The Endocannabinoid System (ECS)

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The Endocannabinoid System (ECS) is a biological system composed of endocannabinoids, which are endogeneous lipid-based retrograde transmitters that bind to cannabinoid receptors and cannabinoid receptor proteins that are expressed throughout the vertebrate central nervous system (including the brain) and peripheral nervous system.

What is the Endocannabinoid System?

Let's break down the word "endocannabinoid." The word "cannabinoid" comes from "cannabis," and "endo" is short for "endogenous," which means that it is produced naturally inside of your body. Thus, "endocannabinoid" means cannabis-like substances that naturally occur inside of us. 

The ECS is made of three parts:

  • Endocannabinoids

  • Receptors in the nervous systems around your body that endocannabinoids and cannabinoids bond with

  • Enzymes that help break down endocannabinoids and cannabinoids

The Endocannabinoid System & Homeostasis

To fully understand the ECS, it helps to have knowledge of the body's regulation of homeostasis. In short, homeostasis is your body's efforts to keep everything correct. It helps keep your body's internal environment stable no matter what is happening in the environment around you.

The ECS does this via cannabinoid receptors found in select tissues. We have (at least) two cannabinoid receptors:

  • CB1 which is predominately in the central nervous system (brain and nerves of the spinal cord)

  • CB2 which is predominately in the peripheral nervous system (nerves in your extremities), the digestive system, and specialized cells in the immune system

Through these CB1 and CB2 receptors, the ECS has shown to regulate a lot of important functions such as:

  • Appetite

  • Digestion

  • Inflammation, including neuro-inflammatory

  • Immune Disorders

  • Mood

  • Sleep

  • Motor Control

  • Memory

  • Pain

  • Reproduction/Fertility

  • Pleasure/Reward