How your endocannabinoid system keeps you happy and healthy


The endocannabinoid system is a biological system that interacts with cannabinoids, which are chemicals produced by the body. The endocannabinoid system plays a role in many functions within the human body, including regulating pain, our appetites and our mood. It mediates your stress response, plays a role in your immune system, regulates your metabolism and how you sleep.  It is a vital to keeping you alive, happy, and healthy.

Understanding how the endocannabinoid system works can help you better understand how cannabis products interact with your body—and why and how they might be able to help you feel better.

A graphic depiction of a person's torso is surrounded by images of different body systems.
Your endocannabinoid system regulates communication between your body’s different systems.

What is the endocannabinoid system?

The endocannabinoid system (ECS) is part of the body’s natural regulatory system and helps the body maintain homeostasis. It does this by helping our body’s systems communicate with each other. It does this through a series of communication portals in your cells (called “receptors” because they receive information) and certain molecules that interact with them. These molecules might be produced naturally in your body or introduced from outside sources, like the cannabis plant.

Several types of receptors have been identified as part of this system, but your CB1 and CB2 receptors are the most widely known. CB1 receptors are found mainly in the brain but also exist in peripheral tissues like the liver and spleen. When they’re activated by THC or anandamide (an endocannabinoid, naturally produced in our bodies), they play a role in regulating mood, sleep cycles and pain sensation, among other things.

CB2 receptors are mostly found within certain immune cells called macrophages and B-cells (white blood cells). We don’t understand their function very well, but some researchers believe they may help regulate inflammation, and potentially protect against growths such as tumors or cancers themselves.

A graphic depiction of a person's torso with receptors drawn in, and an up close picture of receptors
Your endocannabinoid system is a series of receptors found in most tissues in your body.

Cannabinoids can bind to receptors or block them

THC, the primary psychoactive phytocannabinoid, is arguably the most well-known cannabinoid. THC binds to both CB1 and CB2 receptors in our bodies, resulting in intoxicating effects.

CBD, on the other hand, has been shown to reduce inflammation by blocking both types of cannabinoid receptors at once. As a result, CBD is considered non-intoxicating because it doesn’t activate our receptors like THC. This is true whether you ingest, inhale, or absorb CBD products.

A graphic depiction of a person's endocannabinoid system, plus a group of cannabis products, equals effects and outcomes
Your endocannabinoid system creates effects by responding to the cannabis products you consume.

Understanding the endocannabinoid system is crucial to understanding how cannabis works

The endocannabinoid system is a complex network of cell receptors and cannabinoids (like THC or CBD) that work together to maintain homeostasis in the body. When this system works correctly, it mediates your stress response, plays a role in your immune system, regulates your appetite and metabolism, and regulates how you sleep, how you feel and how you experience pain. 

It’s important to understand how this network works so you can get the most out of the cannabis products you consume. Understanding how the endocannabinoid system operates will allow you to identify which specific ailments might be impacted by cannabis use and how best to address them using flower, extracts, edibles, or topicals made from cannabis or hemp plants.

We hope that this guide has helped you to understand more about the endocannabinoid system and how it works with THC and CBD. Check out our Ultimate Guide to CBN Edibles and our Ultimate Guide to CBG edibles to learn more about how those cannabinoids work with your body too!

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