A man holds up a CBD oil dropper and bottle

Endocannabinoid System: An In-Depth Look

A close-up of CBD oil dropping from the dropper
Most of us know that CBD is capable of providing support to those dealing with common issues, but there are still many regular hemp users who don’t quite understand the mechanisms at work when we consume cannabidiol. In order to fully appreciate that which cannabidiol is capable of, we have to grasp its relationship to the body’s endocannabinoid system. Therefore, our primary focus here will be on the endocannabinoid system. The endocannabinoid system, or ECS, is a complex bodily system that uses cannabinoids in the hemp plant to promote equilibrium throughout the body.

CBD and Cannabinoids

CBD, which is short for cannabidiol, belongs to a class of compounds called cannabinoids, which are unique to the cannabis genus that includes marijuana and hemp. Cannabinoids are unlike any other compounds in the plant world because only these compounds directly interact with the body’s endocannabinoid system. CBD is the most popular cannabinoid in the hemp plant by far. For one thing, it’s the most dominant compound, which means that there is more cannabidiol than any other compound in the plant material. Furthermore, it’s been the most widely studied, so we have a lot of information about its specific effects. But this doesn’t mean that CBD is the only cannabinoid in hemp that we should consider using. In fact, hemp naturally boasts over one hundred individual cannabinoids which each work with the endocannabinoid system in a unique way. For instance, there’s CBN, which is a minor cannabinoid in hemp. Then, there’s THC, which aside from its psychoactive properties.

The Endocannabinoid System

What exactly is the endocannabinoid system? Scientists first discovered the endocannabinoid system (ECS) in the 1990s while trying to figure out why CBD can potentially offer such widespread effects throughout the body. This system has since been found to exist in every mammal, which is why people are beginning to give cannabidiol to their pets. The ECS consists of cannabinoid receptors which can be found in every area of the body. The system’s job is to create homeostasis in the body. Homeostasis refers to a biological state in which every bodily process is functioning at its highest level, resulting in a state of inner balance and wellness.

An infographic of the human endocannabinoid system
Every cannabinoid receptor in the body is tasked with regulating a specific bodily process. For example, there are cannabinoid receptors in the brain that are in charge of regulating mood through balancing the neurotransmitters that deal with how we feel such as serotonin, dopamine, and cortisol. There are also cannabinoid receptors in the immune system that balance the body’s inflammation response, and cannabinoid receptors in the nervous system that regulate the way in which pain signals are sent to the brain.

Why the Endocannabinoid System Needs Cannabinoids

These cannabinoid receptors have an important job to do, but they can’t do it on their own. They require cannabinoids in order to create these regulatory effects. Interestingly, the body produces its own cannabinoids, and science is beginning to show that a large majority of us are deficient. That’s why we can take in cannabinoids with the help of the hemp plant. When we consume cannabinoids like cannabidiol, they bind with cannabinoid receptors in the body.

What Does the Endocannabinoid System Do?

The endocannabinoid system is a highly intelligent system which distributes cannabinoids as needed to different areas that need functional balance. The system also stores cannabinoids that are not needed for later use. This explains why cannabinoids are considered nontoxic, as they don’t build up in toxic levels, but rather accumulate for use at a later time.

The Three Components of the Endocannabinoid System

There are three main parts invovled in the ECS. They are cannabinoid receptors, endocannabinoid molecules, and metabolic enzymes. The receptors are like the landing pads for the cannabinoids, or the place where they can bind and otherwise interact with your ECS. Endocannabinoid molecules refer to the cannabinoids that our bodies produce naturally. We have the system and we have our own molecules, and then the third part is the metabolic enzymes. These are like the motivators or the change-makers in the process. They synthesize and break down compounds so that they can be used.

How do CBD and THC Interact With the ECS?

THC is known to bind with both of the main receptor types in the ECS. These two receptors are called the CB1 and CB2 receptors. CBD is different, and rather than binding directly with either of those receptor sites, cannabidiol influences the way that other cannabinoids like THC interact with the CB1 and CB2 receptors. CBD also engages with ion channels and other mechanisms in the ECS to ultimately bring about homeostasis.

Supporting the Endocannabinoid System with Hemp

Knowing what we do about the endocannabinoid system, it makes sense to support it with CBD and other cannabinoids in the hemp plant. So, what’s the best way to use hemp to accomplish this? Well, it starts with seeking out high-quality CBD products. There are many aspects of producing a CBD product that determine how capable it is of giving the endocannabinoid system the best support possible. For instance, organic hemp is far more useful because it is more chemically stable, as it has not been exposed to toxins that can cause cannabinoids to degrade. The same applies to the extraction process used, as the CO2 extraction method seems to best preserve the stability of cannabinoids. We can also take cannabidiol daily to give the endocannabinoid system as much support as possible. Because cannabinoids work cumulatively in the body, daily consumption is the most effective way to ensure that the endocannabinoid system can fully fulfill its function.
Someone holding a bottle of CBD oil in their hand
Of course, there is also the matter of milligram strength. When selecting particular CBD products, we immediately notice different milligram strengths to choose from. This number reflects the potency, as it indicates the number of milligrams of pure hemp we’re taking in per dose. Many people opt for low strengths because they are afraid of potential consequences from taking too much cannabidiol per day. It’s important though, that we consider how much cannabinoid intake we need per day to truly produce desirable effects. Therefore, it might be wise to consider opting for a higher milligram strength if you feel that your body is not in its optimal state of wellbeing. By now, you’ve certainly come across a wide range of delivery methods on the market. Tinctures, topicals, gummies, capsules, and other delivery methods compete for our attention. If you’re trying to give the endocannabinoid system as much support as possible, any internal method will do, as they all ultimately achieve the same thing, which is to deliver cannabinoids into the human body for widespread distribution as needed. Topicals are unique in that they only allow cannabinoids to bind with receptors in the immediate area of application, although they are extremely useful to those who are dealing with more localized issues.

The Endocannabinoid System in Pets

Let’s quickly touch upon the endocannabinoid system in our four-legged companions, as more pet owners are eager to administer CBD to their cats and dogs in an effort to improve their wellness. It’s likely that our pets’ endocannabinoid systems fulfill the same functions ours do by maintaining homeostasis throughout the body. We know that cannabinoids like CBD seem to provide the same types of effects in their bodies. However, there are two things to bear in mind:
  1. Cats and dogs require different milligram strengths than we do, as their range of weight is different. Any good company that makes pet-friendly CBD products will offer a dosing guide.
  2. You should never give your pet THC because their bodies respond to it in a way that is vastly different from ours. THC may be dangerous to a dog or cat.

Endocannabinoid Deficiency

What does an endocannabinoid deficiency look like? It could present differently for various people, but common symptoms include digestive, mood, and sleep disorders as well as a lowered pain threshold. These issues could stem from other genetic or environmental factors, but it could be useful to see if taking phytocannabinoids, or cannabinoids found in plants like hemp, is helpful for you.

The Endocannabinoid System’s Role is Crucial for Our Survival

The endocannabinoid system is responsible for the fascinating and useful effects of cannabinoids like CBD. Knowing how the endocannabinoid system works has a lot to do with how you develop a routine to address your specific needs. In order to grasp a better command of your health, it will help to take all of this information into account so that you can come up with a well-rounded and optimal cannabidiol routine for enhancing your wellbeing.