The classical divide between degenerative and inflammatory disorders of the CNS is vanishing as accumulating evidence shows that inflammatory processes are important in the pathophysiology of primarily degenerative disorders, and neurodegeneration complicates primarily inflammatory diseases of the brain and spinal cord. Here, we review the contribution of degenerative and inflammatory processes to CNS disorders such as Alzheimer's disease, Parkinson's disease, amyotrophic lateral sclerosis, multiple sclerosis and HIV-associated dementia. An early combination of neuroprotective and anti-inflammatory approaches to these disorders seems particularly desirable because isolated treatment of one pathological process might worsen another. We also discuss the apparently unique opportunity to modify neurodegeneration and neuroinflammation simultaneously by pharmacological manipulation of the endocannabinoid system in the CNS and in peripheral immune cells. Current knowledge of this system and its involvement in the above CNS disorders are also reviewed.