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The Fascinating Impact of CBD on Your Endocannabinoid System

Written by: AtoZ Botanicals Staff



Time to read 10 min


Centuries of cannabis use, and we're just now uncovering its most fascinating secret: the endocannabinoid system (ECS).This newly discovered biological system is changing the way we understand our health and wellness.

Now, with the growing buzz around cannabidiol (CBD), a therapeutic compound in the cannabis plant, it's essential to understand how it works in the brain. 

How does CBD affect the endocannabinoid system?

This knowledge will allow you to make the most informed decisions about your health.

As holistic-wellness advocates, we see the body as an interconnected system and strive to fully grasp the important role substances like CBD oil have on human health.

In this comprehensive blog post, we're breaking down how the endocannabinoid system works and how CBD interacts as a key player in creating harmony in good health.

So what is this “ECS” system, anyway?

What is the Endocannabinoid System?

In short, it's a complex system that helps keep our bodily functions in check.

The Endocannabinoid System (ECS), also referred to as the endogenous cannabinoid system, is a complex network of cell-signaling mechanisms.

It was discovered by scientists in the early 90s during their research on THC, a prominent cannabinoid found in cannabis.

Even if you don't consume cannabis, the ECS still actively operates within your body. It plays a pivotal role in managing various bodily functions and processes sleep regulation, mood control, appetite, memory, reproduction, and fertility.

The ECS is made of three primary elements: endocannabinoids, receptors, and enzymes.

Endocannabinoids are naturally occurring compounds in the body that bind to receptors spread across cell membranes throughout the body. These endocannabinoid receptors in the central nervous system, peripheral nervous system, immune system, and more signal the ECS into action.

Once they've fulfilled their role, enzymes break down the endocannabinoids.

Scientists continue to research the ECS to better understand how it might be used for treatment purposes. The main job of the ECS is to maintain balance in the body's various systems.

It's kind of like your body's internal traffic control system.

Just like a traffic system helps maintain order with all the vehicles on the roads, the ECS sends signals to different 'lanes' in the body to promote balance.

CBD oil

Balanced Bodily Functions: Role of the Endocannabinoid System

Mood Regulation

Let's start with the brain. The ECS, a critical player in mood regulation, influences neurotransmitters like serotonin and dopamine, both of which have a significant role in mood modulation. Chronic stress, however, can disrupt this delicate balance, leading to an overstimulated stress response (like the fight or flight response) that may impair the ECS and exacerbate mood disorders. Endocannabinoids aid in controlling the release of these neurotransmitters, contributing to overall mood stability.

Immune Functions

Your immune system gets support from the ECS, which works to maintain its balance and regulate functions such as inflammation and immune cell proliferation. The ECS does this through its interaction with its cannabinoid receptors, CB1 and CB2, found throughout the body including on immune cells. When these receptors are activated, they can modulate the immune response, helping to maintain overall immune health

Memory Formation

Studies have shown that endocannabinoids regulate the strength of synapses in the brain, which is crucial for retaining memories. They also play a role in forgetting unnecessary information, helping to maintain a balance between remembering important things and forgetting irrelevant ones.

Pain Perception

The ECS helps regulate pain perception by influencing the transmission of pain signals within the **central nervous system. The endocannabinoids bind to receptors in the brain and spinal cord, reducing the release of certain neurotransmitters that transmit pain signals. This process can help reduce pain and inflammation throughout the body.


Your sleep-wake cycle is regulated by your circadian rhythm, which is controlled by the suprachiasmatic nucleus (SCN) in the hypothalamus. Endocannabinoids have been found in high concentrations here, suggesting a role in the regulation of sleep.

Other Functions

Aside from these main functions, the ECS also plays a role in regulating appetite and metabolism, body temperature, and reproductive processes. Endocannabinoids have been shown to affect the release of hormones that control appetite and metabolism, as well as regulate the sleep-wake cycle. They also play a role in ovulation and sperm development. Further research is needed to fully understand all of the functions of the ECS.

“When we strive to become better than we are, everything around us becomes better too.”

- Paulo Coelho

Why Am I Just Now Hearing About This?

The endocannabinoid system (ECS) is relatively new to science, which is why you may not have heard much about it yet.

Here's a short timeline of its discovery:

  • Late 1980s : While studying the effects of cannabis, scientists found cannabinoid receptors in rat brains. This early research was the first hint toward the discovery of the ECS.

  • Early 1990s: Scientists discovered a substance in the body called anandamide that can attach itself to these receptors, just like cannabis does.

  • Mid-1990s: Another similar substance, called 2-AG (2-arachidonoylglycerol), was found, adding to our understanding of the ECS.

  • 2000s till now: Scientists started linking the ECS to many functions and diseases. Research is on-going and the scientific community is just scratching the surface of understand the ECS.

So don't be surprised if you haven't heard much about it until now – we're all still learning about this fascinating system together. As more research is conducted, the potential benefits of targeting the ECS for medical treatments will continue to emerge. Let's take a look at the core components. 

Scientist researching CBD

The Endocannabinoid System's Building Blocks

It's all about keeping our bodies in balance and it's built on three key players: endocannabinoids, receptors, and enzymes. Each one has its own special job in the ECS


Endocannabinoids are molecules produced by our own bodies that act as messengers between cells.

The two most well-known and main endocannabinoids are anandamide and 2-AG (2-arachidonoylglycerol).

Anandamide- The Bliss Molecule

The first endocannabinoid, anandamide,earned its name from the Sanskrit word "ananda," which translates to "bliss". It plays a pivotal role in memory, motivation, higher thought processes, formation of the nervous system, as well as in the regulation of mood, anxiety, and fear.


These are the most prevalent endocannabinoids in the human body and thought to have a role in the immune system.

Types of Cannabinoid Receptors

Receptors are proteins found on the surface of cells that interact with endocannabinoids and other compounds. The ECS has two primary cannabinoid receptors CB 1 and CB 2.

CB1 Receptor

CB1 receptors are mainly found in the central nervous system (CNS), connecting to various parts of the brain and their functions. When activated by an endocannabinoid or external cannabinoid like CBD, they can ease pain and control nerve cell signaling.

CB2 Receptor

CB2 receptors are more commonly found in the immune system or peripheral organs. Their activation can reduce inflammation.

“Third” Cannabinoid Receptor?

Early research says that the endocannabinoid system might not be limited to just these two receptors. There seems to be a mysterious 'third' player on the field - the GPR55 receptor. This receptor, found throughout our bodies, is believed to interact with both endogenous cannabinoids (the ones our bodies naturally produce) and exogenous cannabinoids (the ones found in substances like cannabis).

This is still under review in the scientific community, and the exact nature and function of GPR55 is in the early stages of scientific study.


Enzymes are responsible for breaking down endocannabinoids once they have completed their function. The two main enzymes involved in the ECS are FAAH (fatty acid amide hydrolase) and MAGL (monoacylglycerol lipase).


This enzyme breaks down anandamide, which means it prevents the molecule from signaling the brain that it’s time to start shutting down its activity.


This is another breakdown enzyme, but for 2-AG.

enzyme research

“He who has health, has hope; and he who has hope, has everything.”

- Arabian Proverb

When the ECS isn't working right

Sometimes, however, this system may not function as it should.

An imbalance within the endocannabinoid system (ECS) can spell trouble for our health. Conditions such as Clinical Endocannabinoid Deficiency (CED) have been linked to health issues like migraines, fibromyalgia, and irritable bowel syndrome. CED suggests that low endocannabinoid levels in the body can contribute to the development of these conditions, thereby highlighting the importance of a well-functioning ECS for optimal health.

Where Cannabis fits in the Mix

Cannabis is packed with compounds called cannabinoids. These can be split into two types: exogenous cannabinoids (that you find in things like cannabis) and endogenous cannabinoids (that our bodies naturally make). The cannabinoids from plants, or phytocannabinoids, like those in Cannabis Sativa, interact with our Endocannabinoid System (ECS) in a similar way to our own endogenous cannabinoids.

So when you consume cannabis, these plant-based cannabinoids join the party in your body and can connect to the same spots as your own cannabinoids. Think of it like using a key (the cannabinoid) to unlock a door (the receptor). Once the key turns the lock, it can set off different effects in your body, depending on which receptor it connects to.

For example, if THC links up with a receptor in your brain, it might give you a feeling of joy or a "high". But CBD doesn't connect directly to these receptors as strongly. It seems to work a bit differently, influencing the ECS in other ways. This could mean bumping up the levels of your own endocannabinoids or messing with the enzymes that break them down.

But there's a big difference between synthetic and plant-based cannabinoids. Synthetic cannabinoids try to copy the effects of the natural ones, but they often miss out on the same complexity and can sometimes cause not-so-great effects. That's why a lot of people support using medical cannabis and plant-based cannabinoids, instead of their synthetic look-alikes.

Side Effects of Cannabis

Using cannabis that contains THC, particularly when used regularly or for recreational purposes, can have some potential drawbacks. THC, the psychoactive component of cannabis , is often linked to these undesirable effects.

The Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration tells us there are health risks from using marijuana. The American Addiction Centers highlight that these might include breathing problems and a higher chance of getting testicular cancer.

The National Institute on Drug Abuse points out that using marijuana regularly and for a long time can lead to something called Cannabinoid Hyperemesis Syndrome, which involves really bad nausea and vomiting. They also note that using marijuana has been linked to a higher chance of car accidents and poor performance in school.

Just like smoking anything else, smoking marijuana can cause inflammation and irritation in your lungs. Regular users might end up with the same breathing issues as someone who smokes tobacco.

The CDC also mentions that addiction is a possible outcome of long-term use of cannabis containing THC. Users could be more likely to develop cannabis use disorder, a kind of substance use disorder. This disorder can lead to problems with paying attention, remembering things, and learning.

Additionally, research from the Yale School of Medicine shows that higher THC levels in cannabis can result in problems with memory and attention, and a bigger tendency to take risks.

So, in a nutshell, while cannabis can have some therapeutic uses, it's really important to be aware of the potential risks that come with using it, especially when it comes to the THC component and how THC affects your body and mind.

cannabis use

The (Very Beneficial) Effects of CBD

CBD, unlike THC, offers the various health benefits of cannabis without psychoactive effects. It interacts with the endocannabinoid system and offers pain relief, anxiety reduction, improved sleep, anti-inflammatory and potential anti-acne effects, neuroprotection, antioxidants, possible anti-seizure properties, cardiovascular support, and overall well-being enhancement (to name a few!)

For a comprehensive guide on CBD's potential benefits, check out our blog post:  The top 10 Benefits of CBD.

Popular Forms of CBD

Keep in mind, while some methods like vaping and smoking provide quick effects, they could potentially harm your lungs. So, they might not be the best choice if you're seeking health benefits. Edibles are a yummy and handy option, but remember they might take a bit longer to work since your body needs to digest them first.

Also, it's good to know that products with THC can have mind-altering effects, which might not be what everyone is looking for. That's why we often suggest THC-free CBD products.

At A to Z Botanicals, we've got a variety of THC-free CBD goodies like topical treatments and tinctures. Topicals are great for focused relief and you don't need to eat or inhale them. Tinctures are absorbed quickly and it's easy to control how much you use. These methods let you enjoy the perks of CBD without the potential risks tied to THC, vaping, or smoking.


The endocannabinoid system (ECS) helps regulate our mood, sleep, and appetite to keep our body balanced.

CBD significantly helps regulate the ECS, enhancing endocannabinoid effects for a more balanced system. THC-free CBD products offer many benefits without psychoactive effects. Knowing how CBD affects your ECS allows you to make health-conscious decisions. A to Z Botanicals offers quality, THC-free CBD products to support your ECS and daily balance. Visit our website to find the right CBD product for your lifestyle, discover its natural benefits, and start your journey to improved well-being.

“In health there is freedom. Health is the first of all liberties.”

– Henri Frederic Amiel

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