December 14, 2021

Endocannabinoid Deficiency: What It Is & How CBD Can Help

Oooh, the mysterious endocannabinoid system just got a bit more enigmatic! Not to worry — we’re going to dispel your confusion (at least enough so those deep ruts in your furrowed forehead can go away…).

So, cozy up in your fave comfy chair. We’re about to go knuckle deep into an alphabet soup of ECS, CECD, and CBD.

What Is The Endocannabinoid System (ECS)?

Before we can intelligibly discuss a deficiency with a thing, you need to know what that thing is. Right?

We don’t want to bore those in the know with repetition, though. So, here’s a little Choose Your Own Adventure, ECS style.

  1. If you’re well versed on the endocannabinoid system, skip ahead to the next section.
  2. If you want to discover all the nits and gnats of the ECS, check these posts out:
  • What Is The Endocannabinoid System?
  • What Are CB1 & CB2 Receptors & Why They Matter For Wellness
  1. If you’re somewhere in between or want the “nutshell” version of what the ECS is, here ya go!

Everyone has an ECS. It’s present throughout the body.

Through a complex — and not-totally-understood — network of endocannabinoids, receptors, and enzymes that chat with your brain (which then instigates various bodily responses), the ECS impacts many different bodily functions and systems. Everything from your immune reaction and appetite to mood and pain management to metabolism and sleep.

When you consume CBD, it joins the ECS-brain conversation. This influences the neuro signals and downstream effects on your body. It’s in this manner that CBD yields such diverse and numerous physical and mental health benefits.

All in — your endocannabinoid systems is pretty astounding!

So, That Makes Endocannabinoid Deficiency (ECD)…?

Now that we’re all set on what the ECS is, we can explore what can go wrong with it.

One prob that’s becoming the talk of the town is endocannabinoid deficiency. This condition is also known commonly as endocannabinoid system deficiency. Medically, it’s referred to as clinical endocannabinoid deficiency syndrome (CECD).

It’s important to know that CECD is currently just a medical theory. It was first pitched in 2001 and revived in a 2016 review of 10+ years of data on the ECS and it’s relation to body functions and disorders.(1) Despite its not being etched in stone, there is a significant body of research that supports this theory and its connection to certain other illnesses.

In the simplest terms, endocannabinoid deficiency is when the ECS isn’t in homeostasis (a state of balance and peak functioning). In this scenario, the body’s ECS is suffering one or more of the following:

  1. It isn’t properly producing endocannabinoid so there aren’t enough of them.
  2. There aren’t enough receptors. Here’s your analogy: You can’t connect calls through a giant switchboard without an adequate number of operators.
  3. There’s an oversupply of enzymes. Enzymes are designed to break down other substances. Too much is overkill, literally.
  4. Interaction between the endocannabinoids and the receptors is lacking or problematic. For the ECS to function, these guys need to be on speaking terms so the brain can issue marching orders for the body to then carry out.

This leads to endocannabinoid levels being off, which then creates dysfunction in the ECS.

With the ECS not working fully or correctly, the usual brain signaling that depends on the ECS is disrupted or distorted. In turn, the body may experience a host of health and wellness issues because it’s getting jacked-up messages and instructions from the command center (the brain).(2) We’ll come back to this in a min.

Symptoms Of ECS Dysfunction

CECD is hard to put your finger on. Defining its symptoms is like pinning down gelatin. That said, here are some frequently cited signs of possible endocannabinoid deficiency:

  • Having fibromyalgia, irritable bowel syndrome, and/or migraines.
  • Increased sensitivity to pain.
  • Having anxiety, depression, and/or trouble regulating mood.(3)
  • Wonky sleep patterns or insufficient sleep.
  • Diet-related health issues.
  • Health probs associated to stress.

If you suspect you might have CECD, talk to your doctor. It’s possible to test for this disorder.

Causes Of Endocannabinoid System Deficiency

It’s unclear as to what causes endocannabinoid system deficiency. Some believe that it’s likely a combination of factors that includes:

  • Genetics
  • Environment
  • Diet and nutrition
  • Stress
  • Alcohol consumption
  • Sedentary lifestyle
  • Having other health conditions

The medical community doesn’t really know how prevalent CECD is. However, other ailments that are believed to be associated with endocannabinoid deficiency are relatively commonplace.(4)

Endocannabinoid Deficiency & Fibromyalgia, IBS, Migraines & Other Health Conditions

Another hypothesis of CECD is that it can lead or contribute to several other chronic illnesses. The most noted being fibromyalgia, irritable bowel syndrome, and migraines.(5)

This trio of disorders has many similarities — including that they don’t have clear-cut root causes, can be hard to diagnose, and often are treatment-resistant. Also noteworthy is that these three conditions frequently co-exist in a single patient.

Researchers suggest that an endocannabinoid system deficiency could be the underlying culprit to these illnesses, and a number of others. More studies are needed to be sure, but if CECD is fundamentally tied to fibromyalgia, irritable bowel syndrome, and migraines — treatments that target the ECS could be the answer.(6)

To learn more about the ECS<>fibromyalgia link, scoot on over to ourCBD for Fibromyalgia post.

For additional info on the ECS and gastrointestinal and digestive concerns, read our postWhy Gut Health Is So Important & How CBD Can Help.

How To Treat Endocannabinoid Deficiency

According to a 2014 article, CECD can be treated wit a multitude of therapies, such as:

  • Medication, including analgesics, antidepressants, antipsychotics, anxiolytics, and anticonvulsants
  • Herbal medicines and remedies
  • Dietary supplements
  • Massage and manipulation
  • Acupuncture
  • Stress-reduction techniques
  • Lifestyle changes, such as consuming a more nutritious diet, maintaining a healthy weight and body composition, , and getting ample exercise
  • Moderate use of substances like alcohol, tobacco, coffee, and cannabis(7)

Several other sources also recommend consuming functional foods (chocolate!) that are rich in therapeutic attributes like antioxidants, fiber, and phytocannabinoids. (Many other food plants boast various cannabinoids — the more you know….). And, of course, improving sleep habits could take a bite out of CECD.

CBD For Endocannabinoid Deficiency

Are you surprised to see that cannabis — a plant packed with cannabinoids — can address imbalances in the ECS and potentially help reverse endocannabinoid deficiency? It makes perfect sense!

Cannabidiol products are a power-packed option because they’re full of cannabinoids (uh, ya-ah!). But, in the case of full- or broad-spectrum CBD, a flood of other beneficial cannabinoids (e.g., THC, CBG, CBC, etc.), terpenes, flavonoids, and other phytochemicals are inundating your bod, too. Each of these compounds can bolster a flagging ECS in its own tender-lovin’ way.

CBD, specifically, may ease endocannabinoid deficiency by facilitating receptor activity and inhibiting excess enzymes.(8) Both mechanisms are thought to let the ECS get back to business as usual — the call-and-response cadence the ECS-brain-body is known for. The relationship between CBD and CECD is ongoing and we can hope for more light to be shed on this in the near future.

Researchers are also investigating how CBD’s fellow cannabinoids might address the challenges of endocannabinoid deficiency. This is a newer area of study, so stay tuned!

Help Support Your Endocannabinoid System With CBD (& More)

Also known as clinical endocannabinoid deficiency or CECD, this suspected condition occurs when the endocannabinoid system under- or mal-performs. Research is ongoing but mounting data indicates that CECD may be an underlying cause of many illnesses, particularly fibromyalgia, migraines, and IBS.

A number of treatment possibilities exist and could help restore and protect the ECS so it can function normally. CBD is among the proposed therapies.

More study is needed to definitely prove out the endocannabinoid deficiency theory and the exact role cannabinoids play.



  1. Russo, EB. (2016). Clinical Endocannabinoid Deficiency Reconsidered: Current Research Supports the Theory in Migraine, Fibromyalgia, Irritable Bowel, and Other Treatment-Resistant Syndromes. Cannabis and cannabinoid research.
  2. (2017). What is Clinical Endocannabinoid Deficiency? ECHO.
  3. (2020). Endocannabinoid Deficiency. Encore Labs.
  4. Minnesota Department of Health. (2017). Clinical Endocannabinoid Deficiency. Issue Brief On Clinical Endocannabinoid Deficiency.
  5. Russo, EB. (2008). Clinical Endocannabinoid Deficiency (CECD): Can this Concept Explain Therapeutic Benefits of Cannabis in Migraine, Fibromyalgia, Irritable Bowel Syndrome and other Treatment-Resistant Conditions? Neuro Endocrinology Letters.
  6. Raypole, C. (2019). A Simple Guide to the Endocannabinoid System. Healthline.
  7. McPartland, JM, et al. (2014). Care and feeding of the endocannabinoid system: a systematic review of potential clinical interventions that upregulate the endocannabinoid system. PloS one.
  8. Leweke, FM, et al. (2012). Cannabidiol enhances anandamide signaling and alleviates psychotic symptoms of schizophrenia. Translational psychiatry.

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