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Endocannabinoids: Powerful Compounds You Should Learn To Love

Glowing endocannabinoid locations on a futuristic male diagram showing different areas of the body where endocannabinoids are located.
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EST. READING TIME: 3 Minutes

Table of Contents

WHAT ARE ENDOCANNABINOIDS?

Endocannabinoids (eCB’s) are naturally occurring chemical compounds found in the human body and in nearly all animals with a cellular nucleus. They play a crucial role in regulating various physiological processes and maintaining internal balance, or homeostasis.

17 distinct endocannabinoids, produced by the body, each serve specific roles in orchestrating bodily functions. They interact with receptors and enzymes within the endocannabinoid system (ECS), a complex cell-signaling system essential for maintaining a stable internal environment.

When endocannabinoids attach to cannabinoid receptors, they trigger responses that influence functions including mood, pain sensation, appetite, and memory.

The presence and activity of different enzymes and molecules determine the concentration and function of these endocannabinoids. This balance controls a range of biochemical pathways, leading to electrical signaling vital for many of the body’s essential activities. 

The Current List of Endocannabinoids that have been identified.

  1. Anandamide (AEA): Also known as N-arachidonoylethanolamine, it’s one of the most well-known endocannabinoids. Anandamide plays a role in pain regulation, mood, and other physiological functions.
  2. 2-Arachidonoylglycerol (2-AG): Another major endocannabinoid, 2-AG is involved in various physiological processes such as pain sensation, appetite, and mood regulation.
  3. Virodhamine (OAE): Also known as O-arachidonoyl ethanolamine, virodhamine is structurally similar to anandamide but has distinct functions, including a potential role in appetite regulation.
  4. N-Arachidonoyl dopamine (NADA): This endocannabinoid has been shown to have analgesic and anti-inflammatory effects. It’s involved in pain sensation and immune system regulation.
  5. 2-Arachidonoyl glycerol ether: A lesser-known endocannabinoid, its specific roles and functions are still under investigation. Continuing the list of known endocannabinoids, here are additional compounds that are part of this important group:
  6. Noladin Ether: Also known as 2-arachidonyl glyceryl ether, this endocannabinoid is a derivative of the arachidonic acid and glycerol.
  7. N-Arachidonoyl glycine (NAGly): NAGly is known for its actions that are similar to, yet distinct from, those of classical endocannabinoids.
  8. Di-homo-γ-linolenoyl ethanolamide (DHLEA): This compound is a naturally occurring analog of anandamide.
  9. Docosatetraenoylethanolamide (DEA): DEA is another analog of anandamide, albeit less researched.
  10. Eicosapentaenoylethanolamide (EPEA): Similar to other endocannabinoids, EPEA interacts with the endocannabinoid system but has unique properties due to its distinct molecular structure.
  11. Docosahexaenoylethanolamide (DHEA): This is another endocannabinoid with a unique structure, derived from the essential fatty acid, docosahexaenoic acid (DHA).
  12. Lysophosphatidylinositol (LPI): Although not a classical endocannabinoid, LPI has been found to activate the G-protein coupled receptor GPR55, which is often associated with the endocannabinoid system.
  13. Oleoylethanolamide (OEA): A naturally occurring analog of anandamide, but it does not bind strongly to CB1 or CB2 receptors. It’s involved in the regulation of feeding and body weight.
  14. Palmitoylethanolamide (PEA): A fatty acid amide that, like OEA, is an analog of anandamide but does not strongly bind to cannabinoid receptors. It has anti-inflammatory and analgesic properties.
  15. Homo-γ-linolenoyl ethanolamide (HLEA): Another analog of anandamide, similar in function to DHLEA.
  16. Linoleoylethanolamide (LEA): An endocannabinoid with a structure similar to anandamide, derived from linoleic acid.
  17. Stearoylethanolamide (SEA): A fatty acid amide that is structurally similar to anandamide but does not bind to cannabinoid receptors. It may have neuroprotective and anti-inflammatory effects.
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