The Human Endocannabinoid System, the one they don’t teach you about in school.

“But whyyy?” they ask with judgment, insinuating your answers were not sufficient.

“Doesn’t it make you feel lazy?” they question, making a half-hearted attempt to reason with you and expecting you to provide an answer that they can accept. Despite their disbelief, you know something magical happens inside of you when you consume cannabis. Not the kind of magic that makes you light headed or that helps you “go to a different place”, but the type of magic that brings balance and peace to an overwhelmingly tense or uncomfortable situation, space or feelings.  And while you may not be able to articulate that magical experience, it is what keeps you coming back to cannabis when you experience those sharp pains in your belly, that dull ache in your lower back or feel the pressures of the world bringing on your migraine.  When your anxiety or PTSD begins to takes over, or maybe you had a long day and you just want to relax, you know that you prefer to use cannabis over most prescription and over the counter medications.  

Our bodies have over a dozen biological systems, each of which performs a specific, yet essential function to keep us alive and healthy. You may be very familiar with some of them such as the muscular system, the digestive system, and the skeletal system.  There are a handful of biological systems you may be less familiar with such as the integumentary system, also known as the body’s largest organ because it includes the skin, hair, nails, glands and nerve receptors. Another example would be the endocrine system, which is made up of the pituitary gland, thyroid gland, parathyroid glands, adrenal glands, pancreas, ovaries, and testicles. Together these glands produce hormones that regulate our metabolism, growth, development, tissue function, sexual function, reproduction, sleep, and mood.

But there is a lesser-known system that like the others, provides an essential function to life, yet gets little attention. This is the endocannabinoid system, the system responsible for creating that magical experience you feel when you consume cannabis. Today we are going to talk about the human endocannabinoid system, the one they did not teach you about in school.  

So what exactly is an endocannabinoid system and what does it do?

The human endocannabinoid system is a complex network of protein-based receptors called cannabinoid receptors and endogenous fatty acids called cannabinoids. These cannabinoid receptors are programmed to make and use cannabinoids. The cannabinoid receptors are tiny sensors that pick up bio-chemical cues from their surroundings. An endogenous cannabinoid describes the cannabinoids produced within the body. Phytocannabinoids are cannabinoids produced inside the cannabis plant. Endocannabinoids and phytocannabinoids naturally stimulate the cannabinoid receptors within the human body.

Cannabinoid receptors are extremely concentrated within our brains, especially the hippocampus, which controls our memories; the cerebral cortex, which controls our higher cognitive abilities; the cerebellum, which controls our motor coordination; the basal ganglia, which controls movement; the hypothalamus, which regulates our 

appetites; and the amygdala which controls our emotions. All of these areas are responsible for the mental and physiological processes we experience within our bodies. Cannabinoid receptors can also be found in other organs, connective tissues, glands, and immune cells.  

What is homeostasis?

Every cannabinoid receptor within our endocannabinoid system has a unique task to perform. Each unique task results in the same goal: promoting and maintaining homeostasis. Homeostasis is the maintenance of a stable internal environment despite fluctuations in the external environment. Translation: The endocannabinoid system is an important body system because it has the ability promote and maintain a stable equilibrium within the body. Cannabis literally balances our bodies by destroying abnormal cells and this helps us to stay healthy. Considering that many illnesses and diseases within our bodies stem from some type of imbalance, I would consider this is a major medical discovery. Since its discovery in 1990, the endocannabinoid system has been considered the most important physiologic system involved in establishing and maintaining human health because cannabinoids promote homeostasis at every stage of biological life.

When was the endocannabinoid system discovered?

On July 18, 1990, Lisa Matsuda announced that she and her colleagues from the National Institute of Mental Health (NIMH) located the exact DNA sequence to encode a THC-sensitive receptor. In 1992, Raphael Mechoulam, William Devane, and Dr. Lumir Hanus located a special neurotransmitter. This neurotransmitter was a naturally-occurring “endocannabinoid,” which attached to the same brain-cell receptors as THC. They named it “anandamide,” deriving from the Sanskrit word for bliss.  How perfect is that name? In 1995, Mechoulam and the other scientists discovered the second endocannabinoid 2-arachidonoylglycerol, or “2-AG” and 2-AG locks onto the CB1 and CB2 receptors. Since this research is less than 30 years old, we are still at the beginning stages of learning how important our endocannabinoid system really is and how the endocannabinoid system works in conjunction with the other biological systems inside our bodies. 

What is clinical endocannabinoid deficiency?

Many common chronic medical conditions have been linked to deficient or overactive neurotransmitters within our bodies. In other words, common chronic medical conditions have been linked to an unbalanced internal environment. For instance, Parkinson’s disease is caused by a dopamine deficiency. Alzheimer’s disease is caused an acetylcholine deficiency. It would make sense that there would also be a disease caused by a cannabis deficiencythis disease is called Clinical Endocannabinoid Deficiency (CECD) and it can happen to anyone, regardless of age or gender. CECD occurs when there is:  

  • not be enough endocannabinoids synthesized;
  • not be enough cannabinoid receptors;
  • too much of the enzymes that break down endocannabinoids; or
  • not enough endocannabinoid signaling happening within the body.

So now when you are asked, “why do you use cannabis?” and you are stumbling through your thoughts of “it evens me out” or “because it makes me feel better” and you can’t capture the words to explain the magic that is happening, just tell them that you have a disease called clinical endocannabinoid deficiency and cannabis is how you treat it. They still may judge you and that is okay.

Closing thoughts & questions for the readers

Can one be so in tune with their body that they can detect the earliest signs of endocannabinoid deficiency as a craving? In other words, if cannabis promotes and maintains balance within the body, does the body crave cannabis when it is coming out of balance? Like how our bodies crave water or liquid when thirsty and how that craving is interpreted as the early signs of dehydration? These are important questions for some cannabis consumers, and since research is still relatively young, these answers are still unclear. However, I would like to believe as our endocannabinoids levels start to drop one of the ways our bodies communicate this drop, is to initiate a cannabis craving.  After all a craving is just one of the ways our bodies can communicate or signal that they need something. Sometimes that something is cannabis. Sometimes it is a nap. Sometimes it is a sandwich. Sometimes it is all three.

The endocannabinoid system might be one of the ways to explain the magical feelings you have when you consume cannabis. The balance it restores to your body might be the reason your nausea is calmed and your creativity soars. But, just like any other consumable, cannabis is not the only thing you should consume in order to be more balanced and healthy. Just like you wouldn’t eat unhealthy foods and exercise, or drink tons of coffee and not sleep, you shouldn’t treat cannabis as a cure-all for any negative symptoms you have that hint at unwellness. Cannabis is just another tool in your toolbox and should be treated as part of a wellness system.

Do you believe that this explains your cannabis cravings? Do you think that this might be an explanation as to why cannabis helps you achieve some of your goals? Might this be the reason for the good effects you feel when you can’t otherwise explain them? Do you believe that new knowledge that we learn about the endocannabinoid system over time will help shine a light onto how homeostasis is achieved in the body?

Let’s talk about your research and experiences. How has cannabis helped heal you inside out?

Sources & good reading material:


Finding Time For Momma


My typical weekday morning goes something like this.

Wake up, brush teeth, wake up kids for school, take shower, pull still sleeping kids out of bed, make breakfast, pack lunches, wake up husband, remind kids to brush teeth, feed dog, help the Girl find glasses, help the Boy find backpack (which we later discover is at Grandma’s house), put laundry in washing machine, help husband find car keys, drive kids to school, come home, wash dishes, put laundry in dryer…and I still need to find time take care of myself, meet with clients, pick up kids from school, take the Girl to soccer, take the Boy to Cub Scouts, go grocery shopping and make dinner.

If your days are anything like mine, finding time to exercise is probably the last thing on your mind. In fact, finding time to take care of myself can seem more like another dreaded chore instead of something beneficial and good for my health and sanity.

It was easy to let myself become an after thought because putting the needs of my family before my own was what a good mother was supposed to do right? 2012AnneTaintorCalendar

The longer I put myself last on the priority list, the unhappier and unhealthier I became.  My migraine headaches and insomnia came back with a vengeance.  I started gaining weight because cheesecake, pasta and wine were my go to solutions for a stressed out day instead of dealing with my shit.  My joints and back started aching and I was always tired.  My body was sending me warning signs I could no longer ignore.  I needed to make time to take care of myself.  No more excuses.

The excuses had to stop, my body depended on it.

I decided to start small and once my body became accustomed to my new routine I could gradually increase the time and level of intensity.

My first change was waking up earlier.

If I wanted to fit in “workout time” I needed to wake up before my family did so I could do it uninterrupted.  I decided to wake up at 4:00 am.  One hour (somedays 30 mins if I needed an extra 30 mins of sleep) earlier than I normally did.  It was very hard to commit to in the beginning.  After a couple of weeks, it became easier to wake up earlier. My new wake up time also set the tone for the rest of my day.  I had more energy and I was no longer struggling to fall asleep at night (probably because I was waking up so freaking early). So far so good.

My second change was delegating tasks to my husband.

I tend to be a little bit of a control freak.  I like to do everything myself.  Even if it means I am going to be exhausted, stressed out and bitchy.  This was not serving me (or my family) well so I decided to let some responsibility fall to my husband.  This also meant, I needed to stop micromanaging him and let him do his thing without my interference from the sidelines.  I will be honest, this was extremely hard for me to do.  I have gotten better but I know I am still learning to let the little shit go.  He will probably never be able to clean the kitchen as perfect as I think I can.  Or sweep the floor without leaving pockets of dirt but at least I don’t have to do it.

*Now I realize everyone may not have a partner to delegate tasks to.  If that is the case, have your kids pitch in if they are capable!  Or if you have another form of help, take it (even if it is your mother in law)!  Yes, you can do everything by yourself but if you someone offering help and you need it; let the ego go and just take it.  And remember to say, thank you.

My third change was finding ways to work smarter not harder.  

For instance, I realized doing laundry was taking up entirely too much time.  My solution was to wash at the laundry mat.  There are several laundry mats in my neighborhood so it made sense for me to spend approximately 2 hours to wash and fold 10 loads of clothes instead of doing it periodically throughout the day.  Aside from saving time, I also saved money because my PG&E bill went down (slightly).  I also started prepping our meals for the week to cut down on random grocery store trips and trying to figure out what to cook for breakfast, lunch and dinner.  This also saved us money on random restaurant expenses when I didn’t feel like cooking or was too tired to make it to Trader Joe’s for groceries.

My final change was realizing I did not have to accomplish everything on my to-do list.

Yup, sometimes you just can not get everything done and guess what? It is ok!  If I did not get around to washing the dishes or some other mundane household chore it was perfectly ok.  Especially, if I had a better option like spending time with my family or spending time with my damn self.  I honestly do not know why I did not think of this one sooner.

Summer is coming and I am so ready for a vacation!  I am thinking about taking a family vacation back to Puerto Rico this summer.  I miss the warm ocean water, warm people and amazing food.  I just need a week to do nothing but sunbathe, do yoga on the beach and spend time with my family.  I am thinking about spending all our time in Rincon this year, as close to the beach as possible.

Where is your favorite place to vacation with your family?  What do you do to make more time to take care of yourself?