Often referred to as the 'bliss molecule', anandamide is considered an endocannabinoid. Before we get into what anandamide is, and how it relates to cannabis, it is important to know what an endocannabinoid is.


The 'Endo' of endocannabinoid stands for endogenous, which means it is produced naturally inside the body. Cannabinoid refers to a group of compounds found in cannabis that interact with the CB1 and CB2 receptors in our body. Thus, an endocannabinoid is a cannabinoid equivalent naturally produced by the body that interacts with these receptors.

Anandamide And Cannabis

Interactions with CB1 and CB2 receptors can have effects on memory, appetite, and motivation. It is possible for us to enhance this naturally occurring process by using cannabis. The reason why we can experience euphoria, increased happiness and the munchies (to name but a few effects) when smoking certain strains of weed is all to do with the influx of cannabinoids that cannabis provides. Large quantities flood our CB receptors and cause our bodies to react in a certain manner.

So how does a molecule named after the Sanskrit word for “joy, bliss or happiness” effect us and what is its role in our endocannabinoid system? Now that we understand the basic concept of the endocannabinoid system, anandamide is one of a few cannabinoids that have been discovered naturally occurring in our bodies.


Discovered in 1992, anandamide can bond with both the CB1 and CB2 receptors. It is important to note that these receptors can be found throughout the body, which is how cannabinoids can have such varying effects. However, unlike the effects smoking cannabis has - flooding these receptors with cannabinoids causing an excessive or lengthened reaction - endocannabinoids are considered fragile molecules.

The body will only produce them when they are in demand. Once released, they are quickly broken down by enzymes including FAAH (fatty acid amide hydrolase) and MAGL (monoacylglycerol lipase).

The lipophilic nature of this cannabinoid causes it to be soluble in fat but will not dissolve in water hence why the body produces fatty acid to help break it down.

Anandamide and CBD


Despite anandamide being one of the first endocannabinoids to be discovered, its role within the human body and how that could be manipulated are very much a mystery.

There are numerous speculations about the effects it can have but determining an overall effect is still somewhat unknown. As we know the human mind and body is a complex organism and as such the way our bodies react to cannabinoids will vary from person to person.

Some scientists have even gone as far to conclude that the use of anandamide could prove useful in combating and inhibiting the growth of cancer cells. The endocannabinoid bonds with the CB1 receptors acting as a blocker to the cell proliferation the body experiences when cancer is present. The research[1] whilst still provisional starts to explore the possible uses for anandamide as a self-healing mechanism. Unmanipulated though the production of anandamide within the human body would not be high enough to yield discernable results.

What is THC?

Given the fragile nature of anandamide, it is easy to see why any feelings of bliss associated with it are short-lived. Its role includes regulation of pain and appetite including that of pleasure and reward. This pleasure and reward reaction is similar to that of runners high[2] or the feeling of euphoria that is experienced when undertaking the exercise. Speculation is that these activities stimulate the release of anandamide, binding to the CB receptors in our nervous system that are linked to the areas of the brain mentioned above. When you consider that THC, another cannabinoid, also binds to the same receptors giving what we know to be a euphoric reaction, this reasoning seems to be along the right path. The main difference is that THC hangs around longer, and hits the system in larger quantities, leaving us high, whereas anandamide is broken down fast enough that it rarely build up to the same kind of levels.

The specific uses of anandamide and how its production can be manipulated are still very much in debate. What we do know, shows that anandamide could be beneficial in treating a number of mental and physical disorders once more research has been completed.


External Resources:
  1. The endocannabinoid system, anandamide and the regulation of mammalian cell apoptosis http://www.nature.com
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