By Kristi Pahr
As research into cannabinoids continues, scientists are uncovering more about these chemical compounds and how they work within our bodies, regulating such functions as inflammation, the immune system, and digestion.
There are dozens and dozens of different types of cannabinoids. For example, endocannabinoids are made inside the body and are also referred to as endogenous (originating from within) cannabinoids. Another example is phytocannabinoids, which are cannabinoids produced by plants like cannabis. Although cannabinoids are relatively synonymous with the cannabis plant, there are plenty of other plants that produce cannabinoids as well: ginseng, broccoli, carrots, and clove, for starters.
All cannabinoids interact with the endocannabinoid system (ECS), a cell-signaling system of neurotransmitters, lipids, proteins, and receptors found throughout every organ system. Its function is to help maintain homeostasis within the body.
As interest in and access to cannabinoids continue to grow, we’re learning that it’s not just THC and CBD that are capable of amazing changes within our bodies – there are hundreds of cannabinoid compounds that might be beneficial to human health and wellness. One of those compounds is anandamide. Let’s take a closer look at this special molecule.
Anandamide – The Bliss Molecule
The cannabinoid anandamide is garnering attention from researchers for the role it may play in mental health. The compound is produced by our bodies to help maintain homeostasis and has mood-enhancing properties, stimulating a sense of happiness and wellbeing. Its name is derived from the Sanskrit word “ananda.” which means bliss or joy. Besides elevating mood, another one of anandamide’s most interesting functions is its neuroregenerative properties. When triggered, anandamide stimulates the growth of new neurons, which are vital to functions such as memory and homeostatic regulation within the brain itself.
But it’s not just brain health that makes anandamide important. The compound has shown pain-relieving and appetite-stimulating qualities. It also plays a role in immunity due to the fact that white blood cells, the body’s frontline defense against infection, contain cannabinoid receptors.
All in all, anandamide has far-reaching physiological impacts, affecting everything from fertility to some autoimmune disorders as well as providing mood-stabilizing and fear-reduction effects.
The Anandamide-CBD Connection
Once it’s been synthesized by the body, anandamide doesn’t last long – it does its job, then gets broken down by the enzyme fatty acid amide hydrolase (FAAH). Research shows, however, that cannabidiol (CBD) might serve as an anandamide reuptake inhibitor, meaning CBD suppresses FAAH and allows anandamide to remain in the body longer than it normally would.
Therefore, the buildup of anandamide in the body may result in reduced feelings of nervousness, pain, and inflammation.
How to Boost Anandamide with CBD
CBD has been shown to improve a number of issues related to brain health and feelings of wellbeing, but it’s not just CBD doing the work. The inhibition of FAAH caused by CBD allows anandamide to build up within the body, resulting in a range of positive benefits for memory, cognition, and mood.
CBD’s marked anti-inflammatory effects are also partly due to its relationship with anandamide. White blood cells are responsible for producing inflammation as part of the body’s immune response, but sometimes that inflammation is not necessary and may become problematic, especially if it’s chronic. The ECS receptors located within white blood cells respond to the presence of anandamide, resulting in a reduction of inflammation. This may be especially useful for those living with inflammatory conditions such as fibromyalgia or inflammatory bowel syndrome, though more research is needed to understand how to best utilize anandamide to ease pain disorders.
The Bottom Line
While CBD continues to gain popularity, it’s important for consumers to realize that it doesn’t work on its own. The ECS is a dynamic and complicated system that interacts with several dozen cannabinoids. CBD works in conjunction with anandamide to produce a myriad of effects within the body that have the potential to improve the quality of life of many patients. If you think CBD may be right for you, consult your healthcare provider.
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Kristi Pahr is a freelance health and wellness writer and mother of two who spends most of her time caring for people other than herself. She is frequently exhausted and compensates with an intense caffeine addiction. Her work has appeared in Good Housekeeping, Real Simple, Men’s Health, and many others.