The Endocannabinoid (ECB) System

Discovering the Endocannabinoid System

Study of Cannabis led to the discovery of:
THC and over 100 other plant-cannabinoids

  • THC in ‘64

The Endocannabinoid (ECB) System

  • Cannabinoid receptors
  • CB1 in ‘88
  • Endogenous cannabinoids
  • AEA in ‘92

Development of drugs that leverage different elements of the ECB system
A whole new field of medicine and science

Components of the eCB System

Cannabinoids (contain the message)

Endogenous (internal)

  • Anandamide (AEA)
  • 2-arachidonoylglycerol (2-AG)

Phyto (plant-derived)

  • Cannabidiol (CBD)
  • Tetrahydrocannabinol (THC)

Synthetic (man-made)

  • Cannabicyclohexanol (CCH)

Receptors (receive the message and signal a physiological response)

  • Cannabinoid receptor type 1 (CB1)
  • Cannabinoid receptor type 2 (CB2)
  • Other non-cannabinoid receptors
  • 5-Hydroxytryptamine (5-HT1A (serotonin receptor))

Transporters (FABPs) (transport the message)

  • Fatty acid binding proteins

Enzymes (metabolize cannabinoids and may produce secondary messengers)

  • Fatty acid amide hydrolase (FAAH)
  • Monoacylglycerol Lipase (MAGL)
  • Diacylglycerol Lipase (DAGL)

Functions of the eCB System

Bio-Chemical homeostatic regulator for countless processes and systems

Uses transmitters and receptors to modulate:

  • Immune system
  • Central/Peripheral nervous system
  • Seizure threshold
  • Endocrine system
  • Gastrointestinal tract

Regulates neurotransmitter activity


  • psychomotor functions,
  • cognition,
  • pain,
  • sleep,
  • memory,
  • neuroplasticity,
  • neuroprotection,
  • emotional responses,
  • motivation,
  • overall homeostasis

Modulates individual cell function

  • Highly dependent on receptor and cell types
  • For example:
  • Altered released of neuro-transmitters in neurons
  • Altered release of pro-inflammatory cytokines in immune cells
  • Apoptosis in cancerous cells.

eCB Medical Implications

Spinal taps on migraine sufferers reveal low anandamide levels (Sarchielli et al., 2007)
Anandamide involved in social rewards (Jaramillo TC. et al., 2014)

  • Social impairment disorder implications

eCB System is altered in many neurodegenerative diseases
Disorder/disease could influence any component of the previously unidentified system

  • Deficiencies/excess of cannabinoids, receptors, enzymes, or transporters would have a negative effect and create an imbalance in homeostasis
  • New potentials for diagnosis and treatment

Cannabis is Relatively Safe as Medicine

No receptors exists in areas of brain responsible for heart-beat and breathing (Goldstein, 2016)

  • There is no risk of fatal overdose
  • The CDC has removed the category for Cannabis related deaths, because there are none

Not thoroughly benign
Slight health risks

  • Cardiovascular
  • Pulmonary

Dependency risks

Much safer than countless legal drugs deemed acceptable for daily use in America and around the world
More effective than medications for treating certain conditions
Especially those that are a result of an eCB system imbalance