The majority of chronic ailments, including autoimmune diseases like rheumatoid arthritis, depression, Alzheimer’s disease, diabetes, and cancer, involve inflammation. Science has known for a long time that omega-3 fatty acids counteract inflammation. A study from the University of Illinois, USA, shows that the process is controlled by cannabinoids, which the body itself can produce but are also found in cannabis oil. In other words, it is possible to activate the body’s cannabinoid receptors in the immune system and nervous system by means of large quantities of fish oil, which contains the most active forms of omega-3.
Cannabis and cannabis oils are stimulants and medical drugs that are made from the hemp plant (Cannabis sativa or Cannabis indica). The most active compounds are THC (tetrahydrocannabinol), which makes you high, and CBD (cannabidiol) that does not have an intoxicating effect. The therapeutic use of these two cannabis oils in connection with diseases characterized by inflammation is very new and highly controversial. However, one may also consider using fish oil supplements, as they contain essential fatty acids that the body depends on.
Why the balance between omega-3 and omega-6 is so important
The omega-3 and omega-6 fatty acids belong to the group of essential, polyunsaturated fatty acids that support all cell membranes and numerous biochemical processes. In addition, the omega-3 and omega-6 fatty acids interact in a biochemical interplay where the balance between the two types is highly important for normal physiological reactions. If we get too little omega-3 and too much omega-6 (which most Westerners do), it increases our risk of inflammation in different tissues. Mild inflammation does not cause local pain as such, but it may burden the brain and nervous system.
Omega-3 sources (ALA, EPA, DHA)
ALA: Mainly linseed oil and rapeseed oil, chia seeds, and walnuts
EPA and DHA: Especially oily fish such as mackerel, salmon, herring, anchovies, eel, lumpfish, rainbow trout, cod liver oil, and krill oil. Also found in large concentrations in human and animal brain tissue. Many people have difficulty with converting ALA into the active forms of Omega-3 (EPA and DHA).
Omega-6 sources (LA, GLA, AA)
LA (Linolenic acid): Margarine and most plant oils such as safflower, sunflower, corn, and grape. Ready meals, junk food, and chips.
GLA (Gamma-linolenic acid): Borage, evening primrose, oats, black currants, breast milk
AA (Arachidonic acid): Meat, fish, liver, organ meat, dairy products.
According to the new study from the University of Illinois, which is made with animal tissue, omega-3 fatty acids generate cascades of chemical reactions that promote the formation of anti-inflammatory cannabinoids (endocannabinoids). These do not make you high, paranoid, hungry or cause any of those effects that are normally seen when people are under the influence of cannabis.
Professor Aditi Das, who led the study, explains that the body is able to produce some of the same cannabinoids that are found in cannabis oil. These cannabinoids are able to regulate the immune system, which is overactive in the case of inflammation and autoimmune diseases.
Facts about endocannabinoids
The endocannabinoid system (ECBS) is a group of neuromodulatory lipids and brain receptors. This system is involved in numerous physiological processes, including the immune system, the nervous system, appetite, pain sensation, mood, memory, and neuron protection mechanisms. For the last two decades, ECBS has been acknowledged in several aspects of human physiology, and endocannabinoids belong to the most widespread and versatile signaling substances.
Cannabis has been used for over 4,000 years as both a stimulant and a medical drug. It was not until 1964 that a chemist named Raphael Mechoulam discovered and isolated THC from marihuana. In order to see if he had actually found the stuff that makes you high, he baked cookies that contained 10 mg of THC each and gave the cookies to friends of his at a party, asking first if they were willing to take part in a small experiment. The friends reacted with non-stop laughter, verbosity and lethargy, which confirms that THC is a psychoactive cannabinoid.
In 1992, scientists discovered that the body itself is able to produce cannabinoids. Since then, science has discovered many other endocannabinoids but have still not mapped out all their functions. Cannabinoids bind to the cannabinoid receptors that function as cellular “antennas”. These bindings especially affect cellular activity in the nervous system and immune system.
According to Aditi Das, cannabinoids such as THC from marihuana and hash, or the body’s own cannabinoids are able to bind to these receptors and counteract inflammation and pain. Aditi Das and her team of scientists found specifically the enzymatic processes where omega-3 fatty acids promote the transformation of endocannabinoids to potent molecules that control the immune system, and that is what gives them their anti-inflammatory effect. The study shows how omega-3 fatty acids may have medical advantages that are similar to those of cannabis but do not make you high or cause side effects. Omega-3 fatty acids, other than that, are essential for human health, so we need them in any case.
The study is published in Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences.
Since the Stone Age, the dominating source of omega-3 fatty acids has been EPA from oily fish. This omega-3 form is easily converted into anti-inflammatory endocannabinoids.
How much omega-3 is needed to fight inflammation?
Many people who consume vegetable omega-3 sources like linseed oil have difficulty with converting ALA into the active forms of omega-3, EPA and DHA. Studies suggest that in cases where a person has inflammation, 3-6 grams of pure fish oil are needed every day. The optimal effect is normally seen after a month. Fish oil supplements based on free fatty acids have good bioavailability. Also, make sure to choose a product that complies with government requirements with regard to peroxide levels and environmental toxins.
How much omega-3 do you get from oily fish?
One herring fillet contains 1 gram of omega-3, while you get 3-4- grams from a salmon steak
Study: Omega-3 fatty acids fight inflammation via cannabinoids. EurekAlert! Science News
Natural cannabinoids from omega-3 fatty acids combat inflammation
Abdulrazaq, Innes JK, Calder PC. Effect of ω-3 polyunsaturated fatty acids on arthritic pain: A systematic review. Nutrition 2017
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