How Does the Endocannabinoid System (ECS) Work and What Part Can CBD Play?

During the early years of your education, you likely learned about the many important processes in your body. You may remember studying fascinating details about your circulatory system, immune system, or nervous system and how these essential systems worked together to keep your body healthy and strong.

Not that long ago, researchers discovered another important system that helps keeps all your other systems functioning harmoniously. They named this essential regulatory system the Endocannabinoid System (ECS). Since the Endocannabinoid System was not discovered until the early 1990s, many people are unfamiliar with this vital communication network. Once you know how the Endocannabinoid System works, it’s much easier to understand the significance of hemp-derived CBD.1

What is the Endocannabinoid System (ECS)? 

The Endocannabinoid System is a communication system comprised of chemical messengers and receptors. The receptors of the Endocannabinoid System are located throughout your body and your brain. This essential communication network controls numerous processes throughout your body, including your memory, mood, appetite, temperature and more. Researchers believe the ECS significantly helps to regulate the processes of homeostasis.2 

What is Homeostasis?

Homeostasis is the internal stability and balance that all living organisms need to maintain for survival. When internal processes function outside their appropriate range, it’s the process of homeostasis that directs organs, muscles, and glands to correct the disruption and restore function to acceptable parameters. Homeostatic systems help your body adapt to changes in situation and environment.3 In a state of homeostasis, all internal system function normally.

The Two Cannabinoid Receptors

Your Endocannabinoid System is a network of neurotransmitters and receptors that facilitate communication between your body and your brain. The messengers of this system are called cannabinoids. Your body makes two main cannabinoids, the endocannabinoids anandamide and 2-AG.4

It’s the chemical composition of the message that relays instructions to the endocannabinoid receptors, CB1 and CB2.5 Both of these receptors are found on the surface of cells throughout your body in varying concentrations, for example:

  • CB1 Receptors

    CB1 receptors are found at their highest levels in your brain and spinal cord, your central nervous system. CB1 receptors in specific areas of your brain are responsible for processing information, regulating moods and emotions, pain regulation, motor control, and metabolism. 

  • CB2 Receptors

    CB2 receptors are most abundant within your peripheral nervous system, which extends from your central nervous system to the other areas of your body. CB2 receptors regulate muscle movement, organ function, and the processes involved in regulating your immune system.

 How Does Your ECS Work?

The receptors of your Endocannabinoid System are more abundant than any other receptor system in your body. In each organ system and every tissue, your ECS performs a different task, but the goal remains the same: to maintain homeostasis.

The endocannabinoids produced in your body are made as needed and quickly broken down by enzymes. If there are not enough cannabinoids to interact with the cannabinoid receptors, communication breaks down. Fortunately, your Endocannabinoid System also responds to plant-based cannabinoids, particularly the non-intoxicating cannabinoid cannabidiol (CBD). Here’s what can happen in your body when you consume hemp-derived CBD: 

  • Ingesting Cannabinoids

    After CBD enters your stomach the cannabinoids enter the hepatic portal. The hepatic portal is a series of veins that carry blood from your stomach to your liver. Once the CBD enters your liver, it’s metabolized. This is known as the “first-pass effect.”6

  • Cannabinoids Are Released to the Bloodstream 

    After metabolization in the liver, 20-30 percent of the cannabinoids ingested will circulate in your bloodstream. You can maximize the amount of CBD in your bloodstream if you hold your CBD tincture under your tongue 30-90 seconds before swallowing. This allows the cannabinoids to bypass your liver by absorbing through the blood vessels under your tongue.

  • Cannabinoids Interact with Receptors

    While THC (tetrahydrocannabinol) binds directly with endocannabinoid receptors, CBD does not. Once CBD enters your bloodstream, it activates TRPV1 receptors and inhibits FAAH (fatty acid amide hydrolase) which causes an increase in the production of anandamide. Cannabinoids also modulate several non-endocannabinoid receptors to enhance or inhibit the binding of certain protein-coupled receptors.7 

  • Cannabinoids Contribute to Homeostasis

    Once CBD begins interacting with the receptors of your Endocannabinoid System, it contributes to the processes necessary to keep essential processes stable. By functioning as neurotransmitters, the plant-based cannabinoids in hemp-derived CBD help keep the ECS functioning efficiently.

Can You Be Deficient in Cannabinoids?

Yes, it is quite possible for your body to produce fewer cannabinoids than it needs. Your internal environment is continuously changing. The cannabinoids produced in your body are made as needed and quickly broken down by enzymes. When internal or external conditions create a need for more messengers than your body creates, essential balance is threatened. The symptoms of clinical endocannabinoid deficiency (CECD) can vary depending on the systems affected.8 

How CBD Could Benefit Your Endocannabinoid System

While researchers once believe that endocannabinoid receptors were primarily found in the central nervous system, today, we understand that ECS receptors are dispersed throughout the body. It the communication between the ECS messengers and receptors that can help keep your immune system strong, your memory sharp and your digestive system functioning smoothly. Since your body also responds to the plant-based cannabinoids in hemp oil, there are many ways CBD could benefit your ECS, including:

  • External Cannabinoids

    Under the effects of injury, illness, or environmental stress, your body could need more cannabinoids than it creates on its own. Hemp-derived CBD is a significant source of external cannabinoids that could help keep your ECS functioning at optimal levels.

  • Pure, Non-Intoxicating Cannabinoids

    Hemp-derived CBD supplements ECS function without the risk of intoxication. That’s because full spectrum hemp contains only trace amounts of THC (0.3 percent or less). You also have the option of a 0% THC product made with CBD isolate. 

  • Higher Potency

    CBD can help encourage the production of endocannabinoids (anandamide and 2-AG) and prevent them from breaking down. The cannabinoids in hemp-derived CBD products have a stronger, longer-lasting effect than the cannabinoids created in your body and the dosage can always be adjusted to suit your needs. 

Supporting Your ECS with Products from CBDistillery™

Your Endocannabinoid System helps regulate nearly every essential function in your body and helps keep critical processes running smoothly. Once you understand how your ECS works, it’s easy to understand the health and wellness potential of hemp-derived products. If you would like more information about the messengers and receptors of your endocannabinoid system, download The Ultimate CBD User Guide at CBDistillery.™

CBDistillery™ offers a variety of fairly priced CBD products sourced from non-GMO hemp grown using natural farming methods. You can verify the quality and purity of CBDistillery™  tinctures, topicals, capsules, vape pens, and pet products by viewing the third-party test results of every product we offer.

  1. 1British Journal of Pharmacology. R Pertwee. (2006 January 09) Cannabinoid Pharmacology: The first 66 years.
  2. Journal of Young Investigators. C Sallaberry and L Astern (2018 June 01) The Endocannabinoid System, Our Universal Regulator.
  3. Advances in Physiology Education. H Modell et al. (2015 December) A Physiologist’s View of Homeostasis.
  4. Oxford Academic. F de Fonseca et al. (2004 November 18) The Endocannabinoid System: Physiology and Pharmacology.
  5. News-Medical.Net. A Mandal. (2019) Cannabinoid Receptors
  6. 6. LibreTexts. (2019 June 05) Hepatic Portal Circulation.
  7. Project CBD. (2019) How CBD Works.
  8. Clinical Endocannabinoid Deficiency Reconsidered: Current Research Supports the Theory in Migraine, Fibromyalgia, Irritable Bowel, and Other Treatment-Resistant Syndromes.
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