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© 2023 by Kathy Shattler

*These statements have not been evaluated by the Food & Drug Administration. These products are not intended to diagnose, treat, cure or prevent any disease. This applies to all pages in this website. None of the information printed herein is meant to replace your personal physician's instructions or advice and referrals from your physician for Medical Nutritional Counseling is requested, but not mandatory.

Navigating the Endocannabinoid System

Updated: Jan 4

Most people have never heard of the endocannabinoid system (ECS). Indeed, it is the least studied of all the human body systems but not less important despite evidential lack. Others slightly more knowledgeable about the topic are still wary as they associate the term with THC, mind altering drugs, illegal drug activity or other misunderstandings. While THC may be a cannabinoid similar to the body’s own natural anandamide, it is not the only cannabinoid and not the subject of this article. Other key players in the endocannabinoid system include CBD, terpenes, flavonoids, and multiple cannabinoids.

The endocannabinoid system is a natural part of our body involved in homeostasis or maintaining balance of the other systems through the actions of endocannabinoids such as anandamide through interacting with the receptors CBD 1 and CBD 2 and associated metabolites. These endocannabinoids are not mind altering, addictive substances such as associated with THC, a euphoric chemical from the cannabis sativa plant. The cannabinoids produced by the body are called endocannabinoids and have a crucial role in maintaining balance within the body's systems.

Cannabinoid receptors are believed to be among the most plentiful in our central nervous system, and some researchers hypothesize that we could have a third, undiscovered one, as well. These receptors are located throughout the body inclusive the brain, major organs and the skin.

Through those receptors, the ECS helps regulate a lot of important functions, such as:



*Immune function

*Inflammation, including neuroinflammation




*Motor control

*Temperature regulation



Then, once the endocannabinoids have done their job and brought things into balance, certain enzymes come along to break them down and prevent them from going too far and upsetting the balance in the opposite direction. Balance. Homeostasis.

Cannabinoids act like a lock and key. The cannabinoids are the key that unlocks the synapse to receive the neurotransmitters. The enzymes destroy the keys before they unlock the doors. Thus, a check and balance system.

How Do Cannabinoids Work?

In the brain, cannabinoids and endocannabinoids work as neurotransmitters (chemical messengers that deliver information from one cell to the next). Neurotransmitters all interact with a lot of different receptors and thus have many different effects.

A plant-based cannabinoid that's gotten a lot of attention from researchers is cannabidiol or CBD. It doesn't have any euphoric properties, so its benefits come without the high of THC. One known function of CBD in the brain is to stop the FAAH enzyme from breaking down anandamide (the body's own cannabinoid), so the anandamide can have more of an impact. That's believed to be why CBD can help treat anxiety disorders, for example.

Anandamide is the body’s version of THC without the mind-altering effects. It retains a calming effect on the brain but does not alter perceptual sense of reality.


Endocannabinoid Deficiency?

As more research accumulates around the ECS, the concept of endocannabinoid deficiency surfaced. Researchers discovered several conditions that appear to be related to dysregulation of the system, which is called clinical endocannabinoid deficiency (CECD). CECD isn't a disease itself but is an umbrella term encompassing conditions with this common feature. Some of these conditions are:

· Fibromyalgia

· Migraine

· Irritable bowel disease

These conditions are sometimes called "functional conditions" or "central sensitivity syndromes." They tend to be resistant to most treatments, so researchers are looking into cannabis-based treatments as effective options.

These conditions also generally involve more than one system—which makes sense when you look at the areas influenced by the ECS.

Primary Functions of the ECS

1. Gastrointestinal motility

2. Inflammation

3. Pain

4. Appetite

5. Stress

6. Gut-Brain Axis

7. Immune modulation

8. Mood


The endocannabinoid system has been recently recognized as an important modulatory system in the function of brain, endocrine, and immune tissues. It appears to play a very important regulatory role in the secretion of hormones related to reproductive functions and response to stress. The important elements of this system are: endocannabinoid receptors (types CB1 and CB2), their endogenous cannabinoids (2-AG and anandamide) enzymes involved in their synthesis and degradation, as well as cannabinoid antagonists. The endocannabinoid system regulates not only the central and peripheral mechanisms of food intake, but also lipids synthesis and turnover in the liver and adipose tissue as well as glucose metabolism in muscle cells.

While the FDA has not cleared use of CBD oils to treat diseases other than epilepsy, they are being used in pain, inflammation and mood modulators off label. Research into future therapeutic uses continues. The wording of regulatory guidelines from FDA for supplements and edibles is now overdue, but will be a first big step in recognizing the importance of the endocannabinoid system and supportive elements such as CBD.

Clinic Patients may get their ECS oil and topical supplies by visiting and register by providing my provider phone number (517-348-4572). Products have been tested by a third party lab and ingredient labeling is available from the manufacturer. The oils are full spectrum so the benefit of the terpenes, flavonoids and other cannabinoids are present at less than .3% THC according to regulation. Consults on using products are free. Send all communication to me privately at

#endocannabinoidsystem,#cannabis, #cbd, #thc, #anandamide

Kathy J. Shattler

Registered Dietitian Nutritionist