What is an endocannabinoid system (ECS)? 

The endocannabinoid system is a biological system first discovered in the late 1980s and early 1990s, much remains unknown about the system today. 

The ECS is comprised largely of endocannabinoids, receptors, and enzymes which are believed to help regulate a variety of functions in the human body, including sleep, mood, memory, appetite, reproduction, and pain sensation. 

There are still plenty of questions from scientist about the human endocannabinoid system and how it functions. It’s easier to understanding the human endocannabinoid system, if you know some of the most fundamental concepts in biology: homeostasis. 

The best way to understand homeostasis is to think of the story of Goldilocks and the Three Bears. The fairy tale illustrates the idea that the best outcome usually lies somewhere in the middle of two extremes. We don’t want things too hot or too cold, but just right. 

There are three key components of the human endocannabinoid system Endocannabinoids, 

Small molecules that activate cannabinoid receptors 

Metabolic enzymes that break down endocannabinoids after they are used 

Cannabinoid receptors found on the surface of cells Cannabinoid receptors are on the surface of cells and they “listen” to conditions outside the cell. 

The receptors transmit information about changing conditions to the inside of the cell, kick-starting a cellular response. There are two major cannabinoid receptors are CB1 and CB2. Not the the only cannabinoid receptors, they are the first ones to be discovered and remain the best-studied. 

CB1 receptors are one of the most abundant receptors in the brain. These receptors interact with THC which causes the high in cannabis.

CB2 receptors are most abundant on the outside of the nervous system, in places like the immune system. However, both receptors can be found throughout the body