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The Endocannibinoid System 

There are over 480 natural components in cannabis.1 Terpenes are natural chemicals that provide symptom relief once entering the cells and tissues of the body, but also contribute to the smell and colour of all natural organic things. The receptors in our body, which respond to terpenes, are specialized receptors that are part of the Endocannabinoid system (ECS) – “which helps modulate the functions of the body, including sleep, appetite, anxiety levels, pain perception and cognition” 1 – at all times!

The ECS is the largest neurotransmitter in the body.2 Composed of a group of endogenous cannabinoid receptors that are compacted in all mammalian brains, “essentially [it is] a vast signalling networking found in all the vertebrates that regulate physiological process”3

So far, synthetic pharmaceutical drugs that aim to target the endocannibinoid system have failed.4

The Pharmaceutical therapies of today are centrally based on endogenous molecules. Examples of such are Insulin and Cortisone-based medicines; successfully given to patients with diabetes, and the latter used to relieve pain and reduce swelling. 4

Comparatively, endocannabinoids have a far superior localized action, though shorter-half lives (meaning the symptom relief wares off faster than common slow-drug release pharmaceuticals). 4 Since endocannabinoid receptors are found throughout the body, one of the major hurdles researchers and doctors will have to face is identifying cannabinoid content in specific strains, the potential symptom relief, and the specific physiological/psychological processes targeted at a synapse level.

nerves-346928_1280In 1992, Dr Raphael Mechoulam, discovered that the ECS also produces an endocannabinoid in the brain called anandamide. 4 This endocannabinoid binds with CB1 receptors in the nervous system and brain, while CB2 receptors are bound to those in the immune system. 4 Anandaminde can intensify the effects of THC, as well as has a synergistic effect by inhibiting its uptake of CBD. 1 CBD keeps more anandamide in the patients system, enhancing the immune system’s ability so it can use its own natural chemicals to rid the body of such things as inflammation, bacterial infection, and cancer. 1

There is a clear medical theory that a shortage of edocannabinoids can cause diseases, due to deficiency, that targets the immune and nervous system. Through countless research studies,  these endocannabinoid molecules are been shown to be pivotal “for balance and good health”. 1

How does it work?


THC’s attracts to the following cell receptors: 1

  • gonads (sex cells – testes and ovaries)
  • brain
  • endocrine glands (hypothalamus, thyroid, pancreas etc.)
  • connective tissue
  • central nervous system’s CB1 receptors


CBD attracts CB2 receptors within the immune system and other related glands such as the tonsils and spleen. CB2 receptors are found in the brain, at lower doses than CB1, ergo they respond to CBD heavy strains, with greater reaction and symptom relief.

In the British Journal of Pharmacology, 2010, more evidence was found that cannabinoid receptors differ in their density throughout the body. 1 For example, CB2 receptors are far denser in the gastrointestinal system than anywhere else. 1 These receptors change the body’s response to such things as pain and inflammation in the intestines and colon. One can conclude that CBD heavy strains provide the most symptom relief to those suffering from IBS and IBDs (such as Crohn’s disease and Colitis), given the density of CB2 .

“When the ECS has supplemental external cannabinoids, patients gain long-lasting, and immense relief. Cannabis is so effective in combating the effects of Crohn’s disease, that almost half the time the disease will go into full remission.” 1

Depending on an individuals own ECS, and the density of the receptors they have naturally in their body, a person may respond more to one strain of cannabis over another.


Locations of high density CB1 & CB2 receptors throughout the Human Body. Source: https://kannaway.com/endocannabinoid-system/

For example, if a person has naturally high amounts of CB1 receptors, they would be more sensitive to THC heavy strains, where as a patient with naturally less than average number of receptors, such as CB2, will experience little therapeutic effects from CBD heavy strains. This may mean that the patient will need greater amounts of CBD and/or needs to add THC, combined with other terpenes, that target their receptors through synergy.

This is why here, at SoCo, we suggests that you are honest about your medical conditions, follow which strain terpenes (smell) appeal to you, and keep a journal of the symptom relief you experience. Our staff is educated in the cannabinoid content of our products and can help navigate you in finding the right therapeutic strains.

Clinical Endocannabinoid Deficiency (CECD)

Coined by Dr. Ethan Russo in 2004, this deficiency characterizes symptoms found where there is not enough endocannabinoid system signalling. There are several ways in which your body can have a deficiency in ECS signalling. 2

  1. There might not be enough endocannabinoids synthesized
  2. There might not be enough cannabinoid receptors
  3. There may be too much of the enzymes that break down endocannabinoids
  4. There may be enough endocannabinoids and cannabinoid receptors, but there is not enough signalling happening.

Most research shows that disease states related to CECD are indicated by chronic pain, dysfunctional immune system/nervous system, fatigue and mood disorders.

In several studies, Anandamide and THC has been shown to inhibit high releases of serotonin, particularly in the despair-513529_1280platelets of the blood plasma; this further supports the medical theory that serotonin released from platelets is crucial to generating migraines.5 The same imbalance of serotonin levels in the platelets is also thought to be related to fibromyalgia, but in this case the levels of serotonin are too low – changing a patient’s “aberrant perception of pain.”5 In a epidemiological study, 63% of those suffering from Fibromyalgia also suffered from migraines.6 Looking at these studies, serotonin levels in the brain have a huge influence on pain perception and the nervous system, all of which are part and influenced by the ECS.

“Parkinson’s disease is caused by deficiency in dopamine, the neurotransmitter responsible for movement and motivation. Depression is suggested to be a deficiency in serotonin, and is treated with antidepressants that raise serotonin levels. Alzheimer’s disease is caused by deficiency in acetylcholine, a neurotransmitter that modulates memory, decision-making and wakefulness.”7 Further studies have shown that Phantom limb syndrome, glaucoma, PTSD and bipolar have also been associated with clinical endocannabinoid deficiency (CECD). 3

Next Approach:

Natural endocannbinoids found in your body include dopamine, serotonin, epinephrine, glutamate and GABA (a neurotransmitter that helps induce sleep). It is the conclusion of Dr’s, and researchers in the cannabis field, that your body can have too much or too little signalling of any other neurotransmitter systems, leading to disease.  2 5 7

What is interesting is that many diseases thought to be caused by CECD, are much more frequent in countries that have adopted Western lifestyles. 2 IMPACT Network believes all humans have the right to restore balance to their endocannabinoid system using the phytocannabinoids of their choice, and fully supports cannabis legalization. 7 Yet it is in these Western cultures, like Canada and the U.S.A, where legalization and regulation is a constant battle, and in return the population health and wellness suffers.

One may question whether the endocannabinoid system can be targeted, just as therapeutically, by compounds other than those found in cannabis; the answer is NO. Can the endocannabinoid system be targeted and somewhat supported by environmental factors; the answer is YES.

There are several proposed ways to help a deficiency in the ECS signalling: 2 3 8


  • eat more substances that boost levels of endocannabinoids in your body and brain:
    • flaxseed, black pepper, Echinacea, and carrots have been most scientifically noted
  • make lifestyle changes:
    •  eliminate medications that decrease your endocannabinoid signalling (speak to your local pharmacist for further information. Some evidence points towards certain blood pressure and cholesterol medications, as well as SSRIs)
    • make frequent exercise a weekly routine – helps circulation and regulates neurotrasmission
    • try to create proper sleep hygiene to ensure a full night’s rest
  • consume phytocannibinoids (rare cannabinoids that come from other plants)
      • A great stimulator for CB1 receptors is kava, a peppery root naturopathically known to have relaxing, anti-anxiety effects. This can be found in most health food stores in tinctures and teas.


REMEMBER: Cannabis contains over 140 types of cannabinoids, discovered thus far, therefore it is the most complex and nourishing substance to the ECS and those suffering from CECD !


Project CBD interviewed Dr. Russo, a board certified neurologist, and the medical research director at Phytecs, a biotechnology company that specializes in developing different ways of targeting the endocannabinoid system for therapeutic benefit. 8  CBD is a cannabidiol that synergies THC, but also provides its own benefit, therefore it is a buffer:  “– a buffer is something that will work both ways as need be. So, for example, in the endocannabinoid system one of its main roles in the brain is to regulate neurotransmitter function and again, if there’s too much of one kind of neurotransmitter it will bring it down, if there’s too little it will bring it up. 8

Dr Russo too believes that many diseases affect neurotransmitter levels, and along with countless researchers and doctors, is somewhat at a roadblock to pursue further research of the human endocannibinoid system and CECD. Due to the constant stigmatization that has taken place both in the government and  medical community, there is hesitancy and red tape where there shouldn’t be:

“First and foremost, we need to better understand the role of the endocannabinoids in our lives and our health status. That’s been ignored, possibly because of its name – having cannabis in the name of this pejorative connation has impeded education, even in medical school. Basically, it hardly exists. Let’s consider this. There are more cannabinoid receptors in the brain than there are for all of the neurotransmitters put together. That being true – and it is – recognizing that fact, why would one ignore this system? Why isn’t this being taught? Our public needs to know about this and how lifestyle and diet affect this system, and how it could be brought to bear to improve their life condition.” 8

Scientists from countless of fields believe there are other receptors within the ECS to be discovered. With a more thorough understanding of cannabinoids and how terpenes interact with unknown receptors in the ECS , the possibility for new cannabinoid therapies and products to target specificefic diseases, disorders and conditions is bountiful and should be pursued.

However, until more research is administered, patients who use cannabis to treat a condition have to depend on evidence from other patients, 1 and the support by a community that will encourage, empower and educate. 

For more scholarly resources and further explanation of CECD, please find a list and blurbs compiled here: http://www.researchecs.com/CECD3.pdf

Smith J. Cannabis, the Brain, and the Central Nervous System. Guardian Liberty Voice. http://guardianlv.com/2016/01/cannabis-the-brain-and-the-central-nervous-system/. Published January 27, 2016. Accessed October 17, 2016.
What Is Clinical Endocannabinoid Deficiency? Impact Network. http://www.theimpactnetwork.org/endocannabinoid-deficiency/. Published October 21, 2015. Accessed October 21, 2016.
Sander J. What Impacts the Endocannabinoid System Besides Cannabis? The Marijuana Times. https://www.marijuanatimes.org/what-impacts-the-endocannabinoid-system-besides-cannabis/. Published August 3, 2016. Accessed October 19, 2016.
Gould J. Cannabis: 4 big questions. Nature: International Weekly Journal of Science. http://www.nature.com/nature/journal/v525/n7570_supp/fig_tab/525S18a_G1.html. Published September 24, 2015. Accessed October 20, 2016.
What is clinical endocannabinoid deficiency? Sensi Seeds. https://sensiseeds.com/en/blog/what-is-clinical-endocannabinoid-deficiency/. Published March 25, 2013. Accessed October 20, 2016.
Fibromyalgia and Migraine. Migraine Survival . http://www.migrainesurvival.com/fibromyalgia. Published 2016. Accessed October 19, 2016.
Ross DM. Founder’s Message. Impact Network. http://www.theimpactnetwork.org/founders-message/. Published 2014. Accessed October 20, 2016.
CBD P, Russo DE. Dr. Ethan Russo: CBD & Clinical Endocannabinoid Deficiency. Project CBD. https://www.projectcbd.org/article/dr-ethan-russo-cbd-clinical-endocannabinoid-deficiency. Published June 21, 2016. Accessed October 21, 2016.