The Endocannabinoid System and CBD

on May 20, 2020

The Endocannabinoid System and CBD

Endocannabinoid System (ECS)

In the 1990’s, as research was underway into THC and its effects on the human body, the endocannabinoid system (ECS) was discovered. The ECS is composed of three components, first being endocannabinoids or endogenous lipid-based neurotransmitters that attach to the second component, cannabinoid receptors (CBRs), and enzymes which break them down once their cell-signaling work is complete. It might be one of the most critical systems in the body tp stimulating internal homeostasis of human health. 
With initial connections in how the ECS works to regulate core functions, research continues into just the extent it plays in regulating processes including: 
  • Fertility
  • Immune system activities
  • Appetite 
  • Pain
  • Mood
  • Memory


Endocannabinoids are naturally forming endogenous cannabinoids in the human body. These cannabinoids attach themselves to the receptors to then be delivered to the particular part of the body where a response is needed. Two of the primary endocannabinoids that are the focus of study are: 
  • Anandamide (AEA), central or peripheral nervous systems
  • 2-arachidonoylglyerol (2-AG), present in high levels in the central nervous system has extensive scientific literature dedicated to investigating ECS and states:

Endocannabinoids and cannabinoids are also found at the intersection of the body’s various systems, allowing communication and coordination between different cell types. At the site of an injury, for example, cannabinoids can be found decreasing the release of activators and sensitizers from the injured tissue, stabilizing the nerve cell to prevent excessive firing, and calming nearby immune cells to prevent release of pro-inflammatory substances.”

Cannabinoid Receptors

It’s thought that the cannabinoid receptors are more prevalent than any other receptor system in the body. Researchers have uncovered two key cannabinoid receptors to be found throughout the body: 

  • CB1- found mostly in the nervous system- examples include glands and organs
  • CB2- found primarily in the peripheral system- examples include immune cells

Being that both humans and animals produce their own cannabinoids to engage with the ECS cannabinoid receptors. Phytocannabinoids are plant substances that stimulate cannabinoid receptors similar to the same way our body naturally produces and engages with cannabinoids. These interactions result in therapeutic effects when they come from the hemp plant in the form of CBD extract. 


Closing out the Endocannabinoid System is the metabolic enzymes playing the part of breaking down endocannabinoids once they have performed their job. These enzymes complete a very specific job of zoning in on only endocannabinoids and picking them apart from other molecular signals taking place throughout the body. Two primary enzymes have been identified, FAAH and MAGL. 

  • FAAH metabolizes Anandamide (AEA)
  • MAGL metabolizes 2-arachidonoylglyerol (2-AG)

Together the three core functioning elements of the ECS are found throughout the body working to help bring internal cell systems back to homeostasis should it be needed. As researchers Chad A. Sallaberry and Laurie Astern of the Colorado State University put it:

The endocannabinoid system (ECS) plays a very important role in the human body for our survival. This is due to its ability to play a critical role in maintaining the homeostasis of the human body, which encompasses the brain, endocrine, and immune system, to name a few. ECS is a unique system in multiple dimensions.

CBD & Endocannabinoid System 

The Endocannabinoid System within our bodies plays a big part making it possible for plant cannabinoids to interact and cause either a psychoactive or medicinal effect. CBD--a plant-derived cannabinoid-- is able to bind to and influence receptors that engage with the brain in a similar fashion to how endocannabinoids and THC do with CB1 and CB2. Where things differ is researchers believe CBD is able to interact with a number of other non-cannabinoid receptors and doesn’t directly attach itself to either CB1 or CB2. CBD has been found to increase endocannabinoid tone by inhibiting FAAH enzymes from breaking down AEA allowing the body to create an effective level of balance and homeostasis. 

Health Eurpoa’s medical cannabis network reviewed research that found “In addition to treating the multiple forms of epilepsy, CBD is also effective for anxiety, stress, depression, and physical ailments. There is no shortage of research to back up these claims, either.”