The endocannabinoid system (ECS) was discovered in 1992. The ECS exists to keep the body in homeostasis by regulating basic body functions such as appetite, memory, mood, pain, and sleep. It’s like your body’s “master control.” The ECS utilizes compounds the body produces called endocannabinoids, which fit into receptors in cell membranes throughout the body. CB1 receptors (CBR-1) are found mainly in the brain and spinal cord, while CB2 receptors are concentrated in immune cells in the peripheral nervous system.
First detected in the brain, science now shows that CB1-R are also located in many other organs, connective tissues, gonads and glands. CB1-R are not found in the medulla oblongata (the part of the brain stem responsible for respiratory and cardiovascular functions). CB1-R play an important role in the coordination of movements, spatial orientation, sensory perceptions (taste, touch, smell, hearing), cognitive performance and motivation.
The most important function of the CB1-R is the reduction of excessive or inadequate signaling by the neurotransmitters (messengers) in the brain. By the activation of the CB1-R, the hyperactivity or hypoactivity of the messengers (e.g., serotonin, dopamine) is regulated back into balance. For example, when THC binds to CB1-R, activity in the pain circuits is inhibited, thus resulting in reduced pain. Many other symptoms such as nausea, muscle spasticity and seizures can be alleviated or diminished with cannabinoid therapy.