A Complete Guide To The Endocannabinoid System

Endocannabinoid System
Endocannabinoid System
Endocannabinoid System
Endocannabinoid System

The endocannabinoid system was discovered in the 1990s by researchers who were exploring the effects of THC, a popular cannabinoid. The endocannabinoid system is important in influencing the effects that all cannabinoids have on our body functions. That said, cannabinoids are compounds that are naturally found in cannabis plants. CBD is one of the cannabinoids that has quite a name in the health and wellness industry.

In this article, we are discussing in detail about the endocannabinoid system and the way it interacts with cannabis compounds.

How Does The Endocannabinoid System Work?

The endocannabinoid system in our body comprises of three major components. They are:


Endocannabinoids are similar to cannabinoids found in cannabis plants except for the fact that they are produced within our body, which is why they are also called endogenous cannabinoids.

As of now, experts have identified two key cannabinoids:

  • 2-arachidonoylglycerol (2-AG)
  • Anandamide

The amounts in which these endocannabinoids are produced vary according to the need and they facilitate the smooth running of internal body functions.

Endocannabinoid Receptors

The receptors are found in almost every part of your body. The endocannabinoids bind to these receptors signaling the ECS to get into action.

Two main endocannabinoid receptors are:

  • CB1 receptors: They are mostly found in the central nervous system
  • CB2 receptors: They are mostly found in the peripheral nervous system, especially the immune cells.

Endocannabinoids may bind either to CB1 or CB2 receptors. The results of the interaction depend on the location of the receptor in your body and the endocannabinoid to which it binds.


After the endocannabinoids have performed their function, they have to be broken down and enzymes do the job of breaking endocannabinoids down. Two major enzymes that perform the function are:

  • Fatty acid hydrolase that breaks down AEA
  • Monoacylglycerol acid lipase that breaks down 2-AG

What Are The Functions Of Endocannabinoid System?

Research has discovered the connections between the endocannabinoid system and the following processes:

  • Metabolism
  • Appetite and digestion
  • Chronic pain
  • Learning
  • Motor control
  • Mood
  • Sleep
  • Liver function
  • stress
  • Bone remodeling
  • Skin function
  • Muscle formation

All of these functions collectively contribute to homeostasis that refers to the balanced state of your internal environment. Consider something like pain or an injury affecting your homeostasis. Then your ECS will get into action to help your body get back to its ideal state.

Maintaining homeostasis is considered as the primary role of the endocannabinoid system.

 What Is Endocannabinoid Deficiency?

Some experts suggest that you may develop clinical endocannabinoid deficiency (CECD). According to their theory, improper functioning of the endocannabinoid system or low endocannabinoid levels could lead to the development of certain medical conditions.

A 2016 review of around 10 years of research on the subject suggests that the theory could explain the reason behind some people developing fibromyalgia, migraine and irritable bowel syndrome.

None of the aforementioned conditions have a clear reason. The conditions are mostly resistant to treatment, and in some cases occur alongside each other.

If CECD has some role to play in these conditions, targeting the ECS or the production of endocannabinoids could be an effective treatment strategy. However, more research is required before we make any conclusions.

The Interaction Of CBD With The ECS

CBD does not cause a high unlike THC, another cannabinoid.  Although experts aren’t sure about the exact mechanism of CBD interacting with the ECS, it is known that CBD does not bind directly to the endocannabinoid receptors, CB1 and CB2.

Many experts believe that CBD works by preventing the breaking down of endocannabinoids, thereby allowing them to have improved and long lasting effects on our body. Some believe that the receptor CBD binds to is yet to be discovered.

CBD is known to have various therapeutic effects including:

Pain relief: It is an analgesic that can be used to treat even chronic pain conditions. Unlike conventional pain killer medications, CBD does not have side effects like drowsiness or fatigue.

Inflammation relief: inflammation is a common symptom associated with various medical conditions. CBD can help reduce inflammation.

Anxiety relief: CBD can help you handle the typical symptoms of anxiety in a better way.

Interaction Of THC With The ECS

THC (Tetrahydrocannabinol) is the cannabis compound that gives you a high.

Once it reaches your body, THC binds to the endocannabinoid receptors similar to the way endocannabinoids do.THC is known to have the ability to bind to both receptors, CB1 and CB2.

The binding of THC to the receptors of the ECS generates a wide range of effects within our body. The effects can be good or bad. It can relieve pain and stimulate your appetite but in some cases, it may cause anxiety and paranoia.

The endocannabinoid system plays a significant role in deciding the stability of our internal system. A lot more is yet to be learned about ECS and the knowledge would be beneficial in the treatment of various  health conditions.