Purpose of the endocannabinoid system

Image of the human endocannabinoid system and cannabinoid receptors.

“The purpose of the endocannabinoid system is to maintain balance in the various systems of the body by slowing down and speeding up processes as needed.”

Ethan Russo


Where are the receptors in the endocannabinoid system and is the system found in other animals?

CB1 receptor locations

Cannabinoid receptor 1 (CB1) is located mainly in the central nervous system (forebrain, hippocampus, basal ganglia, cerebellum). CB1 receptors are also found in the prostate, uterus, testicles, small intestine, spleen, and lymphocytes. (W. Miller et al. 2002)

CB2 receptor locations

Cannabinoid receptor 2 (CB2) is not present in the central nervous system but mostly in tissues of the immune system. They have been found to be abundant throughout the body, such as the gut, spleen, liver, heart, kidneys, bone, blood vessels, lymphocytes, and reproductive organs. (S. Munro 1993)

CB3 receptor locations

Cannabinoid receptor 3 (CB3) is a G protein-coupled receptor that is scattered throughout the body but shows higher concentrations in the testes and brain, as well as in the small intestine. This cannabinoid receptor is also tightly packed in the cerebellar region of the brain. (PNAS 2008)

The endocannabinoid system can be found in:

  • From mammals
  • From birds
  • From lizards
  • From fish

The endocannabinoid system is found in almost all animals except protozoa and insects. The endocannabinoid system emerged in physiology at the same time as the development of the nervous system as multicellular animals became increasingly complex. (26)

Endo = internal

What is the human endocannabinoid system and why do we have one?

The main function of the endocannabinoid system is to protect the nervous system. According to the US Health Agency, the purpose of the endocannabinoid system is so important that it has published a review that the endocannabinoid system is associated with almost all human diseases 1. The endocannabinoid system is one of the largest human receptor networks. It is one of the most important physiological systems in human health, and its receptors are found throughout the body, affecting almost all physiological processes in the body. 2, 3

According to Raphael Mechoulam, a professor of medicinal chemistry, the endocannabinoid system is part of the body’s “general protective network that works together with the immune system and several other physiological systems. His discoveries pose a direct challenge to scientific orthodoxy by revealing that the brain has a natural repair kit, a built-in protective and regenerative mechanism that can repair damaged nerves and brain cells. 27

The breakthrough to discover the endocannabinoid system was made only in the early 1990s, when Lisa Matsuda and her colleagues from the National Center for Mental Health managed to identify a receptor sensitive to THC in the brain of rats. Thus, the first cannabinoid receptor CB1 was discovered. 4

Subsequently, in 1993, the next cannabinoid receptor was discovered – as part of the immune system and nervous system. CB2 receptors have been found to be abundant throughout the body, such as the gut, spleen, liver, heart, kidneys, bone, blood vessels, lymphocytes, and reproductive organs. 5

Hemp naturally occur cannabinoids, terpenes and flavonoids together and individually, directly or indirectly, balance the endocannabinoid system. 6


Basic Functions of the Endocannabinoid System: “Relax, Eat, Sleep, Forget, and Protect”


The endocannabinoid system is like a bridge between body and mind. Understanding it can begin to see the mechanism that affects brain function, physical health, and the treatment of disease. 2

In 1998, Professor Di Marzo summed up the basic functions of the endocannabinoid system with the words “Relax, eat, sleep, forget and protect”. 2, 3

The endocannabinoid system is a network of receptors known at least in mammals, birds, lizards and fish 7. Research on endocannabinoids is young and constantly evolving. New and surprising discoveries appear regularly. Findings on the functions and evolution of the endocannabinoid system reveal new insights into the effects of cannabinoids on health and disease management. 8, p. 53

Cannabinoids act on the body by binding to the molecular receptors encoded by our genes. These cannabinoid-capturing receptors are proteins found on the surfaces of our cell membranes. Because cannabinoids bind to receptors in the form of cannabinoids, they are called cannabinoid receptors. 8, p. 53


How does the endocannabinoid system work?


The endocannabinoid system acts holistically in the body in a number of different ways. It is involved in the regulation of pain, appetite, metabolism, emotional states, memory, and sleep-wake rhythm. The endocannabinoid system includes CB1 and CB2 cannabinoid receptors, as well as other already known and as yet unknown receptors. It is also associated with the endorphin system, as well as the release of various neurotransmitters in neurons. In addition, there are so-called endocannabinoids in the body, the best known of which are anandamide and 2-AG. 8, p. 54

Our endocannabinoid system forms a kind of protective network that, as part of our immune system and central nervous system, seeks to balance the function of the brain and other cells when they receive a signal of threat from outside or inside.


The endocannabinoid system is responsible for the body’s message chains


In general, the human body is made up of approx. Of the 30 trillion cells that make up an extensive, ever-adapting communications network. The brain cells alone have approx. 100 billion, and the connections between them are calculated to be reached within more than the galaxies of the universe. Each of us is a sensitive biological machine made up of these cells. Each cell plays a unique role in the human physiological whole. The cells work together to create different tissues. The tissues, on the other hand, form organs and the organs together form you.

Each of these 30 trillion cells in your body is in constant contact with each other. Researchers call this signaling “cellular communication”. The endocannabinoid system is responsible for providing chemical feedback to these billions of communications. Cells communicate using signaling molecules known as ligands.

Ligands have specific binding sites known as receptors, which in turn receive signals. Depending on the signal and the receptor, the response is achieved in the receiving Sol, which forms the basis of cellular communication. The received message may initiate a chain reaction in the target cell, the effects of which vary depending on the situation.


The endocannabinoid system maintains the body’s homeostasis


Cellular communication strives for balance, or homeostasis. These homeostasis-seeking measures prevent body communication from tilting to either end or damaging body tissues and organs. Maintaining homeostasis is critical to the overall well-being of our bodies and individual organs.

We are made up almost entirely of cells, so the discovery of the endocannabinoid system and its overall impact on human health has been a very important finding for medicine. Each of our cells sends and receives thousands of signals every second to maintain our health.

Cells communicate their status to other cells, telling them whether they are in balance or not. The body responds to this to provide the ingredients needed for cell success. The endocannabinoid system provides a feedback system for this communication network. Clear cellular communication ensures efficient human functioning. It is responsible for coordinating immune responses, cell movement, and change. The feedback mediated by the cells and the endocannabinoid system is interpreted to elicit the response required in the brain. 9


Where are the CB1, CB2 and CB3 receptors of the endocannabinoid system found?


CB1 and CB2 receptors in the endocannabinoid system are found in almost every part of the body. CB1 receptors are particularly found in the brain and central nervous system. The CB3 receptor is a G protein-coupled receptor that is scattered throughout the body. In particular, CB3 receptors are found in the testicles, brain, and also the small intestine. The CB3 receptor is found tightly in the area of the cerebellum of the brain, which controls the body’s motor functions such as walking and speech.

G-protein receptors are the broadest class of receptors in the body – there are more than 1,000 different people in humans. Indeed, 30-50% of all modern drugs act on these receptors. 10, 11, 3. The most common g-protein receptor in the brain is the cannabinoid receptor CB1, which is about 10 times the amount of other g-protein receptors. 11.

CB2 receptors, on the other hand, are found most in the immune system. Various receptors and related cannabinoids and the like. the compounds have different functions and effects in the body. 8, p. 54.)

Indeed, the endocannabinoid system acts multidimensionally in the body by regulating the central nervous system and the immune system. The functioning of the system can both accelerate and slow down physiological functions. The psychological effects of cannabinoids in hemp and the body are due to CB1 receptors. The effects of CB2 receptors are even more physiological. 12, 8, 24


Endogenous cannabinoids or endocannabinoids


Nor does the endocannabinoid system consist of cannabinoid receptors alone. Endogenous cannabinoids, or endocannabinoids, maintain the balance of our body, or homeostasis. Homeostasis means a broader balance than just standing up. It means an appropriate balance of the physiological processes of the body. For example, 2-AG acts at the level of brain cells, securing their function e.g. head trauma.

Your body produces endocannabinoids as needed. The function of endocannabinoids has been linked to e.g. psychomotor movements, memory function, learning and thinking in general, neuroendocrine secretion, appetite, sensation of pain, nausea, and regulation of body temperature and immune system. 13

The role of endocannabinoids is so comprehensive in maintaining our body’s health and basic functions that well-known cannabinoid researcher and neurologist Ethan Russo has proposed the term clinical endocannabinoid deficiency. This impairment may partly explain various conditions such as migraine, fibromyalgia or irritable bowel syndrome. 17. Our bodies can also produce too many endocannabinoids, in which case it is not a defect but rather some kind of imbalance. 13

Based on the latest research, Ethan Russo, a neurologist and research and development director at the International Cannabis and Cannabinoid Institute (ICCI), and many other researchers in the field argue that the endocannabinoid system is designed to maintain balance in the body by slowing down and speeding up processes as needed. 16. According to him, many diseases are caused by deficiencies in the endocannabinoid system 17.


How is the endocannabinoid system affected?


The endocannabinoid system can be influenced by adding exogenous, i.e. external cannabinoids (by eating CBD oil , or capsules ) that bind to the cannabinoid receptors that receive them, or by influencing the enzymes involved in the cleavage of endocannabinoids 14 . In addition, the balance of endocannabinoids can be affected by exercise 15.

According to research, the therapeutic results of cannabis are better when the whole plant is used as medicine. Scientists use the term “entourage effect” when describing the synergistic interactions of the compounds contained in a whole plant. The same applies to CBD products and this is why the products are said to be “Full Spectrum”. We will tell you more about the full spectrum and interactions in this article .

Cannabinoid receptors in the endocannabinoid system and cannabinoids acting on it

CB1 (cannabinodeceptor 1)

The cannabinoid receptor CB1 was discovered in 1990. 4

CB2 (cannabinoid receptor 2)

The second cannabinoid receptor, CB2, was discovered shortly after the first in 1993. 5

CB3 (cannabinodeceptor 3)

The cannabinoid receptor CB3 was first discovered in 1999. GPR55 was not confirmed as cannabinoid receptor 3 until 2008. 24

CBN, cannabinol

Researchers discovered cannabinol, or CBN, as the first cannabinoid in 1896. 18

CBD, cannabidiol

Cannabidiol, or CBD, was discovered in 1970. 19

CBG, cannabigerol

The CBG was first identified from hemp as early as 1964. 25


Raphael Mechoulam also discovered the first intracorporeal cannabinoid, anandamide, with his research team.22


Another endocannabinoid, 2-AG, was also discovered shortly after anandamide under the direction of Raphael Mechoulam. 23

THC, tetrahydrocannabinol

THC, or tetrahydrocannabinol, was discovered by the ancestor of cannabinoid researchers, Raphael Mechoulam, along with his research team. THC is one of the most important cannabinoids for the discovery of the entire endocannabinoid system, as it also led to the discovery of cannabinoid receptors and endocannabinoids. 20. Regular use of THC may cause an imbalance in the endocannabinoid system 21.

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