Endocannabinoids: 2-AG, Anandamide, NADA & More
Our bodies produce a host of endocannabinoids, with at least five – possibly six – known to science: Arachidonoylethanolamine (AKA “anandamide” or “AEA”), 2-Arachidonoylglycerol (AKA “2-AG”), N-Arachidonoyl dopamine (AKA “NADA”), 2-Arachidonyl glyceryl ether (AKA “noladin ether”), Virodhamine (AKA “OAE”), and the still-in-study compound Lysophosphatidylinositol (AKA “LPI”).
Each of these compounds has differing and varying effects on the human body; anadamide (literally named after the Sanskrit word “ananda”, meaning “joy”, “bliss”, and/or “delight”) is one of the endocannabinoids most similar to THC, despite it’s vastly differing physical structure, while NADA has notable effects on inflammation, addiction, and the human immune response. 2-AG, found commonly in many mammals, is a full antagonist of our CB1/CB2 receptors (more on those in a moment) and has shown influence over mood, addiction, memory, and more.
Receptors are, as the name implies, the part of the endocannabinoid system that receives active cannabinoids. Much like slotting a puzzle piece into place these receptors are shaped precisely to fit the endocannabinoid molecules as they travel through-out our system. There are two main types of cannabinoid receptors: CB1 and CB2.
CB1 receptors are located primarily in the brain, and have varying functions dependent on what specific regions they are located in; CB receptors in the amygdala moderate stress and anxiety, while receptors in the cerebral cortex influence cognition and emotional responses.
CB2 receptors are typically located on cells governing the human immune system, and are where many of the physically medicinal effects of THC/CBD use come into play. Cannabinoids that bind to CB2 receptors can help influence issues with inflammation, asthma, and digestive troubles.
As noted earlier the endocannabinoids such as 2-AG and NADA are created inside the human body, hence the “endo” prefix. Cannabinoids derived from plants, such as CBD and THC, are referred to as phytocannabinoids, with the “phyto” prefix indicating their plant-based origin. In particular, THC is derived from what we think of as cannabis, while CBD is typically refined from plants classified as industrial hemp.
Despite being vastly different from the endocannabinoids produced by our bodies, humans are still capable of processing and using these plant-based cannabinoids. THC will bind directly to the CB1 receptors in our brains, producing both psychoactive effects (IE: getting you high) and medicinal benefits. CBD, however, acts a bit differently.
CBD does not, in any meaningful sense, bind to the CB1 receptors in the human brain – Simply put, this means that the answer to the question “can CBD get you high” is a definitive “no”. But while CBD may not directly bind to our CB1 receptors they will activate other receptors within the body, such as our serotonin and peroxisome proliferator activated receptors (PPARs). Activation of these receptors is believed to offer a number of beneficial side effects, including pain relief, sleep aid, appetite stimulation, and relaxation; in the case of PPARs these receptors may well be linked to both cancer and Alzheimer’s disease treatment.
Now we know more about how CBD works, but what about the reality of buying a bottle of CBD oil? Can you trust that the CBD you’re picking up off your store shelf to help with joint pain won’t get you high? Let’s talk a bit about the process of manufacturing CBD products and the regulations therein.