The Endocannabinoid System Explained – Series Vol 02 – Cannabinoid Receptors

Welcome back to our ongoing series on the introduction to the Endocannabinoid System. In our previous segment, we provided a basic introduction to the ECS. In this segment we will be discussing the different receptors of the ECS, including their locations, functions, and signalling.


As mentioned in our previous segment the first cannabinoid receptor, aptly named the CB1 receptor, was first discovered in the late 1980s. Since then, researchers have learned a great deal about cannabinoid receptors, with the two most discussed and most abundantly found in the human body being the CB1 and CB2 receptors. These cannabinoid receptors fall under a classification of cell membrane receptors known as G protein coupled receptors.

Cannabinoid receptor activation occurs following the introduction of ligands from one or more of three groups.

  • Endocannabinoids – Cannabinoids produced and released within the body.

  • Phytocannabinoids – Plant based cannabinoids such as those found in cannabis.

  • Synthetic cannabinoids – Manufactured pharmaceutical synthetic THC and CBD.

What makes the process of cannabinoid receptor signalling unique is that it is presynaptic. This means that unlike in the case of neurotransmitters that travel from a neuron to a postsynaptic cell, cannabinoids attach to cannabinoid receptors located on the presynaptic neuron. Due to this presynaptic process, cannabinoids can lead to a direct effect on neurotransmission.


In a slight over-simplification, cannabinoids and cannabinoid receptors work similar to a lock and a key in that certain cannabinoids will ‘fit’ or bind with their matching receptors. The body’s ECS consists of a vast network of these cannabinoid receptors or ‘locks’, in fact, the CB1 receptor is one of the most abundant receptors found in the brain and in the central nervous system.

Cannabinoid receptors can be found throughout the body, and are primarily concentrated in the brain, spinal cord, and the tissues of the immune system.

Much is still to be explored to fully understand the functional processes of the ECS and its network of receptors. While there is still ongoing investigation and debate, research has shown that activation of the CB1 and CB2 receptors can influence many of the different systems and functions of the body.




Metabolism / Appetite

Sleep Cycle

Cardiovascular Functions


Learning & Memory



Musculoskeletal Disorders


Liver Function


Bone Mass

Reproductive Functions


Immune Response



Neurological Function

Stress Responses



Reproductive Function


While research is limited on receptors of the ECS other than the CB1 and CB2 receptors, other receptors do exist, with the two most notable being:

  • Transient Receptor Potential Channels (TRPV-1) – Membrane proteins involved in the modulation of ion entry.

  • Peroxisome Proliferator Activated Receptors (PPARS) – A group of nuclear hormone receptors.

UP NEXT – In the next segment of our series covering the Endocannabinoid System, we will be discussing the endocannabinoids Anandamide (AEA) and 2-Arachidonoylglycerol (2-AG).

To begin your cannabis medicine journey today, book an appointment now with the Savikalpa Virtual Clinic for an online doctor consultation, or request more information from a member of our highly trained clinic staff (

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Interested in learning more? Send us your questions ( It is our mission to educate patients in any way we can, and we would be delighted to hear from you.

Research regarding the endocannabinoid system:

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