The Endocannabinoid System Explained

We know that cannabinoids, the compounds found in cannabis that allow for the plant’s many health benefits, can help to improve a number of serious diseases, from cardiovascular disease to schizophrenia.  Researchers are finding that cannabinoids act as ligands that bind to proteins and modulate receptors in the brain and throughout the body.

The endocannabinoid system plays a role in many cognitive and physiological processes, and is responsible for maintaining homeostasis, or a stable, well-functioning internal environment.

It wasn’t until scientists started studying the beneficial effects of cannabis that they discovered this biochemical communication system in the human body. And now it’s thought to be one of the most important physiological systems involved in maintaining our health. This incredible system is made up endocannabinoid receptors that respond to cannabinoid compounds, which can be found in cannabis and a number of other plants.

Endocannabinoid receptors are found throughout our bodies — in our brains, immune cells, connective tissues, glands and organs. Research published in Pharmacological Reviews points out that modulating the activity of the endocannabinoid system holds therapeutic promise in a wide range of diseases and pathological conditions, including mood and anxiety disorders, cardiovascular disease, obesity, metabolic syndrome, osteoporosis, Parkinson’s and Huntington's disease, multiple sclerosis and cancer. 

It’s these cannabinoid receptors, which are found in all vertebrate species, that allow for a variety physiological processes to take place within the body. So far, researchers have identified two types of cannabinoid receptors — CB1 receptors, which are present in our connective tissues, glands, organs, gonads and nervous system, and CB2 receptors, which are found in the immune system. And although thousands of studies have been conducted on the role of cannabinoids in the body, scientists believe that we are just beginning to scratch the surface.