· By Kristen Scott Ndiaye

What is the Endocannabinoid System?

Surprisingly, the endocannabinoid system was first discovered only a few decades ago in the 1990s. The discovery of this system was considered a major breakthrough by many scientists and researchers. Yet, this discovery also went largely under-reported. The majority of the general public doesn’t know what the endocannabinoid system is or what it does. 

So, let’s get to the bottom of this question once and for all. What is the endocannabinoid system? What should you know?

The Endocannabinoid System Explained

The endocannabinoid system, or ECS, is an essential regulatory system in the body. It helps maintain equilibrium in terms of function and biochemicals. It also plays a crucial role in the regulation of appetite, pain, energy, immune function, metabolism, sleep, memory, and stress. Interestingly, this system isn’t only found in the human body. All vertebrate animals have an endocannabinoid system. 

This system is made up of receptors, as well as chemical compounds known as cannabinoids. Endogenous cannabinoids are created and produced by your body. Other types of cannabinoids enter the body through external compounds, such as THC. You can think of the receptors like a ‘lock’ with the chemical compounds being the ‘keys.’ When the key is placed in the lock, it stimulates certain regulatory processes to happen. In turn, this ensures your body functions at its peak capacity and maintains optimal health.

In the body, there are two types of receptors. There are cannabinoid 1, CB1, and cannabinoid 2, CB2. CB1 receptors are located in the brain, as well as the lungs, kidneys, bones, heart, liver, and the reproductive organs. These receptors are the reason THC, the psychoactive component of marijuana, has an effect on the body. In other words, THC is one of the keys to these receptors. 

CB2 receptors, on the other hand, are located in the immune system, the lungs, liver, bone, and muscle. Interestingly, CBD does not bind to either receptor. Instead, it stimulates these receptors and makes it easier for cannabinoids to bind to them.  

Further, there are three types of cannabinoids. As aforementioned, there are endogenous cannabinoids, also called endocannabinoids, that are produced by the body. Then, there are phytocannabinoids and synthetic cannabinoids. Phytocannabinoids come from plants, whereas synthetic cannabinoids are created in a lab. 

The Importance of the ECS

The discovery of this system forwarded the understanding of the human body and how it functions. Various research shows that this system may play a major role in preventing and reducing cancer, as well as helping to manage an array of health conditions. Studies indicate that understanding it further may help treat multiple sclerosis, fibromyalgia, arthritis, diabetes, and more.

For example, when CBD acts on this system, it has anti-inflammatory, anti-tumoral, antioxidant, antipsychotic, and neuroprotective effects. It may even help reduce some forms of cancer by reducing the implications associated with a specific gene. 

There is immense potential when it comes to healing, better health, and the endocannabinoid system. Science continues to unravel the endocannabinoid system and its function, as well as the undeniable potential it holds. There is a reason the body is so responsive to external compounds, like the hemp plant. The endocannabinoid system holds those answers.