The Endocannabinoid System: Role, Dysregulation, & Disease

Stunning outcomes have been reported by America’s first medical cannabis patients. In an effort to understand why, scientists discovered the Endocannabinoid System (ECS), a physiological system that promotes optimal health and balance throughout the body.

How the Endocannabinoid System (ECS) Works

The Endocannabinoid System represents a new and exciting field of emerging medical research. Each year, thousands of studies are published on the function of the ECS, exploring the ways it might bridge the mind-body connection by facilitating communication across different systems and cell types.

The ECS performs this regulatory function by producing endogenous cannabinoids. These are similar to hemp’s natural phytochemicals, which are also called cannabinoids.  Endogenous cannabinoids are the chemical messengers that keep the ECS firing, serving as a communication network that extends throughout the nervous system, connective tissues, glands, major organs, and immune cells.



Our endogenous cannabinoids have been shown to affect many vital biological processes, including:

  • Augmenting the production of neurotransmitters, like anandamide and dopamine (i)
  • Mediating the activation/deactivation of essential minerals and electrolytes, like calcium and sodium (ii)
  • Activating proteins that help to reduce inflammation (iii)
  • Triggering cellular autophagy (iv)

Ultimately, the goal of the human Endocannabinoid System is to maintain homeostasis, or balance. However, researchers now believe that genetics, stress, and toxins can prevent optimal ECS function, causing dysregulation, illness, and disease.

Balancing the Endocannabinoid System with Exogenous Cannabinoids

Studies indicate that exogenous cannabinoids, like cannabidiol, can restore balance and alleviate distress. Interestingly, these specific cannabinoids are non-psychoactive and do not cause intoxicating effects.

Along with eating well and minimizing stress, scientists believe ECS balance can be achieved by supplementing with exogenous cannabinoids, like CBD oil. According to this model, CBD oil provides a source of extra cannabinoids that bind to the body’s existing cannabinoid receptors, much like a key fits into a lock. This improves the ability of the ECS to communicate and maintain biological stability within the body.

By increasing cannabinoid levels—and thus, more keys fitting into more locks—research shows a variety of health outcomes can be achieved.

Learn More About Cannabinoids

To learn more about cannabinoids and health, read the following overview on hemp cannabinoids. Visitors are also invited to learn more about best forms of cannabidiol, or CBD.



(i) Glass M, Felder CC. Concurrent stimulation of cannabinoid CB1 and dopamine D2 receptors augments cAMP accumulation in striatal neurons: evidence for a Gs linkage to the CB1 receptor. J Neurosci. 1997;17:5327–5333. [PubMed]

(ii) Cannabinoids inhibit N-type calcium channels in neuroblastoma-glioma cells. Mackie K, Hille B Proc Natl Acad Sci U S A. 1992 May 1; 89(9):3825-9. [PubMed]

(iii) Klein TW, Friedman H, Specter S J Neuroimmunol. 1998 Mar 15; 83(1-2):102-15. [PubMed]

(iv) Sulak, Dustin DO. Introduction to the Endocannabinoid System. URL: