April 7, 2021

Everything You Need To Know About The Endocannabinoid System

Written by - Mallory Milne

minute read

Oils, vapes, edibles, and drinks. Cannabidiol(CBD) is everywhere these days, but most people don't have a good understanding of what it actually is and how it can benefit them.

They have even less of an understanding about how CBD oil with THC can help more than just CBD oil alone, or how it works in the Endocannabinoid System.

CBD is just one of the over 100 cannabinoids that are in the cannabis plant, and one of the two cannabinoids that are being studied very closely around the globe right now. The other one is Tetrahydrocannabinol(THC).

THC is the compound in the cannabis that gives uses the "high" feeling when they ingest it. Most people when they hear that some CBD oil has THC in it immediately shake their heads and say no, that isn't for me. Understandable reaction, given the stigma behind marijuana in general.

But did you know that THC can have a profound impact on pain, nausea, depression, appetite, cancer treatment etc.?

Probably not, because the image that it tends to bring to mind is very specific, and is associated with being high. Can we say munchies?

Well, hopefully by the end of this article you'll be a little more informed on how THC works in the body, and how, in the right quantities, it can have a huge effect on your health.

The Endocannabinoid System Explained

cb1 and cb2 receptors

To understand how CBD and THC work in the body, we first need to learn about the Endocannabinoid System.

Up until the early 90s, scientists weren't even aware that this system even existed. When we are talking about a discovery that is this big, it's important to understand just how big it actually is.

The human body has been studied for thousands of years. So how exactly was this entire crucial system undiscovered for so long?

When we are looking at the big picture it is truly mind blowing that something that is being shown to have such a big impact on our health, and the way our bodies function in day to day life, can remain in the dark for so long.

Through research that was initially done on rats, a team of scientists led by Dr. L.A. Matsuda were able to identify a vast network within the human body that was responsible for maintaining homeostasis, or balance, within the body. Discovered while trying to understand THC's effect on the body, the Endocannabinoid System has been described as one of the most important physiologic systems involved in maintaining human health.

How Does The Endocannabinoid System Work?

The Endocannabinoid System is a network of incredibly complex receptors, and these receptors are located everywhere in the central and peripheral nervous system. Cannabinoids, THC and CBD, work within the Endocannabinoid System by binding to their specific receptors, Cannabinoid Receptor-1(CB-1), and Cannabinoid Receptor-2(CB-2)

This system is responsible for maintaining very important functions in the body, including:

  • Reproductive System
  • Appetite and Digestion
  • Sleep
  • Motor Control
  • Pain and Pleasure
  • Immune Function
  • Mood
  • Temperature Regulation
  • Memory

The body produces its own cannabinoids as well. The first one that was discovered was Anandamide, and works in the body much like THC does. Called the "bliss molecule", having a lower level of it in the body can cause feelings of decreased happiness, or depression. By introducing THC into the body, it can fill the role that Anandamide plays if you are lacking in this department.

Having an Endocannabinoid deficiency in the body can have all sorts of negative effects on the body, and is thought to be linked to a number of diseases and disorders, such as:

  • Fibromyalgia
  • Depression
  • MS
  • PTSD
  • IBS
  • Parkinson's
  • Autism

The Endocannabinoid System isn't fully understood yet, and likely won't be for some time. Scientists are also working on identifying a third receptor as well. As soon as there is more information on this we will be a little further on our way to understanding exactly how the Endocannabinoid System works.

What Receptor Does THC Bind With?

Tetrahydrocannabinol(THC) binds with the CB-1 receptor within the Endocannabinoid System. These receptors are found mainly in the brain, nervous system, lungs, liver, and kidneys.

By binding with these receptors, THC can provide relief in many ways. Some of the highlights of THC are:

  • Pain management
  • Nausea relief
  • Increases appetite
  • Has been shown in some cases to kill cancer cells
  • Is a neuroprotectant(protects brain cells)
  • Effective sleep aid
  • Promotes brain growth
  • Is antibacterial, antioxidant, and an anti-inflammatory
  • Bronchodilator(increases lung function)
  • Muscle relaxant

You probably weren't expecting all that, were you? After all, isn't it only used to get you high?

The reality is that this couldn't be farther from the truth. The unfortunate downside to THC is the psychoactive properties that do come along with it. When you take too much of it, this can cause anxiety, paranoia, increased heart rate, and panic in some users.

But when you have just a little of THC in your system, you can avoid these side effects, and still get the potential benefits from it.

Ingesting THC when you have a mental illness such as schizophrenia, or other psychosis disorders, can also be harmful. Using cannabis if you are at risk for any psychosis related disorder(genetic), can actually bring on the disorder, even if you've shown no signs or symptoms previously. If any disorder of this type runs in your family, it may be wise to avoid THC altogether.

What Receptor Does CBD Bind With?

Cannabidiol(CBD) binds with the CB-2 receptor within the Endocannabinoid System. These receptors are located in different parts of the body than CB-1 receptors, and are found mainly in the immune system, spleen, and gastrointestinal system.

CBD is being shown to have a number of powerful effects, some of which are:

  • Potent anti-inflammatory
  • Pain relief
  • Anti-seizure properties
  • Anxiety relief
  • Helps fight cancer
  • Reduces risk of diabetes
  • Sleep issues
  • Reduces depression
  • Treats a number of skin disorders
  • Combats the psychoactive effects of THC in the body
  • Inhibits appetite
  • Immune response

These are just a few of the ways that CBD can help within the body. There are many more, and we will be discussing each in further articles.

The Role of THC In CBD Oil - Full Spectrum Matters

So now that we have a better idea of how the Endocannabinoid System works, and the positive effects that THC can have, we get a better sense of its role when you're looking at CBD oil.

Choosing a CBD oil that is Full Spectrum, and contains trace amounts of THC, can offer greater benefits than just CBD alone.

These benefits, when the different parts are working together as a whole, are described as the "Entourage Effect".

Hemp derived CBD oil is naturally very low in THC, and is what is legally available on the market today(depending on where you are in the world, some countries do not allow THC or CBD at all).

At these levels, 0.3% THC or less, there is absolutely no chance whatsoever of any psychoactive effects occurring.

Of course, this isn't always an option for some people. Even at very low levels, THC can be detected through drug screening. If you are one of these people, it is extremely important to know what exactly is in your CBD oil, and whether it is Full Spectrum, or an Isolate or Broad Spectrum, both which contain zero THC.

Having clear, concise lab reports and testing conducted by a third party company is an absolute must when you are looking to buy CBD oil. Failure to follow these guidelines could land you in trouble with your employer, or other organization that is doing the testing.

Your Body, Your Choice7b4e32995a286d75cb664048b06bd9d61555530537 cropped

Ultimately it is up to you to decide which route you want to take when you start with CBD oil. Educate yourself on the different types, this way you can make an informed decision.

The benefits of THC and CBD are many, and vast amounts of research are being done right now. Incredible breakthroughs in cannabinoid research have been made over the past few decades, and many more are sure to come. 

About the author 

Mallory Milne

Mallory is a mom of two, as well as the main content writer and owner of CBD Handle. She has been a consumer advocate and CBD user since 2018, and strives to relay accurate, easy to understand information and to educate others on the health benefits of CBD.


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  • Hi there Mallory! Thanks for such an interesting article.
    I’ve known of the benefits of CBD for a while but wasn’t fully aware that THC has its own host of health benefits too! This has provided a great insight!
    Also learning about the Endocannabinoid System was fascinating! The fact that we have a large system comprised of CB-1 and CB-2 (and potentially a third type of) receptors throughout our entire body was rather cool to find out!
    I have a quick question too: you mentioned deficiencies in Anandamide, do you know what causes that in people?
    Thank you 🙂

    • It is really interesting to learn about! There is a lot of research that is being done, and scientists have a theory that low anandamide levels may be genetic. This is only one possible cause, and they are working hard to find a definite answer for it. Unfortunately it could be years before we have an answer to this. Right now we just know that having a cannabinoid deficiency has been linked to a whole host of health issues.

  • To be honest, I knew a bit about CBD, but definitely not in such depth and in so many details.
    You’ve done a wonderful job covering this topic, I don’t think that there is a single stone left unturned.
    I especially enjoyed the info about THC. I had no idea that it can deliver nausea relief.
    Well, I do know!
    Thanks a lot for sharing this content, your audience will greatly benefit from it.
    No doubt about that!

  • I came here thinking I had lots of information with regards to CBD since i had done a lot of research about it lately.
    This post has helped me understand that the Endocannabinoid System and THC have an effect on our mood levels which I was not well aware of.
    You actually gave me the overall idea of how the CBD oils work unlike other pages which were vague.
    Thank you a lot.

    • It’s not something that everyone is aware of. I know I wasn’t until I started doing research on CBD nearly a year ago. I’m looking forward to more research being done on the Endocannabinoid System. Once we know more we will have a better idea on how to treat illness and disease it’s looking like. Thanks for reading!

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