What is the Endocannabinoid System (ECS)?

It’s not everyday that science discovers an entirely new bodily system, but that’s precisely what happened in 1990, when, utilizing the findings of Rafael Mechoulam, the “godfather of Cannabis”, a team at the National Institute of Mental health mapped the DNA sequence that encodes the cannabinoid receptor in the mammalian brain. They dubbed this formerly unknown biocommunications system the “endocannabinoid system” or ECS, and an entirely new way to understand how our bodies react with and use a whole wealth of compounds both naturally occurring within our bodies and as benefits of the cannabis sativa plant and hemp plant surfaced into the global scientific spotlight.

There’s a lot of depth to the endocannabinoid system (which you can read about in much scientific detail here, here, and here, among a bunch of other places). A whole lot more than a single blog on our site should dare to touch in one swing. What we think is important here, today, while you’re staring at your screen and our site, is having a basic understanding of the ECS system in your (and your pets’, coincidentally enough) bodies, because it’s a very ancient part of being alive, it’s neat, and knowing about it can change a bit about how you think about CBD, hemp and your health.

So, let’s break it down.


One: Your body has a system built-in to respond pharmacologically to more than 100 cannabinoids found naturally in the hemp plant.

THC and CBD are the most studied (and abundant) of the cannabinoids, and can come from both natural and synthetic sources. When derived from plant-based sources, these are “phytocannabinoids” - of plants. But your own body also produces its own cannabinoid compounds called endocannabinoids, which bind to receptors in your brain to affect your body and mood. They all work singularly (and in combination are found to work even better, with CBD leading the charge), and extensive preclinical research has been conducted on the ways they affect how we feel, with evidence pointing toward CBD specifically having potent antioxidant, anti-inflammatory, anti-seizure and neuroprotective properties.

Two: Two: Your endocannabinoid system gives your body balance.

From regulating appetite and facilitating neurogenesis in your brain (read: brand new cells), to helping minimize the body’s stress response, to helping calm muscle spasms, inflammation and other symptoms of chronic disorders like multiple sclerosis, maintaining homeostasis in the body is the main function of your ECS. Think of it as a toll road on the superhighway of your body, making connections, controlling interactions, and helping keep everything in balance, both body and mind. Because when our bodies (and ECS) are unbalanced, the inner scale of “you” can potentially tip toward sickness.


Three:  When you introduce cannabinoids to your endocannabinoid system, some interesting things can happen.

Studies have shown that cannabinoids act as neuromodulators for a variety of bodily processes and functions, including motor learning, appetite and pain sensation, among other cognitive and physical processes. Forgive us for getting a bit science-heavy here, but THC binds to some endocannabinoid receptors, and the cannabinoid CBD tends to change the shape of others, altering the effects of THC. This evolutionary magic allows our bodies to use all cannabinoids more effectively.  The bottom line: When looking for the wellness-boosting benefits of CBD, go for full-spectrum supplements that have no additives like sugar or preservatives, and no unnatural flavors or colors (like our AFC Original, not-so-coincidentally)


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