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What is the Endocannabinoid System (ECS)?

There’s a lot being said these days about CBD and CBD-based products. Seemingly popping up everywhere overnight, it feels like no matter where you turn (gas stations, convenience stores, food trucks, vending machines, etc. etc.), the phenomenon is right in your face. However, it is no ‘fad’. The real-life possibilities of cannabidiol and its related compounds are astronomical, and so it is safe to say that hemp-based medicine isn’t going away anytime soon.

At VEDA: The Leader in Endocannabinoid Nutrition, we believe in the power of knowledge and science when it comes to your health. In order to understand phytocannabinoids, and the effect of CBD (and other related compounds) on the body, we must first become familiar with the endocannabinoid system (ECS). Follow along as we discuss the Endocannabinoid System, the origins of its discovery, and how instrumental it is when it comes to balancing our bodies/minds.


The initial discovery of cannabinoid receptors was announced to the scientific public on July 18th, 1990. In this announcement, it was revealed that the scientists had been able to pinpoint the exact DNA-sequence that encodes a THC-sensitive receptor in the brain. This same group, part of the National Institute of Mental Health (NIMH), was able to clone one of these “marijuana receptors”, and was thus able to pave the way for subsequent monumental discoveries.

In 1992, Raphael Mechoulam of The Hebrew University of Jerusalem discovered a novel neurotransmitter, an endocannabinoid he called “anandamide”. A second discovery of another major endocannabinoid, “2-AG” (arachidonoylglycerol) in 1995 led Mechoulam and his group to trace the metabolic pathways of THC within the brain and mark a unique molecular signaling system responsible for regulating a broad range of biological functions: the “Endocannabinoid System” (ECS), as we know it today.
What came first, cannabis or the endocannabinoid system? While it is natural to assume that cannabis had to be present and active in the development of a dedicated receptor system within the human body, this is actually not the case. According to John M. McPartland of The University of Vermont, this system started evolving almost 600 million years ago, and therefore it’s impossible for cannabis to have existed then.

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CB1 & CB2 Receptors

While there is an endless amount to discuss about the vastness and mystery of the endocannabinoid system, it’s important to understand some fundamentals first. Let’s talk receptors:
CB1 – the first receptor discovered and the first cloned. CB1 receptors are present in high numbers in the areas of the brain where increased psychoactivity is present. They are concentrated in areas responsible for mental and physiological processes.
CB2 – exist in the immune system and the peripheral nervous system. These receptors are also found in the reproductive organs, lymph cells, blood vessels, bones, kidneys, heart, liver, spleen, and in the gut.

CB-signaling modulates pain and analgesia, inflammation, appetite, gastro-intestinal motility, and sleep cycles, in addition to mood-altering neurotransmitters such as serotonin and dopamine.

Key Features of The Endocannabinoid System

• In addition to humans, the ECS is present in all animals except insects
• Started evolving nearly 600 millions years ago
• Cannabinoid receptors are far more abundant in the brain than any other neurotransmitter
• When triggered by THC or CBD, cannabinoid receptors start a “Domino effect” that halts excessive physiological activity
• CB receptor signaling regulates adult neurogenesis (brain cell growth) and stem cell migration
• Has been described as the “guardian angel” or “gatekeeper” of mammalian reproduction
• Endocannabinoid deficits are associated with a reduced ability or inability to deal with chronic stress
• The CB1 receptor regulates psychoactivity
• The CB2 receptor regulates immune response.
The above-mentioned features of the Endocannabinoid System (ECS) are just the tip of the iceberg when it comes to what is yet to be discovered. Keep following the VEDA blog for more information on the science and the wonder of CBD!
Want to experience the wonders of CBD for yourself? Try our excellent 1,000 mg Veda Sport CBD Isolate Tincture!