the brain's own marijuana.

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    • Abstract:
      The article reports on research into natural chemicals that imitate the effects of marijuana. The brain makes its own marijuana, natural compounds called endocannabinoids (after the plant's formal name, Cannabis sativa). The study of endocannabinoids in recent years has led to exciting discoveries. By examining these substances, researchers have exposed an entirely new signaling system in the brain. Fully understanding this signaling system could have far-reaching implications. The details appear to hold a key to devising treatments for anxiety, pain, nausea, obesity, brain injury and many other medical problems. Ultimately such treatments could be tailored precisely so that they would not initiate the unwanted side effects produced by marijuana itself. Figuring out how the drug exerts its myriad effects has taken a long time. In 1964, after nearly a century of work by many individuals, Raphael Mechoulam of the Hebrew University in Jerusalem identified delta-9-tetrahydrocannabinol (THC) as the compound that accounts for virtually all the pharmacological activity of marijuana. The next step was to identify the receptor or receptors to which THC was binding. The repertoire of the brain's own marijuana has not been fully revealed, but the insights about endocannabinoids have begun helping researchers design therapies to harness the medicinal properties of the plant. INSETS: Overview/Brain's Marijuana;Help Could Be on the Way For:.