Anandamide: The Molecule that Makes You Happy & How CBD Helps Boost It
We all want to be happier and if you search the web a bit, you will find a larger-than-life list of secrets and methods to find happiness.
We usually link happiness to external things but the wisest among us tell us that our happy highs come from within and we have the power to create them.
This makes total sense when you know your body spurts its own happy chemicals. One of those chemicals is anandamide.
Anandamide is also called the “bliss” molecule because it has the ability to make you happy. Research suggests that anandamide plays a pivotal role in steering your health and well-being.
Because I know emotional wellness is your priority, here’s my anandamide guide for you.
Table of Contents
What Is Anandamide?
Like dopamine and serotonin—anandamide (AEA) is a neurotransmitter or ligand that signals messages between brain cells. Neurotransmitters work as a switch control that turn your nerves on and off.
As a ligand, anandamide binds with a receptor, ligands and receptors fit together in the same way a key fits to a lock to unleash a biological response.
Anandamide is also an endocannabinoid, it acts in similar ways as THC, binding to the same receptors. That’s why some call it the “human THC.”
Anandamide affects homeostasis when it binds with receptors CB1, which are found in the brain and nervous system, and CB2, which are found in the immune system.
Cannabis and mankind have been friends since the dawn of times, but it wasn’t until the 1960s that Dr. Raphael Mechoulam of the Hebrew University of Jerusalem synthetized THC from this plant. Dr. Mechoulam is known as “the godfather of modern cannabis.”
Mechoulam’s lab focused on isolating the psychotropic component in cannabis—THC—to find out why this plant’s compound altered the human mind.
It wasn’t until 1988 when a receptor that THC binds with was discovered by Dr. Allyn Howlett and his colleagues of St. Louis University Medical School.
This finding showed there was a hidden signaling system in our bodies that would respond to cannabinoid-like molecules.
The system was named the endocannabinoid system (ECS) in honor of the plant that led to its discovery. This finding was a gamechanger in the medical industry, as it further proved that cannabis did have health benefits and could be used as medicine.
It was in the library of Dr. Mechoulam, where it was conjectured that if the brain has receptors that are affected by THC, the body may also produce similar chemicals. Turns out, this idea was correct and became the fundamentals of the endocannabinoid system as we know it today.
After the discovery of the ECS, it was only a matter of time until Dr. Mechoulam and his team, found the first endogenous cannabinoid—anandamide in 1992.
Anandamide was originally called “Arachidonylethanolamide” when it was first discovered, which described its molecular structure and shape; but later, and for obvious reasons, it made sense to change it to anandamide.
In Sanskrit “ananda” translates to “bliss,” and that’s the reason why this new chemical was aptly nicknamed the “bliss molecule.”
How Does it Work?
The endocannabinoid system is a communication bridge between body and mind, that’s involved in nearly every aspect of human health.
It signals to the entire systems and organs present in your body to arrange the myriad functions necessary to survive and maintain your health. The ECS accomplishes all of this by promoting homeostasis.
Homeostasis is responsible for keeping everything within your body in balance. It also keeps your emotions in check. So, if you find yourself in a stressful situation, like getting into a fight with a loved one or arguing in traffic, the anandamide levels in your body will increase.
These increased levels are a response from the body to reduce the distress and bring your body and mind back to a state of calm.
To maintain balance, homeostasis is constantly monitoring your internal variables, the most important ones include:
When anandamide binds with the cannabinoid receptors CB1 and CB2, it activates them to unleash numerous reactions throughout the body.
Anandamide is a lipid soluble molecule that rapidly cross through into the brain. This helps it transmit messages between nerve cells to regulate dopamine.
In small amounts AEA is beneficial for memory, but high amounts can make you forget things, just like its twin molecule THC.
That’s one of the main reasons scientists believe that using small doses of THC could be beneficial in fighting Alzheimer’s Disease.
Mental Benefits of Anandamide
Anandamide is the feel-good endocannabinoid, so most of its benefits are linked to your emotional wellness. Not enough levels of anandamide in the brain can make you prone to stress, raise fear and anxiety, and steal your happiness.
A new study conducted at The Scripps Research Institute (TSRI) identified a molecule that triggers intense anxiety in the amygdala—the area of the brain involved in your emotional reactions. This molecule is called the corticotropin-releasing factor (CRF).
When CRF is activated over and over again, it activates the activity of fatty acid amino hydrolase (FAAH)—an enzyme that destroys anandamide. Without anandamide, the brain is primed to react to stressful situations and lose its ability to cope with anxiety.
A gene called rs324420 has been identified as the “happiness gene” because it increases the levels of anandamide by decreasing its archenemy FAAH. This may explain why some people is naturally happier than other.
Anandamide is closely related to THC, it mimics THC‘s actions in the cannabinoid receptors but provide different effects.
Let me explain how.
Anandamide vs. THC
With a similar molecular shape as THC, anandamide interacts with the same receptors triggered by this cannabinoid.
In the central nervous system, anandamide mainly interacts with the CB1 receptors, in the peripheral it interacts more with the CB2 receptors.
Anandamide is produced in cell membranes and tissues of the human body. THC is a cannabis compound that has potential health benefits but with a drawback—it gets you high.
The mood-enhancing effect that comes from THC is more akin to euphoria. However, THC is NOT only an intoxicating chemical, it also has medicinal benefits like easing nausea, relieving pain, relaxing muscles, and stimulating appetite.
Anandamide has some similar effects to THC. It boosts your mood maximizing your sense of joy, it can make certain foods more craveable, and it manages a number of other processes, such as memory, appetite, fertility, motivation, movement and pain.
But anandamide is a weak molecule that’s destroyed almost as fast as it’s created. Breaking anandamide down is a job set to the enzyme FAAH to prevent you from walking around in a perpetual state of euphoria.
On the flip side, THC is a strong molecule that remains in the body for several hours after consumption, and metabolites like THC-COOH can stay in the body for several days or even weeks, depending on how heavily or frequently THC is consumed.
SO, CONSUMING MARIJUANA CAN AMPLIFY YOUR ANANDAMIDE EFFECTS?
Marijuana is the cannabis variety that contains more levels of THC.
As noted before anandamide and THC share similar molecular shape and medical potential, that’s why many believe that consuming marijuana can amplify the therapeutic effects of anandamide.
But there’s a catch, THC has drastically different effects in one out of five people. Remember the happiness gene we talked about before? Well, if you naturally carry higher concentrations of anandamide in your brain thanks to this gene, then THC can decrease feelings of happiness and increase your anxiety.
THC has a biphasic effect, which essentially means that it has different sets of effects at different dosage levels. So, if you consume just the right amount of THC you get a mood boost, but higher levels will induce anxiety or paranoia.
Anandamide & Memory
Anandamide is an important brain chemical that helps in the formation of long-term memories. That makes it a target for cognitive aging investigations.
Dr. Gary L. Wenk, has been studying the effects marijuana has on the aging brain, and the relationship between Alzheimer’s disease (AD) and brain inflammation.
He found that anandamide can protect the brain against neuroinflammation and stroke. Remember that anandamide binds to the CB1 receptors in the brain? This action encourages the formation of new neurons and new connections—a process called “neurogenesis.”
Thanks to neurogenesis your brain can regrow and rewire, and experts believe that it may be useful for the prevention and treatment of AD.
Dr. Wenk also reports that marijuana tends to interfere with the consolidation of memories in young population, however, later in life it protects the aging brain. Which once again explains the paradoxical nature of this plant.
Marijuana is dose-dependent, meaning that the amount consumed is key to produce a considerable improvement. The higher the dose, the stronger the unappealing effects it elicits. Seniors can boost their working memory with just a single puff of marijuana a day.
If you’ve been following along, you know by now that anandamide has several health and mental benefits, and you might want to know how to increase its levels on your body.
Unfortunately, anandamide is quickly deactivated after its job is done, but there are a few ways to keep your levels up—at least for a little longer—one of them is CBD.
How CBD Boosts Your Anandamide Levels
Anandamide is a short-lived endocannabinoid, and if you weren’t blessed with a happiness gene, the good news is that CBD can increase AEA levels.
The cannabinoid inhibits the FAAH enzyme, which means anandamide stays active for longer in the endocannabinoid system, increasing its potency as well.
More levels of anandamide in your bloodstream for longer equals more feelings of bliss and joy.
It’s not surprise that people with long-term anxiety and depression have lower anandamide levels in the body. So, they may benefit from CBD to treat this chemical imbalance.
Furthermore, increased levels of anandamide have also been linked to providing relief from obsessive-compulsive disorder (OCD). but more research is required in this area.
People suffering from poor appetite can consume CBD products that stimulate hunger by boosting anandamide.
Chronic inflammation is a silent killer responsible for several conditions afflicting the human body and anandamide has powerful anti-inflammatory properties. CBD has potential to be a natural treatment for these conditions by boosting anandamide levels.
Anandamide also reduces sensitivity to pain, no prizes for guessing that’s one of the reasons CBD is so good for pain management and relief.
But CBD is not the only way to boost anandamide.
You Can Also Boost Anandamide with Food
The apparent wide range of mental health and systemic benefits of anandamide makes it a commonsense goal to have higher levels of this molecule circulating in your body, but for most of us that doesn’t come naturally.
Fortunately, you can boost anandamide levels with food. Even though there aren’t many foods that can increase anandamide levels naturally, there are some that can be helpful.
Let’s look at them.
Chocolate is one of the most cherished foods on the planet, and one of the most addictive.
There are many chemicals in chocolate, and most of them have mood-boosting effects. One of those biochemicals is theobromine, a substance that acts as a relaxant. Research suggests that theobromine helps increase anandamide production in the brain.
Yes, that’s why chocolate is so craveable. It contains anandamide, but the great thing is that theobromine also slows down anandamide’s breakdown in the body, and even promotes its production in the brain.
So, chocolate isn’t only palatable, it will momentarily lift your spirits too, but you need to eat a good source of dark chocolate to get the most anandamide from it.
Which means that having a Kit Kat break won’t turn the trick. Eating cacao nibs or cocoa powder is better as they aren’t processed, contain less sugar, and the chocolate in them is less adulterated.
The fanciest fungus in the world—the black truffle—is another source of anandamide. This fungus grows almost exclusively among the roots of oaks in Italy, Spain, and France.
Unfortunately, truffles aren’t a cheap way to boost your anandamide levels. They’re scarce and hard to find that’s why delicacy-level truffles are one of the most expensive culinary luxuries in the world.
To forage them, truffle-sniffing pigs or dogs are needed. Italian experts believe that black truffles use anandamide to attract animals to eat them and propagate their spores. Dogs and pigs have cannabinoid receptors, which explains why they’re so eager to seek out truffles in the wild.
Apart from chocolates and truffles, there are some foods containing compounds that boost the activity or amount of Anandamide in the body.
Long pepper and black pepper contain Guinee sine, a compound that increases anandamide activity.
Kaempferol is a flavonoid type that stops FAAH production, if you eat more foods with Kaempferol, you will be increasing your anandamide levels in the body.
Common foods that contain kaempferol include apples, grapes, tomatoes, green tea, potatoes, onions, broccoli, squash, cucumbers, lettuce, Brussels sprouts, green beans, peaches, blackberries, raspberries, and spinach.
Other Ways to Boost Anandamide
Food is not the only way to boost anandamide levels in the body. There are activities that can help you enhance the bliss molecule. Some of the things you can try are as follows:
Oxytocin is the “cuddle hormone,” a neurotransmitter that your body releases when you snuggle up. But oxytocin is more than hugs, this love hormone plays a vital role in your social interactions and bonding.
Oxytocin stimulates the production of anandamide. therefore, by increasing oxytocin, you can easily boost anandamide levels in the body.
Interpersonal touch is the quickest way to increase oxytocin. This obviously includes making love, kisses, and cuddles. But non-sexual things such as meditation, singing and petting a dog can increase oxytocin too.
Endurance exercise has been shown to activate the endocannabinoid system. If you ever experienced the “runners high,” then you know firsthand that your body produces substances that can boost your mood naturally.
For decades experts believed the euphoric spark you feel after aerobic exercise was powered by endorphins. But new data suggests that it’s the result of endocannabinoids circulating in your bloodstream, specifically anandamide.
Regular exercise not only increases anandamide but also improves the sensitivity of the cannabinoid receptors in the body.
GET IN THE ZONE
You must have heard the phrase “being in the zone,” which describes a simultaneous state of heightened focus and calm relaxation.
When you’re “in the zone,” your brain is naturally flooded with a bunch of “feel-good” chemicals including dopamine, serotonin, endorphins, and yes, anandamide. So, for a regular anandamide boost, you should find activities that put you in the zone.
Anandamide is responsible for various vital functions across the body, including influencing memory, protecting against cancer, and relieving pain and inflammation.
That’s why it’s not surprise to learn that interest in this molecule has been growing steadily ever since it was first discovered.
We still don’t fully understand how anandamide affects our bodies. Like with other cannabinoids that impact the ECS, there’s an urgent need for more research into anandamide, the benefits it may have, and how we can make good use of it to better enjoy these benefits.
Ongoing research points to anandamide’s benefits for mental and physical health, but it also shows how important cannabis and its prominent cannabinoids are when used as therapeutic agents for numerous conditions.
To your emotional well-being
Ready to try CBD to boost your bliss molecule, or already enjoying its benefits? Let me hear from you on the space below.
Thanks for reading!