The endocannabinoid system (ECS) is made up of a collection of cell receptors and corresponding molecules. You can think of cell receptors like little locks on the surface of your cells. The keys to these locks are called endocannabinoids.
Endocannabinoids are the chemical messengers that tell your body when to get processes moving and when to stop. Each time an endocannabinoid binds to a cell, it relays a message, giving your cell specific direction.
Certain receptors are more concentrated in specific regions. CB1 receptors are abundant in the central nervous system. CB2 receptors are more often found on immune cells, in the gastrointestinal tract and in the peripheral nervous system. The diversity of receptor locations shows just how important endocannabinoids are for day-to-day bodily function.
The ECS helps to maintain optimal balance in the body ? known as homeostasis. It also helps regulate sleep, appetite, digestion, hunger, mood, motor control, immune function, reproduction and fertility, pleasure and reward, pain, memory, and temperature regulation.
When the ECS is disrupted, any one of these things can fall out of balance. When the body does not produce enough endocannabinoids or cannot regulate them properly, you are more susceptible to illnesses that affect one or several of the functions mentioned above.
The endocannabinoid system is extremely complex and plays important roles in many vital processes, and it holds promise as a treatment target for many debilitating conditions.