How the Endocannabinoid (ECS) System Works

by Rachel Bloom

April 01, 2021 - 1 min read

The endocannabinoid system (ECS) has a fairly unique function in the body. In many ways, it serves to regulate homeostasis, by modulating the release of other neurotransmitters, which may be excitatory or inhibitory.  Besides its own ligands, the ECS interacts with most of the major neurotransmitters including acetylcholine, dopamine, GABA, histamine, serotonin, glutamate, norepinephrine, prostaglandins, and opioid compounds. The specific action of different cannabinoids (both endogenous, phyto, and synthetic) can be explained by their differential action on receptor subtypes.  For example, activation of receptors in the gastrointestinal system may cause increased appetite, while suppression of those receptors would cause decrease in appetite.  Similarly, different cannabinoids cause different effects on the CB2 receptors found in the immune system, which is why some activate the immune system and others suppress it.

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