What Exactly is the Endocannabinoid System?

Published: June 7, 2022

Have you ever wondered how cannabis affects your nervous system? It can be a little tricky to understand, but we’re here to make it easier for you. Understanding how cannabis interacts with you is key to being a responsible consumer.

THC has a psychotropic effect on the central nervous system by acting on CB1 and an analgesic, or pain reliever, by working on CB2 receptors. There are over 100 unique cannabinoids in cannabis — scientists have only scratched the surface of what these other cannabinoids can do. Cannabinoids are compounds found in cannabis, and the endocannabinoid system (ECS) is a complex cell-signaling system that plays role in regulating a range of functions including:

  • appetite
  • bone remodeling and growth
  • chronic pain
  • cardiovascular system function
  • inflammation and other immune system responses
  • learning
  • liver function
  • memory
  • metabolism
  • mood
  • motor control
  • muscle formation
  • reproductive system function
  • skin and nerve function
  • sleep
  • stress

How Does the Endocannabinoid System Work?

The ECS involves three main parts: endocannabinoids, receptors, and enzymes. They work together to signal to your body that you need pain relief, or that you’re experiencing inflammation. 


Molecules made by your body that are similar to cannabinoids; these keep your internal functions running smoothly and are naturally produced by your body on an as-need basis

Endocannabinoid receptors

The two main receptors, CB1 & CB2, are found throughout your body and are what endocannabinoids bind to in order to signal that the ECS needs to take action. CB1 receptors are mostly found in your central nervous system, while CB2 receptors are commonly found in your peripheral nervous system, especially immune cells

Healthline’s example of Endocannabinoid receptors is easy to understand:

Endocannabinoids might target CB1 receptors in a spinal nerve to relieve pain. Others might bind to a CB2 receptor in your immune cells to signal that your body’s experiencing inflammation, a common sign of autoimmune disorders.


Responsible for breaking down endocannabinoids once they’ve carried out their function. The two main types are fatty acid amide hydrolase, which breaks down Anandamide (AEA), and monoacylglycerol acid lipase, which typically breaks down 2-Arachidonoylglycerol (2-AG).

Your Nervous System and Cannabis

Cannabis affects your central nervous system (CNS) in different ways. THC triggers your brain to release large amounts of dopamine, a naturally occurring “feel good” chemical. It can heighten your sensory perception and perception of time, and what gives you that “good” feeling you get when you consume cannabis. In the hippocampus, THC changes the way you process information and may affect your hippocampus and impair your judgment and memory. Your balance, coordination, and reflex responses may be affected too since cannabis affects your cerebellum and basal ganglia. Cannabis and brain function are different for everyone, so take caution when trying cannabis products and driving or other daily activities.

Having an understanding of your nervous system and how cannabis can affect it plays a huge role in your cannabis experience. How you consume your cannabis also plays a role, so keep that in mind when you’re choosing between a flower, edible, or concentrate. Need help finding the best cannabis product for you? Call us on the Highlight! Doobie is here to help.

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