Excuse the crash course if you’re a seasoned, educated CBD user, this will only take a minute….
For those not familiar with the endocannabinoid system (ECS), it’s your body’s most important healing system. The ECS regulates homeostasis in the body. Homeostasis is the perfectly-balanced functioning of organs and tissues (neither overactive or underactive). Your sleep quality, appetite levels, mood, pain threshold, immune system function, and your ability to concentration and retain information is directly influenced by the ECS.
When you take a high-quality CBD supplement, the cannabinoids and terpenes in the CBD interact with ECS receptors throughout your body. You can think of CBD oil sort of like engine oil for a car; CBD helps your endocannabinoid system run smoothly and efficiently.
CBD is an external or exogenous cannabinoid. But did you know that your body is a source of cannabinoids as well? No, you don’t have CBD flowing through your veins like blood. But you do have endocannabinoids (also called “endogenous cannabinoids”) that activate ECS receptors to maintain balance in your body. (There are two main categories of ECS receptors: CB1 and CB2).
Anandamide: An Endogenous Cannabinoid Crucial For Overall Health
One of the most important endogenous cannabinoids in your body is called anandamide, which was discovered in the early 1990s. Named after the Sanskrit (the traditional language of ancient India) word for bliss or joy, anandamide.
If anandamide activates CB1 and CB2 receptors in the body, and has the potential to make you feel better, why don’t you see anandamide supplements in the store? Especially when studies (such as this one) have found that people with certain diseases such as fibromyalgia, irritable bowel syndrome, and migraines may have a deficiency or weakness of the internal cannabinoid system (ECS)?
Can’t modern medicine just implant a bunch of anandamide in an ECS-deficient person, thereby mitigating pain, improving metabolism, sleep quality, mood, etc.?
Unfortunately, that’s already sort of been tried, and the results weren’t good. One death and five hospitalizations occurred in a French trial (the drug itself was developed in Portugal) that was supposed to inhibit an enzyme that breaks down endocannabinoids in the brain. (When endocannabinoids are broken down, homeostasis is more difficult to achieve.)
And that’s the tricky thing about anandamide: it has the tantalizing potential to end pain and restore balance in the body for millions of people. But its effects are very short lived. Besides the enzyme in the French study that breaks down anandamide and other endogenous cannabinoids, there’s also a protein called Nuclear Factor KB (NFKB). This protein is thought to be the contributing factor in those with weak or deficient endocannabinoid systems. If anandamide has the potential to make us feel like Superman or Wonder Woman, NFKB is anandamide’s kryptonite.
Exogenous Substances That Activate Endogenous Cannabinoids
By extension, CBD helps anandamide attach to CB1 and CB2 receptors. However, since anandamide can easily breakdown because of fatty acid amide hydrolase (FAAH; the specific enzyme in the French study) and NFKB, it’s important to use CBD on a regular basis, perhaps even two or three times a day. (You eat two or three times a day to keep your energy levels up, why not use CBD that often to support homeostasis).
But truth be told, you need other things besides non-psychoactive CBD that will activate anandamide, which will in turn bind to CB1 and CB2 receptors.
Here’s a list of natural foods, substances and one activity that are supported by research to prevent anandamide from breaking down:
- Cacao – the raw material of chocolate, there’s a good reason why eating chocolate makes people happier. But for health benefits, don’t eat milk chocolate; choose dark chocolate with at least 70% cacao.
- Kava root – would you drink muddy water for the sake of supporting your ECS? Traditionally, kava root is consumed as an unappetizing drink, but you can find supplements that contain kavalactones, the main active ingredient that activates anandamide.
- Black truffle – you don’t need a fungi-hunting pig to go foraging in the forest. You can buy black truffle oil, which is a pricey but delicious culinary topping.
- Onions and garlic – contain allicin, the active anandamide-preserving compound.
- Green tea – thanks to EGCG.
- Turmeric – yet another benefit of curcumin.
- Buckwheat – rich in quercetin.
- Red wine – the resveratrol is another reason it makes you feel fine!
- Others: coffee, flax seeds, ginger, milk thistle, rosemary, cruciferous veggies.
- Essential oils: lemon, copaiba, cinnamon, frankincense, lavender, eucalyptus, sage and oregano.
- Supplements that stimulate internal endocannabinoids: fish oil, zinc, vitamins A, C, E and N-acetyl-cysteine (NAC).
- Vigorous exercise: Studies like this one suggest the reason you feel a runner’s high is because of the activation of the ECS.
How To Feel Blissed Out With Anandamide: Conclusion
Just like it takes a village to raise a child, it takes several things to help your body maintain balance. CBD may help activate anandamide, your body’s internal bliss chemical that binds to CB1 and CB2 receptors. But CBD alone is no panacea. A well-balanced diet and exercise are important for maintaining joy in life.