What Is The Endocannabinoid System?


What Makes CBD So Effective In Helping So Many Things?

The question of how the cannibals plant works to affect the body started coming clear back in the early 90’s as scientists began to isolate and test each of the 80+ compounds that are found in the plant. Eventually it was discovered that THC and CBD would bind to particular receptors in the brain, leading to their various effects.

The chemical structure of CBD.

The question to answer next was – why did our cells have receptors that could bind to cannabinoids? In 1992, a doctor from NIMH (National Institute for Mental Health) discovered that humans (and nearly every other animal on the plant) make our own cannabinoid compounds that are designed to bind to these receptors.

This newly discovered system of cellular communication was named the Endocannabinoid System. Further research revealed that this system works all over the human body.

It is much like the chemicals serotonin and dopamine, which send signals and bind to receptors in the brain. Your whole body is wired to communicate through the sending and receiving of signals shaped just like the CBD and THC compounds found in the cannabis plant.

This helps explain why CBD can help with so many diverse problems.

When there is a deficiency in the Endocannabinoid System, so many things can go wrong, both physically and psychologically. Here is what Project CBD says about the Endocannabinoid System,

“Extensive preclinical research—much of it sponsored by the U.S. government—indicates that CBD has potent anti-tumoral, antioxidant, anti-spasmodic, anti-psychotic, anti-convulsive, and neuroprotective properties. CBD directly activates serotonin receptors, causing an anti-anxiety effect, as well.”

How Does It Work?

The ECS involves three core components: endocannabinoids, receptors, and enzymes.


Endocannabinoids, also called endogenous cannabinoids, are molecules made by your body. They’re similar to cannabinoids, but they’re produced by your body.

Experts have identified two key endocannabinoids so far:

  • anandamide (AEA)

  • 2-arachidonoylglyerol (2-AG)

These help keep internal functions running smoothly. Your body produces them as needed, making it difficult to know what typical levels are for each.

Endocannabinoid Receptors

These receptors are found throughout your body. Endocannabinoids bind to them in order to signal that the ECS needs to take action.

There are two main endocannabinoid receptors:

  • CB1 receptors, which are mostly found in the central nervous system

  • CB2 receptors, which are mostly found in your peripheral nervous system, especially immune cells

Endocannabinoids can bind to either receptor. The effects that result depend on where the receptor is located and which endocannabinoid it binds to.

For example, endocannabinoids might target CB1 receptors in a spinal nerve to relieve pain. Others might bind to a CB2 receptor in your immune cells to signal that your body’s experiencing inflammation, a common sign of autoimmune disorders.


Enzymes are responsible for breaking down endocannabinoids once they’ve carried out their function.

There are two main enzymes responsible for this:

  • fatty acid amide hydrolase, which breaks down AEA

  • monoacylglycerol acid lipase, which typically breaks down 2-AG


What Are Its Functions?

The ECS is complicated, and experts haven’t yet determined exactly how it works or all of its potential functions.

ResearchTrusted Source has linked the ECS to the following processes:

  • appetite and digestion

  • metabolism

  • chronic pain

  • inflammation and other immune system responses

  • mood

  • learning and memory

  • motor control

  • sleep

  • cardiovascular system function

  • muscle formation

  • bone remodeling and growth

  • liver function

  • reproductive system function

  • stress

  • skin and nerve function

These functions all contribute to homeostasis, which refers to stability of your internal environment. For example, if an outside force, such as pain from an injury or a fever, throws off your body’s homeostasis, your ECS kicks in to help your body return to its ideal operation.

Today, experts believe that maintaining homeostasis if the primary role of the ECS.