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What Is the Endocannabinoid System?


Submitted by Leann M. Croft, MSPT, HOPE Center for Pain

CBD is appearing in almost everything—from bath bombs to coffee drinks to medicinal tinctures. People are finding that it is a safe and natural way to help with a wide variety of health issues including anxiety, pain, inflammation, digestive problems, and skin conditions. But just what is CBD, how does it work, and why are we only recently learning about it?

CBD stands for cannabidiol, a compound that is sourced from hemp. Hemp is not the same as marijuana. Hemp has extremely low levels of tetrahydrocannabinol (THC), which is what produces the psychoactive effects, and much higher levels of CBD, the substance that provides the therapeutic effects. CBD will not get you “high” and is completely safe. The 2018 Farm Bill removed hemp and hemp seeds from the Drug Enforcement Administration’s (DEA) schedule of Controlled Substances, which is one reason why CBD has become so readily available.

In the early 1990s, researchers discovered that the human body has an endocannabinoid system (ECS), which is a complex cell signaling network that is involved in most major bodily functions. It is made up of receptors, enzymes and endocannabinoids. Endocannabinoids are similar to the cannabinoids in the hemp plant, but they are naturally produced by the human body. Receptors exist in cells throughout the body and endocannabinoids attach to these receptors. Enzymes appear in many forms, but there are two types of enzymes that break down endocannabinoids when they are no longer serving a purpose.

The endocannabinoid system is important because it is crucial for homeostasis. Homeostasis is the body’s ability to continually monitor and maintain a stable internal environment in response to external environmental changes. A good example of homeostasis is the body’s temperature. We are able to keep our internal temperature about the same no matter what the environmental temperature is. That is why we sweat or shiver and what prompts us to feel hot or cold. Blood pressure is another example of homeostasis. If blood pressure is too high, the heart should slow down; if it is too low, the heart should speed up.

Homeostasis is essential to our health and survival and when something gets out of that “just right” zone, your body activates the ECS to help correct it. The size and scope of the endocannabinoid system explains why CBD can be effective for such a wide array of different and seemingly unrelated health issues. There is still a lot that is not known about the endocannabinoid system and how it works, but we do know that when the ECS isn’t working properly, it can cause a lot of problems.

If you’re looking for a natural and safe way to improve your health, CBD could be a good fit, however, it’s important to choose wisely. With any type of supplement, quality makes a difference and there are CBD products that are a complete waste of money. Extracting CBD from the hemp plant requires a lot of plant material as well as very careful monitoring of the growing environment. CBD is not regulated by the FDA, therefore, it is difficult for consumers to know exactly what they are getting.

The most important thing is to trust the source of the hemp and the CBD. Many CBD brands being sold are white labeling or private labeling their products from unregulated overseas sources or huge corporate distributors who do not have any quality or efficacy standards.

CBD is not a medical miracle cure-all, and there is still a lot to be learned about how it affects our bodies, but there are plenty of scientific studies that indicate the potential of CBD to treat a wide range of health issues.

For more information on CBD, chronic pain, or pelvic related dysfunction, you may contact HOPE Center for Pain at 309-452-0704, or online at Their office is located at 2810 E. Empire St. Ste. B in Bloomington. They carry CBD sourced locally from Banner Farms,