The Endocannabinoid System Explained

Appropriately named after the cannabis plant, the Endocannabinoid System (ECS) plays a role in so many of our everyday functions - from memory to sleep to inflammation to mood.

Appropriately named after the cannabis plant, the Endocannabinoid System (ECS) plays a role in so many of our everyday functions - from memory to sleep to inflammation to mood. Few people have heard of it, yet it’s the system that keeps our body in a stable state.  

The ECS was discovered a mere 30 years ago, so scientists are still figuring out the extent in which it impacts our daily lives. But one thing’s for sure: it’s inside all of us (yes, even if you don’t take cannabis) and it’s found in almost every single animal on earth.

So, this is the endocannabinoid explained (without all the technical gobbledegook). 


What is the Endocannabinoid System? 

The endocannabinoid system keeps all of our internal processes in check, and it’s made up of three main parts:

  • Endocannabinoids - molecules in our body, similar to the ones found in cannabis.
  • Endocannabinoid receptors – located throughout the whole body, these are where the endocannabinoids bind to and trigger an action
  • Enzymes – these break down the endocannabinoids once their work is done

The role of the Endocannabinoid System 

The endocannabinoid receptors are located throughout the whole body, including the brain, organs, glands, tissues and immune cells. There are CB1 receptors (primarily located in the brain and nervous system) and CB2 receptors (primarily located in the immune system and organs). 

So, our body makes these endocannabinoids naturally, and then they go around meeting our receptors to keep everything in check – a bit like a lock and key. 

As a result, the endocannabinoid system plays a role in…

  • Digestion
  • Bone health
  • Inflammation
  • Heart health
  • Memory
  • Liver function
  • Mood
  • Metabolism
  • Reproductive system
  • Sleep 
  • Stress

… and so much more. 

In fact, it’s such a vital part of our body, researchers have proposed a theory called Clinical Endocannabinoid Deficiency, which proposes that a lack of endocannabinoids could throw our system out of balance and lead to a range of disorders. 

 Cannabis and the Endocannabinoid System, how are they linked? 

Where does cannabis come into the picture? 

Well, there’s a thing called phytocannabinoids, which are similar to the endocannabinoids in our body. The difference? They’re found in the cannabis plant. 

There are hundreds of phytocannabinoids in cannabis, but the two most well-known ones are CBD and THC. These both interact directly with the ECS.

Let’s look a little closer… 


THC is the infamous cannabinoid. It’s what makes you high (and gives cannabis such a bad reputation). You see, it binds to the CB1 receptors in our brain, which explains all the cognition changes. And THC is what first led to the discovery of a cannabinoid receptor in the brain. 


The golden child. Unlike THC, CBD doesn’t have any psychoactive effects. It interacts with other receptors in your body, playing a role in inflammation, pain, immunity, anxiety and more. 


Final thoughts

So perhaps cannabis isn’t the dangerous drug it’s been made out to be, given it has a unique way of interacting (and stabilising) our entire body. 

The ECS is still in its early stages of research, and at Australian Primary Hemp, we’re excited to see what unfolds. Medicinal cannabis products come in various forms. And currently in Australia, you require a script to purchase cannabis products that interact with your ECS.