Station: [7] The Endocannabinoid System


“Endocannabinoid system” sounds complicated and is the focus of a great deal of medical research at present. It was only discovered in the late 20th century, and many questions remain unanswered.

“Endo” stands for "endogenous" and means "internal to, or originating within, an organism”. In other words, the endocannabinoid system works with internally produced cannabinoids that match corresponding receptors in the nervous system and thus regulate various processes in the body.

There are cannabinoid receptors in the human brain as well as throughout the body and in almost all human organs. So far, scientists have distinguished between two types, called CB1 and CB2 receptors. Especially high numbers of CB1 receptors are found in the cerebellum (the part of the brain that deals with motor control), but they are present throughout the entire nervous system, up to and including the digestive organs. CB2 receptors are mainly found on the cells of the immune system and those responsible for bone formation and resorption.

So far, there hasn’t been any comprehensive research into which tasks are performed by the endogenous cannabinoids – the body's own cannabinoids. They’re similar to the phytocannabinoids, that is, the plant cannabinoids found in hemp. And like those, they influence our moods, our appetite and our memory, among other things.

The plant cannabinoids have been known for some time, and more research has been done on them. We do know that the intoxicating effect is due to THC, tetrahydrocannabinol. On the other hand, CBD, or cannabidiol, has an anti-inflammatory effect without being in any way psychoactive. And hemp contains easily 70 other cannabinoid compounds, all waiting to be discovered. Research into them is still in its infancy.

All depictions: © Dagmar Trüpschuch

Hemp is the only plant that produces significant quantities of the molecular structures group known as cannabinoids. As a result, hemp is of particular interest in medical research and human health.