What is the Endocannabinoid System?

Research into the body’s endocannabinoid system (ECS) is still in its infancy, but we’re finding out more every day. This system has been linked to various processes within your body, including: pain management, mood, memory, learning, appetite, digestion, sleep…

There are many other functions that the ECS helps to regulate. So the next time you feel stressed or anxious, the ECS may be responsible for driving these feelings.

The 3 key components of the ECS

  1. Endocannabinoids
  2. Endocannabinoid receptors
  3. Enzymes

Your body produces the molecules as needed. These are also known as endocannabinoids. They bind to the receptors to alert your body that it needs to take action, such as to relieve pain. Once the endocannabinoid has served its purpose, it’s broken down by the enzymes to be expelled from your body.

What are endogenous cannabinoids?

Did you know your body naturally produces cannabinoids regardless of whether you use cannabis? They’re called endogenous cannabinoids or endocannabinoids. Endogenous simply means “having an internal cause or origin. Endocannabinoids interact with cannabinoid receptors in the same way that cannabinoids from hemp do.

The main difference is that your body produces endocannabinoids when it believes you need them. Cannabinoids from cannabis are (obviously) consumed and not produced in the body. This makes it difficult for doctors and scientists to measure what’s considered a low, average, or recommended dosage level – it differs person to person.

So what does the ECS do, exactly?

This is the area where scientists still don’t know as much as they‘d like. The research to date points to the ECS as a method of keeping your body in homeostasis. When you’re in homeostasis, all your body systems are balanced and operating as they should.

When you’re out of homeostasis, this means that something is not right. For example, an injury, infection, or fever can throw you out of homeostasis. When this happens, it’s your ECS to the rescue to restore that lost balance.

When was the endocannabinoid system discovered?

The story of the human cannabinoid system is long and complicated. The first discovery of an endocannabinoid receptor within the human body happened in the 1980s. By 1990, scientists could clone them in rats. And in 1992, a lab isolated the first endocannabinoid. We later found that the human cannabinoid system helps regulate the release of neurotransmitters such as serotonin and dopamine.

How does CBD affect the endocannabinoid system?

Research into CBD and the ECS is still fleeting. There are lots of working theories from scientists as to how CBD affects the ECS that are yet to be fully accepted by the scientific community. These theories include the notion that CBD actually prevents enzymes from breaking down endogenous cannabinoids (endocannabinoids) to increase the duration of their effects.

Another theory is that CBD interacts with an ECS receptor that scientists and doctors have yet to discover. No one knows exactly how the body’s ECS processes foreign elements such as CBD, but researchers think the effects may be beneficial.

Final Thoughts on the ECS

According to the National Library of Medicine, the ECS impacts your body’s motor control, emotional responses, reproductive system, immune system, and more. But there may be evidence that its purpose is far more widespread. New studies are being published daily that link the functions of the ECS to everything from weight control to the regulation of substance use and abuse.

Your ECS may contribute to the control of your liver and kidney functions as well as your body’s response to chronic pain. Even still, what the ECS is and how it operates are topics that are open for debate. More research into the endocannabinoid system in humans is definitely necessary, but from what we know so far, cannabinoids such as CBD may play a big role in the function and regulation of this internal system.