The Endocannabinoid System for Beginners

The Endocannabinoid System is made up of neurons, endocannabinoids and cannabinoid receptors. There are nerve cells called neurons throughout the brain and body which are linked together by neurotransmitters. These neurotransmitters are molecules called agonists that move from one neuron to another through the minute space between them, which is called the synapse. The agonists plug into neural receptors, causing a chain reaction. In the case of the Endocannabinoid System, these receptors are called CB1 (Cannabinoid receptor 1) and CB2 (Cannabinoid receptor 2). CB1 receptors are mainly found in the brain, with some in the liver, lungs and kidneys. CB2 receptors are found throughout the body. There are more cannabinoid receptors in the brain than any other type of neural receptor and a common analogy is that the agonists are keys and the receptors are locks.

The Endocannabinoid System is activated by cannabinoids. The cannabinoids naturally produced by the body, which are known as endocannabinoids, and cannabinoids found in Cannabis, known as phytocannabinoids. The key and lock analogy is based upon the CB1 and CB2 receptors only being activated by cannabinoids, not any other type of agonist molecule. The cannabinoid ‘keys’ are the only ones that will fit the receptor ‘locks’.

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