What Is An Endocannabinoid?


All mammals produce endocannabinoids, which are fat-based neurotransmitters that bind to cannabinoid receptors type 1 (CB1) and type 2 (CB2). Cannabinoid receptors are found in “every animal species down to the sponge,” says Dr. Donald Abrams, chief of hematology and oncology at San Francisco General Hospital, and all of these species produce endocannabinoids. Through understanding the role of endocannabinoids in the body, we can deepen our understanding of the benefits of CBD, THC and other cannabinoids.


Endocannabinoids are created with fatty acids like omega-3 and omega-6. Anandamide and 2-AG (2-Arachidonoylglycerol) are two important endocannabinoids and have been well studied. They are only produced and utilized within the body. Upon release, they are quickly broken down by enzymes like FAAH (fatty acid amide hyrolase) and MAGL (monoacylglycerol lipase). They are key players in our well being, and through studying them, we can find ways of treating serious conditions such as pain, depression, and anxiety.



Anandamide: The Bliss Molecule


Anandamide (AEA) is an endocannabinoid referred to as “the bliss molecule”. The name is derived from the Sanskrit word for joy, bliss, or happiness, known as “Ananda”. It acts primarily on CB1, and thus influences the CNS and brain functions. This molecule enhances mood and maintains emotional well being [1,2]. What many know as runner’s high is connected with AEA. Greg Gerdeman, assistant professor of biology says ‘in one study, we found that the increase of feelings of wellbeing in patients was tightly correlated to levels of anandamide in their bloodstream. So we started talking about anandamide as a neurobiological reward for running. It makes you feel good.”


AEA is more than just runner’s high though. This compound:


  • Inhibits cancer cell proliferation, especially in the case of breast cancer [1]
  • Promotes neurogenesis [2]
  • Decreases anxiety & depression [2]
  • Linked to oxytocin, the “love” molecule


Note: Exercising, and eating certain foods such as truffle mushrooms and dark chocolate, are natural ways of increasing anandamide levels.


2-AG (2-Arachidonoylglycerol)… It Helps Your Whole Body


2-Arachidonoylglycerol (2-AG) was first discovered in the gut of a canine, and found to be a part of the ECS in 1995. This unique endocannabinoid is found in abundance in the central nervous system, and acts primarily by activating CB1. Due to its CNS presence, 2-AG impacts a wide variety of functions, such as energy balance, pain sensation, neuroinflammation, appetite, cognition, stress, anxiety, and mood [3]. In the brain, it is found in concentrations 170x higher than AEA [3]. 2-AG can inhibit or promote neurotransmitter release and influence neuroplasticity [3]. 2-AG has been studied in the neuro-inflammatory process, and has been found to both regulate inflammation and protect the brain. For this reason, it can benefit difficult to treat disorders such as Multiple Sclerosis, Parkinson’s disease, and Alzheimer’s disease.


Tying It All Together…


Our bodies create endocannabinoids to activate and encourage essential physical functions, related to emotional, mental and physical well being. Ethan Russo of GW Pharmaceuticals thinks “deficient cannabinoid levels may be the underlying cause of numerous conditions.” This deficiency likely relates to ECS dysfunctions such as depression, anxiety, chronic pain, digestive disorders, and neurological dysfunctions.


It is interesting when we look at the benefits of 2 AG and AEA, as well as other endocannabinoids, because their benefit to the body matches with studies related to cannabis intake. In a world where our mental, physical and emotional well being is challenged constantly, it is important to look for solutions. In our modern world, we are consistently pushing our limits, and at times exhausting our bodies resources. These resources include endocannabinoids such as 2 AG and AEA. For this reason, the benefits of consuming CBD and other cannabis oils could be of great help. They supplement a suffering and weakened Endocannabinoid system, and act similarly, and in unison with our endocannabinoids.


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[1] Luciano De Petrocellis, Dominique Melck, Antonella Palmisano, et al The endogenous cannabinoid anandamide inhibits human breast cancer cell proliferation


[2] Jiang W, Zhang Y, Xiao L, et. al Cannabinoids promote embryonic and adult hippocampus neurogenesis and produce anxiolytic- and antidepressant-like effects.


[3] Marc P. Baggelaar, et al 2-Arachindonoylgycerol: A signaling lipid with manifold actions in the brain