Anandamide: How The CBD Neurotransmitter Works
Whenever you had moments of feeling “blissful” and “happy”, this chemical has been going to work. Anandamide is a cannabinoid compound produced naturally by the body that’s responsible for several functions, including a mood-enhancer.
In fact, it has been dubbed the “bliss molecule”. Anandamide has been linked with the recent medical discoveries of cannabis. Since the 1980s, scientists have been researching the effects of cannabis and how it can help human health.
Now, they have discovered that anandamide may be vital compound when it comes to feelings of happiness and joy. In this article, we will discuss this compound, how it affects human health, and it relates to the cannabis.
What is Anandamide?
Anandamide is a cannabinoid neurotransmitter that is part of the endocannabinoid system. In case you don’t know, the endocannabinoid system (ECS) provides a wide array of functions to the human body, including the brain.
ECS is comprised of two cannabinoid receptors, CB1 & CB2.
- CB1 receptors are abundant in the central nervous system
- CB2 receptors are more often found on immune cells, in the gastrointestinal tract, and in the peripheral nervous system
Now, let’s bring it back to anandamide….
Anandamide binds with both CB1 &CB2 receptors and is also known to modulate TRPV-1 receptors (vanilloid receptors). Perhaps the most well-known component of anandamide is its mood-enhancing abilities. In fact, part of the compound’s name, Ananda, is a Sanskrit word that stands for “joy, bliss, or happiness.”
Most people first hear about anandamide due to its connection with marijuana. When a person uses marijuana (or other cannabis products), the compound binds to their THC receptors; this what makes a person feel “high”.
Understanding the endocannabinoid system
As just mentioned, the endocannabinoid system (ECS) provides a wide array of functions to the human body, especially the brain.
Here are some of the daily functions ECS has a hand in:
- Appetite, digestion, hunger
- Reproduction and fertility
- Pleasure and reward
- Motor control
- Temperature regulation
- Immune function
Anandamide plays an integral role within ECS by operating emotional components such as…mood, happiness, fear, anxiety, and ability to endure stress. Research has discovered that high levels of anandamide may have lower the onset of mental disorders such as depression & schizophrenia.
History and discovery of anandamide
Way before Anandamide was even thought of, researchers were just uncovering the effects of cannabis (THC) in the 1960s.
In 1964, a scientist from Israel named Raphael Mechoulam was able to identify and isolate THC for the first time. This was the first scientific breakthrough in the world of medical cannabis.
The ability to isolate these cannabinoids for the first time ever led to the discovery of ECS during the late 1980s when the CB1 receptor was discovered. Then in 1992, a group of scientists discovered Anandamide while studying the brain patterns of a mouse. They quickly realized that it binds with CB1 receptors. (Side Note: The original term for Anandamide was Arachidonylethanolamide.)
This was the first endogenous cannabinoid to be discovered in the body. The discovery of Anandamide helped scientists figure out why the reason why people can have feelings of euphoria and bliss without using THC (i.e., using cannabis).
Instead, the compound binds with THC receptors within the brain to produce these feelings. Want to know another interesting fact researchers discovered?
For years, many in the medical community has linked heavy cannabis use to psychosis and other mental disorders. They thought anandamide could be a reason for that due to the high levels discovered in these individuals’ systems. But once they saw that people suffering from schizophrenia and other mental issues had low levels of the compound, they realized that anandamide was released in to control the issue.
Despite all of these discoveries, the role of anandamide is still relatively unknown as of the time of this writing. Overall, more research is still being be conducted to discover all the vital roles this compound provides for the human body.
Anandamide effects and role in the body
One thing researchers have discovered about anandamide is that it has a part in various roles and functions in the human body. Due to how widespread cannabinoid receptors are within our cells, it is likely that Anandamide does more work for our bodies that have yet to be discovered.
Many people don’t associate anandamide with pain management but it appears to play a role. A 1999 study conducted by PNAS (Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences) discovered that the rats released anandamide in response to feeling pain.
Afterward, the researchers gave the rats a synthetic anandamide that gave them pain relief. A study conducted a year early yielded similar results where anandamide acted as a pain treatment.
Another function that anandamide appears to have a role in is your appetite. A 1999 study, sourced from a journal called Psychopharmacology, injected anandamide into rats who had just eaten. Soon after, the rats began to eat more food.
Thus, the researchers concluded that the injection of anandamide led to overeating and may dictate our eating habits. Obviously, more research needs to be conducted (particularly on humans) to determine the significance of these findings.
Memory boosting effects
A long-held belief in the medical community is that THC impairs a person’s memory. It appears that anandamide may have the same effect. In the May 1996 edition of the journal, Behavioural Pharmacology, researchers discovered that rats who were treated with anandamide negatively affected their working memory.
Working memory is the memory you hold in your mind at any given time, for example, the first half of this sentence.
Can increase mood
The ECS system has been well-documented as a method to regulate mood and emotion.
A 2014 study conducted by the Translational Psychiatry discovered that mice who were low of anandamide experienced more anxiety when faced with stress in comparison to mice who had high levels of the compound.
A 2016 study conducted by the Journal of European Neuropsychopharmacology helped mice suffering from depression reverse their symptoms.
Could help increase fertility
One benefit most wouldn’t associate with a cannabinoid compound is increasing fertility and reproduction. However, it appears that anandamide may play a role.
A 2002 study conducted by Life Sciences revealed that anandamide played a vital role in embryo implantation in mice. A 2014 review study revealed that anandamide may be useful as a biomarker, or indicator, of infertility. Normal anandamide levels predict fertility while low levels of the compound predict infertility.
During the embryo stage, our stem cells differentiate into different kinds of cells (e.g., skin cells, brain cells, etc.) Anandamide is thought to play a role in the differentiation of brain cells into specific kinds of neurons during development.
A 2000 study conducted by the JBC (Journal of Biological Chemistry) found that anandamide may help trigger cell death in cancerous cells. So this compound may be a method to prevent the onset of cancer.
How are cannabis and anandamide related?
As mentioned earlier, anandamide provides people with similar effects of cannabis. And those are “blissful, happy” feelings.
Anandamide does so by binding to THC receptors in the brain. The THC in cannabis make these same receptors react (thus why their called THC receptors), causing the similar effects. The only difference is anandamide is naturally made by the body while cannabis is a foreign substance.
CBD and anandamide
Unlike cannabis, CBD doesn’t deliver the “high, stoned” effect. However, researchers have observed that administration of CBD leads to increased anandamide levels. They realized that CBD inhibits the FAAH (fatty acid amide hydrolase enzyme), which is responsible for breaking down anandamide in the body.
How to increase anandamide
Other than CBD, there are other ways to increase levels of anandamide.
Want to know why you feel good when you eat chocolate? It may be due to anandamide.
A 1996 study by AIDS Treatment News suggests that substances in dark chocolate or cocoa powder may mimic cannabinoid by activating receptors or increasing anandamide levels.
Scientists have discovered that anandamide can be found in black truffles.
A 2015 study conducted Phytochemistry discovered that this European mushroom contains anandamide as well as ECS metabolic enzymes.
Will breaking a sweat could cause a surge in anandamide? It seems like it!
If you’re familiar with “runner’s high” or the euphoric feeling you receive after running or doing a strenuous activity, that’s anandamide going to work, not endorphins.
A 2015 study conducted by a group of German researchers showed that the endorphins produced by our central nervous system after exercise responsible aren’t capable of producing any kind of “buzz” in the brain.
Instead, “runner’s high” may be a byproduct of anandamide, in which has been proven to give us a blissful, high feeling.
It shouldn’t come as much surprised that marijuana may increase levels of anandamide. There are numerous links made in this article alone about the effects of marijuana and anandamide.
Just like other components within the ECS system, anandamide has layers to it that have yet to be peeled back. Still, what has been discovered so far is an encouraging sign that anandamide will soon become a go-to option for modern medicine.