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An Introduction to the Endocannabinoid System

Hi Everyone and welcome back!

Now if you’re reading this I can probably assume that you already know that cannabis is an amazing plant that does everything from helping with pain to relieving stress to boosting your appetite.

But do you know how or why it works?

I mean logically speaking that’s quite a spread of conditions. We’re talking influence over muscles, nerves, organs and mental health. All at the same time!?! That’s bonkers!!!

It leaves many of us, especially those that have struggled with chronic conditions, afraid that it’s a fad or worse - a scam. Some kind of snake oil to get you goofy, but not actually help anything. This impression is made worse by the fact that user experience varies drastically. We covered that briefly in this post and I’m sure we’ll talk about it more in the future, but today is about explaining how this little ol’ weed can provoke so many different reactions in the body.

The Endocannabinoid System (ECS)

The ECS was discovered in the early 90’s and if you look it up you’ll find lots of articles that all say the same frustratingly vague thing.

It’ll look something like this:

Now I don’t know about you, but I have no recollection of homeostasis ever being brought up in health class, let alone how to “maintain” it.

For something that supposedly explains everything cannabis can do in two words, this didn’t make much sense. So I pursued the idea until it did. It comes in two parts; The receptors (communication centres/locks) and the cannabinoids (keys).


This image shows that there are two main types of receptors throughout your body.

CB1- are primarily in the nervous system

CB2- are throughout the muscles and organs


Remember those cell towers in locked rooms I mentioned? Well, every function your body is capable of and has it’s own tower locked inside it’s own room. To activate the process of that room you need keys known as a cannabinoids.

A healthy ECS produces it’s own cannabinoids, known as AEA and 2AG, to fulfill this purpose. These two little keys open and close every door on demand and everything runs smoothly. This is the state known as homeostasis.

“Maintaining homeostasis” means “sustaining optimal function” aka “your body works the way it’s supposed to”

Those with a healthy ECS rarely get sick, tend to heal exceptionally quickly and have very few issues around mental health.

Which is fantastic for them, but what about the rest of us?

These receptors are how your body talks to your body. Think of them as cell towers inside of locked rooms. If the signal is weak, the request for a key never gets through and the required function doesn’t happen.

What happens if your ECS isn’t working the way it should?

The harsh truth is that if the ECS isn’t creating the keys needed or not delivering the keys it did make, those doors stay locked. The body fails, the mind fogs and existence becomes much more challenging.

How can I tell if my ECS is under productive?

Unfortunately there is no current lab test available for the ECS. Luckily, you don’t need one. You just need to listen to your body. The ECS is one of the fundamental parts of how we function. It even helps regulate the cardiac, respiratory and digestive systems. So when your ECS is struggling, your system WILL let you know. Just like it lets you know for your other basic needs.

For example:

What does it feel like when you’re not just thirsty, you’re dehydrated?

What does it feel like when you’re not just hungry, you’re starving?

What does it feel like when it’s not just stuffy, you’re suffocating?

If you’re taking good care of yourself (i.e. eating healthy, exercising regularly, taking your meds, going to the doctor, etc) and you still feel like you’re dying from the inside out for no reason; it could very well be that your ECS is in need of support.



Endo= inside = produced by the human body

Phyto = plant = produced by a plant

These are abundantly available in the plant known as cannabis. How abundant? While the ECS produces a mere two cannabinoids, there are over a hundred cannabinoids in cannabis.

They aren’t an exact match to our own endocannabinoids, but they are very close in structure and work exceptionally well at opening the doors we need, when we need them. It should also be noted that this right here is why we all have such varied reactions to cannabis. The healthy ECS is like having a custom skeleton key that works and runs everything via wifi. You cruise through life without even thinking about system maintenance because you don’t have to.

Using cannabis as a supplement is like having a 20lb key chain and a backpack of lock picks. You can still make everything happen the way you want it to, but there’s much more planning involved. It should also be noted that since we are all unique, even though we have the same types of doors, our locks are individual. Therefore one strain of cannabis can have vastly different reactions in different people.

Does it have to come from cannabis to work?

No it does not, however other plant based sources are far less potent, in both strength and variety of cannabinoids. You can find the cannabinoid CBD in foods that are high in beta-caryophyllene.

For more information on the ECS:

At the time this post is being written I am also in production of an educational video series for my YouTube channel. CannaHow: Understanding Cannabis. Here I’ll explore the science side of cannabis and share how to apply that knowledge in a practical way. We’ll update this article with a link when the videos are available.

This is in addition to my Cooking With Cannabis Series that’s already available.

Where the topics are recipes but you’ll find many tips on refinements and application methods to help make living an infused life an easy thing. You can find it here .

For more information on the ECS:

I highly recommend contacting your favourite dispensary. Here’s a link to my personal favourite .

A well trained budtender is an amazing resource. They not only have detailed knowledge of the cannabis plant, they know the strains that are actually available in their location.

Please note: Having an experienced hand to guide you through can make a huge difference, but please remember that budtenders are not medical professionals and are not allowed to give out medical advice. If you have concerns that require medical assistance we recommend contacting your primary physician.

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