What Is the Endocannabinoid System?

The Endocannabinoid System (ECS) is a network of endocannabinoids and receptors within our bodies that help us maintain Homeostasis by monitoring what is going on in our bodies, which makes it absolutely crucial to our survival. Research and studies have revealed that the ECS is involved with a number of physiological processes including the regulation of neurotransmitter release, pain and analgesia, energy balance, and control of immune cell function. The ECS involves three core components: endocannabinoids, receptors, and enzymes.

Endocannabinoids

Endocannabinoids are cannabinoids that are naturally produced by are bodies as needed. These cannabinoids react and bind to the receptors as a response to an imbalance in the body to help keep internal functions running smoothly. So far experts have identified two main endocannabinoids:

  • Anandamide (AEA)
  • 2-arachidonoylglycerol (2-AG)

Endocannabinoids and cannabinoids work as neurotransmitters, all interacting with different receptors which means the all have a range of different effects on the body.

Endocannabinoid Receptors

The endocannabinoid receptors are found throughout the body. As stated earlier the body naturally produces endocannabinoids when an imbalance is detected and bind with these receptors to signal the ECS to take action. Two primary receptors identified by experts are known as:

  • CB1 – These receptors are predominantly found in the central nervous system
  • CB2 – These receptors are predominantly found in the peripheral nervous system and immune cells

The ECS is responsible for regulating the biochemistry related to an array of processes such as: 

  • Inflammation 
  • Pain Management
  • Immune Response
  • Energy Regulation
  • Appetite
  • Digestion
  • Mood
  • Sleep
  • Memory
  • Reproduction & Fertility

When an unbalance with any one of these functions is detected the ECS responds by synthesizing endocannabinoids to interact with the receptors. For example, endocannabinoids will bind with CB1 receptors in the brain to relieve pain and others will bind to CB2 receptors to decrease systemic inflammation.

Enzymes

Enzymes are responsible for breaking down the endocannabinoids once they’ve carried out their functions. The two main enzymes have been identified as:

  • Fatty Acid Amide Hydrolase (FAAH)
  • Monoacylglycerol Acid Lipase (MAGL)

FAAH is the enzyme that breaks down Anandamide (AEA) and MAGL breaks down 2-arachidonoylglycerol (2-AG). Modulation of these enzymes can up-regulate or down-regulate the ECS.

Clinical Endocannabinoid Deficiency

Because the ECS is the primary homeostatic regulatory system of the body it is crucial to our survival. When the body is unable to naturally produce the cannabinoids needed to maintain homeostasis this is known as Clinical Endocannabinoid Deficiency (CECD). CECD is a condition where an individual produces a lower amount of cannabinoids than experts consider to be essential in the promotion of health, vitality, and well-being. Scientist believe CECD may be related to:

  • Depression
  • Migraines
  • Parkinson’s
  • Autism
  • Neuropathy
  • Fibromyalgia
  • Anorexia
  • Motion Sickness
  • Irritable Bowel Syndrome (IBS)
  • Multiple Sclerosis (MS)
  • Post Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD)

In these cases, researchers have found evidence that supplementing with phytocannabinoids, such as CBD, may help the ECS to function properly and maintain homeostasis to keep the body running optimally leading to improved health.