What is the ECS

What is the Endocannabinoid System?

If you’ve spent some time sifting through CBD oil product descriptions, you’ve undoubtedly seen the endocannabinoid system pop up a few times, but what is the endocannabinoid system and why is it so integral? We will explain all below.

The endocannabinoid system, often shortened to ECS, is a biological system in all of us, which plays a hugely important role in the body.

It’s a distinct receptor system containing cannabinoid receptors, with a complex cell signalling network present in every living animal on earth.
The system is absolutely crucial to our survival, with a set of neurotransmitters and receptors helping to regulate and balance key bodily functions and keeping ‘homeostasis’.


Who discovered the Endocannabinoid System? 

Quite remarkably, we were not aware of the endocannabinoid system until 1992. There were theories beforehand, with scientists finding the brains opiate receptor in 1973, instigating further studies on the connection between drugs and our brain.

Back in 1964, an Israeli researcher managed to isolate the chemical structure of a cannabinoid, the first time this had ever happened, which led to a huge increase in interest in the cannabis plant, but studies were slowed down by the legal status of the plant.

Then in 1988, a study was carried out on the determination and characterization of a cannabinoid receptor in rat brains, which yielded very interesting results.

But it wasn’t until 1992, when Lumír Hanuš, a Czech analytical chemist at the Hebrew University of Jerusalem, successfully discovered the first endocannabinoid system.

Lumír Hanuš, William Devane and Raphael Mechoulam managed to isolate a novel lipid neurotransmitter, which bound with the CB1 receptor in a pig brain tissue, which they labelled ‘anandamide’.

Lumír has since gained the nickname ‘godfather of the endocannabinoid system’, as his research carried on and they discovered the 2-Arachidonoylglycerol endocannabinoid, as well as homo-gamma-lineleoul ethanolamide, docosatetraenoul ethanolamide and noladin ether.

What are Endocannabinoid Receptors?

Two main endocannabinoid receptors were found throughout the body, with endocannabinoids binding to them in order to signal to the system that some form of action is needed.

The two main receptors were CB1 and CB2, with the other receptors like PPAR’s and Transient Receptor Potential (TRP) also mediating some actions.

CB1R consists of 472 amino acids in humans, while CB2R consists of 360 amino acids, but these numbers are very different in different animal species, hence why animal based studies don’t perfectly reflect human trials.

The CB1 receptors are mainly found in the central nervous system, primarily within brain cells.

In contrast, CB2 receptors are predominantly found in the peripheral nervous system, central nervous system and immune system, plus being present in white blood cells.

These naturally occurring cannabinoid receptors play an important role in the successful function of the human body. Some of the functions they’re stated to affect include sleep, mood, appetite, digestion, pain, memory, immune function, motor control, temperature regulation, inflammation and reproduction.

What is Homeostasis?

Homeostasis is the state of remaining constant, with a steady internal state despite external changes. The concept focuses on the resistance against changes so you maintain a stable, consistent internal environment.

Homeo is derived from Greek, meaning ‘similar to’ or ‘the same’, while stasis means ‘standing still’, while the term was first coined in 1930, when spoken about in connection with the human body remaining at a steady level of temperature.

It has since been adapted into other forms of science, such as in social science, when someone remains calm and steady in a stressful situation.

In relation to the endocannabinoid system, the body wants to keep everything level and steady (in homeostasis), regardless of external factors, with your body monitoring all the crucial levels in your body to make sure they’re consistent.

If you’re too hot, your body will send a signal to sweat in order to cool yourself down. Whenever your body notices something outside of the steady range, the body activates the endocannabinoid system in order to fix it.

What is the connection with Cannabis

While cannabinoids are produced by mammals and found naturally in our body, we also find phytocannabinoids in plants, such as cannabis. However, both activate the endocannabinoid system and bind with receptors.

Once THC has entered your body, it will interact with the endocannabinoid system and bind with both CB1 and CB2 receptors, which leads to you feeling ‘high’, as well as having other effects on the body, such as stimulating your appetite.

We are increasingly learning more about the human endocannabinoid system and how phytocannabinoids have an effect, but we do require greater levels of human based studies in order to yield greater information on the subject.

But with the industry growing by almost double in the space of 12 months, this will inevitably be conducted, and we should learn a huge amount over the next decade, with our findings still in its infancy.

One study performed on rats with arthritis showed that CBD interacted with the endocannabinoid system to help reduce inflammation and pain related behaviours.

The endocannabinoid system is a neuromodulatory system in the body, with receptors and endocannabinoid molecules, playing an important role with our immune system, nervous system and organs, in order to keep a homeostatic status in the body.