The Endocannabinoid System

The endocannabinoid system (ECS) is an important molecular system that the body uses to help maintain homeostasis (balance and stability in the body). It is comprised of 3 key components:

Cannabinoid Receptors

Endocannabinoid Molecules

Metabolic Enzymes


Cannabinoid Receptors

These are embedded in cell membranes (CB1, CB2, etc). Different types of endocannabinoid system receptors are located in different areas of the body. The first two types of receptors in this system that have been indisputably identified and proven for sure to be receptors in this system are referred to as the CB1 receptor and the CB2 receptor. However, there are several other types of cell membrane receptors that are also likely to be part of the endocannabinoid system.

Endocannabinoid Molecules

These interact with the receptor sites (endocannabinoids). There are many types of signalling molecules in the endocannabinoid system and more are being discovered all the time. Collectively, they are called endocannabinoids. All endocannabinoids are lipids and are made from polyunsaturated fatty acids (PUFAs) like omega-3, omega-6, omega-9, and conjugated fatty acids. Two of the most most studied signalling molecules include AEA (also known as anandamide or N-arachidonoylethanolamide) and 2-AG (also known as 2-arachidonoylglycerol) but there are many others.

Metabolic Enzymes

These enzymes (a type of protein) serve as a chemical catalyst to start the biochemical processes required to make the signalling molecules when they are needed. They also serve to break down the signalling molecules when they are no longer needed. Two of these enzymes include monoacylglycerol lipase (MAGL) and fatty acid amide hydrolase (FAAH) but there are also others.

How Does the Endocannabinoid System Work?

The endocannabinoid system is designed to keep your body in balance, i.e. maintain the homeostasis of all other systems. It does this through the action of its endocannabinoids which go directly to the receptors on the cells at the target and signal to those genes, cells, tissues, organs, and systems what to do!

CB1 receptors are found mostly in the brain and nervous system (and sexual organs) and that CB2 receptors are found mostly in the immune system, especially the spleen. However, this is a very simple notion and assumes the endocannabinoid system modulates only those two systems. This is not at all true as receptors for this system are found all throughout the body. For example, there is a high concentration of them on undeveloped bone cells (osteoblasts). If these endocannabinoid system receptors are stimulated, they will develop into mature bone cells. Since most of these receptors are CB2 receptors, taking CBD oil can help build bone density.

What Is the Relationship Between Cannabinoids like CBD and the Endocannabinoid System?

Endocannabinoids are signalling molecules that are produced INSIDE the body. “Endo” means inside.
Cannabinoids are molecules produced in cannabis plantsthat are very similar in structure to endocannabinoids. Plant cannabinoids are referred to as phytocannabinoids “Phyto” means plant.

The most common endocannabinoids that have been studied have phytocannabinoid counterparts that interact with the cell membrane receptors in an almost identical way. They basically function the same they although differ in structure. These counterparts are called “mimetics” because they “mimic” certain endocannabinoids.

These cannabinoid counterparts (mimetics), including CBD, are highly concentrated in the essential oil of the cannabis plant. So, when you take full spectrum CBD oil, you are essentially feeding your body powerful signaling molecules (cannabinoids) that can interact directly with your endocannabinoid system!

Full spectrum CBD oil contains several cannabinoids, similar to those the human body produces naturally. These cannabinoids can interact with the receptors in your endocannabinoid system just as easily as endocannabinoids.

Scientists are still trying to figure out the finer details of how the endocannabinoid system works. They haven’t even mapped out all the receptor types yet! However, what is emerging is that the endocannabinoid system is the most powerful system in the body, capable of modulating the immune system, the nervous system, the digestive system, the endocrine system, and more.

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