Explaining the Human Endocannabinoid System

To view the summary & take-home message CLICK HERE

First things first, what is the endocannabinoid system? The endocannabinoid system (ECS) is a complex signalling system found in the human body which has a vital role in ensuring the maintenance of homeostasis. Homeostasis is the process of regulating the body’s balance of temperature, mood, and immune system,  as well as energy input and output.The ECS incorporates three main components: endocannabinoids, receptors, and enzymes.Each of these three elements have a variety of different functions. The ECS is a complicated system and affects and is affected by other systems in the body. It works as a communication system, making sure that the different parts of our body work together in harmony.

Figure 1. A diagram showing the systems that the Human Endocannabinoid System affects.1

Figure 2: A diagram showing the location of the cannabinoid Receptors in the body.1

To better understand this system, we can think of endocannabinoids as tiny messengers that our body naturally produces when we need them. These messengers act like keys that can fit into specific locks, which are the receptors. The key is specific to the lock and the different locks (receptors) can only be unlocked by the correct key. When the correct key and lock match up (when an endocannabinoid binds to a receptor), it sends a signal to initiate a cellular response such as stimulating the release of a neurotransmitter, or signalling its termination. The two most well-known endocannabinoids are anandamide and 2-arachidonoylglycerol (2-AG).4

So, here’s how it all works… When something in our body is out of balance, such as pain, inflammation, or stress, our body produces endocannabinoids. These endocannabinoids travel to the receptors and bind to them, resulting in a signal being sent to specific cells to restore balance to the body. Once their job is done, enzymes break down the endocannabinoids, and the process starts all over again. 1

Not only does the ECS regulate physiological processes, but it also directly influences mental health and conditions such as anxiety, depression, and emotional behaviour.  Additionally, it has a large influence on brain functions such as functioning of the nerves, reward, cognition, learning, memory, and pain sensation. Lastly, it plays a large role in fertility, pregnancy, and pre-and postnatal development.3

Notably, cannabinoids from plants, like Cannabidiol (CBD), can also interact with the ECS, which could potentially provide therapeutic effects.3 By influencing the ECS, cannabinoids can help support the body’s natural processes and promote balance and well-being. Extensive research is currently being done to understand the influence and potential of cannabinoids from plants like CBD to treat diseases which have previously been difficult to treat. These diseases include Alzheimer’s, auto-immune diseases, addiction and Parkinson’s to name a few. CLICK HERE to read some tips about how to include EVOO in your daily eating pattern

So, what is the takeaway message?

The ECS is a vital regulatory mechanism in the human body, overseeing homeostasis by coordinating physiological processes. Comprised of endocannabinoids, receptors, and enzymes, the ECS functions as a communication system, ensuring inter-system harmony. The ECS significantly influences mental health, brain functions, and overall well-being. Plant-derived cannabinoids, particularly CBD, show potential therapeutic effects by modulating the ECS. Current research aims to harness the therapeutic potential of these cannabinoids in addressing diseases such as Alzheimer’s, autoimmune conditions, addiction, and Parkinson’s.

M2Bio Sciences

M2Bio Sciences is a bioceutical company focused on alternative plant-based cannabinoids and mental health therapeutic research. M2Bio’s mission is to advance botanical-based medicine to the forefront by deploying best-practice science and medicine, clinical research, and emerging technologies. As one of a handful of companies in the world, M2Bio is actively researching the CBD compound with the aim of discovering novel indications for different medical conditions.

The company also owns and operates two cannabis consumer goods brands Medspresso™ and Liviana™. The brands span across a wide range of premium CBD-infused foods and beverages. M2Bio consistently focuses on producing and sourcing the highest-quality ingredients available in the market, from pharmaceutical-grade CBD extract to premium coffees and extra virgin olive oil. All our products are locally and sustainably produced in South Africa.

CLICK HERE to learn more about our Medspresso™ range and here to learn more about our Liviana™ range.


  1. Lu HC, Mackie K. 2020. Review of the Endocannabinoid System. Biological Psychiatry: Cognitive Neuroscience and Neuroimaging, Aug;6(6). Available here.
  2. Battista N, Di Tommaso M, Bari M, et al. 2012. The endocannabinoid system: an overview. Frontiers in Behavioral Neuroscience, 6. Available here.
  3. Lowe H, Toyang N, Steele B, et al. 2021 The Endocannabinoid System: A potential target for the treatment of various diseases. International Journal of Molecular Sciences, 22(17):9472. Available here.
  4. Basavarajappa BS, Shivakumar M, Joshi V, et al. 2017. Endocannabinoid system in neurodegenerative disorders. Journal of Neurochemistry.   5;142(5):624–48. Available here.
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Nicola Stevenson

Nicola Stevenson

Assistant Cardio-Metabolic product developer

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