The Endocannabinoid System: Why is it special?

In essence, the endocannabinoid system or ECS is a vital body regulator. This was mentioned in an abstract by Chad A. Sallaberry and Laurie Astern. The ECS regulates several critical roles involving the brain, immune system, muscles, heart, and more. But other than that, why is it such a special system for researchers to explore?

What is the endocannabinoid system?

Simply put, the endocannabinoid system is a network of signal receptors found in various parts of the body. These signal receptors, or cannabinoid receptors, will receive input via endocannabinoids that trigger regulatory functions particular to the organ or part of the body.

What is/are the function of the endocannabinoid system?

The ECS, as mentioned, serves as a regulator or an “override” signal when triggered. There are two primary receptors in the ECS: CB1 and CB2, with CB being short for cannabinoid. 

CB1 receptors are primarily found within the brain, while CB2 receptors are mainly located in the central and peripheral nervous system, immune system, and within white blood cells. 

While CB1 and CB2 receptors are primarily found in their respective areas, they can be found in each other’s domain, although not as many.

To visualize the regulatory or override effect, an injury to a body part such as the arm or a finger triggers an inflammatory response. The ECS detects when it is too much or if the response is no longer needed and proceeds to have the receptors bind with cannabinoids and gradually reduce the inflammatory response.

What makes the endocannabinoid system special?

The presence of the ECS on multiple areas of the body allows it to have various functions that can be influenced by modern medicine and alternative treatments. Further study provides insight into the possible abilities of the ECS on the body.

1. Retrograde Signaling System

In an interview by the Medical Cannabis Network, Dr. Adam Norris explains that the ECS functions as a retrograde signaling system. 

Dr. Norris illustrates that signaling is typically a forward motion with part one signaling part two, and so on. The ECS is instead a feedback system with endocannabinoids produced in a “backward mechanism”. In essence, influencing the ECS creates a feedback effect to regulate or stop a specific effect on the body.

2. Apoptotic Functions

In a recent study published in 2018, the researchers described the endocannabinoid system as capable of doing a “negative feedback loop” thanks to the input from varying receptors and cannabinoids. The negative feedback loop can both decrease or increase cell death (apoptosis).


So where does CBD come into play with the ECS? Well, experts aren’t completely sure how CBD interacts with the ECS. However, they do know that it doesn’t bind to CB1 or CB2 receptors the way THC does.

Instead, many in the field believe it works by preventing endocannabinoids from being broken down. This allows them to have more of an effect on your body. Others believe that CBD binds to a receptor that hasn’t been discovered yet.

The Wrap

The ECS is special in a way that it may change how we approach curing diseases. In addition to using invasive pharmacological approaches, the ECS may shed light on how the body can enhance its internal rehabililation system on complicated cases like cancer. 

Understanding how ECS works, down to the molecular level, may make less tolerable interventions obsolete.

These statements have not been evaluated by the Food & Drug Administration and are in no way intended to treat or diagnose any physical ailment or disease.

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