Biochemistry: A Closer Look
Navigating the Endocannabinoid System
From the intricacies of cannabinoid receptors to the therapeutic potential of CBD, discover the secrets of the Endocannabinoid System (ECS) and its role in maintaining your body’s natural balance. 
June 17, 2023

Our bodies function best in natural balance, or homeostasis. Our Endogenous Cannabinoid System, or Endocannabinoid System, (ECS) balances our key bodily processes including appetite, pain-sensation, mood, memory and immune response. Naturally occurring chemicals in the body called endocannabinoids signal to cannabinoid receptors, which trigger a physiological response to achieve homeostasis and maintain optimum health.

While the body produces its own cannabinoids, called endogenous cannabinoids or endocannabinoids, many people may suffer from a cannabinoid deficiency, according to a 2016 study. This can lead to conditions like chronic pain and anxiety. Without sufficient cannabinoids in our diet, the ECS does not operate at its peak, which can cause general decline in overall health on many levels. Supplementing our diets with cannabinoids like CBD may be a good way to maintain optimal health.

What is the Endocannabinoid System?

The ECS is a biochemical communication network triggered when naturally occurring endocannabinoids are detected by cannabinoid receptors.  These endocannabinoids and cannabinoid receptors are found all over the body. Whether they are in the brain, organs, or connective tissues, they help balance bodily processes. For this reason, the ECS is one of the most important physiological systems involved in maintaining our health.

The ECS helps the body manage anxiety, inflammation and other physiological responses to different forms of stress. For example, during strenuous exercise, stress, pain and other factors in our environment, the body produces these endocannabinoids. 

What are Cannabinoids?

The term cannabinoid refers to any compound that triggers the ECS by activating cannabinoid receptors. There are three different types of cannabinoids: 


The two main endocannabinoids in our body are anandamide and 2-arachidonoylglycerol (2-AG). They occur all over the body, including the brain, muscles, fatty tissues, and immune cells. When endocannabinoids are released into the body they communicate with the brain similarly to other neurotransmitters, like dopamine and serotonin, and play a key role in the immune system, cardiovascular, reproductive, respiratory, and skeletal systems. 


Phytocannabinoids are molecules found in plants such as hemp, tea, sunflower, black pepper, truffles, echinacea, cacao and others.  These compounds are similar in structure to endocannabinoids, which is why they are able to bind to the same receptors as cannabinoids found within the body. Hemp produces the phytocannabinoids tetrahydrocannabinol (THC) and cannabidiol (CBD).  Cannabidiol like that found in OLO's RESTOR+, UNWIND, and THE ZONE has shown to be an effective natural remedy for pain and anxiety. 

Synthetic Cannabinoids

Synthetic cannabinoids are pharmaceutical products designed to treat conditions like glaucoma and nausea, as well as aid with appetite stimulation. The FDA has concluded that a number of synthetic cannabinoids are safe and effective for their intended use. Epidiolex, for example, contains a purified form of CBD to treat seizures. Other FDA approved synthetic cannabinoids include Marinol and Syndros for the treatment of nausea associated with cancer chemotherapy and anorexia associated with weight loss in AIDS patients. 

What are Cannabinoid Receptors?

Cannabinoid receptors are receptor sites located throughout the body that stimulate biological processes when they detect signals from cannabinoids. Scientists believe cannabinoid receptors evolved 600 million years ago and have played an essential role in adaptation ever since. Their role is so significant that cannabinoid receptors outnumber other transmitters, such as dopamine and opioid receptors, by 10-50 times. 

The CB1 cannabinoid receptors are predominantly found in the brain and the central nervous system and are linked with pleasure and reward pathways.  CB1 receptor activation leads to feelings of relaxation and euphoria. CB2 receptors are mostly found in the immune system on the surface of white blood cells. CB2 receptors are also found in the rest of the body, like the muscles, skin and vital organs, and their activation helps to reduce inflammation.

How can Cannabinoids improve our health?

By regulating communication signals in the brain, the ECS balances key systems essential for good health. The release and interpretation of cannabinoids affect appetite, mood, memory, and pain perception. For example, when a cannabinoid such as CBD binds to CB1, activity in pain circuits is inhibited, resulting in reduced pain. In addition to offering holistic pain relief, cannabinoid therapy can diminish or alleviate symptoms like nausea, muscle spasticity and seizures.

As we learn more about the ECS, researchers are looking for ways to target specific communication pathways to develop therapies for a variety of diseases and metabolic conditions.  In the future, we may be able to stimulate ECS activity, making drugs and therapeutics even more effective. Supplementing with CBD oils, CBD edibles, or CBD topicals offers a promising avenue to support the health of the ECS.