endocannabinoid medicine!


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