Cannabis Class! Your Body’s Chemicals – Anandamide


I’m starting this new series of articles to share what I’ve learned about how cannabinoids work. I hope this information helps you understand how endogenous cannabinoids (made by the body) and exogenous cannabinoids (made outside the body and then consumed) are used by our bodies and nervous systems. In today’s article I highlight Anandamine, which is an endogenous cannabinoid. I also explain how consuming the exogenous cannabinoid CBD affects the anandamide levels in your body.

Have no fear… your bliss is near…. Anandamide is named after Ananda, which means bliss, and who was the Buddha’s cousin, one of his original ten disciples – ironically known for  having an extraordinary memory and being able to recite the teachings of Buddha from memory after his death. The chemical is known to bring about pleasant feelings and is a motivational substance for seeking food.

But it’s also related to processing fearful memories. Whenever we become inappropriately frightened of something we have to extinguish that fear memory in order to be functional in that situation we are irrationally frightened of.

Which may also explain why people with PTSD are more likely to have lower levels of anandamide in their brains.

Balancing with bliss

Also known as N-arachidonoylethanolamine or AEA, anandamide is an omega 6 derived fatty acid neurotransmitter that works with the endocannabinoid system to regulate many physiological functions. It is active at the CB1 receptor, primarily in the CNS and in the CB2 receptor primarily in the PNS.

The activity in the PNS with the CB2 receptor is related to immune function. Anandamide is involved in regulation of motivation, appetite, and some reproductive functions.

What wrecks the party?

Anandamide is broken down by an enzyme known as fatty acid amide hydrolase or FAAH.

This matters because some people are genetically programmed to produce more or less FAAH than others. Countries where a variant of the gene that codes for FAAH known as the A allele of gene rs324420, are the most prevalent, are also the nations where people rate themselves as extremely happy. This variant means you will have higher natural levels of anandamide, less FAAH, and are also less likely to enjoy smoking cannabis.

Inhibiting FAAH means your body breaks down less anandamide – leading to higher anandamide levels, and what molecule do we know of that reduces FAAH activity? – CBD


CBD is not an endogenous cannabinoid. It is found in the Cannabis sativa plant along with a larger number of other biologically active compounds. THC is the most well known compound in cannabis and the compound responsible for its intoxicating effects. CBD is not known for intoxication and is gaining a reputation for being useful to humans in scientific research. It is also able to modify the activity of anandamide in the body.

CBD doesn’t bind to the CB1 or CB2 receptors like THC or Anandamide

CBD doesn’t bind well to the major active endocannabinoid receptor sites in the body.

So what does it bind to? CBD does bind to the serotonin receptor – 5-HT1A receptor, the vanillin receptor – TRVP1 receptor,  it inhibits a G protein-coupled receptor known as GPR55, PPARs, and is an allosteric modulator of the GABA-A and CB1 receptors.

There’s a lot to unpack in that sentence, too much for one post, so I’ll focus on one thing

It means the reason CBD impacts the CB1 receptor and anandamide is because it acts as an inhibitor of the FAAH enzyme that breaks anandamide down. This means that CBD results in an increased level of anandamide in the body because the body isn’t able to break down the anandamide as quickly.

CBD also modifies the interaction of THC with the CB1 receptor. CBD doesn’t bind orthosterically to the CB1 receptor, instead it binds allosterically, changing the CB1 receptors shape slightly, making it less amenable to binding with THC, which is relevant to anyone who is using medical cannabis but dislikes the psychoactive effects of the plant. While CBD doesn’t completely block the activity of THC, it does seem to modulate it.

CBD Products

If you’re interested in experiential knowledge of CBD, this company produces the CBD product I have found the most value in. Almost every continuing education event I attend has a large number of CBD product vendors handing out samples, and this companies product was the first time a sample really impressed me. It’s organically grown in Colorado, third party tested with batch numbers listed on each bottle so you can look up the results on the web, and it’s whole plant ethanol extracted. (I do receive a small commission for any purchases made through the banner link below, which does not affect your purchase price)

Click on the banner image below to be redirected to the Receptra Naturals Website

Main Photo by Esteban Lopez on Unsplash


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