The Endocannabinoid System

Did you know that every human being, and in fact any creature with a CEntral nervous system, has an endocannabinoid system?



The Endocannabinoid System, also known as the ECS, is an endogenous or internal cannabis-based system that helps regulate many functions within the body.

This includes the desensitization at the site of injury and the minimization of the pain and damage caused by injury. The ECS also plays a large role in causing programmed cell death of tumorous cells, and even in helping to regulate immune function, as well as hormone regulation of the endocrine system, helping regulate tissue function, mood, metabolism, growth and development, sexual function and reproductive processes.

The ECS is made up of cannabinoid receptors that respond to endogenous cannabinoids (i.e., internally produced cannabis compounds: Anandamide and 2-AG) and phyto-cannabinoids (cannabinoids produced in a plant: THC, CBD, etc…). In fact 2-AG as well as other cannabinoids have even been found in mother’s breast milk. A large component of the endocannabinoid system are the cannabinoid receptors found throughout the body in the Central Nervous System (Brain & Spinal Cord) and the Peripheral Nervous System (all of the remaining organs in the body). Through direct and indirect actions via the ECS, endocannabinoids are known to modulate and influence a variety of physiological systems, including appetite, pain, inflammation, tempurature regulation, intra-ocular eye pressure, sensation, muscle control, energy balance, metabolism, sleep-health, stress responses, motivation/reward, mood, memory, and even sexual function.


It is a "lock & key" system.


Cannabinoid receptors are an important class of cell membrane receptors. Receptors are akin to "locks," and the ligand compounds (or in this case: THC, CBD, etc...) that bind to them are akin to "keys" in a "lock & key" system. 

Cannabis science currently recognizes two subtypes of cannabinoid receptors, known as CB1 and CB2, though new research is learning much more. Both receptor types have similarity, but are highly differentiated by what tissue or organ system they are associated with in the body.

  • CB1 is found mostly in the brain, with some presence in lung, kidney, liver, fat, heart, muscle, and bone.
  • Whereas, CB2 receptors can be mostly found within the immune system and blood cells, and secondarily in lesser density within the nervous system, liver, gut, muscle, and bone.

Common plant-based cannabinoids bind differently to the different cannabinoid receptors. For example, THC commonly binds to the CB1 receptor; whereas, CBD more commonly binds to the CB2 receptors, but also has a slight affinity for the CB1 receptor as well.


SCIENCE OF THE ENDOCANNABINOID SYSTEM

Since the early 1960’s and 1970’s when some of the first scientific discovery of the ECS and cannabinoids were made our understanding of cannabinoids and the ECS has grown leaps and bounds, especially in the early 1990’s and 2000’s, and progressively each day moving forward, as also found in these examples: Ex #1, Ex #2. From research we now understand that the endocannabinoid system plays a big role in the health of our future, not just as prevention, but also as proactive daily-health maintenance.


Here is a brief educational video from medical cannabis expert Dr. Dustin Sulak.


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Learn more. Here is a detailed description and visualization of the Endocannabinoid System from Leanne Chan of the University of Toronto.