The endocannabinoid system is a complex intercellular communication system that interacts with cannabinoids like CBD. Read more.
The endocannabinoid system, hereinafter ECS (Endocannabinoid System), is another system in the body, like the circulatory or immune system. It is one of the most fundamental systems of our body. However, it is quite common to be unaware of its existence and even more so know how it works. Today we will explain what the ECS does, how it works, and why cannabinoids can be beneficial for our body.
Why have you never heard of ECS? Probably because it was discovered very recently, specifically during the 90s, through the study of phytocannabinoids such as THC and CBD. While investigating phytocannabinoids (Fun fact: It was sponsored by the United States with the mission of demonizing cannabis), researchers discovered that humans, and most other mammals, have cannabinoid receptors in our bodies. This was due to the discovery of one of the fundamental receptors of the ECS, the CB1 receptor. These findings led to the discovery of the first naturally produced endocannabinoid in 1992. This was anandamide, it is also known as the bliss molecule. These two events led to the discovery of the endocannabinoid system, which owes its name to the plant that made its discovery possible, cannabis.
The endocannabinoid system is a complex intercellular communication system, similar to a neurotransmission system, but it spreads to other organs and tissues in the body, not just the brain. It’s like a thermostat by regulating various physiological functions of our body, balancing and stabilizing the activity and production of different organs and systems of our body. The responsibility of the ECS is to balance metabolic processes and optimize the function of our bodies. It plays a crucial role in regulating our physiology, mood, and day-to-day experience. The ECS is a difficult system to understand due to the short amount of time that it has been recognized and investigated, in addition to the complexity found in each human being.
Functions related to the Endocannabinoid System
To recapitulate, the ECS is a system of communication between cells that is found throughout our body. The ECS consists of three important components:
Organs and systems where we can find the Endocannabinoid System The receptors are:
How CB1 receptors activate brain function The distribution of cannabinoid receptors is totally different from any other receptor we have. What we see here is that they’re everywhere. It’s what defines the ECS, its presence is totally global in our body, it’s omnipresent! CB1, the first receptor to be discovered, has been under the microscope for much longer so we have a lot more information. Its abundance in our brain can be seen in the graph below.
Molecular structure of Anandamide
The ECS and its respective parts, endocannabinoids and receptors, interact with each other as if they were a lock and a key. The receptors would be the lock and the endocannabinoids, or phytocannabinoids, would be its key. Let’s get a little more scientific: Cannabinoid receptors are proteins present in the cell membrane that act as a lock for endocannabinoids (cannabinoids derived from fatty acids produced by our bodies). Endocannabinoids, endogenous lipids, act as a perfect key for this lock, they bind to the receptors and when this occurs the receptor is activated. This activation produces changes within cells that lead to the ECS’s final actions on the body’s physiological processes. Phytocannabinoids (cannabinoids from the cannabis plant) and many synthetic cannabinoids bind to this lock in the same way and offer effects that are analogous to endocannabinoids, or even enhance their effects. How the ECS works
So let’s remind ourselves that the main function of the ECS is regulating and achieving homeostasis in our body. It is essential for our body to achieve that balance and everyday our systems go to work to make that happen, and the ECS is their boss.
Cannabinoids, like CBD, interact with cannabinoid receptors. CBD helps improve ECS function in turn helping the ECS regulate and balance the rest of our organs and systems. Something very promising that is being studied at the moment is the possibility of CBD enhancing the effects of endocannabinoids in our body. Studies suggest that CBD can inhibit cannabinoid enzymes, responsible for breaking endocannabinoids down. Currently, studies indicate there are different types of interactions between the ECS and different phytocannabinoids. An easy example is CBD, whose use does not activate receptors in the same way as, for example, THC.
The endocannabinoid system exists in every human and is active even if you have never used cannabis. It is very important to enhance our ECS for our health. CBD can be a way to improve and enhance our ECS and feel more effective and balanced in the activity of our body. Learn about our products. However if you aren’t interested in trying phytocannabinoids, there are other ways to enhance your endocannabinoid system. Check out our blog on 10 ways to enhance the endocannabinoid system, it’s full of tips!
We still don’t know much about the endocannabinoid system, our endocannabinoids, and how powerful phytocannabinoids can be. Every day researchers study more and everyday more is discovered. There are surely more receptors, more endocannabinoids, and more components of ECS that have yet to be discovered. The important thing is that we continue to push our governments and support our institutions to study this fascinating system (and the plant that allowed us to discover it!) so that we can further continue to understand our organism and the connection between mind and body. Written and illustrated by: Christina Schwertschlag Edited and published by: Claudia Nicolás
Cannabinoid receptors and the ECS
Christina dedicates her time to research and development in the cannabis world. With experience in design, innovation and sustainability projects, she seeks to unite different entities in the cannabis world to help destigmatize the plant and make it more accessible to users.KNOW MORE
Tommaso Bruscolini (Rimini, Italy) is a neuropsychologist and phytotherapist based in Barcelona, where he has been running a private practice since 2014, both in person and online. In his practice, Tommaso formulates and produces different preparations with all kinds of medicinal plants, in addition to making personalized recommendations.KNOW MORE