Author: Luke Sholl
Originally called N-arachidonoylethanolamine, anandamide (AEA) was renamed after "ananda", a Sanskrit word for "joy, bliss, or happiness". Don't worry if that all sounds a little overwhelming; we're going to explain what AEA is, what it does, and how to encourage your body to produce more of it.
Before we unpack the science surrounding anandamide, it makes sense to take a step back and explain the endocannabinoid system's role (ECS). The ECS is an integral part of how anandamide exerts its blissful influence.
Our endocannabinoid system includes a vast network of CB1 and CB2 receptors. These receptors are incredibly sophisticated for two reasons. First, they are located throughout our brain and body, and second, they are primarily triggered by the presence of chemical compounds called cannabinoids. Once activated, these receptors catalyse various biological changes. Researchers believe that by extensively documenting these interactions, we may be able to use cannabinoids to benefit well-being.
All sounds well and good, but you may be wondering why our body reacts to the presence of cannabinoids, external compounds found in plants such as hemp? Well, here is where anandamide enters the picture. AEA is one of several endo-cannabinoids (“endo” meaning “internal” or “within”). Chemically, these endocannabinoids are remarkably similar to plant-derived cannabinoids. It wasn't that our body evolved to accept cannabinoids like CBD—it already had its own supply!
Once scientists realised their mistake, work began on understanding anandamide and its role in everyday functions.
They soon discovered the neurochemical plays a diverse role in several bodily functions by interacting with CB1 and CB2 receptors in the central nervous system and peripheral nervous system, respectively.
AEA is thought to modulate functions such as memory, fertility, appetite, sleep patterns, pain, and, as its name suggests, motivation and pleasure. Unfortunately, it’s difficult to detail exactly what anandamide does, as research on the subject is limited. Several animal model studies suggest potential mechanisms of action, but more work is needed to understand how these findings translate to human behaviour.
That said, we know anandamide exists, we know it interacts with CB receptors, and we know those receptors influence bodily functions. It's simply a case of defining the specific attributes of AEA.
The brain is responsible for synthesising anandamide, keeping a close eye on how much it creates. This is the main reason studying AEA is so challenging—it doesn't hang around for long, as our body keeps levels tightly regulated. However, the good news is that several external methods of AEA modulation exist, such as diet, exercise, and, as we'll cover soon, CBD intake.
If you're interested in maximising the potential feel-good qualities of AEA, you're not alone. Given the molecule’s links to our pleasure and reward response, many people (scientists included) are keen to understand how greater AEA levels could impact motivation, addiction, anxiety, and several other brain disorders.
You now have an excuse to indulge in chocolate. Containing the substance theobromine, chocolate is thought to cause the brain to produce more anandamide. Theobromine might also slow anandamide’s breakdown, providing benefits on several fronts. For the best results, consume dark chocolate over milk; the closer you can get to pure cocoa, the better.
If you are not a fan of chocolate, the next most suitable substitute is truffles. Used by prestigious chefs the world over, black truffles are a highly sought-after delicacy. If you can afford them, truffles contain an abundance of anandamide. Thankfully, cheaper anandamide alternatives exist, including tea, parsley, and celery.
Have you ever wondered why athletes talk about a “runner's high”? Well, you may have our blissful friend anandamide to thank for that. A study published by the Journal of Experimental Biology found that exercise encouraged endocannabinoid production. After just thirty minutes of running, both humans and dogs experienced an increase in AEA levels.
Sadly, walking isn't as effective. To gain the most significant benefit, focus on aerobic activities, and get your heart pumping.
With all this talk of cannabinoids, endocannabinoids, and the endocannabinoid system, we of course need to talk about CBD's role in anandamide levels. Encouragingly, CBD is believed to increase natural levels of anandamide, but not directly. Instead, CBD inhibits the enzyme FAAH, a molecule that degrades AEA into other compounds.
By disrupting this process, natural anandamide levels are not only greater, but the endocannabinoid hangs around for longer. There's still a lot to learn about the implications of this unique interaction. Still, researchers are hopeful it could become a promising strategy for various mood and movement disorders in the future.
To experience CBD's holistic influence, browse the Cibdol store for a complete selection of capsules, oils, cosmetics, and much more. Or, to learn more about endocannabinoids and their impact on everyday functions, try our CBD Encyclopedia.