The endocannabinoids system and its role in physiological regulation

The endocannabinoids system and its role in physiological regulation

If you have read other Livee articles, you will have already seen a number of topics on medicinal Cannabis and its therapeutic benefits and its compounds, but if you want to know why this plant has such an amazing effect on the body and how the endocannabinoid system works, then this article is for you.   

Cannabinoids, intercellular messengers

Cannabinoids are chemical substances that are linked to cannabinoid receptors located throughout the body and generate a variety of reactions. There are 3 types of cannabinoids:


These come from plants, such as cannabidiol (CBD) and tetrahydrocannabinol (THC) that come from the Cannabis Sativa plant.


Our bodies produce these. Examples include anandamide and 2AG. They naturally bind to phytocannabinoids to form a pair.

Synthetic cannabinoids

These are created in a lab, an example being synthetic Δ9-THC. They are designed as a tool for scientific research surrounding cannabinoids.

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These compounds interact with a complex communication system between cells called the endocannabinoid system. The role of this system is to maintain balance within the body through the regulation of physiological processes, regardless of any alterations or changes to the environment (homeostasis).

Phytocannabinoids and endocannabinoids connect to the receptors in our body (CB1 and CB2) delivering messages through this system, like messengers that carry important information between cells. In this way, a therapeutic response is generated in our body, like the regulation of the perception of pain or cardiovascular, gastrointestinal and hepatic functions.

Functions that regulate the endocannabinoid system

There are many physiological functions which, thanks to the endocannabinoid system, maintain balance and proper functioning. Below is a list of some of these functions:


Endocannabinoids have the therapeutic potential to induce sleep. Anandamide (endocannabinoid) improves extracellular levels of adenosine, which means that it helps people fall asleep more easily. This was proven in a live microdialysis study (in a living organism).

Blood sugar levels

The endocannabinoid system also plays an important role in many common endocrine (hormonal) disorders, including diabetes, hyperthyroidism and hypothyroidism. When this system overestimates or underestimates, many of these diseases can arise.


Studies suggest that the activation of central CB1 receptors, particularly in the hypothalamus and the limbic system, is involved in regulating behavior and eating habits and particularly, in controlling the intake of foods we consider appetizing.

State of mind

Brain endocannabinoids have been proven as key modulators for motivation and emotions. By stimulating receptors in the brain, the endocannabinoids can help reduce stress, anxiety and fear.


Some studies suggest that endocannabinoids control immune function and play an important role in regulating the body’s defences. They are characterized as local modulators for immune and inflammatory reactions.

Cannabinoid receptors

Both CBD and THC have the incredible ability to interact with various cells in the body. Imagine them as keys that upon entering the body, are looking for the perfect lock in CB1 and CB2 receptors.

These receptors can be found throughout the entire body and act as a gateway for cannabinoids to enter and regulate different systems of the body.
CB1 Receptors:

these are found in the brain, the central nervous system and surrounding organs and tissues, such as the lungs, liver, kidneys and glands. Did you know that these receptors are essential to creating memories?

They also regulate…

  • State of mind
  • Sleep
  • Mobility
  • Appetite
  • Pain
  • Neuron protection

CB2 Receptors:

these are found in cells in the immune system. Did you know that CB2 receptors are responsible for regulating inflammation and pain? So if something won’t stop hurting, you know who to blame!

A better understanding of our bodily functions

Why is it important to know about the endocannabinoid system? This system gives us a better idea about how human biology works and how our body responds to cannabinoids.

It has already been proven that various components of cannabis have a huge influence on our physiological systems in the brain and the rest of our body because they activate cannabinoid receptors:

When they interact, cannabinoids and receptors modify various physiological functions in our body, such as pain perception, inflammation, toxicity and neuron trauma, learning and memory, controlling emotions, mood, stress, appetite… What’s more, they participate in different neuronal, cardiovascular, digestive, reproductive, and immunological processes.

Research on the endocannabinoid system has revealed that CBD, which, unlike THC, has no psychoactive properties, can prevent the enzyme FAAH from breaking down anandamide. This would explain why CBD helps treat anxiety disorders.

The discovery of the endocannabinoid system is proof of how CBD and THC react inside the body and is shedding light on their many medicinal benefits. Advancing research to deepen our knowledge of this system and the interaction between cannabinoids, will bring us one step closer to curing many diseases.

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