Endocannabinoid System
When it comes to understanding CBD oil and its purpose, it is important to have some knowledge of the human endocannabinoid system (ECS). We all know that cannabis and its active compounds, called cannabinoids, have an effect on our bodies. But what allows them to have this effect, and how does it all work?
As it turns out, it’s all down to the ECS. In this article, we will look at the endocannabinoid system and all it can do. First, though, it’s important to understand the concept of homeostasis.
Before we go any further, it’s useful to know about homeostasis. This term is the concept of biological balance and refers to the regulation of conditions in the body such as body temperature, blood sugar level, water content, and more. In order for the body to function properly, we need to remain within certain parameters that stop us getting sick and help us to be the amazing beings that we are.
Our bodies naturally maintain this state of homeostasis, meaning that all our systems are regulated to make sure all the conditions in the body are just perfect.
We maintain homeostasis by using negative feedback mechanisms. This means that everything in our bodies is monitored carefully so that, when something changes, we can correct it. This is where the endocannabinoid system comes in.
What is the Endocannabinoid System?
The endocannabinoid system (ECS) has been described as “perhaps the most important physiologic system involved in establishing and maintaining human health.”
The ECS is a network of endocannabinoids and cannabinoid receptors that exist throughout our bodies (yes, that’s right, the body produces its own cannabinoids!). It is thought to exist in pretty much all animals on earth, and it is absolutely crucial to our survival. These receptors are found all over the human body, including in the brain, organs, tissues, glands, and immune cells.
The ECS undertakes a variety of different tasks depending on where the specific receptors are located, but the goal is always the same: homeostasis.
The cannabinoid receptors exist on the surface of cells and “listen” to what’s going on in the body. They communicate this information about our bodies’ status and changing circumstances to the inside of the cell, allowing for the appropriate measures to be taken. In other words, they allow for us to maintain homeostasis by monitoring what is going on in our bodies.
Scientists have identified two primary cannabinoid receptors, within the Endocannabinoid System, called the CB1 and CB2 receptors. Although both types of receptors can be found all throughout the body, CB1 receptors are more highly concentrated in the brain and central nervous system, whereas CB2 receptors can be found more abundantly in the immune system, organs, and tissues.
Most of us have by now heard of the cannabinoids found in plants, called phytocannabinoids, but the body also produces its own, which are referred to as endocannabinoids. These molecules are created whenever we need them, usually in response to some change in the body. They can bind directly with the cannabinoid receptors – you can think of them as slotting into one another like a jigsaw puzzle or a lock and key.
Once the endocannabinoids have fulfilled their usage, metabolic enzymes are able to break them down again. FAAH breaks down anandamide, while MAGL breaks down 2-AG. This ensures that the endocannabinoids are not used for longer than necessary. This process is what separates endocannabinoids from other molecular signals like hormones or neurotransmitters, which can be stored in the body.
With all this information on the endocannabinoid system, it’s logical to jump straight to wondering how plant cannabinoids interact with our ECS. Of course, with over 100 cannabinoids naturally occurring in the cannabis plant, each one can interact with our ECS in different ways. THC and CBD are the most well-known and most well-studied, though, having garnered the most public interest.
Tetrahydrocannabinol, or THC, is the most infamous active compound in cannabis, and it has the ability to interact directly with our endocannabinoid system. When marijuana is consumed, the THC can bind directly with our cannabinoid receptors, in the same way as our endocannabinoids do. THC seems to have a preference for our CB1 receptors, found in the brain, which is why THC can cause psychoactive, intoxicating effects and produce the famous ‘high’.
On the other hand, CBD (Cannabidiol) is thought to interact more with CB2 receptors elsewhere in the body and unlike THC it has no psychoactive effects.
How was the endocannabinoid system discovered?
The Endocannabinoid System is not often talked about in schools and even less heard of in wider circles. Everyone has heard of the respiratory system and the cardiovascular system, but the endocannabinoid system is not as famous. One of the reasons for this is that it was not discovered until fairly recently and it remains relatively understudied.
In 1964, an Israeli scientist named Dr. Raphael Mechoulam was able to identify and isolate THC for the first time. Once cannabinoids could be isolated, it paved the way for research into why cannabis has the impact it does on the human body.
In 1988, Allyn Howlett and William Devane discovered the first cannabinoid receptor in the brain of a rat. They began to map the CB receptors in the brain and found that there were more of these receptors than any other neurotransmitter receptor. The endocannabinoid system had been discovered.
That is why it has this name – it was essentially named after the cannabis plant which helped to lead to its discovery.
Final thoughts on the Endocannabinoid System
The endocannabinoid system is a very important system in the human body. It is not only crucial to our survival, but it is also fundamental in understanding what impact taking CBD could have on our bodies.
As you can see, the existence of the ECS is very encouraging for the CBD industry, as it shows why CBD can have such a positive impact on people.
We hope that this article has served to explain everything you need to know about the ECS and its functions.

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