Beyond Cannabis: Plants and the Endocannabinoid System

Trends Pharmacol Sci. 2016 Jul;37(7):594-605. doi: 10.1016/ Epub 2016 May 11.


Plants have been the predominant source of medicines throughout the vast majority of human history, and remain so today outside of industrialized societies. One of the most versatile in terms of its phytochemistry is cannabis, whose investigation has led directly to the discovery of a unique and widespread homeostatic physiological regulator, the endocannabinoid system. While it had been the conventional wisdom until recently that only cannabis harbored active agents affecting the endocannabinoid system, in recent decades the search has widened and identified numerous additional plants whose components stimulate, antagonize, or modulate different aspects of this system. These include common foodstuffs, herbs, spices, and more exotic ingredients: kava, chocolate, black pepper, and many others that are examined in this review.

Keywords: cannabidiol; cannabinoids; endocannabinoid system; ethnobotany; phytotherapy; tetrahydrocannabinol.

Publication types

  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Amidohydrolases / antagonists & inhibitors
  • Cannabinoids / pharmacology
  • Cannabis* / chemistry
  • Endocannabinoids / physiology*
  • Humans
  • Phytotherapy
  • Plants, Medicinal* / chemistry
  • Polycyclic Sesquiterpenes
  • Probiotics / pharmacology
  • Sesquiterpenes / pharmacology
  • TRPV Cation Channels / agonists


  • Cannabinoids
  • Endocannabinoids
  • Polycyclic Sesquiterpenes
  • Sesquiterpenes
  • TRPV Cation Channels
  • TRPV1 receptor
  • caryophyllene
  • Amidohydrolases
  • fatty-acid amide hydrolase
  • cannabigerol