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Endo-Cannabinoid system and receptors

What is the Endo-cannabinoid system? The Endo-cannabinoid system is a network of neuromodulatory lipidsand theirreceptors. Scientists have found that the Endo-cannabinoid system is located in the brain and throughout the central and peripheral nervous systems. The Endo-cannabinoid system has a vast array of functions in our bodies, including helping to control brain and nerve activity (memory and pain), energy metabolism, heart function, the immune system and even reproduction. Different parts of the human body have different receptor sites. The CB1 receptors are found at Brain, Lungs, Vascular system, Pancreas, Muscles, Reproductive system, Gastrointestinal tract, and Liver. The CB2 receptors are found at the Bones, Liver, Pancreas and Spleen.

British scientists have played a leading role in the long history of cannabinoid and endo-cannabinoid research. CB1 and CB2 receptors were first discovered in early research into cannabis. Shortly after the discovery, in 1990 the first CB1 receptor was cloned and in 1993 the first CB2 receptor was cloned. With the discovery of the CB1 receptors researchers started searching for natural occurring chemicals, which would affect the CB1 receptor. This is when Anandamide was discovered as the first naturally occurring endo-cannabinoid.

'Anandamide' was discovered in 1992 by Raphael Mechoulam’s group in collaboration with Pertwee’s group. Anandamide is described as “afatty acidneurotransmitterderived from the non-oxidative metabolism of eicosatetraenoic acid (arachidonic acid) an essential ω-6 polyunsaturated fatty acid.” Anandamidestudies are in progress to explore what role it plays in human behaviour, such as eating and sleep patterns, and pain relief.

The discovery of Anandamide derived from research into CB1 and CB2 receptors, as it was evident that a naturally occurring (endogenous) chemical would be found to affect these receptors. It was first discovered THC, a cannabis cannabinoid, affected these CB1 and CB2 receptors by producing psychoactive effects to humans.

The most abundant cannabinoid in marijuana is THC and it binds to CB1 receptors in the brain and reproductive organs. When the THC binds to these receptor sites it produces psychoactive effects by releasing dopamine in the brain, providing a sense of euphoria. In 1988 it was found THC was binding to CB1 receptor sites in the brain. THC is found to be an effective treatment in moderating symptoms of pain. CBD is the second most abundant cannabinoid found in the marijuana plant and binds to CB2 receptors in the immune system and is an antagonist at CB1 receptor sites. CBD has non-psychoactive effects and actually reduces the mental effects of THC. Research has shown CBD has greater medicinal properties, it is good for inflammation, migraines, arthritis, muscle spasms, epilepsy, and has shown to fights cancer cells.

In 2006 in Brazil it was discovered cannabidiol (CBD) was useful as an anti-psychotic drug in patients suffering from mental illnesses and disorders. In 2007 a researcher, Sean D. McAllister, confirmed that cannabidiol will inhibit the growth of breast cancer cells. In 2009 CBD’s discovery was made official and was classified as a distinct component of the cannabis plant alongside THC. In 2015 CBD oil was completely legal worldwide except in Canada where it’s still a controlled substance.



A brief history of cannabinoid and endocannabinoid pharmacology as inspired by the work of British scientists, Vincenzo Di Marzo, Endocannabinoid Research Group, Institute of Biomolecular Chemistry, Consiglio Nazionale delle Ricerche, TRENDS in Pharmacological Sciences. 01.10.2006, Review, Science Direct.











Martin-Santos et al. Acute effects of a single, oral dose of d9-tetrahydrocannabinol (THC) and cannabidiol (CBD) administration in healthy volunteers. Curr Pharm Des. 2012;18(32):4966-79.

Fusar-Poli et al. Distinct Effects of Δ9-Tetrahydrocannabinol and Cannabidiol on Neural Activation During Emotional Processing. Arch Gen Psychiatry. 2009;66(1):95-105.


Winton-Brown et al. Modulation of Auditory and Visual Processing by Delta-9-Tetrahydrocannabinol and Cannabidiol: an fMRI Study. Neuropsychopharmacology. 2011 Jun;36(7):1340-8.


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