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An Intro to The Endocannabinoid System

Amanda Ferron


Have you ever heard of our bodies Endocannabinoid System?

If you work in the Cannabis Industry, or are a long time Cannabis consumer, then the answer is most likely: Yes!

But if your life doesn’t revolve around Cannabis or the industry, then it’s more likely that you have no clue what I’m talking about. So you may be surprised to hear that our bodies are literally designed to process Cannabis! Well, Cannabinoids, to be precise… Which are present in your system, whether you consume Cannabis or not!

Both mammals and invertebrates have an Endocannabinoid System, but not insects.
(Poor little bugs…)

This is a complex subject, and one that hasn’t had the amount of research that it deserves. But, we are heading in the right direction, and there is more information coming out all the time on the Endocannabinoid System. What started as research aimed at demonizing Cannabis, ended up proving how it can actually help our bodies reach homeostasis… But I will get more into that in a minute.

I wanted to take this opportunity to try and break down our Endocannabinoid System in an easily digestible way…. What it is, what it does, and how Cannabis affects it. That way, the next time you come across someone spouting some “Reefer Madness” type ridiculousness, you are armed with a rebuttal backed by actual science!

I’ve done this before, with mixed outcomes… Some are enthralled by this news and want to hear all about it, and others still stick their noses up at the idea of Cannabis NOT being a “dangerous drug”, but actually something that helps your body function properly.

Either way, it always feels good to drop some truth bombs about my favorite plant, and how our bodies are designed to process it advantageously.

Lets Dive In 

The Endocannabinoid System (ECS) is a network of chemical signals and cellular receptors that exist throughout our bodies Central and Peripheral nervous systems.

To break that down, all over our brains and in our immune tissues, there are tiny molecules on the surface of our cells called “Receptors”. These receptors bind to molecules called “Cannabinoids”. Our bodies naturally produce Endogenous Cannabinoids, or “Endocannabinoids”, and use them to stimulate the proper Receptors in the brain and the corresponding areas of the body. Once this communication starts taking place, your ECS starts helping your body function in harmony.

Twenty-five years of studies have led scientists to believe that the main role of our ECS may in fact be to help our bodies reach homeostasis. Homeostasis is a state of balance among all the body systems needed for the body to survive and function properly.

The Endocannabinoid System is believed to help regulate:

  • Sleep
  • Hunger
  • Mood
  • Pain Tolerance
  • Cardiovascular Function
  • Metabolism
  • Immune System Responses
  • Stress
  • Memory
  • And MANY more bodily functions!

How Cannabis Can Help

As I said before, our bodies naturally produce Cannabinoids, called Endocannabinoids. The Cannabis plant also produces Cannabinoids (Exogenous Cannabinoids) that are very similar in structure to the ones produced by our bodies. This helps them bind to those aforementioned receptors, and therefore have the ability to affect our Endocannabinoid System.

The two main Cannabinoids produced by the Cannabis plant that scientists have studied are Tetrahydrocannabinol, more commonly known as THC, and Cannabidiol, or CBD.

THC has been shown to have the ability to bind to the 2 main receptors in our bodies ECS that we know of: CB1 and CB2 receptors. CB1 receptors reside in your brain, and CB2 receptors in your immune tissues. Because it can bind to both, THC has the ability to make you feel the high that Cannabis is so well known for.

CBD’s haven’t been shown to bind to either receptor, but seem to act more as retardant when it comes to the breakdown of our Endocannabinoids. This allows those Endocannabinoids to act on more of a “slow release” level, helping naturally bring your system closer to homeostasis, without feeling high. There are new studies coming out showing that CBD may also have a “sobering” effect on its user, but nothing conclusive has been released as of yet. Though I can personally attest to having witnessed this MANY times.

Get too high? Ingest some CBD, you’ll sober up quicker!

Everyday, we are discovering new Cannabinoids, and new ways to consume them as well. CBGs, CBNs, Delta 8, THCa, THCv, just to name a few… Each one seems to help aid our body in a different way.

So basically, using Cannabis gives our ECS access to different Cannabinoids, some we may not even know about yet! Those Cannabinoids are taken in through the receptors that are built into our nervous systems, helping improve the function of our Endocannabinoid System, and ultimately, helping improve our overall body function.

Wrapping up

Did all that make sense? I hope so!

It’s a lot of information to take in, but hopefully that “in a nutshell” explanation was easy to process, and now you know a little bit more about your own body!

The Endocannabinoid System is amazing and mysterious all at once… And we are only starting to scratch the surface of its functionality!

In a piece published on the Harvard Health Website, Dr. Peter Grinspoon concluded:

New research has since flourished into a far more broad-based exploration into what is an astoundingly intricate and far-reaching system by which our bodies learn, feel, motivate, and keep themselves in balance. We are truly at the dawn of an age of discovery of the ECS (Endocannabinoid System) and the development of new medicines that may help alleviate some of the cruelest diseases that people (and animals) suffer from. I am incredibly excited to see what discoveries await us as we continue to untangle the mysteries of the ECS.”

And I share his excitement!

As someone who uses Cannabis regularly to alleviate my own ailments, I am fascinated by how this system affects our bodily function, and how Cannabis can help us take control of that system a little bit when we are feeling “off”, mentally or physically.

I can’t wait to hear what we discover next!