THE ENDOCANNABINOID SYSTEM
Did you know that humans and almost all animals are born with a specific system meant just for
The Endocannabinoid System (ECS) is a biological system first discovered in the late ’80s
and early ’90s that is comprised of endocannabinoids (cannabinoids produced within the body),
receptors, and enzymes that are believed to help regulate a variety of functions in human
including sleep, mood, memory, appetite, reproduction, and pain sensation.
The ECS works to maintain homeostasis - perfect balance within and between the body and
mind. Conditions need to be just right for our cells to maintain optimum performance, and
exquisite mechanisms have evolved to draw them back to this place of total balance - one of
which being our Endocannabinoid System.
Because of its vital role in making sure that cells and systems remain balanced, the ECS is
tightly regulated; it gets deployed exactly when and where it’s needed.
The main components of the human ECS are:
- Cannabinoid receptors found on the surface of cells
- Endocannabinoids, small molecules that activate cannabinoid receptors
- Metabolic enzymes that break down endocannabinoids after they are used
There are two major endocannabinoids: anandamide and 2-AG. These endocannabinoids are
produced and used exactly when they’re needed, rather than packaged and stored for later use
like many other biological molecules. When the body is out of balance, the ECS recognizes this,
and produces and releases our Endocannabinoids to address stress and pain in different areas
of the body.
In addition to our Endocannabinoids, humans can also intake Phytocannabinoids
(cannabinoids from plants) to help bring our bodies to homeostasis. By ingesting
phytocannabinoids like CBD and THC, we can manually help our bodies adjust and find
By understanding the biological mechanisms of homeostasis, and how the ECS illustrates this
at the cellular level, we can more deeply appreciate why we have an ECS to begin with, and
how a variety of cannabis-based therapies might actually work.