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What Is The Endocannabinoid System (ECS)?

Are you looking for a deeper understanding of your body? How about a 'secret' system that the majority of primary care physicians were never taught in medical school? If so, then it's time to introduce you to your complex and amazing Endocannabinoid System (ECS)!

Table of Contents



The Endocannabinoid System is an intricate regulatory and signal management system within the human body. Not just humans, but also along with every other living organism that has a spine or that have cells with a nuclei.

As an FYI, the ‘ECS’ is the abbreviation for ‘Endocannabinoid System’, and is also called the Endogenous Cannabinoid System

HOMEOSTASIS (total balance) is the primary role of the ECS and is critical in balancing neural, physical, and metabolic functions between the most notable body systems. The ECS adjusts the internal environment of the body to keep it running smoothly by fine-tuning the body’s functions, ensuring that various processes like pain sensation, inflammation, mood regulation, appetite, and memory are in balance.


How the ECS fine-tunes these functions is by modulating the internal communications between crucial biological systems and your brain to ensure that all of the mandatory everyday processes get taken care of without you having to lift a finger!

The ECS involves three main components:

  1. Endocannabinoids
  2. Cannabinoid Receptors
  3. Metabolic Enzymes

The ECS uses Endocannabinoids (“the keys”), which are chemical messengers, to interact with very specific site locations that are found on the cell walls in various tissues of our body, including your:

  • brain
  • organs
  • connective tissues
  • glands
  • immune cells

These specific site locations are known as Cannabinoid Receptor Sites, which can be composed of 1 of 2 unique Cannabinoid Receptors; CB1 and CB2 Receptors (“the locks”).

Now, the ECS doesn’t directly send messages, nor does it communicate using electrical signals or ion channels like nerve cells do. Instead, its signaling process is purely chemical; using its endocannabinoids (chemical messengers) to bind to their respective cannabinoid receptors to relay messages.


Now, the ECS doesn’t directly send messages, nor does it communicate using electrical signals or ion channels like nerve cells do. Instead, its signaling process is purely chemical; using its endocannabinoids (chemical messengers) to bind to their respective cannabinoid receptors to relay messages.

The details of these messages involve instructions to restore balance regarding the number of signals (messages) being sent and received between systems of the body and the brain. Upregulating (increasing) or down regulating (decreasing) the number of signals is completely dependant on what the body needs at that particular moment.

The impacts of dysregulation of this system are NOTICEABLY experienced when you’re nervous system is overstimulated (anxious) and when your immune system response is faulty (pain caused by increased/prolonged inflammation).


The main role of ECS in our body is to achieve homeostasis, which is the body’s way of keeping its internal environment stable and functioning optimally. This involves a wide range of processes, from pain response and inflammation to sleep and immune function.

3 Minutes Complete!
You should now have a vivid understanding of the endocannabinoid system.

Now, we will continue with a much more in-depth article full of great research and information.

The 3 Key Components of the ecs

This scientific illustration visually highlights the essential parts of the ecs, with the title 'three key components of the endocannabinoid system. ' set against a microscopic cellular backdrop, it identifies an 'endocannabinoid,' illustrated as a purple sphere; a 'cannabinoid receptor,' shown as a socket on the blue cell wall; and 'metabolic enzymes,' depicted as orange and yellow clusters engaging with the endocannabinoid. All key parts are prominently displayed, indicating the importance of these three components in the functioning of the ecs. This vivid visualization removes any confusion and is great for educational purposes.

The three key parts within the ECS are the following:

  1. Endocannabinoids
  2. Cannabinoid receptors
  3. Metabolic enzymes

These three main components work together to ensure that the vital systems of the body work in a balanced and efficient way.

#1. Endocannabinoids: The Keys

An illustrative digital rendering portrays the interaction between an endocannabinoid and a receptor. In the foreground, a detailed cellular structure with a blue and white cell wall is depicted. A labeled arrow points to the wall indicating "cannabinoid receptor type 1, also known as cb1. " above this, a spherical entity with a lavender glow represents the endocannabinoid n-arachidonoylethanolamine, labeled "endocannabinoid, also known as anandamide (aea). " the deep space-like background with scattered light particles adds a cosmic feel to the image, emphasizing the significance of this microscopic interaction. A disclaimer at the bottom notes, "for illustration purposes not actual representations," reminding viewers of the artistic interpretation of the scientific concept. A cannabis leaf icon is subtly included, associating the image with cannabis research and science.

Endocannabinoids are cannabinoids that are  produced within the human body

FYI: Endo means “of/from within.” 

These are endogenous neurotransmitters (a fancy word for endocannabinoid) which also defines it for being a native internal signaler of information (send and receive messages) bind to cannabinoid receptors (cannabinoid receptor proteins).

Two major endocannabinoids are anandamide and 2-AG. Anandamide plays a role in mood regulation and pain, while 2-AG is involved in appetite, immune system functions, and pain management.

Currently, science has identified 23 endocannabinoids and more are being identified as research evolves. Each endocannabinoid is involved in tuning many cognitive and physiological processes. 

Endocannabinoids are the “keys” that fit into the “locks.

#2. Cannabinoid Receptors (CBRs): The Locks

This is a digital visualization depicting a segment of a neuron with a detailed focus on cannabinoid receptors. The image showcases the neuron in a vibrant blue tone with highlighted receptor sites that glow in a vivid orange, labeled as "cannabinoid receptors". The background is artistically blurred, featuring contrasting red and blue hues that create a dynamic and moody atmosphere.

Cannabinoid receptors (CBRs) are receptor sites located on the cell walls of our cells and are found all-throughout the vertebrate, central, and peripheral nervous systems; think of them as locks.

The Keys (endocannabinoids) fit into these locks to send a message.

There are two primary Cannabinoid Receptors:

  1. CB1 Receptors – Found mainly in the brain, spinal cord, and nervous system. This particular CBR impacts and affects brain functions like mood and memory.

  2. CB2 Receptors – Found mostly in the immune system, influencing how we experience pain and inflammation.

#3. Metabolic Enzymes: The Catalytic Harmonizer

A detailed infographic explaining the breakdown of endocannabinoids by metabolic enzymes. Two molecules labeled aea and 2-ag represent anandamide and 2-arachidonoylglycerol, respectively. They are connected to two other molecules labeled faah and magl, representing the enzymes fatty acid amide hydrolase and monoacylglycerol lipase. The background contains a network of little pink dots symbolizing the metabolic enzymes throughout the body, and text boxes explain that metabolic enzymes control the concentration of endocannabinoids like aea and 2-ag after their signaling job is done. The image also features a cannabis leaf icon, reinforcing the connection to the cannabis plant.

After the endocannabinoids that were produced to send a messege and the message gets sent to the brain (job completion), metabolic enzymes are produced by the body to “metabolize” them, AKA break them down.

This function restores balance and ensures that these messengers don’t continue sending messages and leaves room for new messengers to come in to send new messages to the brain if need be.

The main enzymes are FAAH, which breaks down anandamide, and MAGL, which breaks down 2-AG.

Vital BODY Systems The ECS Impacts

Infographic showcasing the interaction of the endocannabinoid system (ecs) with major human body systems, including the nervous, immune, respiratory, cardiovascular, digestive, sensory, excretory, reproductive, muscular, endocrine, integumentary, lymphatic, exocrine, and skeletal systems, illustrated by a human silhouette with cannabis leaf icon, emphasizing the comprehensive role of ecs in holistic health management - thcgummies. Com watermark included.
Infographic showcasing the interaction of the endocannabinoid system (ecs) with major human body systems, including the nervous, immune, respiratory, cardiovascular, digestive, sensory, excretory, reproductive, muscular, endocrine, integumentary, lymphatic, exocrine, and skeletal systems, illustrated by a human silhouette with cannabis leaf icon, emphasizing the comprehensive role of ecs in holistic health management – thcgummies. Com watermark included.

From the photo above, you can get a great look at all of the systems of the body that the ECS has a hand in regulating. To quickly cover how it’s involved, lets cover five of the vital body systems that the majority of readers are familiar with.

Further, by clicking on any of the dropdown boxes below, you’ll also see a list of health conditions associated with dysregulation/malfunctioning of that system.

1. Nervous System


With the nervous system, the ECS helps regulate the following:

  • Mood and Emotional Regulation: ECS helps in managing conditions like anxiety, depression, and stress by influencing neurotransmitters.
  • Pain Sensation: It modulates pain by interacting with pain signals in the brain. This is crucial for conditions like chronic pain, neuropathic pain, and post-operative pain.
  • Memory and Learning: The ECS plays a role in memory formation and learning processes, impacting conditions like Alzheimer’s and other memory-related disorders.
  • Appetite Control: It regulates hunger and satiety, affecting eating behaviors and disorders like obesity and anorexia.
  • Sleep Regulation: The ECS helps in managing sleep patterns, impacting conditions like insomnia.

Function of ECS in Brain Communication:

When the ECS receives signals (through the interaction of endocannabinoids with their receptors), it can influence the brain’s response to various stimuli.

This includes regulating the release of neurotransmitters, which are the brain’s way of communicating with the body; sending electrical signals through neurons.

Now, have you ever felt suddenly overwhelmed?
It happens all of us.

Well, did you know that the neurons in our brains can have similar experiences?
Overwhelmed neurons is a great example that showcases the importance of cannabinoids in the human body.


Endocannabinoids help alleviate the onslaught of signals, allowing the neurons to relax and recover. When a neuron gets overwhelmed, endocannabinoids communicate with it via its CB1 receptor, instructing it to dial back its signal transmission. This ensures receiving neurons aren’t overloaded with information.

It’s quite fascinating how endocannabinoids operate in a somewhat reverse fashion, sending what we call “retrograde” signals. These signals tell the body what to STOP doing instead of what to begin doing.

2. Immune System

ECS plays a role in managing the following:

  • Inflammation Control: ECS regulates the body’s inflammatory responses, which is vital in conditions like arthritis, Crohn’s disease, and multiple sclerosis.
  • Autoimmune Disorders: By modulating the immune response, the ECS is involved in the management of autoimmune diseases like lupus and rheumatoid arthritis.
  • Pain Management: It also plays a role in reducing pain linked to inflammation.

Inflammation is our body’s defense mechanism.

When we sustain an injury or an infection, our immune system responds with inflammation to purge germs and damaged cells. However, there are times when this reaction can be excessive, spreading to regions where it’s unnecessary or persisting for longer than needed.

This typically occurs due to nerve damage or underlying health conditions, such as autoimmune diseases.

Endocannabinoids have demonstrated their ability to curb our immune system’s inflammatory response; and just like other immune cells, endocannabinoids are released in response to damage.

Similarly to how they operate in the brain to calm down over-stimulated neurons, this is another example of retrograde signaling, ensure that inflammation doesn’t get out of control.

If you didn’t know, excessive inflammation is the main cause for all health conditions.

3. Digestive System

The ECS has more receptors in the brain than any other receptor in the whole body.  Do you know about your second brain? It’s your gut!  And the ECS is involved with that too; influencing hunger signals and overall gut health. 

Let’s organize this information neatly for clarity:

  • Gut Motility: ECS influences the movement of the digestive tract, affecting conditions like irritable bowel syndrome (IBS).
  • Appetite Regulation: It plays a significant role in hunger signals, impacting eating disorders and weight management.
  • Inflammation in the Gut: ECS helps in controlling inflammation in the gut, relevant in conditions like inflammatory bowel disease (IBD).

4. Cardiovascular System

ECS can impact blood pressure and other heart-related functions.  The ECS is the real deal, and anybody who tells you otherwise, is very ill-advised, ignorant, or evil.

I’ll refrain from opinions from now on. Here are the facts:

  • Blood Pressure Regulation: ECS has a role in managing blood pressure, influencing conditions like hypertension.
  • Arterial Health: It affects the health of arterial walls, relevant in atherosclerosis.
  • Heart Rate Regulation: ECS influences heart rate and might impact conditions like arrhythmias.

5. Endocrine System

The ECS affects hormone production and regulation, impacting things like stress response and energy levels. Here are the specifics:

  • Hormone Regulation: ECS modulates the secretion and action of various hormones, affecting stress response, metabolism, and sexual health.
  • Energy Balance: It influences energy storage and expenditure, impacting conditions like diabetes and obesity.
  • Stress Response: ECS plays a role in managing the body’s response to stress, affecting adrenal functions and stress-related disorders.

Each of these systems and the individual points within, highlight the intricate and extensive influence of the ECS on our health. It’s a system that:

  • When balanced, it supports our well-being, leading to optimal body performance.
  • When dysregulated, it can contribute to a variety of health issues and disorders.


Looking back at all your doctor visits, when was the last time your doctor told you to get your endocannabinoid levels checked?


I’m holding back my entire expert opinion for this section, that way there is no excuse that any offered reasoning can lead to the assumption of being biased.

The verifiable proof of the existence of the ECS are conveniently organized into the following three sections. Each section offers cited references for your verification.

Where The ECS Has Been Identified

What science has found are two very important points:

  1. All living creatures including
  2. If a cell has a nucleus, it 

FOUND IN Literature For Medical Professionals

From the Medical Cannabis Handbook For Healthcare Professionals, in Chapter 3, it states the following:

The ECS is the largest receptor system and the master regulator of homeostasis in the human body where Phytocannabinoids and Endocannabinoids interact with CB1 and CB2 receptors to treat a vast number of illnesses.

Quotes By Medical Professionals, Doctors, Scientists, and Industry Professionals.

Neglecting to educate medical professionals on the Endocannabinoid System (ECS) is inexcusable, as it lies at the core of our physiology. Omitting this crucial information from healthcare curriculums strips away critical knowledge for treating patients and leaves a significant gap in trust between science and society.

Board-certified with the American Board of Radiology (ABR), member of the Association of Cannabis Specialists (ACS) and the American College of Lifestyle Medicine (ACLM).

“It is absolutely criminal that we have physicians graduating medical schools like I did without learning a single thing about one of the largest systems in our body.”, one of the first educators in the cannabinoid and CBD space, calls the ECS the body’s master regulatory system


Click on the condition below that interests you to view at least four different studies with summaries of what researchers found regarding how the ECS impacts the health issue. 




In ORDER FOR A PERSON TO BE IN GOOD health, THE VITAL SYSTEMS OF THE BODY MUST function and communicate properly. Ensuring this is always accomplished is the main purpose of why the ECS exists within us; to manage the signals between the systems in order to  maintain homeostasis (complete balance) within the body. 

Are you thriving or surviving?

You can survive if the ECS starts malfunctioning by introducing medications. Albeit, it’ll be at the cost of disrupting other systems and causing secondary adverse effects from the additional disruption.

Further, medications are majoraly prescribed to help eliminate the symptoms without addressing the system that caused the symptom.


For your body to thrive and work optimally, the ECS must be a priority.


The discovery of the ecs with photos of the researchers scaled by thcgummies. Com.
December 1932 The structure of CBN was elucidated. Robert Sidney Cahn
January 1940 Chemical synthesis of CBN was achieved in the U.S.A. and U.K. Roger Adams (U.S.A.), Alexander Robertus Todd (U.K.)
January 1940 Cannabidiol (CBD) was first obtained from cannabis. Roger Adams, Madison Hunt, J. H. Clark
October 1942 THC was first extracted from cannabis. H. J. Wollner, J. R. Matchett, S. Loewe
April 1964 THC was isolated, synthesized, and identified as the main psychoactive compound in cannabis. Raphael Mechoulam, Yehiel Gaoni, Haviv Edery, M. Grunfeld
August 1988 The first cannabinoid receptor, CB1, was discovered in the brain of a rat. Allyn Howlett, William Devane
August 9, 1990 The DNA sequence that defines the THC-sensitive receptor in the rat brain was pinpointed. Lisa Matsuda, Allyn Howlett
December 18, 1992 The first endogenous cannabinoid, anandamide (AEA), was discovered. William Devane, Lumir Hanus, Lumír Ondřej Hanuš, Raphael Mechoulam
September 2, 1993 The second cannabinoid receptor, CB2, was cloned. Sean Munro, Kerrie L. Thomas, Muna Abu-Shaar
June 1995 2-Arachidonoylglycerol (2-AG) was identified. Raphael Mechoulam, Shimon Ben-Shabat, Lumír Ondřej Hanuš (Israel), Takayuki Sugiura, Seishi Kishimoto, Keizo Waku (Japan)
December 20, 1996 The metabolic enzyme responsible for the breakdown of anandamide, FAAH, was identified. Benjamin F. Cravatt, Dale L. Boger
November 27, 1998 The concept of the “entourage effect” was introduced. Shimon Ben-Shabat, Raphael Mechoulam
October 4, 2002 The metabolic enzyme responsible for the breakdown of 2-AG, MAGL, was identified. Tiziana Bisogno, Natalia Battista, Monica Bari, Dominique Piomelli
July 1, 2004 The idea of Clinical Endocannabinoid Deficiency (CED) was proposed. Ethan Russo
August 2, 2012 The presence of CB1 receptors on mitochondrial membranes was discovered. Giovanni Marsicano, Michaël Lafenêtre, Fabricio A. Moreira

Four Types of Cannabinoids That Interact WIth The ECS

There are four types of cannabinoids:

  1. Endocannabinoids – These are our biological endogenous cannabinoids that are naturally created by the human body.
  2. Phytocannabinoids – These cannabinoids are also 100% natural, but they are created by plants, especially cannabis plants (marijuana and hemp).
  3. Synthetic Cannabinoids –  These cannabinoids are NOT naturally derived and are created by taking compounds from non-cannabis plants and chemically altering them to have similar molecular structure like those found in endocannabinoids.
  4. Semi-Synthetic Cannabinoids –  These cannabinoids began as natural phytocannabinoids from cannabis plants, but have been chemically altered to produce another natural phytocannabinoid because the originating phytocannabinoid is not produced in substantial quantities on its own for use at a commercial scale.

Where Cannabis Comes In: Intro to Phytocannabinoids andamp; How CBD, THC, andamp; Others Offer Value

Phytocannabinoids are cannabinoids that are very similar to the endocannabinoids produced by the body, but are naturally produced within plants, cannabis flowers specifically.

Phyto means of/from a plant.” 

Currently, 151 phytocannabinoid and cannabinoid derivatives have been identified, with each seemingly to offer unique effects and specific therapeutic value.

The easiest way of conceptualizing why phytocannabinoids have therapeutic value is because their molecular structures are incredibly similar to the molecular structures of the Endocannabinoids that our bodies produce.

So, phytocannabinoids, like endocannabinoids, have an affinity for (are attracted to) the cannabinoid receptors within the ECS, mimicking the same call signal that the endocannabinoid would produce if it connected to a cannabinoid receptor.

Understanding the similarities and differences between Endocannabinoids and Phytocannabinoids is essential for understanding their medicinal effects on the endocannabinoid system.



THC attaches itself to two components in our bodies: CB1 and CB2 receptors. But it has a particular affinity for CB1, which is primarily responsible for the effects of THC.

These effects can range from dependence and pain to mood alterations and appetite changes.


Then we have CBD, another compound found in cannabis. It’s not particularly fond of the CB1 receptor, but it certainly interacts well with various other receptors in our brains.


Also known as Virodhamine, when THCV is ingested in low doses, THCV inhibits appetite, regulates blood sugar levels, and reduces the body’s resistance to insulin. 
To learn more: Visit our What is THCV article.
For Products: View our 
THCV gummies collection.

Phytocannabinoid Therapeutic Value With Real-Life Examples

  1. Suppose you have a deficiency of the endocannabinoid called 2-Arachidonoylglycerol (2-AG). In that case, you may be able to supplement the lack of 2-AG by ingesting its phytocannabinoid equivalent, cannabidiol (CBD), as both interact with the body’s CBRs in the same way.
  2. Suppose you have a deficiency of the endocannabinoid called anandamide (AEA). In that case, you may be able to alleviate by supplementing with AEAs phytocannabinoid equivalent, Δ9-Tetrahydrocannabinol (THC).

The theory of phytocannabinoid supplementation for treating endocannabinoid deficiency disorders explains the “how” and the “why” botanic cannabinoid medicines may have incredible therapeutic value.

Crucial Functions That Maintain Our Well-being

Now, let’s delve into two specific functions our bodies perform that are crucial for maintaining homeostasis: managing the nervous system and controlling inflammation. They’re incredibly important because if either of these goes awry, it can potentially lead to various health issues.

Endocannabinoid Deficiency (CECD)

As we age, natural and harmful environmental factors impact our bodies. These expected and unexpected impacts can make a person deficient in particular Endocannabinoids; hence “Endocannabinoid Deficiency.”

A body becomes deficient, can also cause certain functions within the Immune, Digestive, or Central nervous system can become compromised.  

As this occurs, science now acknowledges the possibility of supplementing the deficiency or broken function by introducing the body via inhalation or ingestion of the equivalent or similar chemical compound (like CBD or THC) to help up-regulate or down-regulate the overexcited or under-excited Endocannabinoids in order to help balance out the deficiencies; thriving effortlessly to support homeostasis throughout your body.

Final Thoughts

Research into the Endocannabinoid System is still impacted by federal laws which hinder researchers ability to conduct research at will. Clearly, this makes it difficult for scientists to pursue truth in this area.

By opening the doors to more cannabis and marijuana research without constraint, science can make longer strides to better understand the connection between ECS dysregulation and endocannabinoid deficiencies with specific medical conditions and health disorders that are occur as we age. 

The moment researchers can accomplish this, the medicine society would have the ability to start addressing the system rather than masking the symptom.


Please leave your comments, thoughts, and answers below!


  • Woodhams, S. G., Sagar, D. R., Burston, J. J., andamp; Chapman, V. (2015). The Role of the Endocannabinoid System in Pain. Pain Control, 119–143. DOI: 10.1007/978-3-662-46450-2_7

  • Cluny, N. L., Keenan, C. M., Reimer, R. A., Le Foll, B., andamp; Sharkey, K. A. (2015). Prevention of Diet-Induced Obesity Effects on Body Weight and Gut Microbiota in Mice Treated Chronically with Δ9-Tetrahydrocannabinol. PLOS ONE, 10(12), e0144270. DOI: 10.1371/journal.pone.0144270

  • Lu, H. C., andamp; Mackie, K. (2016). An Introduction to the Endogenous Cannabinoid System. Biological Psychiatry, 79(7), 516–525. DOI: 10.1016/j.biopsych.2015.07.028

  • Di Marzo, V., andamp; Piscitelli, F. (2015). The Endocannabinoid System and its Modulation by Phytocannabinoids. Neurotherapeutics, 12(4), 692–698. DOI: 10.1007/s13311-015-0374-6

  • Carnevale, L. N., Arango, A. S., Arnold, W. R., Tajkhorshid, E., andamp; Das, A. (2018). Endocannabinoid virodhamine is an endogenous inhibitor of human cardiovascular CYP2J2 epoxygenase. Biochemistry, 57(46), 6489-6499.

  • Dawson, D.A. (2018). Synthetic cannabinoids, organic cannabinoids, the endocannabinoid system, and their relationship to obesity, diabetes, and depression_. Mol Biol 7_: 219.

  • Katchan, V., David, P., andamp; Shoenfeld, Y. (2016). Cannabinoids and autoimmune diseases: A systematic review. Autoimmunity Reviews, 15(6), 513-528.

  • Russo, E. B. (2008). Cannabinoids in the management of difficult to treat pain. Therapeutics and Clinical Risk Management, 4(1), 245–259.

  • DiPatrizio, N. V. (2016). Endocannabinoids in the Gut. Cannabis and Cannabinoid Research, 1(1), 67–77. DOI: 10.1089/can.2016.0001

  • Pacher, P., Bátkai, S., andamp; Kunos, G. (2006). The Endocannabinoid System as an Emerging Target of Pharmacotherapy. Pharmacological Reviews, 58(3), 389–462. DOI: 10.1124/pr.58.3.2

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2 Responses

  1. Your article gave me a lot of inspiration, I hope you can explain your point of view in more detail, because I have some doubts, thank you.

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