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Components of the ECS and Their Role in Health


The ECS consists of ligands, their metabolizers, and the receptors they bind to. Phyto-cannabinoids that are well known in the medical cannabis field have analogous compounds that the human body produces through various forms of exercise and proper diet




Cannabinoid Receptors


  • THC, the active ingredient in marijuana, and the body’s own natural forms of THC, anandamide (AEA) and 2-AG produce effects by binding to and activating the CB1 receptor and the CB2 receptor.

  • CB1 receptors are some of the most widely expressed receptors on cells throughout the body.

    • It is particularly abundant in the brain where it is responsible for mediating the well-known effects of the typical marijuana high (pain control, memory blocking, and increased appetite).

    • CB1 receptors are found on two broad classes of nerve terminals: excitatory, which increase the activity of target neurons, and inhibitory, which reduce activity.

    • Therefore, CB1 can either enhance or diminish synaptic signaling depending on which of these systems it modulates. This is an example of the ability of the ECS to be a homeostatic regulator by having the ability to increase or decrease message flow between cells.

  • CB2 receptors are abundant in the immune system and appear to be involved in inflammation as well as pain responses.

    • CB2 receptors have been located in the central nervous system and have been shown to be active in the brain during certain kinds of inflammatory responses.

    • CB2 expression is highest in immune cells, where it seems to have several immunosuppressive effects, including inhibition of proinflammatory cytokine production.

      • Cytokines are molecules that may act systemically and are often responsible for many of the symptoms of infection (e.g., headache, fever, myalgia). In high concentrations, cytokines can be toxic, or even lethal.

  • There is evidence that the CB1/CB2 receptors increase in density in the area affected by disease.

    • Basically, the body has a mechanism to increase the receptor sites for cannabinoids to bind to CB1/CB2 receptors in order to "catch" more cannabinoids.

    • As more cannabinoids bind to receptors in the area of disease, we see a decrease in disease symptoms and or inhibition of the progression of disease.

  • Activation of central CB1 receptors promotes food intake and thereby weight gain











  • Endocannabinoids are products of dietary fatty acids.

  • The ECS contains several endogenous lipid-based signaling molecules that bind to these receptors, known as endocannabinoids.

  • The two best characterized endogenous ligands are 2-arachindonoylglycerol (2-AG) and anandamide (AEA) .

  • 2-AG is an endocannabinoid, an endogenous agonist of the CB1 receptor. It is derived from the omega-6 fatty acid AA (acid arachidonic) and glycerol.

  • AEA (Arachidonoylethanolamine), also referred to as anandamide, is an endogenous cannabinoid that acts as a “key” molecule fitting into the “locks” of the CB1 and CB2 receptors around the body.

    • THC is analogous to AEA and helps to stimulate production of AEA.

    • Anandamide may also be partly responsible for pain regulation and sleep patterns.

    • Anandamide has been shown to exert analgesic actions in different pain research models by binding strictly to peripheral CB1 receptors.

    • Anandamide plays an important role in the regulation of appetite, pleasure and reward.






  • Terpenoids are essential oil components.

  • Terpenoids, not cannabinoids, are responsible for the aroma of cannabis.

  • BCP is a terpene that targets the body’s CB2 receptors.

    • BCP has also been shown to fight cancer, reduce anxiety and depression, and has even been found to be gastroprotective — meaning it can be used to treat ulcers.

    • BCP also is helpful for those suffering from atherosclerosis and osteoporosis and can even increase bone mass and blocks pain signals, all while avoiding any interference with the nervous system.

  • Limonene is the second most widely distributed terpenoid in nature.

  • Myrcene is another common terpenoid in cannabis.

  • Pinene is the most widely encountered terpenoid in nature.

  • Linalool is a terpenoid that has shown to have psychotropic anxiolytic activity.

  • Nerolidol is a terpenoid alcohol with sedative properties.

  • Phytol is a terpenoid present in cannabis extracts.



Cannabinoid Degraders


  • Cannabinoids are broken down by enzymes in the body. Once broken down, the cannabinoids no longer function as cannabinoids through degredation.

  • FAAH is fatty acid amide hydrolase.

    • FAAH degrades AEA near the synapses it activates.

    • Blocking the enzyme FAAH has similar results as increasing the amount of AEA.

  • 2-AG is degraded by monoacylglycerol lipase (MAGL); it is the main enzyme responsible for inactivating 2-AG.

  • There are ways of blocking these above enzymes to increase the levels of AEA and 2-AG currently being worked on in labs.

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