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What is the Endocannabinoid System?

For over five thousand years, cannabis has been used in medicine. However, it’s only over the past 100 years that advances in science, testing, and extraction have led to humans being able to locate, isolate, and observe how certain plant-based compounds interact with the human biological system. 

Why is it called the endocannabinoid system? 

The endocannibinoid system was first identified in the early 1990s, and named after the cannabis plant which helped its discovery. 

In simple English, endo means inside or within, and cannabinoid is in reference to the cannabis plant. 

Researchers in the 90s wanted to identify how and why it is that THC could cause people to get high. In doing so, they discovered a system of receptors in the human system which responded to the compound. 

Later study has shown that these receptors are located in various parts of the body - from major organs to the immune system and GI tract. 

It acts as a regulator within the body, to oversee the functions of the nervous system. This includes sleep patterns, mood regulation, and how we process emotions. A healthy endocannabinoid system helps promote balance and homeostasis. 

How does the endocannabinoid system work? 

There are two networks of receptors which exist in delicate spiderwebs across the body. Cannabinoid Receptor Form 1, abbreviated to CB1, can be found in the central nervous system. Cannabinoid Receptors Form 2, or CB2, are found in clusters in the GI tract and nervous system. 

When these receptors are triggered by a compound such as CBD, the endocannabinoid system works to produce balance, sleep, or calm. The terpenes found in plants - compounds which help produce smell and taste - can also interact with the endocannabinoid system, and are believed to induce therapeutic interactions. 

Why does the ECS matter? 

Though there's much to study and understand about the interactions between our and animal bodies and the plant kingdoms, the presence of the endocannabinoid system and its receptors, as well as naturally occurring cannabinoid-like chemicals in the brain, illustrates the direct biological correlation. 

In many ways, this is providing a scientific backing to many of the systems which our ancestors believed would keep us healthy. As modern diets evolve, and we change our fundamental ways of living, it can throw out the balance that our bodies are used to. 

For example, it’s believed that essential fatty acids such as Linoleic Acid and Alpha Linoleic Acid both bind to endocannabinoid receptors to keep systems healthy. As these acids are underrepresented in Western diets, scientists are investigating the links between these and neurological disorders.

The endocannabinoid system is being studied for its role in neurodegenerative disorders such as Alzheimer's and Parkinson's, both linked to inflammation, as well as bowel diseases like Crohn's, and stress-related conditions like depression, as well as a variety of skin concerns from aging to wound healing. 

While a lot more scientific research is needed to prove the hows and whys of the endocannabinoid system, it is currently believed that CBD works with the endocannabinoid system in order to promote health and balance.

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