What is the Endocannabinoid System? (ECS)

What is the Endocannabinoid System? (ECS)

*It’s understandable to be excited by the prospect of an all-natural ingredient that may be able to help with stress, anxiety, and even potentially pain. We’re talking, of course, about CBD. But even seasoned connoisseurs may not be aware of the endocannabinoid system, which is the physical reason behind CBD’s potential to have such wide-ranging effects in the human body. 

If you’ve been wondering about the hows and whys of Cannabidiol (CBD), this is the blog for you! The key to this puzzle is the endocannabinoid system and we’re here to share some information about what it is, how it works, and more. 

Endocannabinoid System in a Nutshell

Simply put, the endocannabinoid system is a biological system in the human body, just like the nervous system, respiratory system, circulatory system, immune system, etc. The endocannabinoid system is composed of endocannabinoids, cannabinoid receptors, enzymes, neurons, and neural pathways. 

You’re likely familiar with enzymes (proteins that help certain reactions occur in the body) and neurons (nerve cells). You also probably know what cannabinoids are, because that’s what our beloved CBD is. To refresh, cannabinoids are the unique organic chemicals (usually just called compounds) produced by cannabis plants. In plants, like hemp and other forms of cannabis sativa, these compounds are more specifically known as phytocannabinoids. Humans and animals also produce cannabinoids in their bodies – see where we’re going with this? Those, of course, are known as endocannabinoids. 

The final piece is cannabinoid receptors, which are probably the hardest to explain in non-science terms. The most important thing about receptors is right there in their name: they receive and transmit signals within the body. Located all throughout the body, cannabinoid receptors are most closely associated with appetite, pain, mood, and memory. (Hmm… why does that sound so familiar?) The two main receptors are known as CB1 and CB2 and when they are “activated,” the body can bring itself back into homeostasis (balance). 

Processes of the Endocannabinoid System

So what is the endocannabinoid system involved with? Mainly the processes related to those we just mentioned, including motor learning, appetite, cognitive functions, stress responses, sleep, and physical exercise. 

The cannabinoid receptors exist to interact specifically with human-produced endocannabinoids, but phytocannabinoids like CBD are so structurally similar that the ECS interacts with them, too. The overall goal of the endocannabinoid system is to create and maintain homeostasis, or balance, within the body; CBD seeks out these stressed receptors and helps bring them back 

into balance. 

Although more research needs to be conducted into the intricate connections between the ECS and cannabinoids like CBD, it’s clear that the existence of the endocannabinoid system plays a large role in the potential benefits of CBD. *A short list of these potential benefits includes supporting pain relief, help with anxiety disorders, aid with insomnia and other sleep issues, and promote stress relief and muscle tension, among other medicinal and calming effects.

Types of CBD

CBD oils and CBD gummies are two common ways to tap into the power of the endocannabinoid system, but it works topically as well. When CBD cream is rubbed onto the skin, it triggers a reaction with the receptors in the endocannabinoid system. Because the endocannabinoid system is oriented toward achieving balance within the body, the interaction between CBD and the receptors works toward that effect, supporting homeostasis and pain relief in the process. 


*Whether you’re yearning to optimize your sleep patterns, relieve everyday stress, or deal with pain, CBD’s potential to support the endocannabinoid system makes it an ideal all-natural ingredient. To learn more about CBD, check out our extensive CBD 101 Guide. If you need some more help figuring out which CBD product is right for you, take our quiz!