Are you familiar yet with your endocannabinoid system – a network of neurotransmitters and chemicals identified by scientists in the early 1990s? Here’s what you need to know about 2-Arachidonoylglycerol (2-AG), an important but often forgotten neurotransmitter.
The psychoactive effects of marijuana occur when cannabinoids from marijuana interact with the endocannabinoid system (ECS) and alter the chemistry of the body’s endogenous chemicals. 2-AG is one such endogenous chemical, or as it’s better known, an endocannabinoid. This chemical is a neurotransmitter that influences a number of important functions.
Marijuana will do a lot of the work on its own, however to get the best medicinal effects of a strain, keeping a healthy balance of endocannabinoids is also helpful. In this guide, we’ll explain how to keep an appropriate level of 2-AG in your ECS.
2-Arachidonoylglycerol (2-AG) explained
2-AG is a lipid, or fat molecule, that is similar to the cannabinoids found in marijuana. 2-AG is one of the primary endocannabinoids in the ECS and serves several purposes in the body.
The technical term for the cannabinoids in marijuana (i.e. THC, CBD) is phytocannabinoids, with the suffix ‘phyto’ a reference to plant. Anandamide and 2-AG are the two primary endocannabinoids, however, the latter is 170 times more concentrated than the former in the brain. Anandamide has historically been a more well-known endocannabinoid than 2-AG – some people know it as ‘the bliss molecule’.
The ECS is a complex neurotransmitter network that undertakes many communicative roles in the body. The system helps nerve cells talk to each other, improving the connection and signalling between the body and the brain. 2-AG is a neurotransmitter and messenger, instructing various cells in the body to produce certain effects.
Scientists have found that the instructions sent out by chemicals in the ECS are controlled by the body’s internal clock. 2-AG levels have been noticed to spike in the afternoon, the time of day when the body is looking to calm down and rebuild energy.
2-AG works with the two most relevant cannabinoid receptors in the ECS: CB1 and CB2. The CB1 receptor is most present in the central nervous system and is responsible for most of the psychoactive effects of marijuana, as it binds with the THC cannabinoid. 2-AG connects with CB1, but it also links up with CB2, a receptor that helps regulate the body’s immune system.
2-AG is great at modulating the immune system, explaining its interactions with the CB2 receptor, however the molecule also plays a role in regulating other functions carried out by the brain and body, such as the perception of pain, appetite, mood and sleep. 2-AG helps to improve memory, metabolism, movement and reproduction. The endocannabinoid is, like CBD, a neuroprotectant.
Marijuana and 2-AG
2-AG is affected uniquely by a variety of cannabinoids, and unsurprisingly, scientists only understand some of those connections. However, we know that THC binds directly to the CB1 receptor in the same place that 2-AG would typically link up with such a receptor. In doing so, THC hijacks receptors that would traditionally be used by 2-AG.
However, not all cannabinoids – and notably CBD (cannabidiol) make a direct connection with cannabinoid receptors. Instead, they operate in more subtle ways – in the case of CBD and 2-AG, the cannabinoid helps to increase the levels of 2-AG in the ECS, most likely by stopping it from breaking down. CBD products also makes a backdoor connection to the CB1 receptor, and can affect the reaction of a THC-CB1 bond.
Cannabis advocates and a growing number of scientists argue that cannabinoid-based medicines could help to treat a number of ailments caused by clinical endocannabinoid deficiency (CECD). Because the ECS is involved with modulating so many physical and mental variables, many conditions – no matter how seemingly unrelated – can be brought on due to a deficiency in endocannabinoids like 2-AG.
Endocannabinoid deficiency is thought to be responsible for fibromyalgia, an unusual confirmed with no confirmed cause, irritable bowel syndrome (IBS) and migraines.
Further studies have thrown up more conditions that could result from CECD. These include multiple sclerosis, autism, post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD), neuropathy, motion sickness and Parkinson’s Disease.
Ways to increase 2-AG in the body
There’s no better way to keep your endocannabinoid system than by consuming marijuana, an herb packed with all the cannabinoids needed to restore chemical balance. However, there are other measures you can take to promote a good ECS.
Probiotics can help make 2-AG more effective in the gut. Preliminary research has found that CB2 receptors are expressed more when antibiotics are present, and that this subtle change can help to reduce pain and inflammation. Lactobacillus acidophilus is the bacterium in probiotic supplements that encourages these effects.
Consuming more prebiotic foods can help sustain microbial communities situated in the intestinal tract. Bacteria in the body dines out on prebiotic foods like onions, leeks and artichokes. Kale and other leafy greens high in fiber are excellent for the intestinal gut, too.
2-AG is a lipid and hence made from fats. If we’re getting technical, the chemical is metabolized from linoleic acid, which is in eggs, poultry, grain and the industrial hemp plant. Linoleic acid is an omega-6 essential fatty acid, and therefore a net benefit to have in your diet.
Consuming a diet with plenty of healthy fats like omega-6 will help maximize the effects of 2-AG, but you should aim to balance out these fatty acids – having an even ratio of omega-3 and omega-6 is advised. There is research showing that omega-3 regulates the expression of some cannabinoid receptors sections of the brain and body.
You can obtain omega-3 acids from fish, shellfish, pasture-raised eggs, flaxseed and, of course, supplements.
In 2016, researchers made a link between increased 2-AG levels and sleep deprivation. The “sleep munchies” are thought to be caused by this sudden, unexpected rise in 2-AG.
Therefore, having a well-regulated sleeping pattern – ideally eight hours a night – is essential in maintaining a healthy, balanced ECS. Study participants with sleeping difficulties consumed, on average, 400 more calories a day than those without them.