All About Anandamide, the Endocannabinoid of Wonder
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All About Anandamide, the Endocannabinoid of Wonder

To be fair, most people have never heard of anandamide, and also have no clue where it comes from, how it is made, or why it is important for our bodies.

At New Phase Blends, we’re obsessed with all things that have to do with hemp, which is a species of Cannabis. While anandamide isn’t derived from hemp, it does share some distinct similarities with cannabinoids that are found in hemp.

What is Anandamide?

Scientifically speaking, anandamide (AEA) is an oxidation mediator acting at the CB1 receptors in our endocannabinoid system.

Anandamide Molecular Structure
photo: chemical structure of anandamide

You’re thinking, “oh cool, that’s awesome! What does that mean?”

Well, you’ve heard of the term ‘cannabinoid’, right? In case you haven’t, a cannabinoid is a chemical derived from many different plants, but for the purposes of this discussion, we’ll be talking about cannabis. Phytocannabinoids are plant chemicals derived from cannabis.

Both hemp and marijuana make up the cannabis plant.

Cannabis Species Chart

Anandamide is an endocannabinoid, which means that it is made from within our bodies. Our bodies produce anandamide for a variety of different functions.

Other types of phytocannabinoids you’ve likely heard of:

There’s currently over 124 known cannabinoids within the cannabis plant. They all offer many different potential health benefits, depending on some different factors.

There are two main endocannabinoids:

  • anandamide (also known as AEA, or arachidonoyl ethanolamide)
  • 2-archidonoyl glyerol (2-AG)
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These two endocannabinoids also can elicit certain health benefits, but instead of getting them from plants, our bodies produce them all on our own.

Main Function of Anandamide

Several studies suggest anandamide can play a role in having an influence over our memory and brain reward system pathways.

Other studies show it may have also aid in the addiction-producing effects of things like abused drug use. For example, when people who have undergone rehab end up relapsing and using drugs again, well, scientists believe anandamide may play a role in behavior like this.

The effects of anandamide may be enhanced by pharmaceutically controlled metabolism inhibition.

Endocannabinoid System (ECS) Briefly Explained

Anandamide binds to cannabinoid receptors that are known as ‘CB1’. Both the CB1 and CB2 cannabinoid receptor network make up a large network of cells known as the endocannabinoid system.

Endocannabinoid System Receptors

As you can see in the picture above, there are receptors all over the place. That said, a large potion of them remain in the central nervous system and brain stem.

For those who aren’t already aware, the ECS is a bodily system that is responsible for many different things, but maintaining a bodily homeostasis seems to be this system’s top priority. This system can use both endogenous cannabinoids and phytocannabinoids (like CBD) to accomplish different tasks.

How to Increase Anandamide

According to translational psychiatry, “Cannabidiol is a component of marijuana that does not activate cannabinoid receptors, but moderately inhibits the degradation of the endocannabinoid anandamide.”

That means by supplementing with CBD products, you can moderately slow down the breakdown of anandamide, which would result in retaining higher anandamide levels.

CBD products come in all sorts of different forms. From pure CBD drops, to gummies, to capsules, they are currently flooding the market.

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Many people report massive benefits like pain relief, anxiety reduction, and anti-inflammatory effects after using CBD.

Common Questions About Anandamide

Here are some of the more common questions people have on anandamide. Keep in mind that it’s a relatively new discovery, so a lot of the science behind it, and how it works, is under constant revision.

What does anandamide do in our bodies?

Current research suggests that anandamide can do things like dull pain. When you experience feelings of pain, anandamide binds to your CB1 receptor and blocks pain signaling. This may be why when people use CBD (which slows the degradation of anandamide) they experience a reduction in pain.

Is anandamide a drug?

No, it is not a drug. It’s a chemical that is made from within our bodies via arachidonic acid in the long chain essential fats.

Where is anandamide found in the brain?

Anandamide, and other endocannabinoids, are actually released by neurons, then undergo diffusion into astrocytes and neurons, where they are broken down by a fatty acid amide hydrolase, or FAAH.

Anandamide Chart
photo credit: PNAS.org

Fatty acid amide hydrolase is an enzyme that is specific to mammals. It aids in breaking down the fatty acid amide family of lipids. These lipids include anandamide, among other things.

Anandamide levels are higher in some brain regions, like the brainstem.

Some of the more recent studies show us that anandamide is a member of a family of fatty acid chemical compounds.

Conclusion | Endocannabinoids May Be the Future

It seems that some cannabinoid drugs which, right now, are under clinical trials for the treatment of some psychiatric disorders just may be the future for treatments when it comes to psychiatric disorders.

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Since cannabinoids and endocannabinoids both target the same receptors (CB1 and CB2), they are both under constant scrutiny for what they can, and cannot do.

It will take more time, and more peer reviewed research, before the medical community can figure out how best to use endocannabinoids, like anandamide (AEA).

References

Acta Pharmalogica Sinica: Brain Activity of Anandamide: A Rewarding Bliss?
Medical News Today: What to Know About Endocannabinoids and the Endocannabinoid System
PNAS.org: https://www.pnas.org/content/101/23/8512
Translational Psychiatry: https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC3316151/

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