What is the Endocannabinoid System?

All mammals, reptiles, birds, fish, and invertebrate have an Endocannabinoid system or ECS. It is a system within our bodies that helps regulate other systems and functions. The ECS is a network made up of two receptors and lipid-based endogenous cannabinoids or ‘endocannabinoids’. CB1 is a receptor found in the brain and CB2 is found mostly in the digestive system and immune system. 


There are said to be several lesser endocannabinoids, but the most studied are anandamide and 2-AG. The ECS was discovered in the early 1990s by Lumir Hanus who found the first endocannabinoid, anandamide. Anandamide is named after the Sanskrit word for bliss and is known as the bliss molecule for its “good” feeling. It is released and engages the CB1 receptor when we feel love, eat chocolate, or experience love. It is also similar to the effects of the phytocannabinoid or “plant”-cannabinoid, tetrahydrocannabinol, on the CB1 receptor. 


The ECS receptors CB1 and CB2 were found to interact with cannabinoids found in cannabis or phytocannabinoids in the 1960s by organic chemist Raphael Mechoulam. However, cannabis cannabinoids were discovered by chemist Roger Adams in the 1940s, developing the ‘Adam’s Scale’ that measures the potency of cannabinoids. However, it was not until Hanus’ discovery our bodies own endocannabinoids that pulled everything together in what we now know as the ECS. 


The ECS helps regulate many functions such as moods & emotions, appetite, temperature, pain, inflammation, and sleep. Many say that the ECS helps our body keep homeostasis. Dr. Bonnie Goldstien suggests that the concept of Clinical Endocannabinoid Deficiency or CEDC that could explain treatment benefits from cannabis seen such conditions as migraines, fibromyalgia, irritable bowel syndrome, epilepsy, autism, anxiety, depression, eating disorders, PTSD, autoimmune disorders, and others. 






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