Anandamide was discovered in 1992 by a team working for Raphael Mechaloum. Its name comes from ananda, the Sanskrit word for “bliss”, and its is also known in scientific terms as N-arachidonoylethanolamine or AEA, and is a naturally occurring cannabinoid within the human body. Anandamide closely resembles tetrahydrocannabinol, or THC. Anandamide has an effect on both the CB₁ and CB₂ receptors; with the CB₁ receptors more affected in the central nervous system and the CB₂ receptors more affected in the periphery.
The effects of Anandamide
Anandamide plays an important role in the regulation of appetite, pleasure and reward, and elevated levels may increase the pleasure experienced on consumption of food. Anandamide has been found in chocolate, and is thought to be partly responsible for the intense enjoyment experienced whilst eating it. Anandamide may also be partly responsible for pain regulation and sleep patterns. Paracetamol has been discovered to behave as a weak Anadamide reuptake inhibtor, increasing the amount of Anandamide in the body, which is responsible for at least some of its pain relieving effects.
Anandamide also has an important and as yet poorly understood role in hormonal balance and the reproductive system. During ovulation, plasma levels of Anandamide are at their highest, as are levels of the sex hormones gonadotrophin and estradiol (a type of estrogen). However, it is not clear exactly what relationship these substances have with each other. Anandamide is also vital in ensuring the healthy implantation of the young embryo into the epithelium (wall) of the uterus in early pregnancy.
Current research also points to Anandamide having a role in forming and breaking memories, in a similar fashion to THC’s negative effects on short term memory, but on a a much more subtle scale.