Let’s talk about the Endocannabinoid system (ECS)


ECS stands for the Endocannibinoid System which was discovered in the early 1990s by scientists who were trying to understand the effects of cannabis in humans. Our bodies produce their own Endocannabinoids and the first one discovered by scientists was Anandamide named after the Sanskrit word ‘ananda’ meaning ‘joy, bliss, delight.’

Endocannabinoids are so important because they help to regulate vital physiological functions, acting like a communication link between the brain and the body to effect everything from sleep, appetite, pain, inflammation, memory, mood and reproduction. The ECS in also critical when it comes to promoting a natural state of homeostasis, or equilibrium within our body to ensure that each organ and function is working in harmony. If the homeostatis becomes disrupted and our body is out of balance, it can have a knock-on effect for our health and result in illness. For example, we now know that conditions such as migraines, fibromyalgia and IBS can occur when our body’s ECS is not working properly.

The ECS is made up of three key components: Endocannabinoids, Cannabinoid Receptors and enzymes which synthesize and degrade the Endocannibinoids.  Cannabinoid Receptors are found all over the body but the primary receptors are CB1 which is usually found in the central nervous system and CB2 which is found on immune cells, in the gastrointestinal tract and the peripheral nervous system.  Activated by Cannibinoids like THC and CBD, they play an important role in the human body helping to regulate:

  • Appetite
  • Bone health
  • Caloric metabolism
  • Fertility
  • Immune function
  • Inflammation
  • Mood
  • Memory
  • Pain sensation
  • Skin health
  • Sleep
  • Stress response

Now we’ll explain what happens when the cannabinoids THC and CBD and the receptors CB1 and CB2 get together.

The Endocannabinoid System has become a source of great interest for scientists, the medical profession and researchers. Over time, as we find out more, new medicines could be developed to modulate the levels of endocannabinoids to treat different medical conditions.


THC binds to both the CB1 and CB2 receptors and activates them in the same way that an endocannabinoid would. The effects of THC are commonly considered to be psychological, but it goes deeper than just giving you a high, it has been proven to help with chronic pain, nausea, appetite, asthma and glaucoma, and even against cancer.


CBD has been shown not to bind to any of the receptors but instead it works by inhibiting the enzyme FAAH which prevents and slows down the breakdown of Anandamide – possibly one the most crucial endocannabinoids in the body as scientists believe more anandamide in our systems leads to enhanced levels of happiness. CBD is also known to be effective against some serious medical conditions such as inhibiting tumour growth, reducing or preventing inflammation and nausea, diabetes, PTSD, schizophrenia, rheumatoid arthritis, epilepsy, cardiovascular disease, antipsychotic, anti-anxiety and as a painkiller against muscle spasms, or neuropathic pain.

The Endocannabinoid System has become a source of great interests for scientists, the medical profession and researchers and over time as we find out more, new medicines could be developed to modulate the levels of endocannabinoids to treat different medical conditions. The possibilities are truly endless.

Want to delve deeper into the science bit? Just click here.


Medical Cannabis and Children

Dr Frank talks about the inconsistency of the laws regarding cannabis in the United States and some of the problems its causing especially in relation to teenagers getting doctors medical recommendation letters – an issue that he receives a lot of calls about from worried parents.

Video By Doctor Frank