In order to understand how endocannabinoids work, you must understand how neurons and neurotransmitters work. Neurons are cells that transmit nerve impulses (electrical and chemical signals) and, in turn, controls how our body functions and reacts to stimuli. While neurons are located throughout our body, the human brain alone has approximately 100 billion neurons.

During the transmission of these electrical and chemical signals, neurons release this “information” across a small gap between the neurons call the synapse. The neuron sending “information” is called a presynaptic neuron. When these electrical/chemical signals are sent across the synapse, they are received through a specialized receptor on the receiving neuron. The receiving neuron is called the postsynaptic neuron.

While this transaction flows from the presynaptic neuron to the postsynaptic neuron, the endocannabinoid systemacts to control that flow. In this system, the postsynaptic neuron will release cannabinoids back to the presynaptic neuron where they are received by specific cannabinoid receptors. This process can then help control (and typically limit) the amount of electrical/chemical signals that take place during normal neurotransmission.

Presently, there are two known forms of cannabinoid receptors in presynaptic neurons, which are referred to as CB1 and CB2. The difference between these two receptors is that CB1 receptors are more commonly found in neurons in the brain while CB2 receptors are more commonly found in the immune system. This becomes important when discussing specific cannabinoids in marijuana as it has been shown that specific cannabinoids are more likely to react with specific receptors.

An excellent example of the diversity of this system was provided by Dustin Sulak, DO., “At the site of an injury, for example, cannabinoids can be found decreasing the release of activators and sensitizers from the injured tissue, stabilizing the nerve cell to prevent excessive firing, and calming nearby immune cells to prevent release of pro-inflammatory substances. Three different mechanisms of action on three different cell types for a single purpose: minimize the pain and damage caused by the injury.”


If you are interesting in researching further these sites reference detailed information pertaining to the endocannabinoid system: