Endocannabinoid System: the missing gap in health sciences education

A/Prof (Dr) Mohamed Irhuma


The information contained herein is intended for educational purposes only
and does not replace independent professional judgement. Statements
of fact and opinions expressed herein are those of the author and not the opinions or
position of 3Sixty Biopharmaceuticals (Pty) Ltd. 3Sixty Biopharmaceuticals (Pty) Ltd
does not endorse, approve or assume responsibility for the content, accuracy or
completeness of the information published.

Learning objectives:

  • An overview on the endocannabinoid system
  • The Role of the ECS in physiological functions and homeostasis
  • Endocannabinoid system triads: receptors, endocannabinoids and enzyme
  • Cannabis plant: cannabinoids, terpenes and flavonoids
  • The stigmatised and hesitated healthcare professional society
  • Basic differences between cannabidiol (CBD) and tetrahydrocannabinol (THC)
  • Potential application of medicinal cannabinoids
  • Cannabinoids in dermatology
  • CANOTRIA™ 2% CREAM with Cannabidiol


Cannabis, also known as marijuana among other names, is a centrally-acting, multi-target
neuro- and psychoactive molecules that can be extracted from the cannabis plant and used
primarily for different purposes (both healing or recreational).

There are more than 400 known compounds in the plant playing different roles in human biology.
The main neuro- and psychoactive components of cannabis are the cannabinoids, including
cannabidiol (CBD) and the (−)-trans-Δ⁹-tetrahydrocannabinol (THC). Cannabis products can be
used by smoking, vaporizing, edible, topical or as an extract formula.

Many people around the world consume cannabis for its experienced mind-altering effects,
while others seek its symptom relief.

While cannabis plants have recently shown wider global interest, the history of cannabis and its
usage by humans dates back to at least the third millennium BC in written history, and possibly
further back by archaeological evidence. Evidence suggests that it was being smoked for
psychoactive effects at least 2,500 years ago in the Pamir Mountains.

Since the early 20th century, cannabis has been subject to legal restrictions. With some
exceptions, the possession, use, and cultivation of cannabis is illegal in most countries of the

Medical interest in the cannabis plant spread throughout Europe and North America in the
nineteenth century, but despite the appealing therapeutic potential of cannabis for affective
disorders and innumerous other ailments, its use in Western medicine decreased significantly in
the early twentieth century.1

In 2013, Uruguay became the first country to legalise recreational use of cannabis. Other
countries to do so are Canada, Georgia, and South Africa, along with 11 states and the District
of Columbia in the United States (though the drug remains federally illegal).

The decline of medicinal cannabis was largely due to several factors. In particular, researchers
may have had difficulty in achieving reliable therapeutic effects, as drug extracts were made
from different strains of the plant and with varying methods of preparation. Because the active
constituents of cannabis had not been isolated, other medications replaced cannabis for its
recommended uses, and it was eventually removed from Western pharmacopoeias. Moreover,
concerns regarding the psychoactive effects of cannabis and its potential impairment of learning
and memory prompted many legal restrictions, obstructing academic research on the plant.1

The medical use of ‘scheduled’ cannabis requiring approval of an authorised healthcare
professional has been legalised in a greater number of countries around the world.