Exploring the endocannabinoid system and the impact of CBD

Exploring the endocannabinoid system and the impact of CBD

Just 25 years of research into the endocannabinoid system (ECS) has helped to answer many scientific mysteries. The ESC has shed light on why cannabis produces psychoactive effects, how intractable epilepsy can be treated, and what chemical reaction is behind the euphoria of the “runner’s high.” It is clear that the impact of CBD and other cannabinoids upon our body is more significant than initially assumed. As our knowledge of the ECS improves, and we also uncover more about how the presence of plant-derived compounds from cannabis – known as cannabinoids – influence this system, it’s probable that more of these medical mysteries will be solved.

What is not in doubt, is the importance of the ECS in terms of our emotional and physical health. This complex system regulates everything from mood to sleeping cycles, while also helping to regulate stress, inflammation and our perception of pain. Unfortunately, the medicinal value of ECS regulation is yet to be fully realized – even in countries where cannabis legislation is steadily being enacted. For the most part, doctors are still not well-versed in cannabis science and the impact of CBD and other cannabinoids upon our health.

What’s even more disconcerting, is that it’s possible that we may be ignoring a condition that affects 20 to 30 percent of US adults, to some extent. Indeed, Clinical Endocannabinoid Deficiency (CECD) is an idea that was first mooted in the early 2000s by neurologist Dr. Ethan Russo. In the years that have followed, it has become increasingly likely that conditions like fibromyalgia and migraines are the result of severe CECD. Since no causes have been found for either, it’s perfectly possible and perhaps even probable that an unfamiliar biological system holds the key.

Interestingly enough, cannabis-derived medication has produced impressive results in the treatment of fibromyalgia. For the latter condition, a treatment consisting of equal parts CBD and THC has been found to be effective against migraines, sans the side effects of conventional anti-migraine drugs.

CBD’s influence on the endocannabinoid system

The ECS consists of lipid-based neurotransmitters, better known as endocannabinoids. These interact with cannabinoid receptors, stimulating various effects through these unique neurological pathways. Anandamide (AEA) and 2-Arachidonoylglycerol (2-AG) are the most common endocannabinoids. The former has antidepressant properties but doesn’t stay in the body long due to degradation from the FAAH enzyme. However, high levels of AEA are associated with an improvement in the mood – AEA is the endogenous analogue of THC.

CBD promotes the release of 2-AG into the ECS, where it can impact the two main cannabinoid receptors. The evidence available suggests 2-AG has neuromodulatory properties, and this endocannabinoid is well-expressed in the central nervous system. Scientists know less about 2-AG and AEA. However, it is comprehended that it affects both CB1 and CB2 receptors, which suggests it has significant influence in the ECS.

What is fascinating is that despite being a cannabinoid, CBD also interacts with receptors outside of the ECS. The serotonin receptor 5-HT1A is agonised by CBD, while the compound’s effects on the opioid system may help with the treatment of addiction. Furthermore, by boosting AEA, CBD facilitates a connection between the endocannabinoid and the vanilloid receptor, which may explain the reduction in pain perception.

Medicinal properties of the impact CBD

CBD used for inflammation

CBD has the potential for treating a number of medical conditions that have proved difficult to treat through more conventional medicine (image via Global News)

Now that we have a base understanding of the ECS and CBD, let’s look in-depth at the impact of CBD as it makes interactions with the ECS to produce some of its therapeutic effects.

Treating inflammation

Inflammation can affect many parts of the body, and symptoms are often severe due to the lack of control that we have over immune system response. While anti-inflammatories of varying strengths in the form of NSAIDs are accessible, many are rightly hesitant about these drugs due to potential stomach ulcers and other side effects.

However, studies on endocannabinoids have found that through the CB2 receptor, these compounds can essentially instruct the immune system to cool off when there has been enough inflammation to manage a wound or eliminate an infection. This sounds incredible given the complexity of inflammation, but CBD’s potency as an anti-inflammatory has been confirmed repeatedly.

Regulate the ECS with CBD vape oil and e-liquid or try a topical treatment if the inflammation has caused painful swelling to feel the full medical impact of CBD.

The neuroprotective effect of regulating sleep

Not getting enough sleep causes fatigue, but the long-term neurodegenerative effect it appears to have on the brain should be of even greater concern. To remove neurotoxins that damage nerve cells in the brain, the body must enter a period of deep sleep. However, this can only be achieved with a sufficient amount of sleep. Guidelines suggest seven hours per night, but a Gallup poll from 2013 found that 40 percent of Americans get less than this.

The impact of CBD on sleep is not to be overlooked. CBD’s regulatory effect on the ECS promotes balanced sleep, increasing the duration of time in deep sleep, ahead of that of REM sleep, the phase in which we have dreams.

Alleviating depression

Depression is another condition that scientists are struggling to tackle. Recent evidence is indicating that inflammation of the brain may have a more significant effect in manifesting the mood disorder than first thought. Treatments have zoned in on the serotonin system, as serotonin is a chemical believed to be behind happiness and mental wellbeing.

Although patients are slow to respond to SSRI drugs, and some find them totally ineffective. However, with the ECS affecting mood via AEA and the CB1 receptor, it’s now apparent that the chemical reactions behind happiness extend beyond the serotonin system. Switching to CBD may offer just as much relief from depression, if not more, without the side effects.


The endocannabinoid system is one of the biggest biological discoveries in modern times and promises to shape physical and mental health medicine for the foreseeable future. Combine that with our ever-improving knowledge of cannabis, and impact of CBD through its many isolated reactions, as well as various other compounds from the plant, and there’s plenty to be optimistic about. Further study on the concept of Clinical Endocannabinoid Deficiency will also be important.

Exploring the effects of CBD edibles, e-liquids and tincture oils will help determine the most suitable treatment for a condition – illnesses typified by acute pain and sudden flare-ups may find CBD e-liquid most appropriate.

This article was written with the intention of being informative and educational, and not as an alternative for official medical advice. Please consult a doctor if you have reservations about self-medicating with CBD.

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