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The discovery of the Endocannabinoid system

Ever wonder about, how and why cannabis works in the human body? It's an interesting story to say the least, and oddly enough it all started in Israel with a gentleman by the name of Dr. Raphael

Mechoulam, he would later be recognized as the father of cannabis research. Dr. Raphael Mechoulam was an organic chemist who decided to start researching cannabis sativa, purely out of curiosity, puzzled by the fact that not a single active compound had ever been isolated or identified from the plant. Hytiva cannabis on demand stated, without research conducted on the cannabis sativa plant, the discovery of the endocannabinoid system, our understanding of the human body’s functions would have moved into the future undeveloped; unknowing of this system that produces and interacts with cannabinoids that are found in the cannabis plant. The endocannabinoid system was not discovered overnight, it was a series of events starting in 1964.

1964: Isolating THC

Raphael Mechoulam identified & isolated THC for the first time. This soon led to identifying CBD.

1984: Cannabinoid Research & Synthetic Advances

John W. Huffman begins research on cannabinoids which led to synthesizing over 450 of them. However, synthetic cannabinoids were then found to be more dangerous, overdosing on them possible, while natural cannabinoids found in cannabis have yet to be overdosed on.

1988: Finding Cannabinoid Receptors

Allyn Howlett and William Devane discover the first cannabinoid receptor in the brain of a rat, leading to their discovery in the human brain – ultimately named CB1 receptors. It was found that these receptors are more plentiful than any other neurotransmitter in the brain.

1990: Receptor Pinpointed in DNA

Lisa Matsuda announces that she and her colleagues have identified a DNA sequence that defines a THC-sensitive receptor in a rat’s brain to the National Academy of Science’s Institute of Medicine. Soon after, this receptor was successfully cloned allowing them to fashion molecules that activate the receptors. Genetically altered rats were also bred that lacked such a receptor, meaning THC would have no effect on them. Success in these experiments proved that THC works by activating specialized cannabinoid receptors found in both the brain and central nervous system, meaning they must be present in humans for effects to be felt.

1992: First Endocannabinoid Discovered

Raphael Mechoulam and National Institute of Mental Health (NIMH) researchers William Devane and Dr. Lumir Hanus discover anandamide, a naturally occurring endogenous cannabinoid found in the human body. Such an endocannabinoid was found to attach to the same receptors as THC, thus being named after the Sanskrit word for bliss. Also nicknamed “the bliss receptor,” anandamide plays a role in memory, pain, depression, and appetite.

1993: Second Receptor Pinpointed in DNA

A second THC-sensitive receptor is found in the immune and nervous systems, named the CB2 receptors. They’re predominantly in the heart, blood vessels, kidneys, bones, gut, spleen, reproductive organs, and lymph cells.

1995: Second Endocannabinoid Discovered

Raphael Mechoulam and colleagues again find a new endocannabinoid named 2-AG (2-arachidonoylglycerol) that attaches to both CB1 & CB2 receptors.

The discovery of the endocannabinoid system is important for cannabis because it explains how the compounds found in cannabis, known as cannabinoids, interact with the human body. The endocannabinoid system is a complex network of receptors, enzymes, and endocannabinoids (cannabinoids produced naturally in the body) that play a crucial role in regulating a wide range of physiological processes such as appetite, pain, mood, sleep, and immune function.

The cannabinoids found in cannabis, such as THC and CBD, are able to interact with the endocannabinoid system in the body, mimicking the effects of the body's own endocannabinoids. This interaction explains why cannabis is able to produce a range of effects, including pain relief, relaxation, and euphoria.

Understanding the endocannabinoid system also provides insights into the potential therapeutic uses of cannabis and cannabinoids for a variety of medical conditions. For example, research has shown that cannabis can be effective in treating chronic pain, multiple sclerosis, epilepsy, and nausea and vomiting associated with chemotherapy.

Overall, the discovery of the endocannabinoid system has greatly expanded our knowledge of how cannabis works in the body and has opened new avenues for research and development of cannabis-based medicines.



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