Anandamide is a neurotransmitter produced by the brain that binds to THC receptors. It has been called the “happiness molecule” from the Sanskrit word Ananda according to which means joy, bliss or happiness. It has been considered an endocannabinoid – a substance produced by the body that binds to cannabinoid receptors.
Before long, anandamide was found to do much more than produce a happier state of being. It is synthesized in areas of the brain that are important for memory, advanced thinking and movement. It plays a significant role in regulating pain, appetite and fertility. It also prevents the proliferation of cancer cells.
By increasing neurogenesis – the creation of new nerve cells – anandamide appears to have both anti-anxiety and anti-depressant properties. Anandamide, like all neurotransmitters, is fragile and breaks down quickly in the body, which is why it does not produce a constant state of bliss.
Anandamide, cannabis and memory
Dr. Gary L. Wenk is a leading expert on chronic brain inflammation and Alzheimer’s disease. For years, he has researched whether smoking cannabis can prevent memory loss caused by both normal aging and Alzheimer’s disease. He has been surprised and excited to discover that cannabis seems to protect against memory loss that comes with aging.
According to Dr. Wenk, the high number of anandamide receptors indicates the importance of that neurotransmitter in regulating brain function. He has discovered that by stimulating the brain’s cannabinoid receptors, the brain can be protected by reducing inflammation and increasing neurogenesis. He argues that in later life, cannabis may actually help the aging brain rather than harm it.
“ Usually we don’t think cannabis is good for our brain, and especially not for memory,” Wenk points out. “How could a drug that clearly impairs memory in people under its influence protect the brain from the effects of aging? The answer probably has to do with the functioning of young and old brains and a host of age-related changes in brain chemistry. When we are young, we influence the formation of new memories by stimulating the brain’s cannabinoid receptors. However, later in life, the brain gradually shows increasing evidence of inflammation and a dramatic reduction in the production of new neurons, which are important in the development of new memories.”
Another factor in determining whether cannabis has a beneficial or detrimental effect on memory is dosage. Apparently, very little cannabis is required to improve memory in old brains. Dr. Wenk’s colleague summed it up in the phrase “one smoke is enough”, as it is enough to significantly improve memory in older people.
How to add anandamide – the happiness molecule to your brain
The existence of anandamide clearly has many general health and mental health benefits. Here are a few ways to increase levels naturally.
Chocolate is one of the most loved foods on the planet. It’s rare to meet someone who doesn’t enjoy chocolate. Chocolate is loved for its taste and creamy texture, and for its ability to make you instantly happy. Chocolate is known to contain more than 300 chemical compounds and scientists have been diligently trying to find out the biochemical origin of its appeal.
It is well known that chocolate contains caffeine, which improves mood, and phenylethylamine, called the “love molecule”, which stimulates the feeling of love. It also contains theobromine, a substance comparable to coffee, which acts as a relaxant rather than a stimulant. It has been hypothesized that theobromine causes the brain to produce more anandamide.
Chocolate is supposed to contain both anandamide and components that slow down its degradation (N-acylethanolamines). This gives the net result of anandamide, which is responsible for the temporary feeling of happiness that follows eating chocolate.
However, anandamide has been hypothesized to be the reason why chocolate is the primary food for cravings. It used to be believed that women in particular craved chocolate because of its relatively high magnesium content, but there may be another, more strongly influencing factor. According to a study conducted at the San Diego Neuroscience Institute in California “Chocolate contains pharmacologically active substances that have effects on the brain similar to cannabis, and these chemicals may play a role in certain drug-induced psychoses associated with chocolate cravings.”
To get the most anandamide from chocolate, one should prefer to eat dark chocolate instead of milk chocolate. Or what’s even better, you should eat cocoa beans, which are the raw material used to make chocolate. Cacao beans are significantly less processed than the best chocolate, contain no sugar, and are a more concentrated source of chocolate’s beneficial components.
Until recently, chocolate was believed to be the only food that contained anandamide. The perception changed when a group of Italian scientists discovered that black truffles (Tuber melanosporum) also contain it. Interestingly, this fungus produces anandamide, but does not contain receptors for it, which would presumably trigger some sort of biological effect. Because of this, researchers believe that truffles would produce anandamide as a mechanism to attract animals to eat them, thus promoting the spread by releasing fungal spores.
Truffles are in high demand among top chefs around the world, but they are difficult to cultivate, so most are found in the wild thanks to truffle hunters and their accompanying truffle-seeking dogs. Traditionally, the use of truffle-seeking pigs is prohibited, as they not only eat the truffles but also trample and damage their growing medium.
The presence of the happiness-producing anandamide explains why truffle-hunting animals seek out the mushroom with such ecstatic enthusiasm!
Unless you’re independently wealthy or have your own secret truffle-growing stash, you may want to stick to chocolate or other anandamide-rich foods like celery, broccoli, and tea. Truffles are so expensive that it can shock you permanently. Black truffles currently go for $95 an ounce, but are a bargain compared to white truffles that cost almost twice as much!
What is something you love to do so much that time seems to disappear? This state of heightened attention, super-focus and peak performance is called being in the “zone” or “flow state”. Flow is defined as “the optimal state of consciousness where we feel our best and perform our best.” During the flow state, the brain releases large amounts of feel-good chemicals such as serotonin, dopamine, endorphins and anandamide.
If you are a runner, you may have experienced “runner’s high”. Although often associated with endorphins, this theory is beginning to lose popularity. One reason is that endorphin molecules are too large to cross the blood-brain barrier and enter the brain. A study conducted at the University of Arizona found that endocannabinoids, including anandamide, are more likely to cause “runner’s high.”
Smoking cannabis might seem like a logical option if you want to experience more happiness, since THC clearly attaches to the same receptors as anandamide. But is smoking cannabis the right choice to relieve anxiety, increase happiness or improve memory to everyone? Probably not.
When anandamide binds to cannabinoid receptors, it has a calming, anti-anxiety effect on most people to people, but almost 20 percent of the population reacts differently. There is a naturally occurring enzyme called FAAH that deactivates anandamide. Some people have a genetic predisposition to less FAAH, which means they naturally have more anandamide in their brains. These people are generally less anxious and, interestingly, less likely to like cannabis. According to Richard A. Friedman, professor of clinical psychiatry at Weill Cornell Medical College, those with the FAAH gene variant experience happiness decreasing while they smoke cannabis. His position is that when there is more anandamide naturally, there is less need for cannabis.
Dr. Friedman, an expert in neurobiology and the treatment of mood and anxiety disorders, has also found that cannabis can be harmful to those suffering from anxiety. “Psychotropic drugs, therapies and relaxation techniques are not for everyone, so what’s wrong with using cannabis to relieve anxiety? The problem is that cannabis overwhelms the brain’s cannabinoid system, and there is evidence that chronic use may not only relieve anxiety, but interfere with learning and memory.”, he notes in a New York Times article.
Anandamide is a relatively new discovery and there is still much to learn about how it affects the brain and mood in both healthy people and those with mental or brain disorders. But there is certainly no harm in exercising, being in the “zone” and eating a little chocolate.
This article was translated from the original by hemp partner Juuso.
The original article can be found here: http://reset.me/story/anandamide-putting-the-bliss-molecule-to-work-for-your-brain/