Updated: Nov 18, 2021

Endocannabinoid System (ECS).

The Endocannabinoid System

As previously stated, to use CBD effectively, we should understand the potential of the endocannabinoid system (Crippa et al, 2018) (Salaberry & Astern, 2018). The Endocannabinoid System (ECS) is a modern discovery, identified in the 1980’s as “an integral part of the physiology of all vertebrate animals” (Cannabis Access Clinics, 2020).

It does not exist ‘because’ of the medicinal plant cannabis sativa. The ECS is a refined network of receptors spread throughout the entire body that controls a wide variety of internal functions. It governs our reaction to both the external and our internal environment. This includes a person’s mood: modulating the process of neurotransmitter release, the regulation of pain perception, memory, sleep patterns alongside controlling appetite and other biological functions..

Disruption of the ECS or endocannabinoid deficiency has been proposed to be responsible for a wealth of chronic disease, commonly found in patients that seek Western Herbal Medicine: IBS, migraine, fibromyalgia, PTSD, MS, Parkinson’s, metabolic syndrome, digestive and sleep disorders: to name but a few. Understanding these two phytochemicals (THC & CBD) has developed the scientific understanding of the Endocannabinoid system as a tightly controlled, responsive, precisely mediating system that modulates an appropriate biological response.

Endocannabinoid receptors are produced by our body and are located throughout the bodies peripheral and central nervous system. Crucial in all stages of human existence from the fetal development of synaptogenesis and synaptic pruning within neurology. To the two G-coupled cannabinoid receptors that are found systematically throughout the human body. CB1 receptors (discovered in 1988) are primarily famous for their interaction with THC, facilitating the intoxicating effect of the cannabis plant. CB1 receptors are found in the brain and nervous system. Whilst CB2 receptors (identified in 1993) do not modulate a psychoactive effect and are established in the immune and reproductive tissue. Offering a mediatory effect, regulating pain perception, inflammation in the enteric nervous system (Brewer, 2020).

The keys that fit these perspective locks (the receptors) are recognized as endocannabinoids, ‘endo’ meaning endogenous, produced by body in deep tissue. The two established endocannabinoids in human physiology are N-arachidonoyl ethanolamine (anandamide, AEA) and 2-arachidonoylglycerol (2 A-G). CBD acts as a non-competitive negative allosteric modulator of the CB1 receptor working synergistically with THC whilst reducing the potency of THC and AEA this is known as the ‘Entourage Effect’ (Reggio, 2010) (Russo, 2011).

CBD essentially binds to TRP V1, influencing pain perception comparable to Capsaicin found in Capsicum annuum L. (Chilli pepper) which also activates the TRP V1 receptor (Maroon, J et al, 2010). Offering safe, and effective long-term use. In 2020 Nelson remained skeptical and maintained that there was insufficient double-blinded, placebo controlled clinical trials to substantiate ‘anecdotal claims of CBD’s clinical utility’. Drawing our attention to potential harmful and adverse effects. Raising the question of its metabolism, absorption, and excretion. Nelson concludes oral administration exhibits low bioavailability with substantial liver clearance. Is the placebo effect responsible? Is the hype around CBD valid and substantiated by science? These are questions that need to be explored.

The body’s reaction to CBD medicine is completely individual and although some patients will experience immediate effect (within 15 minutes of an initial dose). Some people may take up to 2 weeks before significant benefit is established. The recommendations are to start low and go slow. Seek the advice of your primary healthcare practitioner before self medication. CBD products should always be recommended by a qualified practitioner. Remember the quality of the product used will have a significant effect on the efficacy of treatment.


Crippa et al. (2018). Translational Investigation of the Therapeutic Potential of Cannabidiol CBD: Towards a New Age. Frontiers in Immunology.

Epilepsy Action [EA]. (2020). Epilepsy and cannabis-based medicine. [online] Available at: [Accessed 15 January 2021].

Great Britain General Medical Council (GBGMC) copyright. (2018). British Pharmacopoeia 1867. London: Forgotten Books.

Maroon, J. et al. (2010). Natural anti-inflammatory agents for pain relief. Surgical Neurology International, 1, pp. 80.

Mechoulam, R. (2012). Cannabis – A Valuable Drug That Deserves Better Treatment. Mayo Clinic Proceedings, 87(2), pp. 107-109.

Nelson, K. et al. (2020). The essential medicinal chemistry of cannabidiol (CBD). Journal of Medicinal Chemistry, 63 pp. 12137-12155.

Reggio, P. (2010). Endocannabinoid Binding to the Cannabinoid Receptors: What Is Known and Unknown. Curr. Med Chem. 17(14), pp.1468-1486.

Russo, E. (2011). Taming THC: Potential Cannabis Synergy and Phyto-cannabinoid – terpenoid entourage effects. Br J Pharmacol 163 (7) pp. 1344-1364.

Russo, E. (2016). Clinical endocannabinoid deficiency reconsidered: current research supports the theory in migraine, fibromyalgia, irritable bowel, and other treatment-resistant syndromes. Cannabis and Cannabinoid Research, 1(1), pp. 154-165.

Sallaberry, C. & Astern, L. (2018). The Endocannabinoid System, our Universal Regulator. Journal of Young Investigators, 34(6) pp. 48-55.

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