Part 2: Endocannabinoid System

Part 2: Endocannabinoid System

A Simple Guide To The Human Endocannabinoid System


As we discovered in Part 1 of this series the endocannabinoid system (ECS) is a fairly recent and important biological discovery. One that’s proving to be crucial for our energy, mood, reproduction, development, overall health and survival.

“Homeostasis is the state of steady internal, physical and chemical conditions maintained by living systems.”

The ultimate goal of the endocannabinoid system is homeostasis. And the key to maintaining the body’s homeostasis for the ECS are cannabinoids. These are naturally produced by mammalian bodies and are also plentiful in the Cannabis sativa plant. In fact, this is how the system got its name.

These cannabinoids are released ‘on demand’ and fit into the body’s cannabinoid receptors (CB1, CB2) like a lock and key to deal with growth and development, injury, illness, mental health and happiness.

What Are Phytocannabinoids?

Phyto = Plant

Endo = Body

To date, approximately 120 phytocannabinoids1 have been identified in the Cannabis sativa plant, the same family of plants that produce marijuana, CBD oil and industrial hemp. However, therein the similarities end. While the THC in marijuana has hallucinogenic properties, CBD (illegal in New Zealand) and industrial hemp have such low concentrations they will never give you a ‘buzz’. It wouldn’t matter how hard you tried.

We mention both THC (tetrahydrocannabinol) and CBD (cannabidiol) here as they’re the most well-known and studied phytocannabinoids. The former due to its psychoactive and medicinal properties and CBD for its promising therapeutic effects and anti-inflammatory, anti-anxiety, anti-tumour and analgesic properties.2 The Ministry of Health has strict guidelines in place regarding CBD.

But many more cannabinoids have been discovered in the Cannabis sativa plant including CBN (cannabinol), CBG (cannabigerol), CBC (cannabichromene), THCV (tetrahydrocannabivarin), CBV (cannabivarin), CBDV cannabidivarin. In lesser amounts, other phytocannabinoids that have been studied are CBND (cannabidiol), CBE (cannabielsion), CBL (cannabicyclol) and CBT (cannabidiol).3

“Recent interest in hemp-derived ingredients has begun to shift to the ‘minor’ cannabinoids cannabigerol (CBG), cannabichromene (CBC), and cannabinol (CBN),” says Nutritional Outlook. “The newfound interest in these cannabinoids is likely a result of their relative abundance in the plant and ease of access compared to many of the rarer cannabinoids. CBG, CBC, and CBN are the next most common cannabinoids in cannabis after CBD and THC, and as such the only molecules currently feasible to begin using in nutraceuticals.”

If you were to Google these phytocannabinoids you might find some information but any scientifically backed data is still fairly piecemeal. There are very few studies on the lesser-known phytocannabinoids although a few have shown possible benefits for inflammatory disease1,2 and, in the case of CBN, as potential sleep aid3.

Experts agree there is massive potential there.

Phytocannabinoids in Industrial Hemp

This brings us back to the ‘newness’ of the endocannabinoid system and the emerging science. Not only that, it’s a physiological system that the medical fraternity still doesn’t know enough about.

Touted by a lot of experts as the most important scientific medical discovery to occur in recent times the endocannabinoid system (ECS) is not yet on the curriculum in medical schools. Apparently, there’s no room for it4  which many are calling out as disgraceful.

“It’s arguably the largest neurotransmitter system in the human brain, central to homeostasis, modulates the speed of neural transmission, important in the functioning of the immune system and it touches on an enormous spectrum of illnesses. And it is frankly criminal that so few medical schools discuss the endocannabinoid system,” said Dr David Bearman MD as reported by CBDDigitalNews.

Interestingly, a deficiency known as clinical endocannabinoid deficiency (CED) has now been recognised. Medicine struggles to treat an increase of disorders like fibromyalgia and irritable bowel syndrome and when some experts looked at a decade of research around this they postulated the theory that it could be due to endocannabinoid tone becoming deficient. They underlined this with the caveat that contradictory findings are not only possible but common however, it appears that education and awareness of the ECS would be a useful tool for medical professionals.

It’s Still A Fledgling Science

To date, our focus has not been on phytocannabinoids in industrial hemp foods. We do know that hemp seed foods are nutrient-dense and provide a nutraceutical superfood for health and cosmetic purposes on their own. Industrial hemp seed foods offer many wellness boosting benefits including the perfect ratio of essential fatty acids and anti-inflammatory GLA (gamma linolenic acid) in hemp seed oil. We’ve also got a long list of stories from people who have experienced relief from chronic inflammation and arthritis by adding hemp seed oil and hemp seed supplements to their day.  have written about new research that identified over 30 different cannabinoids in hemp seed oil for the first time. But the general stance is that hemp seeds, from which hemp seed oil is made, generally don’t contain phytocannabinoids.

According to Anne Jordan, co-founder of Hemp Farm: “There may be tiny beneficial trace amounts of cannabinoids in some hemp seed food. However, these amounts are below the Ministry of Health’s guidelines. This trace CBD contamination comes from the greenery, or sticky resin found around the unripe seed pods. Seed that has been carefully harvested, thoroughly cleaned and dried remains below the accepted limits (like ours).”

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How ECS Works

While the ECS is complicated, it’s also very simple. The key is to activate the system by unlocking the CB1 and CB2 receptors via cannabinoids which release a cascade of benefits for the entire body including the brain, nervous system, liver, thyroid, uterus, bones, testes, immune cells, digestive and reproductive systems.

This is when the ECS goes into action fulfilling its primary role of homeostasis. It translates to the alleviation of pain and inflammation including the chronic inflammation associated with diseases such as Parkinson’s and Alzheimer’s, regulating of systems such as metabolism and reproduction and cognitive function such as learning and memory.

As we noted in Part 1 (click here to read) research suggests the ECS regulates and influences:

  • Appetite
  • Bone health
  • Cardiovascular responses
  • Digestion
  • Energy
  • Fertility & reproduction
  • Inflammation
  • Learning
  • Liver function
  • Memory
  • Metabolism
  • Mood
  • Muscle formation
  • Pain sensation
  • Pleasure
  • Sleep

It’s now evidence-backed that both types of cannabinoids – phyto and endo – working with the CB1 and CB2 receptors can produce varying effects in the body from regulating pain and inflammation to aiding in stress and sleep management, balancing mood and behaviour, and helping regulate hormones.

But there is much more research required of the entire endocannabinoid system, cannabinoids and the Cannabis sativa plant. So far we only have a basic understanding which prompts the question: what else will be uncovered as more research is undertaken?


How did we do simplifying the complicated? We hope you gained some knowledge of ECS and its significance. Rest assured you will be hearing about it increasingly as ECS is set to become talked about more and more as scientists learn more and more. After all, all of the facts and figures to date show it to be fundamental to our survival as well as our health and happiness.

Read Part 1

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