Education | September 09, 2020

What Is The Endocannabinoid System And How Does CBD Affect It?

By Dagmara Mach
What Is The Endocannabinoid System

The endocannabinoid system (ECS) is a complex body system (like the nervous system, the digestive system, the circulatory system, etc.) that is responsible for maintaining homeostasis or balance by ensuring everything is performing as it should be.

A cell-signaling network whose messages affect every other system in our body, the endocannabinoid system relies on cannabinoids to function properly. Cannabinoids can either be made inside of our body (endocannabinoids) or inside of plants (phytocannabinoids). Hemp derived cannabinoids such as CBD, THC, CBG, CBN and others can be used to supplement endocannabinoids produced by the body.

Anandamide (known as “the bliss molecule”) is a cannabinoid made inside our bodies that promotes feelings of internal bliss, happiness, pleasure, joy, and delight.

CBD, like that found in Full Spectrum Hemp Oil, is an anandamide reuptake inhibitor, meaning it slows down the breakdown of the endocannabinoid anandamide, leading to higher levels of it in our system.

Research supports the role of the endocannabinoid system in processes that include, but are not limited to: pain, inflammation, metabolism, digestion and appetite, sleep, mood, emotions, learning and memory, motor control, motivation, cardiovascular system function, bone growth and remodeling, muscle formation, liver function, reproductive system function, skin and nerve function, stress, cognition, immunoregulation, neuromodulation, microcirculation, autonomic nervous system.

Researchers believe that endocannabinoid deficiency may be one of the root causes of many diseases suggest that caring for and nourishing the endocannabinoid system may help promote healing and balance across every part of your body.


Anandamide Reuptake Inhibitor CBD Hemp Oil

What Is The Endocannabinoid System and What Does It Do?

The endocannabinoid system (ECS) is a 600 million-year-old signaling network designed to maintain homeostasis in response to internal and external stimuli. To understand the purpose of CBD oil on our overall well being, it is important to get familiar with the inner workings of the human endocannabinoid system. 

Perhaps the most important system in your body, the endocannabinoid system is unique and in control of all of the others. It works like the body’s central bank, continuously trying to maintain growth, healing, and balance. Look at it this way, when financial systems slump down in response to panic over Coronavirus, the world’s central banks inject cash into the markets in an effort to move the economy back towards normal.

In the same way, our endocannabinoid system makes and controls the levels of endogenous cannabinoids, our body’s cash, on-demand and in response to the pressures of internal and external stimuli such as panic over Coronavirus, pain from working out too hard, or feelings of sadness after weeks of social isolation. So, like a central bank, the endocannabinoid system kicks in to promote stability when forces disrupt homeostasis.

What Is Homeostasis?

Homeostasis is the state of relatively stable internal, physical and chemical equilibrium in living biological systems, or what we refer to as whole-body balance. It refers to the regulation of conditions such as body temperature, blood sugar level, water content, inflammation and more. Optimal functioning in each part of our body requires the continuous maintenance of certain biological parameters. Keeping things within these parameters leaves us feeling happy, healthy, and pain-free.

Endocannabinoid System 101


Finely tuned and extremely clever, the endocannabinoid system is intricately designed to respond to the environment both within and around you. It is a sophisticated and multifaceted communication network that has been evolving for 600 million years and it is present in every animal except the insect.

Human endocannabinoid systems have been detected from the earliest embryonic stages of development. In fact, beginning in early gestation, endocannabinoid signaling plays an important role in successful embryonal passage through the oviduct and subsequent implantation in the uterus. During fetal life, the endocannabinoid system plays a crucial role in brain development. After birth, endocannabinoids are also present in mother’s milk and they continue to play an important role in growth, development, and balance throughout our lives.

Research supports the role of the endocannabinoid system in processes that include, but are not limited to:




-digestion and appetite




-learning and memory

-motor control


-cardiovascular system function

-bone growth and remodeling

-muscle formation

-liver function

-reproductive system function

-skin and nerve function






-autonomic nervous system

Studies suggest that caring for and nourishing the endocannabinoid system can help promote healing and homeostasis, or balance across every part of your body. Supplementation with cannabinoids such as full-spectrum CBD oil, eating blueberries, exercise, proper diet, and hugging your dog are all ways to stimulate and enhance your endocannabinoid system. 

Four Primary Parts of the ECS


The endocannabinoid system is not an island and as such it requires and interacts with numerous other biological processes to function properly. Despite this, it has four major parts that distinguish it. 

Cannabinoid Receptors and Endocannabinoids

The first two major parts of the endocannabinoid system are the endocannabinoid receptors CB1 and CB2, as well as their endogenous ligands, or the endocannabinoids that bind to them, such as anandamide and 2-AG. The cannabinoid receptors are part of a large and diverse family of G-protein coupled receptors whose primary function is to convert extracellular stimuli into intracellular signals. It is worth mentioning that although CB1 and CB2 receptors are the most studied points of cannabinoid action, cannabinoids can also exert effects on other G-protein coupled receptors such as GPR18, GPR55, GPR3, GPR6, and GPR12.

The interaction between receptors and their ligands is often described using the lock and key analogy. That is the CB1 and CB2 receptors are the lock and they can only be unlocked with the right keys. Endocannabinoids are receptor agonists, or the keys that can unlock receptor locks to trigger a variety of responses.

Synthesizing and Degradative Enzymes

The other two major parts of the endocannabinoid system are the enzymes that catalyze or trigger endocannabinoid biosynthesis and degradation. The synthesizing enzymes make endocannabinoids when and where they are needed. The degradative enzymes break them down once they are used.

Some plant-based phytocannabinoids like CBD, rather than having a great affinity for binding to CB1 or CB2 receptors, interact with the endocannabinoid system by preventing the breakdown of endocannabinoids like anandamide or 2-AG. CBD, specifically, is an anandamide reuptake inhibitor, meaning it slows down the breakdown of the endocannabinoid anandamide, leading to higher levels of it in our system. Although it was not totally clear from my research, it appears that there is some speculation regarding whether CBD also has an effect on decelerating the degradation of 2-AG. 

Endogenous vs. Exogenous Cannabinoids

Cannabinoids can either be made inside of our bodies (endogenous cannabinoids, also known as endocannabinoids) or inside of plants (exogenous cannabinoids, also known as phytocannabinoids).


Endogenous cannabinoids, also known as endocannabinoids, are produced naturally within our bodies. They include the two famous endocannabinoids anandamide (AEA) and 2-arachidonoylglycerol (2-AG) as well as the lesser-known N-Arachidonoyldopamine (NADA) and Oleamide (ODA).

Unlike neurotransmitters, endocannabinoids are not created and stored in vesicles but rather synthesized on demand by enzyme activation. Researchers believe that endocannabinoid deficiency may be one of the root causes of many diseases including fibromyalgia, migraines, depression, irritable bowel syndrome, multiple sclerosis, Parkinson’s, and others. 


N-arachidonoylethanolamide, anandamide, or AEA for short, was the first endocannabinoid discovered by scientists. Anandamide is a ligand, or a molecule, that produces a signal by binding to a target receptor. Its name comes from the Sanskrit word ananda, meaning internal bliss, happiness, pleasure, joy, and delight.

Interestingly, anandamide is also found in cacao and black truffles and is the likely culprit behind our intense love of these two foods. 

After discovering that the plant-based cannabinoid THC activated specific receptors in the brain, scientists began looking for a body-made molecule that could bind to the same receptors. They found anandamide and with it they began to uncover a whole slew of endocannabinoid receptors located throughout our bodies.

Anandamide binds to both CB1 and CB2 cannabinoid receptors as well as other targets. In addition to a myriad of other effects, including attenuating the pain response, and causing the runner’s high we feel when we exercise, anandamide plays a crucial role in memory consolidation, and has important anti-inflammatory properties. 


2-arachidonoylglycerol, or 2-AG was discovered 3 years after anandamide. It is also a ligand that binds to cannabinoid receptors CB1 and CB2. It is known to play a role in mediating immune functions such as helping to reduce inflammation by delivering a signal to stop sending so many attack or immune cells to an affected area. It is one of the main cannabinoids found in human breast milk. A 2017 study published in the Journal of Sexual Medicine found that levels of 2-AG increased during orgasm. Studies have shown that changes in levels of 2-AG are associated with depression, tension, and general mood disturbances. It has also been found in our bones, suggesting it may play a crucial role in bone formation. Studies have also associated levels of 2-AG with sleep, pain, and memory processes. 

Exogenous Cannabinoids

Exogenous cannabinoids, also known as phytocannabinoids, or just cannabinoids, are synthesized by plants. These include cannabidiol, or CBD, and tetrahydrocannabinol, or THC, the two most abundant cannabinoids found in the cannabis plant, as well as over 120 other phytocannabinoids. Researchers are still figuring out how each of these cannabinoids affects our body as well as what the entourage effects are when they are consumed together. 


Tetrahydrocannabinol, or THC, is the first identified and most famous cannabinoid produced by the cannabis plant. Its actions mimic those of the bliss molecule anandamide and it is the compound in marijuana that makes people feel high. 


Cannabidiol, or CBD, is the most abundant cannabinoid found in the hemp plant. Unlike THC, CBD does not get you high and rather than binding to cannabinoid receptors, CBD mainly affects our endocannabinoid systems by inhibiting the breakdown of anandamide. 

Optimizing Your Endocannabinoid System

A rich and balanced diet allows our endocannabinoid system to thrive. The human endocannabinoid system cannot function if we don’t consume enough essential nutrients, such as calcium which plays an important role in signaling, and phospholipids which serve as the building blocks of endocannabinoids. Sometimes, however, even in spite of a rich and nutritious diet, our endocannabinoid system may be so taxed that it cannot keep up.

Whether it’s a stressful job, an injury that’s impacting your day to day life, or any other combination of stressors, it’s easy to exhaust our ECS. Endocannabinoid system deficiency can present in a number of ways and has been associated with numerous chronic illnesses. It is in these cases that phytocannabinoid supplementation can help alleviate symptoms and bring your entire body back towards homeostasis.

Are Full Spectrum Hemp Cannabinoids Right for You?

Many people find relief, happiness, inspiration, and relaxation through their use of phytocannabinoids. Users report a variety of benefits associated with improvements in sleep, mood, stress, and pain outcomes. Studies validate these reported effects with experimental research and scientific explanations of their mechanisms of action.

Research into the cannabinoid system and the specific effects of different cannabinoids and their many combinations such as those present in varying strains is making leaps and bounds. However, due to the complexity of the endocannabinoid system, it is difficult to study all of the varied entourage effects, interactions and downstream implications of consuming phytocannabinoids.

Studies have not up to this point identified any major clinical risks or side effects that accompany the use of phytocannabinoids. Thus, users and experts report that experimenting with different strains, cannabinoid profiles, and doses is the best way to find the right treatment for your specific needs and body type.

How Long Does It Take For CBD Hemp Oil To Work?

This is a common question and really depends on your unique composition and what you’re using hemp oil for.

The effects of hemp CBD are unique to each user’s body, current state of health, and individual metabolism. While some users can experience acute effects, many take 7 to 21 days to feel a noticeable difference.

This is because many of the symptoms we seek to alleviate are a result of imbalances in numerous parts of your body and it takes time for your body to achieve homeostasis throughout all of its moving pieces.

It’s important to remember that CBD oil’s effects are dose dependent and biphasic, meaning lower doses cause alertness while higher doses cause sedation. So, theoretically, if you take a high enough dose of CBD you will likely feel it’s sedative effects once your body metabolizes it.

Studies have shown that humans can tolerate up to 1500mg of CBD without concerning side effects, however, this does not include any potential drug interactions which we recommend talking to your doctor about.

In addition, because topical CBD oil like our hemp body butter bypasses your digestive system and enters via your skin’s endocannabinoid receptors, using hemp body butter to manage inflammatory pain typically works rather quickly.

Endocannabinoid system maintenance is a lifelong process. Because this system is so closely linked with how the rest of our body functions, and because it tends to wear with age, we use CBD oil on a daily basis to nurture and preserve it.


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