The best guide to the endocannabinoid system

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Theodor Klink

What is the endocannabinoid system?

The endocannabinoid system is a part from the human nervous system. It is also called the endogenous cannabinoid system. The word "endogenous" describes processes that take place in the body and are not due to any external influences.

Central components of the ECS are the cannabinoid receptors CB1 and CB2. 

The body's own cannabinoid messengers and plant phytocanabinoids such as THC and CBD are bound to these receptors. 

This then explains their effect in the human brain. 

So far, well over 100 cannabinoids have been identified, whereby the number of cannabinoids contained in a plant can vary depending on the species. The best-known cannabinoids are delta-9-tetrahydrocannabinol (THC) and cannabidiol (CBD). In addition, there are also synthetic cannabinoids that have been artificially produced in the laboratory and can have the same structure as phyto- and endocannabinoids. All cannabinoids have one thing in common: they bind to cannabinoid receptors, of which, however, there are different types.

When the cannabinoids bind to the receptors of the ECS, different reactions are triggered. The following areas can be influenced or reached.

You can find an appropriate study here:

6 reactions caused by cannabinoids at the receptors in the ECS:



Hormone balance

Brain activity

Negative sensory perceptions

Bone functions

Endocannabinoids - important endogenous messenger substances and how they can be influenced externally

Endocannabinoids are endogenous messenger substances. They act on the same receptors as the phytocannabinoids, THC and CBD found in the hemp plant as well as synthetically produced cannabinoids. 

The two most important receptors, CB1 and CB2, therefore act on the body's own and on external messenger substances. 

All endocannabinoids known to us so far are synthesised from omega-6 fatty acids and arachidonic acids in the body. 

The endocannabinoid system is far from being fully understood by science; even today, new components of the endocannabinoid system, to which the endocannabinoids and the corresponding receptors belong, are still being discovered. 

The CB1 receptor

Endocannabinoids that act on the CB1 receptor support the networking of nerve cells and thus play an important role in brain development. Especially in stressful situations, these messenger substances are released, and the effect on the CB1 receptor has been proven to be pain-relieving. 

In addition, other effects are associated with the activity of the CB1 receptor, including an increased appetite, anxiety reduction, protective effects after brain injuries, as well as a reduction of withdrawal symptoms.

The CB2 receptor

This receptor is the second and better known receptor, as it is often associated with the phytocannabinoid CBD (cannabidiol). 

External phytocannabinoids, such as CBD, act on this cannabinoid receptor.

In humans, the CB2 receptor is located in the central and peripheral nervous system and on various cells of the immune system. 

The activity of the CB2 receptor is being intensively addressed in research; already now, the activity of the receptor is described as anti-inflammatory in many studies.

Three facts about the endocannabinoid system 

THC and CBD act on the same receptors as the body's own cannabinoids

Endocannabinoids are mainly derived from omega-6 fatty acid 

main functions of the CB1 and CB2 receptors respectively:

Anti-inflammation, pain relief & appetite enhancement.

How CBD works in the endocannabinoid system

Cannabidiol (CBD) interacts with the body via the ECS. When the active ingredients of the plant meet the corresponding receptors from your own body, different reactions are triggered. These can influence well-being and contribute to a relaxing feeling. 

Endocannabinoids in current research

More and more research groups are becoming interested in cannabinoids and their effects in the body's endocannabinoid system. By now we know quite a lot about the effects and interactions between the components, but besides CBD and THC, the hemp plant has several other cannabinoids with other properties to offer, whose effects on the ECS still need to be explored. Thus, there are always new findings.

Current research results show that the CB1 receptor might be necessary for the erasure of negative memories. Endocannabinoids could therefore play an important role in anxiety disorders. A study at the Max Planck Institute for Psychiatry on mice without CB1 receptors showed that the unlearning of negative experiences was significantly more difficult.

Other physiological processes involving the endocannabinoid system include pain states, sleep induction, appetite and motility control, temperature control, neuroprotection and cancer.


The endocannabinoid system is found in the brain and nervous system of all mammalian species. It is one of the most extensive biological systems in the body and has a key function in establishing and maintaining physical balance. Physiological functions that are essential for survival, such as sleep, eating behaviour and mood, are regulated by the system. External influences, such as stress, can throw bodily functions out of balance. The endocannabinoid system ensures that the inner balance is maintained despite external changes. CBD products can support the system from the outside.

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