Updated: May 7
There are two sources of the cannabinoids that bind with the microscopic cellular receptors that populate the human endocannabinoid system (ECS): The cannabis plant and our own bodies. Cannabinoids produced internally are known as endocannabinoids (or endogenous cannabinoids). Those manufactured by cannabis are categorized as phytocannabinoids and include the infamous delta-8 tetrahydrocannabinol (THC) and cannabidiol (CBD).
Two Major Endocannabinoids
The two major endocannabinoids are 2-AG and anandamide. Anandamide (also known as N-arachidonoylethanolamine or AEA) was first isolated and identified in 1992 by two independent research teams: The same Israeli researcher who isolated and synthesized THC in the mid-1960s, Raphael Mechoulam, and NIMH researchers William Devane and Lumir Hanus.
2-AG Research Studies
The endocannabinoid 2-AG has demonstrated a range of medicinal efficacies. Multiple peer-reviewed studies have revealed this endocannabinoid’s anti-inflammatory and neuroprotective properties, including a potential role in the formation of bones and maintenance of reproductive fertility.
A 2019 study explored "the tumor microenvironment response to 2-AG in pancreatic cancer" and the compounds overall ability to prevent the spread of this fast-acting type of cancer that, according to the American Cancer Society, will result in nearly 60,000 positive diagnoses in 2020 and nearly 50,000 deaths during the same period.
The study reported that "2-AG inhibited pancreatic cancer cell proliferation in tumor bearing mice." The research found that the anticancer effects of this endocannabinoid were produced via direct, not indirect, mechanisms. The study concluded that its "findings support 2-AG exhibited direct antitumor effects via inhibiting pancreatic cancer proliferation."
The 2-AG molecule
A 2014 study investigated the ability of 2-AG to combat inflammation-based diseases involving neurodegeneration, including Alzheimer's disease and Parkinson's disease. Concluded the research report, "Previous studies show that...2-AG...reduces neuroinflammation...and prevents neurons from degenerating in an experimental...model of Parkinson’s disease."
A 2013 study revealed that 2-AG may play a role in achieving REM (deep) sleep, meaning it may be an effective therapeutic agent in the treatment of dozens of sleep disorders, including insomnia. "Our results indicate that 2-AG increases REM [sleep] through CB1 activation," concluded the study's authors.
According to another 2013 study, 2-AG may also be effective in managing pain. The study's authors concluded that "increasing plasma levels of 2-AG (up to ten fold of normal concentrations) mitigate mechanical pain sensitivity, while an absence of 2-AG increase leaves...patients with full-blown hyperalgesia [severe pain]."
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