Anandamide is an endocannabinoid belonging to the class of fatty acid amides [1]. The word “ananda” comes from the Sanskrit that means beatitude, since it produces happiness. Anandamide interacts with CB1 receptors in the nervous system and CB2 receptors in the peripheral nervous system.

Also known as “the molecule of wonder”, it is a substance produced naturally by our body. It usually improves mood when it attaches to neurotransmitters [2]. In addition, similarities can be observed in the structure of anandamide compared to that of THC, a cannabinoid with therapeutic benefits that also activates the CB1 receptor.

How does anandamide work?

Anandamide can fix itself to the cannabinoid receptors in our body, although it is a very weak substance that decomposes very quickly. Anandamide synthesizes in areas of the brain where memory, motivation, superior cognitive processes and movement control are managed. In this way, it influences physiological systems such as pain, appetite regulation, pleasure and reward.

Anandamide and CB1 receptors have a fundamental role in ovulation, as well as in the implantation of the fertilised gamete in the endometrium, or the lining of the uterus. It has been specifically demonstrated that high levels of anandamide are needed for a successful ovulation and that the lowest levels are useful during the implantation of the gamete in the lining of the uterus. The same study [3] also indicated that the levels of anandamide are high during the 4th and 5th week of gestation and that anandamide falls to lower levels during the 6th week of gestation. The AEA in different degrees of concentration is key for the reproductive cycle and the correct fetal development during the first weeks of gestation.

A study on mice from 2017 [4] tested its effects on motivation and reward. With different possibilities of choice and after receiving an injection of this endocannabinoid, the mice proved to be able to choose more quickly and were motivated to choose the best solution.

The relationship between anandamide with medical cannabis

As with THC, anandamide causes a sensation of happiness. Until now, how anandamide works has not been understood in both animals and the human body. However, after discovering the endocannabinoid system, it was observed this endocannabinoid can influence and interact with the receptors in our bodies just like some cannabinoids in the cannabis plant. Although several studies have confirmed their very close relationship with cannabinoids and brain receptors [5], it does possess psychoactive effects, but they have not yet been explained.

References

[1] D. Matthew Walentiny et alt. The endogenous cannabinoid anandamide shares discriminative stimulus effects with ∆9-tetrahydrocannabinol in fatty acid amide hydrolase knockout mice. European Journal of Pharmacology Volume 656, Issues 1–3, 10 April 2011, Pages 63–67

[2] J Neurochem. Anandamide, a brain endogenous compound, interacts specifically with cannabinoid receptors and inhibits adenylate cyclase. Vogel Z, Barg J, Levy R, Saya D, Heldman E, Mechoulam R ,1993.

[3]Mona R. El-Talatini, Anthony H. Taylor, et al. “Fluctuation in anandamide levels from ovulation to early pregnancy in in-vitro fertilization-embryo transfer women, and its hormonal regulation.” Human Reproduction, Volume 24, Issue 8, 1 August 2009, Pages 1989–1998, https://doi.org/10.1093/humrep/dep065.

[4] Pharmacology Biochemistry and Behavior, Volume 158, July 2017, Pages 14–21. Effects of anandamide administration on components of reward processing during free choice. Luke C. Zona, Benjamin R. Fry, Jacob A. LaLonde, Howard C. Cromwell.

[5] Devane, William A., et al. Isolation and structure of a brain constituent that binds to the cannabinoid receptor. Science, vol. 258, no. 5090, 1992, p. 1946+. Academic OneFile, Accessed 26 May 2017.

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