Endocannabinoid system versus cannabis. Illustrations comparing the cannabinoid neural receptor mechanisms for the natural (internal) endocannabinoid system (ECS, left) and the response to external sources of cannabinoids (right), such as THC (tetrahydrocannabinol) in cannabis. In each illustration, an axon (top) forms a synapse with a dendrite (bottom). Endocannabinoids (green) or THC (dark blue) bind to CB1 receptors. At left (ECS), most of the CB1 receptors are unbound and the GABA neurotransmitter (red) opens chloride channels for chloride ions (light blue) that block the secretion of dopamine (yellow triangles). At right (THC), more of the CB1 receptors are occupied, less GABA is produced, the chloride channels are closed, and dopamine levels increase. This generates an increased sense of well-being.

The way Cannabinoids work – take note

Without going deeper into the specific molecular function of cannabinoids, the endocannabinoid system generally functions to preserve biochemical balance in your body by controlling several of the most crucial feedback mechanisms in your body.

The endocannabinoid system decides whether or not a cell divides, and as such is involved in cancer on the one hand and degenerative diseases on the other. endocannabinoids determine how much energy is available and how it is diverted. This ties in with cancer and metabolic disorders such as anorexia or obesity. 

Endocannabinoids keep tight control of brain activity, thus shielding it from hyperactivity/seizures and other neurological disorders such as Migraine, depression and anxiety. Finally, endocannabinoids regulate self-recognition and thereby protect the body from self-degradation/auto-immune disease such as irritable bowel syndrome or Multiple Sclerosis.

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  • Cell activity or other relevant stimuli determine the amount of endocannabinoids that are released from the plasma membrane surrounding the cell.
  • cannabinoids bind their receptors in the plasma membrane. In this example CB1, CB2 and TRPV1 activity determine cell fate through their respective downstream pathways. With 40 cannabinoid receptors discovered today and dozens of known endogenous (produced by the body) and exogenous (environmental) cannabinoids, the potential for fine-tuning is virtually limitless.
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  • Typically, a low cannabinoid dose tells the cell all is good and it can continue to grow.
  • Increasing cannabinoid levels tell the cell something has changed and instruct it to adapt (biochemistry, physiology, shape, etc.).
  • Even higher cannabinoid levels tell the cell it can no longer maintain it’s function or structural integrity and it instructs the cell to self-destruct (apoptosis).
  • Extreme cannabinoid levels tell surrounding cells that their neighbor cell is under so much stress that it cannot even self-destruct and instructs them/the immune system to clear the affected cell (necrosis).
  • This is how high doses of THC can instruct cancer cells to self-destruct and the immune system to battle the cancer.
  • Other diseases, such as Alzheimer’s, are characterized by excessive cell loss though apoptosis and necrosis and would benefit from an entirely different cocktail of cannabinoids to push them back into adaptation or even growing.
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