2-Arachidonoylglycerol (2-AG): The Body’s Own Cannabis
Have you heard of the endocannabinoid system? Here’s the scoop on 2-Arachidonoylglycerol, the neurotransmitter no one ever talks about.
Do you know why the cannabis plant has psychoactive effects? Molecules in the herb take the place of compounds that the body produces naturally, causing a cascade of different reactions. One of those compounds is 2-AG, a neurotransmitter which lends a hand to a wide variety of bodily functions. While cannabis is a powerful medicine on its own, here’s what you should know about 2-Arachidonoylglycerol and how to support the molecule in the body.
What is 2-Arachidonoylglycerol (2-AG)?
2-Arachidonoylglycerol (2-AG) is a lipid (fat) molecule known as an endocannabinoid. Endocannabinoids are like the body’s own cannabis. 2-AG is one of two primary endocannabinoids, and it has various functions inside the body. Together, these endocannabinoids are a part of a larger endocannabinoid system (ECS). Endo- refers to inside the body.
Cannabinoids found in the cannabis are technically phytocannabinoids, with phyto- referring to plant. 2-AG is present in the brain in concentrations 170 times higher than anandamide, which is the more famous of the two cannabinoids.
The ECS is a vast neurotransmitter system. Neurotransmitters are molecules that help nerve cells communicate with each other. This is important because nerves are the communication highways between the body and the brain. As a neurotransmitter, 2-AG acts as a chemical messenger, providing instructions to the cells that it encounters.
Research suggests that these instructions happen on a particular rhythm governed by the body’s internal clock. Studies have shown, for example, that levels of 2-AG naturally peak during the afternoon, when it’s time to nap and re-fuel as the day winds down.
The molecule engages with two primary receptors called cannabinoid receptors. One cannabis receptor, CB1, is most heavily concentrated in the central nervous system (brain and spinal cord). However, 2-AG also connects with the CB2 receptor, which predominantly affects the immune system.
A potent immune modulator, 2-AG is the primary agonist for the CB2 receptor. Yet, this molecule also lends a hand for complex tasks coordinated by the body and brain, including appetite, sleep, and pain perception in part due to its effects on the CB1. For a simple summary, 2-AG plays a part in:
How does cannabis affect 2-AG?
Different cannabis compounds affect 2-Arachidonoylglycerol in different ways. Right now, researchers have much to uncover about the effects of cannabis in the body. However, it is clear that THC directly engages with cannabinoid receptors. Thus it hijacks or takes over the landing sites for 2-AG, replacing the molecule with a plant-based version.
Other cannabinoids, like cannabidiol (CBD), do not directly engage these receptor sites. Rather, CBD boosts circulating levels of 2-AG, perhaps by preventing it from breaking down. CBD also seems to change how the CB1 receptor responds to the effects of binding compounds.
Leading theorists suggest that cannabis-based medicines may be helpful for easing a clinical endocannabinoid deficiency (CECD). Since the ECS has such wide sweeping effects throughout the body, a deficiency in endocannabinoids like 2-AG may present many different symptoms.
A 2016 update adds more potential conditions to the list, including:
- Motion sickness
- Post-traumatic stress disorder
- Multiple sclerosis
- Huntington’s Disease
- Parkinson’s Disease
How do you boost levels of 2-AG in the body?
Cannabis is a great way to support the endocannabinoid system. However, there are other ways to ensure that the body is in the optimal range for good health and vibrancy. Here are 3 tips that may help:
2-AG is made from fats. Specifically, it’s metabolized from linoleic acid. Linoleic acid is commonly found in hemp, grains, poultry, and eggs. This acid is actually an omega-6 essential fatty acid. To get the most out of 2-AG, diets with ample amounts of healthy fats seems like a good call.
However, it’s important to consume omega-6 fatty acids in an even ratio to omega-3 fatty acids. Early research suggests that omega-3s help to influence the expression of certain cannabinoid receptors throughout the brain and body.
Omega-3s are found in fish, shellfish, flaxseed, and pasture-raised eggs. For optimal endocannabinoid health, the evidence suggests that both omega-3s and omega-6s might help.
Hoping to increase the efficacy of 2-AG? Early research suggests that some probiotics may increase the expression of CB2 receptors in the gut. This is expected to provide increased relief from pain and inflammation. The bacterium in question is Lactobacillus acidophilus, which is commonly available in probiotic supplements.
Eating pre-biotic foods can also help support the microbial communities living in the intestinal tract. Prebiotic foods are foods that bacteria like to eat. Some particularly good ones include leeks, Jerusalem artichoke, onions, and garlic. Eating lots of high-fiber leafy greens certainly helps, too.
A 2016 study found that sleep deprivation causes levels of 2-AG to spike hard and for an extended amount of time. This spike is thought to contribute to a bad case of the sleep munchies.
Sleep-deprived study participants ate on average 400 calories more than normal, including a lot of carbohydrate-rich foods. To maintain a healthy endocannabinoid balance, sleep is a must. Without sleep, the body’s endocannabinoid rhythm is off kilter.