THC and CBD have reached mainstream America. You can find CBD in everything from tea to bath bombs, and if you are lucky enough to live in a State that has smartened up, you also have the availability of THC products. Most people know that consuming these compounds alters our bodies, but not many know exactly how. That is where the lipid transmitter anandamide, also known as ‘the bliss molecule,’ comes in.
For those who have experienced THC, there is no denying that it has an effect on your body. There are some cases of people reporting no effects but for the majority of the population, if you eat a 1000mg cookie you will be violently high. CBD is a bit trickier. Your eyes don’t become blood shot red, and you aren’t prone to eating a gallon of ice cream or becoming a temporary subcomponent of your sofa.
The effects of CBD is much more subtle. You’ve probably heard the all health claims by companies pedaling these CBD products, but most people don’t understand what is happening in your brain when CBD enters the body. In short, CBD increases anandamide and THC mimics it.
Anandamide is a fatty acid neurotransmitter part of our body’s endocannabinoid system. The word comes from the Sanskrit word ‘ananda’ meaning joy, bliss, delight. Scientists have discovered low levels of anandamide in patients with numerous psychotic symptoms such as depression and schizophrenia.
Anandamide and THC are structured very similar chemically, allowing THC to bind and activate the enodcannabinoid receptors in the brain. Once activated, the receptors are released and triggers the reward system in your brain, in turn getting you high.
CBD does not bind with the receptors, it inhibits fatty acid amide hydrolase or FAAH. This enzyme has shown to break down anandamide. By inhibiting or decreasing FAAH, anandamide levels increase in the brain because it isn’t being broken down.
Anandamide functions as a neurotransmitter effecting areas of the brain that influence pleasure, memory, thinking, concentrations, movement, coordination, sensory and time perception. “Some scientists believe that a clinical endocannabinoid deficiency could be a root cause of many conditions including depression, migraines, fibromyalgia, multiple sclerosis, irritable bowel syndrome, and Parkinson’s.”
Anandamide was discovered in 1992 by Lumir Hanus. Meaning scientist don’t completely understand how it works and the best ways to reap its benefits. Measuring anandamide and FAAH can be done in a variety of ways. The scientists in the studies below sample spinal fluid and pieces of the brain to observe anandamide levels and compare subjects once levels are established.
Studying and manipulating our brains is extremely complicated. We are just beginning to understand the role cannabinoids play in balancing our mood. More studies are need to be done, but CBD seems to show promise in elevating psychological disorders.
Taking CBD isn’t the only way to increase anandamide. Truffles and dark chocolate contain low levels of the endocannabinoid. Exercise, meditation, and other forms of therapy are thought to increase the levels of anandamide in the brain. I’m a strong supporter of having an array of habits that support mental health. We are complicated beings that require complex solutions to maximize our mental health!
- How Does Marijuana Produce Its Effects? (2019, December). Retrieved from https://www.drugabuse.gov/publications/research-reports/marijuana/how-does-marijuana-produce-its-effects
- Leweke et al. (2012, March). Cannabidiol enhances anandamide signaling and alleviates psychotic symptoms of schizophrenia. Retrieved from https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC3316151/
- Buczynski, M., & Parsons, L. (2010, June). Quantification of brain endocannabinoid levels: methods, interpretations, and pitfalls. Retrieved from https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC2931546/
- Alban, D. (2018, 3 March). Anandamide: Bliss Molecule for Happiness and Mental Balance. Retrieved from https://bebrainfit.com/anandamide/
- Hurt, L. (2016, 13 December). Meet Lumir Hanus, Who Discovered the First Endocannabinoid. Retrieved from: https://www.leafly.com/news/science-tech/lumir-hanus-discovered-first-endocannabinoid-anandamide