The endocannabinoid system in the nervous system consists of the precursors used to synthesize the endocannabinoids anandamide and 2-AG, the enzymes that break down these endocannabinoids, and the G-coupled protein cannabinoid receptor CB1. Produced on demand within the postsynaptic neuron, endocannabinoids mediate the retrograde signaling process at the synapse of GABA and glutamate neurons.

Retrograde signaling from the postsynaptic neuron takes place as endocannabinoids are transported back across the synapse to the CB1 receptor on the presynaptic neuron. Activation of CB1 receptors by endocannabinoids function as circuit breakers and suppress the release of excitatory (GABA) or inhibitory (glutamate) neurotransmitters. Exogenous compounds such as THC can mimic endocannabinoids and activate the CB1 receptor. The expression of CB1 receptors is linked to the gene/chromosome CNR1/6q14.


The human body produces endocannabinoids, chemically similar to the cannabinoid THC produced by the cannabis plant. Within the brain and other parts of the nervous system, endocannabinoids help control signaling between neurons, regulating mood, memory, appetite, pain levels, and reward. Endocannabinoids produced in neurons activate a receptor called CB1. Overconsumption of THC can lead to CB1 receptor downregulation, resulting in a reduction of CB1 receptor density, which leads over time to the need to increase THC dose to achieve the previous level of effect.


The endocannabinoid system was only discovered in the late 1980s. And just in the last decade has an understanding of the critical importance of the endocannabinoid system (ECS) in both health and disease emerged. The ECS controls a host of key brain and nervous system functions including regulating mood, memory, appetite, pain levels, and reward. Cannabinoid medicines will have a significant impact on the treatment of neurological conditions including epilepsy, PTSD, Alzheimer’s, Parkinson’s, ALS and multiple sclerosis. Law and policy makers should advance and not hinder research and application of endocannabinoid science.


Strategic relationships between manufacturers and Phytecs researchers build innovative products that emerge from our company’s ever-evolving understanding of the complexities of the endocannabinoid system. Novel semi-synthetic and natural approaches to modify and support endocannabinoid function within the nervous system developed by Phytecs enable an enormous number of potential avenues for collaboration.

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ECS Neuronal MOA by Artwork by John Karapelou, Text by Phytecs is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NoDerivatives 4.0 International License