Cannabis Plant Science

Introduction to the endocannabinoid system


What is the endocannabinoid system?

In order to understand how medicinal cannabis works, it is first crucial to understand the endocannabinoid system (ECS). The ECS was only discovered by researchers in the 1990’s and as a result we are still building our understanding of this complex system.

Although this discovery is relatively recent, we do understand some of the key concepts that make up this cell-signaling system. In particular, we know the ECS plays a key role in regulating a range of bodily processes that contribute to homeostasis.

The ECS has been shown to modulate and regulate memory, mood, appetite, pain and other immune system responses. This is attributed to the network of receptors in our brain, central nervous system and peripheral organs and tissues that interact closely and are interconnected to the endocannabinoid system. Our bodies’ naturally-produced cannabinoids – called endocannabinoids – interact with the receptors in our brain that contribute to these processes. These endocannabinoids work with the ECS to ensure our bodies remain in balance.

The cannabis plant is the only known natural producer of the plant-based cannabinoids (or 'phytocannabinoids'), CBD and THC. THC partially binds with two primary receptors, CB1 and CB2, to maintain homeostasis. These external cannabinoids acquired from medicinal cannabis can help balance our ECS and facilitate greater well-being.

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