The endocannabinoid system (ECS) is hands-down the most interesting system you never learned about in science class.
The expansive network of cellular receptors promotes homeostasis throughout the body and brain. "There is not a human experience the ECS does not affect," Jessica Knox, M.D., MPH, co-founder of the American Cannabinoid Clinics, previously told mbg, "from fertility and conception to moderating pain, mood, mental health, learning, sleep, and appetite as we grow and mature, to modulating brain health as we age."
The ECS is regulated by a troop of signaling molecules that essentially act as keys to the receptor's locks. If the body's balance is somehow thrown off, the molecules will attach to ECS receptors in that area to tell them to find equilibrium again. The human body naturally releases some of these regulatory molecules on its own, and these are called endocannabinoids. They also exist in some plants, the most ubiquitous of which being cannabinoids, from the cannabis plant.
That's part of the reason the ECS wasn't featured more prominently in your high school biology textbook. It was only discovered in the last few decades, when researchers were looking into how marijuana gets processed in the body. Since the drug has long been illegal in the U.S., its associated system has remained stigmatized and relatively unexplored. But that's quickly changing.