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What is the Endocannabinoid System?

by | Sep 25, 2020 | Blog Posts | 0 comments

Since the discovery of phytocannabinoids (plant cannabinoids) such as THC and CBD in the Cannabis sativa L. plants, researchers have been hard at work uncovering the mysteries of these intriguing plant compounds.

As it turns out, there are similar natural elements within our body too! We even have our own endocannabinoids within a network of cell receptors that regulate these natural cannabinoids in our bodies known as the endocannabinoid system (ECS).

In basic terms, the ECS is a cell-signaling system that regulates a host of different functions and processes within all mammal bodies. It influences varying biological functionality through receptors and neurotransmitters throughout the body. When we talk about the entourage effect, this is the system CBD products aim to stimulate. Here are only a few areas the ECS effects (a full breakdown of what we know is listed later): 

  • Mood 
  • Appetite 
  • Stress
  • Metabolism 
  • Fertility 
  • Pain 
  • Immune System Response

Discovery of the Endocannabinoid System 

Since the Marijuana Tax Act of 1937 and the subsequent 1970 Controlled Substances Act, researchers struggled to access permission to study cannabis and its full effects on the body. But a 1988 government-funded study at St. Louis University School of Medicine made a groundbreaking discovery. Researchers Allyn Howlett and William Devane discovered the mammalian brain has receptor sites that react to cannabis compounds. 

This opened a fascinating line of research in the following years. At the National Institute of Mental Health, researcher Lisa Matsuda was the first to map the DNA sequence that encodes a cannabinoid receptor in the brain in 1990. This led to Dr. Lumir Hanus and Dr. William Devane discovering what we now know as the ECS in 1992 at the Hebrew University in Jerusalem.  

How Does The Endocannabinoid System Work 

The ECS is tasked with maintaining homeostasis in the body. Homeostasis is the delicate equilibrium of internal, physical, and chemical conditions in the human body. When an aggravating force such as pain, stress, or a fever overtakes your body, homeostasis can be thrown off. That’s when the naturally occurring cannabinoids in your body get to work.

Endocannabinoids -the variety of cannabinoids produced by our ECS- are tasked with alleviating pain and stress in the body. Depending on the ailment and where it’s present in the body, those endocannabinoids will be delivered by slightly different receptors.

The two types of receptors associated with the ECS are CB1 and CB2. 

CB1 Receptors 

These receptors are concentrated in the brain and central nervous system but they can also be found throughout the entire body. CB1 receptors mainly affect the body on a cerebral and behavioral level. They influence short-term memory, appetite, pain perception, and more.

We’re still learning the implications cannabinoids have on our “reward system.” Researchers hope to find a connection to CB1 receptors and treatment for issues such as anxiety disorders, PTSD, and dependency-related issues. Here are some areas CB1 receptors regulate:

  • Appetite
  • Short-Term Memory 
  • Immune Cells 
  • Pain Response 
  • Cognitive Functions  
  • Motor Activity 

CB2 Receptors 

For the most part, these receptors can be found on the surface of white blood cells. That means they play a big role in our immune systems. CB2 receptors are also found throughout the gastrointestinal system.

CB2 receptors have far-reaching effects on a range of areas in the body. They play a role in regulating inflammation, pain relief, and, overall, general relaxation in the body. Tapping into the potential of CB2 receptors can be of particular importance to those with chronic pain and inflammation. Here are some areas CB2 receptors affect:

  • Immune System 
  • Colon 
  • Liver
  • Cardiovascular System 
  • Respiratory Tract 
  • Skin 

Receptors Working Together

Both CB1 and CB2 receptors play an important role in achieving homeostasis in the body. Though there is still much to learn about how this system functions, there’s promising research being done on how to hone in on the benefits of the ECS. 

Much like a fingerprint, each individual’s ECS is unique. The balance between CB1 and CB2 receptors express themselves differently from person to person. This is why cannabis products can affect one person more than another. Researchers hope to one day unlock these varying expressions to more accurately pinpoint which phytocannabinoids can potentially help with which conditions. 


Derived from the Sanskrit word ananda, or “internal bliss”, the anandamide molecule is important to the functions of our reward system. It works with the CB1 and CB2 receptors. This fatty acid neurotransmitter plays a role in memory, early pregnancy, and more. It’s also considered the endogenous counterpart to tetrahydrocannabinol (THC).


Working mainly with the CB2 receptors, 2-ArachidonoylGlycerol or 2-AG can be found in the central and peripheral nervous systems. They play a hand in regulating emotions, preventing seizures, and maintaining cardiovascular health. 2-AG is the most abundant endocannabinoid found in the body. 

Enzyme Breakdown 

Endocannabinoids are synthesized on-demand meaning they aren’t present in the body until the ECS produces them. After a certain amount of time, they must be broken down. Enzymes FAAH (fatty acid amide hydrolase) and MAGL (monoacylglycerol lipase) are tasked with dismantling the endocannabinoids when the time comes. This process is meant to ensure that the compounds are only activated when the body falls out of homeostasis and balance is met once more. 

Try CBD to Find Your Body’s Equilibrium

The existence of the ECS is evidence that cannabinoids do indeed play a role in keeping our bodies in harmony. Many CBD users report that taking in additional phytocannabinoids may assist in even greater, longer homeostasis.

At Peace River CBD, we strive to provide a high-quality, affordable product for our customers to enjoy. If you’re ready to see what CBD can do for you, browse our products. Our broad-spectrum tinctures and capsules contain 0.0% THC and come with a certificate of analysis so you can buy with confidence.