How cannabis works: the endocannabinoid system in detail


What actually happens when you use cannabis? Many users know about its profound effects on the human body, but few understand how they occur. The chemical compounds in cannabis affect the endocannabinoid (EK) system, a central component of health, and the ability to heal in every human and almost every animal.

Researchers estimate that the EC system evolved in primitive animals more than 600 million years ago. Endocannabinoids and their receptors are found in the brain, organs, connective tissue, glands and immune cells throughout the body. The system is responsible for managing a wide range of physiological processes, including mood, memory, pain, appetite, and the psychoactive effects of cannabis.

First a little biology in the background. The receptors of the EK system were originally discovered as THC-sensitive receptors. The researchers identified two cannabinoid receptors that are part of the EC system: CB1 and CB2. CB1 receptors are primarily found in the nervous system, connective tissues, gonads and other glands and organs, while CB2 receptors are primarily found in the immune system and other peripheral structures. Be aware that some tissues may contain both receptors, each of which is responsible for a different activity. Researchers believe there is another receptor yet to be discovered.

Your body naturally produces endocannabinoids to stimulate these receptors. The body naturally produces six known endocannabinoids. However, your EC system may also be stimulated by phytocannabinoids (plant cannabinoids) produced by the cannabis plant. They look like endogenous counterparts at the molecular level, and therefore fit perfectly into the receptors of your bodies. The analogous endogenous compound THC is a neurotransmitter called anandamide, also known as the "bliss hormone". Anandamide was discovered during CB1 and CB2 research, which was inevitable because it was clear that our bodies produced internally a chemical that affects EK receptors.


Researchers have discovered more than 85 different phytocannabinoids, typically referred to as cannabinoids found in cannabis trichomes. Some are psychoactive, while others are non-psychoactive. Cannabinoids in cannabis can basically be considered as a natural supplement to stimulate the EC system. Another good example of an endogenous / exogenous pair of compounds is morphine and enkephalin.

Before you smoke, anandamide and dopamine control your fine motor skills, appetite, mood and cognitive abilities in the brain. Once you coat, the various phytocannabinoids fit into your CB1 and CB2 receptors as lock keys. Another thing you know about is that anandamide can no longer bind to these sites (because they are occupied by THC and other cannabinoids) and you start to feel euphoric, you are relaxed and you have something to eat. Although these are the notorious effects of THC, certain details will vary from strain to strain due to its cannabinoid composition.

blankRegardless of your attitude to the plant, there is one simple truth: a functioning EC system is essential for health. Does this mean you have to consume cannabis to stay healthy? No, your body produces endocannabinoids on its own. However, to stay healthy, you need to have a well-functioning EC system that many people use with cannabis. Research has shown that small doses of cannabinoids derived from cannabis can send a signal to the body to increase endocannabinoid production and build up more cannabinoid receptors. This may explain why some users who use cannabis for the first time will not be experienced, but the second or third attempt is much more effective. Each part of the EC system performs a slightly different task, but the goal is always the same - homeostasis. Homeostasis is the automatic maintenance of a relatively stable internal environment despite variations in the external environment. The EC system is basically a physiological system that is involved in creating and maintaining human health.

While the idea of smoking a drug may be unacceptable to modern physicians, scientific research and patient testimony show that the primary cannabinoids contained in cannabis do work synergistically and provide excellent therapeutic effects with fewer side effects than isolated synthetic cannabinoids. In addition, there are a number of other treatments for cannabis that do not cause respiratory tract irritation.

The endocannabinoid system is the physiological system necessary to create and maintain human health.