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Medically Reviewed By:
Nidra Sidhu, M.D. Integrative Medicine
Table Of Contents
Table Of Contents

    What Is The Endocannabinoid System?

    Endocannabinoid system / endogenous cannabinoid system effects on brain

    The endocannabinoid system (ECS) is a complex cell signaling network found in the body. It consists of three main components, endogenous cannabinoids (endocannabinoids), cannabinoid receptors, and enzymes.

    Scientists discovered the endocannabinoid system in 1992 while studying tetrahydrocannabinol (THC) - the main compound that causes the high associated with taking marijuana. 

    The functions of the endocannabinoid system and cannabinoid receptors are still being researched but it is believed that the primary purpose of the ECS is to help the body achieve homeostasis.

    This article focuses on the endocannabinoid system, how it works in the human body, and how tetrahydrocannabinol, such as delta 8 THC and delta 9 THC aids this system to perform its core functions.

    The Endocannabinoid System

    The endogenous cannabinoid system is a complex biological system in the human body that helps regulate and balance core functions and physiological conditions through cannabinoid receptors such as:

    • Appetite
    • Metabolism
    • Blood Pressure
    • Sleep
    • Stress
    • Pain & Inflammation
    • Immune Response
    • Embryonic Development
    • Nausea and Vomiting 
    • Communication between Cells
    • Memory and Learning

    The ECS has a wide scope of influence due to an abundance of cannabinoid receptors located throughout the body, from immune cells to neurons. 

    Components Of The Endocannabinoid System

    Researchers believe that the ECS has 3 main parts that aid the system and that work together to manage and regulate its core functions.

    Endocannabinoids

    Endocannabinoids or endogenous cannabinoids are produced naturally by the body.

    They are lipid retrograde neurotransmitters that send chemical messages and signals between nerve cells when we are talking about the endocannabinoid system. Research has found two main endogenous cannabinoids but it is believed there are more yet to be discovered.

    The two main endogenous cannabinoids are:

    • Anandamide (AEA or Arachidonoyl Ethanolamide)
    • 2-arachidonoylglycerol ( 2-AG)

    Endocannabinoids keep your internal environment stable and running smoothly. They are produced naturally when your body needs them.

    Cannabinoid Receptors

    Cannabinoid receptors can be found on the surface of cells throughout the entire body. Endocannabinoids bind with these receptors to signal the ECS to start a response. There are two primary cannabinoid receptors, CB1 and CB2.

    • CB1 Receptors are found mainly in the Central Nervous System which consists of the brain and the spinal cord.
    • CB2 Receptors are found mainly in the Peripheral Nervous System and the immune cells.

    Endocannabinoids can bind with both cannabinoid receptors. The effect a person receives when receptors bind with cannabinoids mostly depends on where the receptor is located. 

    Enzymes

    The enzymes available in the ECS are responsible for breaking down the endocannabinoids after they have carried out a response or function. The two main types of enzymes responsible for this are:

    • Fatty acid amide hydrolase is responsible for breaking down Anandamide.
    • Monoacylglycerol acid lipase is responsible for breaking down 2-arachidonoylglycerol.

    When the strength of these enzymes is adjusted, they can up-regulate or down-regulate the ECS.

    Functions Of The Endocannabinoid System

    The functions of the ECS are vast, but researchers believe that its primary function is to help the body maintain a stable internal environment by contributing towards homeostasis. 

    Homeostasis is a state of balance among all the body systems needed for it to survive and function properly.

    In homeostasis, the body's levels of acid, hormones, oxygen, protein, electrolytes, energy, hormones, blood sugar, blood pressure, and temperature are constantly adjusted to respond to changes inside and outside the human body to keep them at a normal level.

    If the body falls out of the normal range, the endocannabinoid system helps it to return to the normal range, thereby maintaining homeostasis.

    For instance, if your body is thrown off balance by pain from an injury you sustained, it becomes the role of your endocannabinoid system to help your body get back to its optimal range by fighting against the pain.

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    How Does The Endocannabinoid System Work?

    The human body naturally produces endocannabinoids which help the endocannabinoid system to function. These endocannabinoids bind with the CB1 and CB2 receptors to regulate various physiological and cognitive processes.

    The CB1 receptors are considered to be the main primary cannabinoid receptors and they outnumber many of the other receptor types in the brain. They work around the clock to control the activities of most of the other neurotransmitters. This is how they regulate physiological responses like hunger, stress, temperature, etc.

    These receptors are stimulated by the endocannabinoid molecules, which have a structural similarity to cannabinoids and THC molecules found in the cannabis Sativa L. plant.

    Clinical Endocannabinoid Deficiency

    While our body naturally produces endocannabinoids, experts believe it is possible to experience low endocannabinoid levels. This results in endocannabinoid system dysfunction, which can contribute to the development of certain medical conditions.


    Research suggests that low levels of endocannabinoids could explain why some people develop migraine, fibromyalgia, and irritable bowel syndrome.

    None of these conditions have a clear underlying cause, but if endocannabinoid deficiency contributes or plays any kind of role in these medical conditions, then targeting endocannabinoid production could be the missing key to treatment; more research is needed.

    How Does THC Interact With The Endocannabinoid System?

    Tetrahydrocannabinol is one of the main phytocannabinoids found in hemp and cannabis. It’s the psychoactive compound that gets you high after taking marijuana.

    When THC is consumed, it interacts with your endocannabinoid system by binding to cannabinoid receptors, just like endocannabinoids. THC can bind to both CB1 and CB2 receptors for mind-altering and body-balancing effects, which makes it quite a powerful compound.

    THC binding with a cannabinoid receptor may help to reduce pain and stimulate your appetite or mood but it can also cause paranoia and anxiety in some cases, depending on the type of THC.

    How Does CBD Interact With The Endocannabinoid System?

    Another major cannabinoid found in hemp and cannabis is cannabidiol (CBD). Unlike THC, CBD doesn’t have mind-altering effects and is less likely to cause any negative side effects.

    CBD doesn’t bind to CB1 or CB2 receptors the way THC does. Research suggests that CBD can help with pain, nausea, and other symptoms associated with different medical conditions.

    CBD can’t cause a high, so when it binds with a cannabinoid receptor, it generally creates a sense of well-being.

    How Does Delta 8 THC Interact With The ECS?

    Delta 8 is a minor phytocannabinoid found in the hemp plant. It is psychoactive, which means that it can help you achieve a high similar to the high from marijuana. However, a delta 8 high is mild, smooth, and mellow. It is also prolonged and can help you maintain a sense of calm throughout the day.

    Delta 8’s effects are partly based on its potency and how it binds with the cannabinoid receptors in the endocannabinoid system. Delta 8’s molecular structure is unique in that it enables the molecule to bind with both the CB1 and CB2 receptors all over the body, giving it therapeutic benefits with little to no negative side effects.

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    Delta 8 THC Effects

    Users have reported that with delta 8 THC you may expect to experience the following delta 8 benefits:

    • Improvement in your general well-being
    • Euphoric sensations
    • Full body relaxation and better sleep
    • A sense of calm for everyday tasks
    • Stress relief
    • Increased focus
    • Pain relief and antiemetic benefits 
    • Uplifted mood and a healthy appetite

    However, delta 8 effects may differ for everyone depending on many factors such as metabolism, tolerance level, potency, and quantity of product taken.

    Delta 8 Vs. Delta 9

    Delta 9 is the main phytocannabinoid found in cannabis that causes a high. Delta 8 and delta 9 have the same molecular formula, they both have a double carbon bond in their formula but different placements in their molecular structure. 

    Unlike delta 8, delta 9 has a strong affinity to CB1 receptors, which are mainly found in the central nervous system. Since delta 9 binds mostly with the CB1 receptors, it has intense mind-altering effects. It can also overstimulate the cannabinoid receptor that it will bind to which causes the negative side effects of taking marijuana or delta 9.

    Yes. Delta 8 is legal on a federal level, however, state laws may differ because the Farm Bill, which legalized hemp and its derivatives like delta 8 did so only on a federal level. Each state still gets to decide if it will legalize hemp and its derived products like delta 8.

    According to the Farm Bill, delta 8 is legal if it is derived from hemp, not cannabis plant, and it should also contain no more than 0.3% THC.

    Unlike delta 8, delta 9 has a legal limit of 0.3% THC so any amount above this threshold is illegal on a federal level. However, some states like Hawaii and Missouri have legalized it for medical-qualifying patients to buy for medical purposes, provided they have a certified medical card from a licensed physician. It is also legal for recreational purposes in some states.

    Where To Buy Delta 8 THC

    The rise in popularity of delta 8 has caused an expansion in the hemp industry, delta 8 THC products are readily available and common on the market. Delta 8 products like delta 8 edibles, vape cartridges, or pre-rolls are being sold online, in dispensaries, convenience stores, and even gas stations.

    However, it is not advisable to buy your delta 8 products from some of these stores that sell hemp products. The best place to buy high-quality delta 8 products is online directly from the product manufacturer. This will not only give you high-quality products, but it will also give you other good benefits.

    Benefits Of Buying Delta 8 Online

    Some of the benefits of getting delta 8 online directly from the product’s manufacturer are:

    • Better prices compared to local shops
    • Protecting your privacy with delta 8 discreet delivery 
    • Variety of brands and product types to choose from
    • Reviewing the product before making a purchase
    • A chance to read their third-party lab results to ensure the product is safe for consumption

    Buying delta 8 online is convenient but you need to be on the lookout for fake products because the THC market is mostly unmonitored by state authorities so some manufacturers sell low-quality or mislabeled products to buyers.

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    The Endocannabinoid System - Key Takeaways

    The endocannabinoid system is a complex biological network of endogenous cannabinoids, cannabinoid receptors, and enzymes that work together to regulate and manage core body functions such as sleep, pain, stress, mood, appetite, etc. Its primary function is to help the body achieve and maintain homeostasis.

    Exogenous cannabinoids like delta 8 THC and delta 9 THC produce their effects by binding with the two main cannabinoid receptors of the endocannabinoid system, CB1 mainly found in the central nervous system, and CB2, mainly found in the peripheral nervous system and the immune system.

    Delta 8’s unique molecular structure enables it to bind with both CB1 and CB2 receptors to promote a general sense of well-being and calmness and it has little to no side effects as compared to delta 9 or marijuana’s intense psychoactive effects.

    If you want to try out delta 8 THC, we recommend starting with a low dosage of our high-quality delta 8 gummies. You can visit our delta 8 gummies review page to read our product reviews to get a clear understanding of how our product will benefit you.

    Legal Disclaimer: You should still consult an attorney for the best legal advice regarding maintaining balance and understanding psychoactive properties. The information provided here should be for informational purposes only.


    author avatar
    Clayton McCall

    Clayton is a Senior Content Specialist, researcher, and holistic healthcare practitioner. Having been in the supplement industry for more than 15 years, Clayton brings a wealth of experience to the delta 8 space. His publications include alternative therapy, stress and coping, and alternative health.

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    • Is Delta 8 Legal In Florida? Can You Buy Delta 8 THC In Florida?

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