Basics of the Endocannabinoid System for Cannabis Nurses

by | Jan 15, 2018 | Featured, Wellness

There’s been a lot of talk recently about the Endocannabinoid (eCB) System. More questions are being asked about this human body system than ever before. -What is it? How do you explain it simply? How does cannabis interact with it? Why don’t doctors know more about it?

On social media, you find many willing “experts” who are eager to share what they know about the Endocannabinoid System. The problem is, information becomes confusing and even conflicting. In response to the plethora of eCB system questions, I took the opportunity during a live educational event to help clear the air by explaining the Endocannabinoid System in a way that can be both simply understood and easily utilized. Here is a recap of my explanation.

“Endocannabinoid system, CB1 Receptors, Anandamide; these are all scientific medical terms that are part of the human body…” all terms that, unfortunately, I never learned about in Nursing School. My main question for the audience was, “WHY??”

Dr. Raphael Mechoulam, Professor with the Department of Medicinal Chemistry and Natural Products, Faculty of Medicine at Hebrew University of Jerusalem, is considered to be the “Father of Cannabis Research.”

Dr. Mechoulam began researching cannabis in the 1960’s. He was the 1st to discover, isolate, and synthesize the psychoactive cannabinoid, Δ9-tetrahydrocannabinol (THC). His first article on the subject, “Isolation, structure and partial synthesis of an active constituent of hashish” was published in 1964. Dr. Mechoulam’s continued research on cannabinoids and endocannabinoids, sparked the interest of other researchers around the world leading to the collective discovery that all mammals have an Endocannabinoid (eCB) system.

The question was expanded to ask, “WHY, as medical and educational communities, after more than 50 years of researchers knowing about the Endocannabinoid System and that constituents of cannabis can be medically beneficial, Why are we not currently learning, teaching and discussing in-depth this highly important system? –The answer my friends is Stigma, and today we are breaking the trend.”

WHY is the eCB System Important?

The eCB system is the Homeostasis or Balancing system for all of our other bodily systems.

The eCB is the largest receptor signaling system within the human body.

Humans naturally produce Endocannabinoids including Anandamide and 2-AG. These endocannabinoids fit like “keys” in the endocannabinoid receptor “lock,” and facilitates systematic balance within our body.

WHERE are Endocannabinoid Receptors Located in the Body?

CB1 Receptors (CBR1) are primarily located in the Brain and Spinal cord but are also found in Nerves, Organs, and Tissues.

CB2 Receptors (CBR2) are primarily located in Organs and Peripheral Tissues, including our Skin and cells related to the Immune System

WHAT happens if the body stops producing Endocannabinoids necessary to maintain balance?

According to Dr. Ethan Russo, “Migraine, fibromyalgia, IBS and related conditions display common clinical, biochemical and pathophysiological patterns that suggest an underlying clinical endocannabinoid deficiency that may be suitably treated with cannabinoid medicines.”

I explained that medical issues such as Calcium, Vitamin B12, or Iron deficiencies are commonly treated medically by supplementing these deficiencies with pharmaceutical, over-the-counter (OTC), or natural/food sources. Adding, “When a patient is deficient in something, we supplement the body to help it work better. The plant constituents of cannabis, Phytocannabinoids, can be the perfect supplement for Endocannabinoid Deficiency. Research is showing that many diseases are related to Clinical Endocannabinoid Deficiency.”

Dr. Russo reports, “Investigation at that time suggested that cannabinoids can block spinal, peripheral and gastrointestinal mechanisms that promote pain in a headache, fibromyalgia, irritable bowel syndrome and muscle spasm.”

HOW is Cannabis Used?

Cannabis medicine is so much more than just “smoking weed.” There are multiples ways to utilize cannabis through various Methods of Administration (MOA) for Cannabinoid Therapeutics.


Smoked or Vaporized Flowers or Concentrates

When Inhaled, Cannabis activates mainly CB1, but also CB2 Receptors, produces euphoria or “high,” with effects being experienced within minutes, and may last 2-4 hours.


When eaten, Cannabis stimulates both CB1 and CB2 Receptors.

Cannabis when consumed orally goes through the digestive system and is metabolized in the liver. The body produces a metabolite, 11-Hydroxy THC, in response to ingesting THC. 11-Hydroxy THC can be highly psychoactive. If too much THC is consumed, you may become heavily sedated, and possibly experience dysphoric or unpleasant experiences. Effects are typically experienced within 30min-2+hrs after consumption and can last up to 6-12 hours. Metabolism and digestion times of individuals may vary. When self-dosing with edibles, Start Low & Go Slow! 2.5mg – 5mg is a safe oral starting dose. Wait 2-3 hours after first dose to measure effects before consuming more.


Tinctures, Lozenges, Oral Spray, Gum, Oral Strips enter the bloodstream through the oral mucosa and digestive system stimulating both CBR1 & CBR2. Effects may be felt 5-30 minutes after application and can last 2-6 hours.


Transdermal patches, gels, and suppositories stimulate both CBR1 and CBR2, as a result of cannabinoids penetrating through the skin and entering the bloodstream to circulate throughout the body. Euphoric effects may be minimal; therapeutic effects may be felt 15-30 minutes after application and can last 12-24+ hours.


Topical ointments, lotions, and oils activate CB2 Receptors in the skin, which can help control localized pain, spasms, and various skin conditions without a psychoactive experience. Effects may be experienced within 1-2 minutes and can last up to 2 hours.

I concluded the presentation by congratulating and empowering the audience, by enthusiastically announcing, “Now You Know! Now you know about Endocannabinoid system science. You know the difference between Endocannabinoids and Phytocannabinoids, and you’ve learned a little bit about methods of administration. But something else… all of you hearing (reading) this today, now YOU know more about the Endocannabinoid System than most healthcare professionals practicing in the world today. Congratulations!”

If this article has answered your questions, SUCCESS! If this article has inspired or intrigued you to ask more questions, BONUS! Either way, continue to share nuggets of knowledge with those you love; and more importantly, with those who need to know. It can be simple as two sentences,

“Largest receptor signaling system in the human body responsible for systematic homeostasis (balance) between the other 11 human body systems. This is why cannabinoid therapeutics supports healing and relieves so many symptoms & medical conditions by supporting & feeding the Endocannabinoid System.”

Nurse Heather Manus, RN

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