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what is the endocannabinoid system?

endocannabinoid system

science of the endocannabinoid system

After 35 years of research, scientists are only beginning to understand the importance of the human endocannabinoid system. The discovery of this body system is arguably the most important late-20th century finding in human physiology. Research has revealed that the endocannabinoid system is responsible for maintaining and controlling the body’s homeostasis (balanced system regulation). It accomplishes this through two known receptors: CB1 and CB2.

The body produces its own endogenous cannabinoids, but many scientists suggest that a large portion of the population suffers from “cannabinoid deficiency.” Without sufficient dietary cannabinoids, the human endocannabinoid system operates at less than peak efficiency. This may lead to a general health decline. Supplementing our diets with full-spectrum phytocannabinoids could play an essential role in optimizing health.

The primary cannabinoid receptors are identified as cannabinoid type-1 receptors (CB1-R) and cannabinoid type-2 receptors (CB2-R). The receptors can be “unlocked” by two kinds of organic cannabinoids:



endogenous fatty-acid cannabinoids
produced naturally in the body



found in the oily leaf and bud resin of
cannabis and other plants

The endocannabinoid system is found in every animal except insects, and it regulates a broad range of biological functions. The endocannabinoid system is a biochemical control system of neuromodulatory lipids (molecules like waxes, fats, sterols and fat-soluble vitamins) and specialized receptors configured to accept specific cannabinoids.

Just as a particular key is designed to open a single lock, a given receptor may accept only certain classes of compounds and be unaffected by other compounds.

Specialized receptors are located throughout the human body. Locations include, but are not limited to: hippocampus (memory, learning), cerebral cortex (decision-making, emotional behavior), cerebellum (motor control, coordination), putamen (movement, learning), hypothalamus (appetite, body temperature) and amygdala (emotions). When a specific cannabinoid or combination of cannabinoids bind to a specialized receptor, an event or event series is triggered in the cell. This causes a change to the cell’s activity, its gene regulation and/or the signals it sends to neighboring cells. The process is called “signal transduction.”

cannabinoid receptors and the endocannabinoid system


important reception functions

First detected in the brain, cannabinoid type-1 receptors have now been found in many other organs, connective tissues, gonads and glands. Cannabinoid type-2 receptors play an important role in the coordination of movement, spatial orientation, sensory perception (taste, touch, smell, hearing), cognitive performance and motivation.

The most important function of the cannabinoid type-1 receptor is the reduction of excessive or inadequate signaling by brain neurotransmitters (messengers). Through activation of the cannabinoid type-1 receptor, the hyperactivity or hypoactivity of the messengers (e.g., serotonin, dopamine) is brought back into balance. For example, when THC binds to cannabinoid type-1 receptor, pain circuit activity is inhibited. This results in reduced pain. Many other symptoms, like nausea, muscle spasticity and seizures, can be alleviated or diminished with cannabinoid therapy.

Cannabinoid type-2 receptors are primarily associated with the immune system and found outside the brain in places like the gut, spleen, liver, heart, kidneys, bones, blood vessels, lymph cells, endocrine glands and reproductive organs. For example, CBD is keyed to the cannabinoid type-2 receptor, and substantive evidence indicates CBD could be a beneficial therapeutic strategy for reducing the impact of inflammatory and neuro-inflammatory diseases. Until recently, it was believed the cannabinoid type-2 receptor played no role with nerve cells or bundles. However, studies now show that it also plays an important role in the brain’s signal processing.

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