The Endocannabinoid System and Health

Posted by Dr. Jason Winkelmann, ND, DC on 26th Mar 2024

The Endocannabinoid System and Health


Cannabinoids, such as cannabidiol (CBD), have garnered significant interest as a remedy for various discomforts, ranging from difficulty resting at night to unease during the day. However, one area where CBD's benefits have been particularly highlighted is in addressing persistent discomfort.


The endocannabinoid system (ECS) is a bodily system similar to your hormonal system. It is composed of compounds called cannabinoids and their receptors. These receptors are found throughout the body: in the brain, organs, connective tissues, glands, and immune cells, to name a few. The main goal of the ECS is to maintain homeostasis. If you remember from school science class, this is maintaining a stable internal environment despite fluctuations in our external environment.

A classic example of how your body maintains homeostasis is regulating body temperature. Your thermoreceptors sense an increase in temperature on a hot, sunny day. To prevent your internal temperature from rising too much, your blood vessels dilate to move blood to your periphery and away from your core. Your sweat glands open to initiate perspiration, and your thirst response may even heighten.

Homeostasis is always explained with the seesaw analogy. When one side goes up, the other goes down. When an outside force influences you, your body responds by balancing your internal environment. Your body does this constantly throughout the day in ways you don't even realize.

It does so with the help of your ECS, and an efficient ECS keeps your seesaw from swaying too much in either direction. It helps keep it as balanced as possible with little micro fluctuations.


The first half of the ECS equation is cannabinoids. These are molecules that your body makes itself (endogenous) and can be found in nature. There are two that your body produces naturally: Anadamide (AEA) and 2-Arachidonoylglycerol (2-AG). They are synthesized on demand from your cell membranes and have a local effect. This is a good and bad thing. Good in that these cannabinoids can be fast-acting, but bad in that they don't travel far in your body. So, if you have difficulty making them where you need them, you may be out of luck. The fact that your body makes its cannabinoids is the strongest argument for the use and legalization of phytocannabinoids.

The molecular structure of AEA and 2-AG; endogenous cannabinoids made by all mammals.



Most don't realize that their body makes cannabinoids since all the attention is on phytocannabinoids. Phytocannabinoids are plant substances that stimulate your endocannabinoid system. The most common and potent comes from the cannabis sativa plant. They are delta-9-tetrahydrocannabinol (THC) and cannabidiol (CBD). But this is not their only source.

They can also be found in:

• Spices: Cinnamon, Clove, Oregano and Black Pepper
• Herbs: Echinacea & Rue
• Plants: Helichrysum & Liverworts
• Veggies: Broccoli, Kale & Sprouts
• Dark chocolate

Minus THC having psychoactive properties ("getting high"), it is virtually the same as CBD. THC stimulates your ECS the same way that CBD does. So, regarding their therapeutic actions, they are essentially the same. THC is just a little more potent than CBD in accomplishing this task.

Molecular structure of THC and CBD; phytocannabinoids.


The second half of the ECS is receptors. There are two different receptors in your body that cannabinoids can bind to. They are CB1 and CB2. CB1 receptors are found in your nervous system, connective tissues, gonads, glands, and organs. CB2 receptors are found in your immune system and its associated structures. Cannabinoids can stimulate any receptor, so the overall message is that receptors are found throughout your body on almost every cell. This is the other argument for the legalization and use of phytocannabinoids. Even if your body doesn't make its own cannabinoids, it makes receptors that are stimulated by the cannabinoids found in nature. They have proven to be a valuable nutrient throughout human evolution.

The receptor is where all the magic happens. Think of cannabinoids as keys and receptors as locks. A key has a unique shape that fits perfectly in one oppositely shaped lock. However, a key is useless without a lock, just as a cannabinoid is useless without a receptor. Once the key turns the lock, the door can open. Once a cannabinoid binds to a receptor, a message is sent throughout the rest of the cell telling it what to do.

The endocannabinoid system is a biological balancing system; its purpose is to help the body achieve and maintain homeostasis.



The endocannabinoid system (ECS) plays a crucial role in maintaining balance and harmony within the body, regulating various physiological processes. It acts as a complex signaling network, influencing functions such as mood, stress response, appetite, and overall well-being. Through its intricate interactions with neurotransmitters and receptors, the ECS helps modulate the body's responses to internal and external stimuli, promoting homeostasis.

One of its key functions is to regulate the body's response to stressors, helping to manage feelings of tension and promoting a sense of calmness. Additionally, the ECS is involved in modulating appetite and metabolism, influencing energy balance and nutrient intake. It also plays a role in supporting cognitive function and memory, contributing to mental clarity and focus. Overall, the endocannabinoid system serves as a vital regulatory system, orchestrating various physiological processes to promote equilibrium and optimal functioning throughout the body.

*The above word graphic represents what the ECS modulates and affects, not necessarily CBD. More research must be done, and it is important to remember that CBD does not treat or cure any disease.

Pretty much every bodily function can become imbalanced.


The most common reason people consume cannabinoids, particularly CBD, is to engage the endocannabinoid system (ECS) to regulate discomfort and bodily responses. This modulation occurs through various mechanisms. Discomfort arises from diverse pathways within the body. The most common is the stimulation of receptors by ache-causing chemicals. Most analgesics work by blocking receptors. These remedies contain molecules resembling discomfort-inducing chemicals; they attach to the receptors without triggering the transmission of sensitivity signals to the brain. It is a brilliant system for managing symptoms but inherently flawed.

Meds like NSAIDs are designed only to block one type of receptor. If your body stimulates a different receptor, that drug won't work. If a drug worked initially but stopped working, your body started utilizing a different receptor. Your ECS helps modulate these different receptors that govern how comfortable or uncomfortable you feel.

Leanna Organics makes CBD-infused products to help balance your endocannabinoid system. Products like CBD salve and CBD bath bombs have become the preferred method for people looking to recover and relax.


Prostaglandins are one way your body creates discomfort and irritation after injury or infection. NSAIDs, like ibuprofen and Tylenol, work by blocking the synthesis of prostaglandins, but they also block the synthesis of other molecules that are beneficial to your body. The reason that NSAIDs and Tylenol, for example, are dangerous is that they may provoke gastrointestinal ulceration and bleeding and can cause heart attacks, strokes, and liver damage because they interfere
with the good and not just the bad. Your ECS only shuts down the bad!

CBD is a non-toxic alternative to NSAIDs; it works on the same pathway.


Glutamate is an excitatory neurotransmitter. It amplifies the signals of sensation going to your brain, causing you to experience aches and discomfort more intensely than you should. Your ECS helps prevent this!


Your NMDA receptor is a potent sensation receptor that is targeted by pharmaceutical interventions, mainly ketamine, when other treatments, such as opioids, stop working. Stimulating your ECS can help you not to need such narcotics!


This is another ache-causing molecule that your ECS helps mitigate.


Your body makes its opioids in the form of endorphins. This molecule helps dampen the discomfort response traveling to your brain. Sometimes, your body doesn't make an appropriate amount. With the help of your ECS, you can more appropriately experience sensations.


Most people require increasing doses of opioids because they lose their effectiveness over time. An increased dose increases the chances and dangers of side effects. Stimulating your ECS helps to keep opioid prescriptions more effective at lower doses and helps prevent withdrawals from opioids!


This helps keep a lower dose effective for longer.

Displays antioxidant activity greater than ascorbic acid (vitamin C) or tocopherol (vitamin E)

The free radical damage done by chronic problems prevents damaged tissues from fully healing.


This is a potent pathway targeted by biologics, usually prescribed if you have an autoimmune condition.

Imagine a plant outperforming prescription medications like that!


Leanna Organics CBD & CBG Salve


Cannabigerol (CBG) is another phytocannabinoid that has been getting much attention lately. It has the same properties as CBD but binds rather poorly to CB1 and CB2 receptors. That is probably why it hasn't gotten the attention it deserves. However, when it does bind to receptors, it can stimulate the ECS even more than CBD and THC do! CBG stimulates the ECS to inhibit GABA uptake to a greater extent than THC or CBD does. This keeps the calming
neurotransmitter around longer to experience muscle relaxation and reduce anxiety. CBG also stimulates the ECS more than CBD and THC to provide more ache-relieving benefits! Keep a lookout for CBG products from your local CBD shop!


The therapeutic potential of stimulating your ECS is well documented. So much so that conventional medicine wants their piece of the pie now. Since you cannot patent a plant, the pharmaceutical industry has been synthesizing synthetic THC in the form of the prescription drugs Dronabinol (Marinol) and Nabilone (Cesamet). These are FDA-approved drugs for the treatment of severe nausea and wasting syndrome.

However, some clinicians have found them helpful in the off-label treatment of chronic discomfort and migraines. Clinical Endocannabinoid Deficiency Researchers have determined that some people have a more difficult time making endogenous cannabinoids. This has led to a condition referred to as clinical endocannabinoid deficiency.

Not being able to stimulate your ECS properly can lead to many issues since we've determined how many bodily functions the ECS is involved in. Some researchers suspect that clinical endocannabinoid deficiency, whether genetic or caused by injury or disease, can lead to a variety of medical conditions, including migraines, fibromyalgia, or irritable bowel Syndrome (IBS).

This potent bodily system has been virtually ignored until now and likely has not been addressed by any of your doctors!



If we make our own cannabinoids, why even supplement? Well, we don't always make enough when we need them. Humans make their vitamin D, yet most are deficient and require supplementation.

We make our own hormones and neurotransmitters, but sometimes, we need a little extra help. The same goes for cannabinoids. Supplementation has other perks, though. Small doses of CBD can help signal your body to make more endogenous cannabinoids and build more receptors!

The reason why many first-time cannabinoid users don't feel an effect is because they don't have enough receptors in their body for the supplemental cannabinoids to bind to!

The more receptors you have, the more sensitive you become to cannabinoids. This means that smaller doses have larger effects, and you'll have an enhanced baseline of endocannabinoid system activity!


Is CBD going to be the miracle that will get you out of chronic discomfort? Probably not. But is stimulating your ECS a good idea? Always! You wouldn't ignore your hormone or nervous systems, so don't ignore your Endocannabinoid System! You have to do a lot of things right if you want to end your suffering.

Hopefully, you now understand the importance of stimulating your ECS en route to this goal!

Written By Dr. Jason Winkelmann