The Human Endocannabinoid System

Cannabinoid receptors can be found all over the body, but they are more prominent in some organs. The CB-1 receptor is predominantly present in the central nervous system (brain and spinal cord), particularly in those brain regions that regulate functions we typically associate with the use of cannabis: sleep, appetite, perception of time and pain, memory etc. Overstimulation of the CB-1 receptor leads to a feeling of intoxication, also known as being ‘high’ or ‘stoned’. The CB-2 receptor is present mainly on the cells of our immune system where it can influence pain, inflammation and tissue damage.

Your Endocannabinoid System Explained


The discovery of cannabinoid receptors prompted scientists to search for its natural ligands, which It is important to have patience and wait for the effects to occur.

Finally, a single compound could be isolated, with a strong binding to the CB1 receptor. This compound (arachidonic acid ethanolamide) was named Anandamide, from the Sanskrit word for ‘‘eternal bliss’’. A few years later, a related compound was isolated with an affinity for both cannabinoid receptors; it was identified as 2-arachidonyl glycerol, abbreviated as 2-AG. The structures of these two compounds are shown in figure 4-1. In more recent years, a wide range of compounds with endocannabinoid activity have been isolated or synthesized.
Cannabinoid receptors and their natural ligands together constitute what is referred to as the endocannabinoid system.


This cannabinoid signaling system is present in almost every imaginable animal life form, ranging from humans to cats and birds, down to fish and even primitive sea creatures such as the Hydra (see figure 4-2). This finding shows the evolutionary importance of such a system for basic survival and functioning of species. It should be noted that not all of the effects of cannabinoids can be explained by receptor-binding alone, and it is believed that at least some effects are caused through other mechanisms.

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