Cannabis and Your Endocannabinoid System Explained

What you need to know about your body’s natural endocannabinoid system and the role that cannabis plays in supporting that system. 


Have you ever wondered how cannabis is able to help relieve so many diverse medical conditions? 

In the search to answer this question, researchers discovered the endocannabinoid system. 

Though recently discovered in the early 1990s, the endocannabinoid system has always been a vital part of the healthy function of the human body and other mammalian species as well.

This article will explain to you how this system works and why cannabis is able to interact with this system to support our bodies in maintaining overall health and wellness. 

Your Natural Endocannabinoid System

Just as essential as your nervous system, digestive system, endocrine system, and immune system, the purpose of the endocannabinoid system is to maintain homeostatic balance throughout the body.

This system could be one of the most important components of the physiological body, as it is responsible for establishing and maintaining healthy functions such as:

  • Mood

  • Sleep

  • Pain

  • Memory

  • Appetite

  • Digestion

  • Motor control

  • Immune function

  • Inflammation response

  • Temperature regulation

  • Hormones/reproduction and fertility

The purpose of the endocannabinoid system is to maintain a stable internal environment at all times and it will perform various functions in order to maintain this balance. 

Cannabinoid receptor sites are often found at the intersections of the body’s various systems, such as the immune system and nervous system. 

This allows for communication and coordination between different cell types, as cannabinoids act as a bridge between the various parts of the body. 

There are three main components of this internal system to be aware of. 

First, the receptor sites found on the surface of cells throughout the body, these sites listen to needs and send communication between cells. These sites are where cannabinoids are received. The two primary receptor sites are called CB1 and CB2.  

Second are the endocannabinoid molecules made within the body that activates receptor sites. The two major molecules made internally are called anandamide and 2-AG. 

Third, metabolic enzymes that break down endocannabinoids after they are used. The primary enzymes are FAAH, which breaks down the anandamide molecules, and MAGL, which breaks down 2-AG.

These three processes work together to create the endocannabinoid system, which regulates almost every major system of your body by listening to the needs of the body and responding with appropriate action to maintain balance. 

How THC Interacts with Cannabinoid Receptors

When you use medical marijuana products the cannabinoids found in those products can interact directly with the receptor sites throughout your endocannabinoid system. 

One of those cannabinoids, THC, has a strong affinity for bonding with the CB1 receptor sites found primarily in the brain, central nervous system, and connective tissues. 

It is this bonding of THC with the CB1 receptor sites that create the psychoactive effects of feeling “high”, according to researchers.

CB1 receptors are involved in the brain’s limbic and pleasure-reward system and are responsible for regulating the release of neurotransmitters such as dopamine, serotonin, and glutamate. 

When activated, CB1 receptors can influence the brain and the body’s biochemistry using the various biological mechanisms described. Anandamide functions similarly to THC by bonding to CB1 receptors and activating various body functions and sensations. 

However, the enzyme FAAH that breaks down anandamide does not break down THC as quickly. This is why THC use causes prolonged psychoactive and therapeutic effects compared to the analogous endocannabinoid anandamide, also known as the bliss molecule.  

How CBD Interacts with Cannabinoid Receptors

The cannabinoid CBD bonds with the receptors in a completely different way than THC. 

CBD has the tendency to interact with both CB1 and CB2 receptor sites indirectly, while THC tends to bond directly to receptors. This partially explains why CBD is non-intoxicating while THC is extremely psychoactive. 

Also, CBD is able to interact with many other non-cannabinoid receptors systems in the brain, such as opioid and dopamine receptors. 

When CBD bonds with CB1 receptors the effect is that THC and other cannabinoids are blocked from those receptors. This may be why CBD is able to minimize the psychoactive effects of THC.

CBD can also inhibit the production of the enzymes that naturally break down endocannabinoids, increasing the levels of naturally produced endocannabinoids. 

When CBD bonds with CB2 receptors there is an anti-inflammatory response that is activated. 

CB2 receptors are primarily responsible for regulating inflammation and supporting cell survival and reproduction. These receptors are able to alter the pathways that signal inflammation. 

As demonstrated by this study, depending on which signaling pathway that the CB2 receptor engages it is able to either inhibit or promote immune cell functions.  

The effects of using external cannabinoids and how exactly they will interact with each individuals endocannabinoid system are still under extensive research. 

So far there is a lot of evidence to suggest that both CBD and THC can play a powerful role in maintaining balance and bringing therapeutic relief to the whole body system. 

Role of Cannabis in Maintaining Health Balance

Ideally, the human endocannabinoid system will function seamlessly on its own, producing enough internal cannabinoids to continue to moderate the receptors, and enough enzymes to break down the cannabinoids when they are no longer needed. 

In reality, many conditions and diseases of the body have been linked to a deficiency in endocannabinoid production or enzyme production. 

Conditions such as fibromyalgia, irritable bowel syndrome, and migraines have been identified as Clinical Endocannabinoid Deficiency Conditions, or CECD, meaning that the cause of these conditions is directly related to deficiencies in the endocannabinoid system. 

For these conditions, medical marijuana products are possibly the best options available to help support the endocannabinoid system in regulating and balancing the body. 

The phytocannabinoids found in cannabis products can help to supplement these deficiencies and show promise in providing relief and treatment for many other disorders as well. 

Learn More about Medical Marijuana

Thanks for reading this blog about your endocannabinoid system. 

Be sure to check out Maine Cannabis Exchange, an excellent source for high-quality medical marijuana products. 

Stay tuned for more great articles and resources as together we learn more about the uses and benefits of medical marijuana. 

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