What is the Endocannabinoid System?
The endocannabinoid system (SEC) is a complex cellular signalling system identified in the early 1990s by researchers studying the THCa known cannabinoid. Cannabinoids are compounds found in the body, such as cannabinoids. cannabis.
What does the SEC relate to?
Experts are still trying to fully understand the ECS. But so far, we know that it plays a role in the regulation of a number of functions and processes, including
- the dream
- the state of mind
- the memory
- reproduction and fertility
- SEC exists and is active in your body even if you do not use cannabis.
Read on to learn more about the SEC, including how it works and interacts with cannabis.
How does the Endocannabinoid System achieve this?
Endocannabinoidscannabinoids, also called endogenous cannabinoids, are molecules produced by the body. They are similar to cannabinoids, but are produced by your body.
Experts have so far identified two key endocannabinoids
- anandamide (AEA)
- 2-arachidonylglycerol (2-AG)
They help internal functions run smoothly. They are produced by the body as needed, so it is difficult to know what the typical levels of each are.
These receptors are found throughout the body. Endocannabinoids bind to them to signal the SEC to act.
There are two main endocannabinoid receptors:
- The CB1 receptorswhich are mainly found in the central nervous system
- The CB2 receptorswhich are mainly found in the peripheral nervous system, especially in immune cells.
The endocannabinoids can bind to either receptor. The resulting effects depend on the location of the receiver and which endocannabinoid it binds to.
For example, endocannabinoids may target the CB1 receptors of a spinal nerve to alleviate the pain. Others can bind to a receptor CB2 in the immune cells to indicate that the body is experiencing a inflammationa common sign of autoimmune disorders.
Enzymes (proteins). Enzymes are responsible for breaking down endocannabinoids once they have fulfilled their function.
There are two enzymes The main reasons for this:
- the amide fatty acid hydrolase, which breaks down fatty acid AEA
- the lipase monoacylglycerol acid, which usually decomposes the 2-AG
What are the main functions of the Endocannabinoid System?
The ESA is complicated, and experts have not yet determined exactly how it works and all its possible functions.
Scientists have linked SEC to the following processes:
- appetite and digestion
- chronic pain
- inflammation and other immune system responses
- state of mind
- learning and memory
- motor control
- the dream
- function of the cardiovascular system
- muscle formation
- bone remodelling and growth
- liver function
- function of the reproductive system
- function of the skin and nerves
- All of these functions contribute to homeostasis, which refers to the stability of the internal environment. For example, if an external force, such as pain from an injury or fever, disrupts the body's homeostasis, the ECS goes into action to help the body return to its ideal functioning.
Today, experts believe that the maintenance of homeostasis is the main function of the ESA.
The role of the SEC in learning and memory
We know that the SEC plays a key role in learning and memory through several lines of research. The most obvious observation is that one of the main side effects of high doses of recreational cannabis use is the temporary impairment of short-term memory. Memory returns to normal with abstinence.
According to the popular writer Michael Pollan, in his best-selling book The botany of desirecannabis is one of the plants that humans have cultivated, or co-evolved with, for thousands of years. This is partly because, Pollan writes, the act of forgetting plays a valuable role in our brains' ability to function without being overloaded with the data from our senses that we are continually bombarded with. Pollan hypothesises that if we did not forget, we would not function, and cannabis helps us to do so. The role of SEC in anxiety and stress also opens up opportunities for the treatment of PTSD, a condition in which there are unpleasant and intrusive memories that people cannot avoid recalling, causing a whole syndrome of disturbing and dangerous symptoms related to pathological recall.
The exploration of the SEC can lead to the discovery of new drugs
The SEC study initially focused on attempts to understand (and demonise) an illegal drug, but new research has since blossomed into a much broader exploration of what is an astonishingly intricate and far-reaching system by which our bodies learn, feel, motivate and keep themselves in balance.
- Ihn K, et al. (2008). Enzymatic pathways that regulate endocannabinoid signaling in the nervous system. DOI:
- Alger BE (2013). Getting high on the endocannabinoid system.
- Background: Marijuana. (2007).
- Cannabidiol (CBD) Pre-review report (2017).
- Cannabis and cannabinoids (2019).
- Clinical endocannabinoid deficiency: Issue brief on clinical endocannabinoid deficiency (2017).
- De Laurentiis A, et al. (2014). Role of the endocannabinoid system in the neuroendocrine responses to inflammation. DOI:
- de Morais H, et al. (2016). Anandamide reverses depressive-like behavior, neurochemical abnormalities and oxidative-stress parameters in streptozotocin-diabetic rats: Role of CB1 receptors. DOI:
- Gomez M, et al. (2008). Cannabinoid signaling system.
- Gorzkiewicz A, et al. (2018). Brain endocannabinoid signaling exhibits remarkable complexity. DOI:
- Human endocannabinoid system (n.d.).
- Lu H-C. (2015). An introduction to the endogenous cannabinoid system. DOI:
- Maccarrone M, et al. (2015). Endocannabinoid signaling at the periphery: 50 years after THC. DOI:
- Pacher P, et al. (2008). The endocannabinoid system as an emerging target of pharmacotherapy. DOI:
- Russo EB (2016). Clinical endocannabinoid deficiency reconsidered: Current research supports the theory in migraine, fibromyalgia, irritable bowel, and other treatment-resistant syndromes. DOI:
- Sharma P, et al. (2012). Chemistry, metabolism, and toxicology of cannabis: Clinical implications.
- Smith SC, et al. (2014). Clinical endocannabinoid deficiency (CECD) revisited: Can this concept explain the therapeutic benefits of cannabis in migraine, fibromyalgia, irritable bowel syndrome and other treatment-resistant conditions?
- Zou S, et al. (2018). Cannabinoid receptors and the endocannabinoid system: Signaling and function in the central nervous system. DOI:
Comments are closed.