N-Arachidonylethanolamine (familiarly known as anandamide, or AEA) was discovered in 1992 by Dr. Raphael Mechoulam and his team. Anandamide is an endogenous cannabinoid, which means that it is produced by the body rather than by the cannabis plant – anandamide is a derivative of the fatty acid arachidonic acid via an oxidative metabolic process. Our bodies produce anandamide on-demand when it is needed for maintaining homeostasis. The discovery of anandamide led to a number of other studies showing that there are many other fatty acid derivatives behaving as endogenous cannabinoids – these endocannabinoids either have high potency or low potency as cannabinoid receptor agonists. Anandamide is a high-efficacy cannabinoid receptor agonist, which means it binds well to both CB1 and CB2 receptors; newer studies show that anandamide can also activate the body’s TRPV1 receptor.
Because anandamide is possibly the most well-studied endocannabinoid – and because it binds well with both CB1 and CB2 receptors – there is much research indicating that anandamide has high therapeutic potential. Many studies have indicated that there may be several diseases associated with anandamide deficiency. A study in 1999 showed that “the endogenous cannabinoid anandamide plays an important role in a cannabinergic pain-suppression system” and “may have relevance for the treatment of pain, particularly in instances where opiates are ineffective.” Several other studies have confirmed these results. Anandamide may also be useful in regulating appetite and may also play a role in fertility and reproduction. For example, anandamide may be essential in the embryo implantation process.
The name ‘anandamide’ comes from the Sanskrit word ‘ananda’, meaning ‘bliss.’ Indeed, anandamide is often referred to as “the bliss molecule”, as many studies (2014, 2015, 2016) have shown that the presence of anandamide may be an effective mood enhancer. There is believed to be a relationship between anandamide and dopamine, as anandamide is present during “runner’s high” and is also present in cacao.
Anandamide is also believed to play a role in apoptosis, or cell death. Because of these properties, anandamide may be useful in cancer therapy. There are many studies that show similar results.
CBD AND ANANDAMIDE
Based on recent studies, anandamide is thought to have a synergistic relationship with CBD. One study showed that CBD reduced anandamide deactivation, which led to clinical improvement, especially regarding schizophrenia patients. Anandamide and CBD may also work together to create an anti-convulsant effect, which could prove to be useful for epilepsy patients.
The side effects of anandamide can be similar to those of THC. For example, like THC, anandamide may also negatively impair memory. Unlike THC, however, there is little information regarding any long-term adverse effects of anandamide.