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How Your Endocannabinoid System Works : An Easy Guide

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One system in the body underpins many others. 

Your doctor may never mention it, but it impacts everything from your central nervous system to lymphatic system, immunity and the gut. It’s an intrinsic part of the brain, influencing mood, appetite and even sex hormones.

It’s the body’s most complex signalling system, responsible for bringing your body into balance, or homeostasis. And you don’t need to smoke weed to target it.

We wanted to find out how marijuana gets us high and found the endocannabinoid system

Researchers describe the endocannabinoid system as the most complicated signalling system in our body.

The first endocannabinoid receptor was identified in 1988, and since cannabis is known for its psychoactive effects (getting you high), research was focused on how endocannabinoid receptors influence our brain and central nervous system. 

But over the last 30 years, we’ve found that the endocannabinoid system isn’t only in the brain. It is present everywhere in the body: the heart, liver, pancreas, skin, reproductive tract, you name it. And disrupted endocannabinoid signalling has been associated with many disorders, including diabetes, hypertension, infertility, liver disease, and more.

Cannabinoids: compounds found in plants and in our bodies that talk to your endocannabinoid system

“Cannabinoid” is the name given to any compound that interacts with the endocannabinoid system. This includes the cannabinoids made naturally by your body (called endocannabinoids) and the ones found in plants (called phytocannabinoids). 

The most well-known cannabinoids are CBD and THC, but there are more than 120 in the cannabis plant alone, and they all work in unique ways.

Hemp, marijuana and cannabinoids

Cannabis sativa is the taxonomic name for the cannabis plant, which includes both marijuana and hemp.

Marijuana is usually selectively bred for higher levels of THC, the cannabinoid that gets you high. Hemp is cannabis that generally has low levels of THC and has been used for food and also industrial purposes, like making building materials and clothing.

The other cannabinoid getting lots of attention is CBD. With over 50 proven functional benefits, this “miracle” supplement is known for its anti-inflammatory, neuro-protective, appetite suppressive and anti-anxiety properties. Even better there’s little to no evidence of side effects. The CBD products you’ll find here at Hemple or in health food stores are derived from hemp—with levels of THC less than 0.3 percent. This means they are non-intoxicating, and won’t get you high.

Cannabinoids and endocannabinoid-supporting nutrients can be found in other plants, like hops, rosemary, black pepper and cacao – yep you read that right, in chocolate.


We have an endocannabinoid system. It’s linked to lots of other systems in the body and helps to keep our health in balance. It’s fed by cannabinoids that we make ourselves, or from plant sources that we can smoke, vape and eat. But where do cannabinoids and the endocannabinoid system meet? Next, let’s nerd out on cannabinoid receptors.