Anandamide: A Neurotransmitter That Influences Happiness

· September 19, 2018

Anandamide is a compound our body produces. Interestingly, this substance has properties that are very similar to THC, which is the active substance in marijuana. Therefore, many say that this neurotransmitter is a “natural marijuana” that the human body produces.

Anandamide exerts an effect similar to that of marijuana. It’s very relaxing and calms and regulates the cardiovascular system. It also generates feelings of happiness. In fact, its name comes from the word “ananda”, which means “bearer of peace and inner happiness” in Sanskrit. It’s present in the human brain and chocolate.

Scientists discovered this substance in 1992. They defined it as a weak molecule with short-term effects on the body. In addition to its sedative effects, it also improves the functioning of the respiratory system and influences our cognitive functions.

“Happiness often sneaks in through a door that you didn’t know you left open.”

-John Barrymore-


How anandamide works

The brain synthesizes anandamide. It works in the same areas that are associated with memory, higher cognitive processes, motivation, and movement control. Scientists have discovered that it’s able to decrease the sensation of pain. In addition, it intervenes in the regulation of appetite and feelings of reward and pleasure.

Researchers conducted a study with mice in 2017. The scientists injected mice with a dose of anandamide. Their behavior changed after this. When faced with cognitive problems, they were more interested in finding a solution and more skilled in doing so.

Some people think that science hasn’t yet been able to identify all of this neurotransmitter’s properties and effects. Some have suggested that it could be a good therapeutic aid for psychoactive addicts. However, there’s not enough evidence to back this up.

A girl feeling happy.

Effects of anandamide

The effects of anandamide are short-term and very intense. Therefore, it positively influences different parts of our brain and body. Its main effects are:

  • HomeostaticAnandamide boosts the body’s regenerative properties and it keeps the nervous system in balance.
  • Analgesic. Similar to marijuana and all cannabinoids, it has powerful pain-relieving effects.
  • Neuroprotector. It helps regulate the nervous system’s excitation process, which generates protective effects.
  • Appetite regulator. Studies have proven that anandamide regulates the appetite and satiety cycles while also altering the sensation of hunger.
  • Antiemetic. This means that it helps inhibit vomiting. It acts along with serotonin to do this.
  • Regulates sexual desire. Studies indicate that small amounts of anandamide stimulate sexual desire. In turn, high amounts of it decrease sexual desire.
  • Plays a role in pregnancy. It’s known that this substance intervenes in embryo implantation in the uterus.
  • Natural motivator. Improves decision-making and increases self-confidence.
  • Cognitive functions. Anandamide helps form new neuronal connections. This boosts the thought, learning, and memory processes.
  • Relaxation and well-being. It makes you feel at peace, relaxed, and happy.
  • Anticarcinogenic. This effect hasn’t been proven yet. Everything seems to indicate that it inhibits the growth of cancer cells, especially in melanomas.
A cup of hot chocolate increases anandamide.

How to increase anandamide levels

The simplest way to increase anandamide levels is by eating dark chocolate. This food contains a significant amount of theobromine.

Scientists assume that this substance stimulates the production of this neurotransmitter in the brain. Dark chocolate contains a lot of theobromine. In addition, the effects are even greater if you chew cocoa husks.

On the other hand, in 2015, a team of German researchers conducted a study related to this subject. In this study, they discovered that exercise facilitates the production of anandamide. Therefore, they concluded that this neurotransmitter is the one responsible for producing a sense of happiness after physical activities, not endorphins.

In addition, black truffles also contain natural anandamide. Likewise, scientists have agreed that meditating contributes to the natural production of various substances such as anandamide, serotonin, dopamine, and endorphins.