The Endocannabinoid System: A Bridge Between Body and Mind?

The Endocannabinoid System: A Bridge Between Body and Mind?

Not long ago, Dr. Dustin Sulak did an article for NORML (the National Organization for the Reform of Marijuana Laws) that discussed the human endocannabinoid system in simple, easy to understand terms.

In it, he described the ways in which plant-based cannabinoids (called phytocannabinoids) like CBD interact with naturally-occurring receptors in our bodies to regulate and maintain an astonishingly wide range of bodily functions. So many things, he said, seem to be in some way connected to this vast internal molecular system that each and every one of us has.

And not just us as humans; Dr. Sulak also mentioned that every living vertebrate animal – from horses and dogs to “sea squirts and nematodes” – also has this ECS system which responds to the active molecular compounds in cannabis.

How is this possible? How is it that nearly every living thing on earth has an innate molecular system that governs virtually all aspects of health, homeostasis, survival, and reproduction? And how is it that this system can be so influenced and manipulated by natural compounds in the cannabis plant?

Well, as it turns out, natural cannabis compounds (CBD being one of them) have a near identical chemical structure as the human compounds (specifically anandamide and 2-AG) that govern the endocannabinoid system.

For this reason, Dr. Sulak has described the ECS as “perhaps the most important physiologic system involved in establishing and maintaining human health,” and has illustrated it as a potential bridge between body and mind that oversees molecular actions on our organs, cells, nerves, and immune system, among many other things.

The Importance of Cannabinoid Receptors in the Endocannabinoid System

Cannabinoid receptors have been found in virtually every and cell and tissue type in the human body. In fact, some researchers believe they may be the most prominent and abundant receptor in humans. They are located in the membranes of various cell types, and when they’re activated, they can “stimulate” cells to carry out dozens – if not hundreds or thousands – of different responses.

Cannabinoid receptors have been found for example throughout our nervous system, glands, connective tissues, organs, immune system, and reproductive systems. Under “healthy” conditions, the receptors are stimulated by the aforementioned endocannabinoids anandamide and 2-AG, which are produced naturally by the body.

If/when there is a deficiency in the production or functioning of these compounds (a condition known as endocannabinoid deficiency), the receptors are unable to be stimulated, and thus the cells and corresponding organs are not able to function properly or maintain homeostasis (balance) throughout the body.

This is where phytocannabinoids (such as CBD) from the cannabis plant can come in.

In the event of a deficiency or malfunctioning of the human compounds anandamide or 2-AG, plant-based cannabinoids may be able to effectively “take their place” and stimulate the cannabinoid receptors on their own, thereby allowing cells to carry out their specific functions and return the body back to a relative state of homeostasis.

Moreover, what’s so incredible about these cannabinoid compounds and their receptors is their “multi-function” capabilities. In other words, they appear to be able to “instruct” the cell to carry out a number of different functions, depending on what exactly the body needs to return to a state of balance.

In terms of the action of CBD specifically, it appears to differ from the other key cannabis compound (THC) in one crucial way; it doesn’t bind directly to the receptors in our cells.

Rather, it seems to work in more of an indirect or “roundabout” way to promote the natural production of our endocannabinoids, rather than “doing things on its own.” For this reason, rather than producing a psychoactive, mind-altering response in the brain and central nervous system (as does THC), it simply promotes our body’s cells to repair themselves in an organic, natural way.

And lastly, the ‘oxidation’ of certain compounds in our bodies result in what’s known as “free radical” compounds. These compounds can do irreversible and potentially catastrophic damage to cells, unless a sufficient number of “antioxidants” are available to dispose of them.

In this way, compounds like CBD are believed to provide a natural and highly effective form of protection against free radicals that, according to Dr. Sulak, can cause aging and an inability for the body to heal itself.

How the Endocannabinoid System Works as a “Bridge” Between Mind and Body

In addition to the seemingly “straightforward” physiologic effects that they have on our cellular receptors, Dr. Sulak also suggests that cannabinoids such as CBD can play a crucial role on much larger social and environmental scales.

For example, he believes natural cannabis compounds have the ability to alter our relationship with the environment around us, and allow us to adapt in a positive way to the myriad of changes (whether physical, emotional, etc) that we face on a day-to-day basis.

“Socially,” he says, “the administration of cannabinoids clearly alters human behavior, often promoting sharing, humor, and creativity.”

These changes, in combination with the ability of cannabinoids to promote the growth and development of new nerve cells, may improve our open-mindedness and allow us to transcend “limiting patterns of thought and behavior” – a crucial step in maintaining total body/mind health in a perpetually changing environment.

In this way, we begin to understand from a scientific perspective how CBD – and cannabis in general – may truly be a molecular bridge between body and mind.

[You can read the entirety of Dr. Sulak’s article, titled “Introduction to the Endocannabinoid System,” by accessing the Library tab on NORML’s website].

In Conclusion: A Word of Discretion and Responsibility

Taking all of this into consideration, it is still important to reiterate the fact that cannabis and endocannabinoid research is still very much in its infancy. Regardless of how fascinating and promising initial research studies and findings have been, there is still much that we need to learn about in terms of how this system works on a complete chemical and physiological level, and how we can manipulate it to maximum effect with cannabis compounds such as CBD.

Moreover, due to the fact that every one of us has a unique endocannabinoid system and a unique makeup of cellular receptors, we must point out that not everyone will experience positive effects when taking a product like CBD oil – or any other CBD-infused product for that matter. In fact, some may not experience any effects at all.

As a general word of advice, be realistic and patient when anticipating the effects of CBD.

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Wendy Smith
Wendy Smith

To David who replied above,,,yours is the life i want/need. I suffer terribly from chronicv pain, scoliosis,kyphosis & CRPS after shattering my right leg 8 years ago. I have been in a wheelchair since. I am a 60 yr old gramma who feels like I am missing so much. This moment I am sucking on a 5 mg CBD sucker. I would love some advice/help figuring this cbd dosing out.

LAURA Meyer's
LAURA Meyer's

Hi my name is Laura I have Lupus SLE and RA and I sufferfrom chronic pain and anxiety and also have a horrible time sleeping I have severe scoliosis of the spine. I don’t know which one would help me I need some advice.


I have the exact same problems as you. I would like some guidance as well. I am so tired of being in pain, not being able to sleep. I also have vascular necrosis in my hips and have very limited mobility.


I have the same problem discussed above and I am very depressed due to this problem. I have attended many clinics but I am not satisfied with any. My friend gives me a suggestion about cbd oil usage. after usage of this oil, I am feeling comfortable and enjoying my life. Thanks, CBD Oil and the Thanks to the CBD oil producers.

Sarah Redden
Sarah Redden

Try to find a reputable functional medical doctor and tell them your wishes. I’m positive they will help you!


I am a 81 year old man who takes a number of pills morning and night.The veterens hospital gives me pills for things I never heard of. I would love to get off most of these pills and start CBD but have no idea what to quit taking . I know you are not someone to give me advise but would appreciate any suggestions I can get.

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