Endocannabinoid System, What is it?

CBD and nerve function

Endocannabinoid System, What is it?

Fact: The name suggests that the system relies on cannabis, it doesn’t!

The reason why it was named this way is that in 1988, a government-funded study at the St. Louis University School of Medicine that Allyn Howlett and William Devane determined that the mammalian brain has receptor sites that respond to compounds found in cannabis.  These receptors, named cannabinoid receptors turned out to be the most abundant type of neurotransmitter receptor in the brain.

The endocannabinoid system is present without you ever being exposed to cannabis, or any cannabis-related compounds. Your body, on its own, will produce substances which act on and change these systems in some way, whether short-term or long-lasting.

Found throughout the brain, central nervous system, immune system, and organs, the ECS is essentially just a series of receptors. These receptors interact with compounds produced by our bodies, known as endogenous cannabinoids (or endocannabinoids for short), which are thought to govern a vast array of bodily functions and processes.

Endocannabinoid terminology:

Cannabinoid: Either cannabis-derived compounds or things that act like them

Cannabinoid receptors: These receptors mediate the effects of cannabinoids, reacting to different cannabinoids in different ways.

  • Endocannabinoid: The cannabinoids that your body makes naturally and activate cannabinoid receptors. Different compounds have different influences on each receptor and larger bodily functions.
  • The endocannabinoid system: includes endocannabinoids, the enzymes that help make them and break them down, and the receptors that (endo) cannabinoids bind to.
  • Enzymes: Enzymes specific to the ECS help the body break down and recycle the endocannabinoids

Do all animals have an Endocannabinoid System?

Humans and all mammals — birds, fish and reptiles, too — have an endocannabinoid system (ECS) as part of the central and peripheral nervous system. This is involved in almost every process of the body and functions with the body’s own endogenous cannabinoids. The cardiovascular system, digestion, relaxation and even the cognitive abilities and memory functions are linked to this. It is also important to note that ECS has a key function in inhibiting inflammation in any mammal.

The most well known cannabinoid receptors, CB1 and CB2, are proteins that are embedded in the membrane of cells.

Where are Endocannabinoid Receptors Located in the Body?

CB1 Receptors (CBR1) are primarily located in the Brain and Spinal cord but are also found in Nerves, Organs, and Tissues.

CB2 Receptors (CBR2) are primarily located in Organs and Peripheral Tissues, including our Skin and cells related to the Immune System.

Can we be deficient in Endocannabinoids?

Growing research suggests that a deficiency of endocannabinoids in the body may be linked to many and varied health issues. ECS Deficiency is a theory for the symptoms and conditions that develop when the Endocannabinoid System isn’t functioning properly, or when there aren’t enough endocannabinoids present in the body.

The field still remains relatively understudied, but several studies point to PTSD, glaucoma, cystic fibrosis, types of neuropathy, phantom limb pain, neonatal failure to thrive, infantile colic, menstrual pain, repetitive miscarriages, hyperemesis gravid arum, bipolar disease, and many others being associated with EDS deficiency. Many of these diseases are little understood and remain treatment resistant.