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The Endocannabinoid System (ECS)

By  Yanna Jo

The Endocannabinoid System (ECS) is an internal, biological, neuro-regulatory system that is directly related to the cannabis plant, because of the production of endocannabinoids, which are endogenous lipid-based neurotransmitters that bind to cannabinoid receptors and cannabinoid receptor proteins, expressed throughout the vertebral central and peripheral nervous system (including the brain). ECS is involved in the regulation of a variety of physiological and cognitive processes, including fertility, pregnancy, pre- and postnatal development, appetite, pain, mood and memory. It also participates in the mediation of some of the physiological and cognitive effects of volunteer physical exercise on humans and other animals, such as the contribution to euphoria caused by exercise, as well as the regulation of physical activity.

Squids, tiny nematoids and all vertebrate species all have cannabinoid systems. It is an essential part of their lives and their adaptation to environmental changes. By comparing cannabinoid genetics in different species, scientists estimate that the endocannabinoid system evolved in primitive animals 600 million years ago.

The existence of this system was discovered, within the scientific community, in the 1960s but only in 1988 its structure and operation were systematically recorded and clarified.

Two types of primary endocannabinoid receptors have been identified: CB1, discovered in 1990 and CB2, discovered in 1993.


The CB1 receptor is a G protein-coupled cannabinoid receptor that in humans is encoded by the CNR1 gene. CB1 regulates the release of neurotransmitters when activated. The CB1 receptor is expressed pre-synaptically at both glutaminergic and GABA interneurons and, in effect, acts as a neuromodulator to inhibit release of glutamate and GABA. It is activated by cannabinoids naturally produced in the body (endocannabinoids) or introduced into the body by cannabis or a related synthetic compound.


The CB2 receptor is a G protein-coupled receptor, which in humans is encoded by the CNR2 gene. Approximately 360 amino acids comprise the human CB2 receptor, making it somewhat shorter than the 473-amino-acid-long CB1 receptor. CB2 receptors are also known to be bound to a complex and highly conserved signal transport pathway, which decisively regulates a number of important cellular processes for maturity and tissue growth.


The CB1 receptors, located mainly in the brain and the nervous system, as well as in the peripheral organs and tissues, are the main molecular target of the endocannabinoid ligand Anadamide, and the phytocannabinoid mimic of it, tetrahydrocannabinol (THC). Another key endocannabinoid is 2-arachidylglycerol (2-AG), which acts in both receptors, along with its own mimetic phytocannabinoid, CBD. 2-AG and CBD are involved in the regulation of appetite, immune system functions and pain management.

A functional endocannabinoid system leads to homeostasis and is essential for good health. Unlike synthetic derivatives, cannabis herb may contain over a hundred different cannabinoids, including THC, all of which work collaboratively to provide better medical results.

The Green Greeks Magazine

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