Feel Bliss: 15 Easy Ways to Boost your Anandamide

In ancient Sanskrit, the word Ananda stands for ‘joy’, ‘bliss’ or ‘delight’. And anandamide, an important endogenous cannabinoid, is better known as ‘the joy molecule’.  It interacts with your endocannabinoid system to make you feel joyful, happy and uplifted.

Why? Because anandamide is the body’s own antidepressant. It’s synthesised in areas of the brain that are associated with your well-being. These include memory, motivation and movement control. 

Anandamide activates cannabinoid receptors in your brain cells. These receptors can boost your mental health, increase your motivation and reduce chronic stress. In other words – increasing your anandamide levels can lead you to bliss.

This miracle-molecule can help your brain ‘detox’ from bad memories and irrelevant information. This is stored in the area of the brain known as the hippocampus.

Anandamide also helps reduce pain and inflammation while boosting the immune system. There is even evidence that anandamide can help slow down the effects of Alzheimer’s disease. This is because it increases the formation of new brain cells. Anandamide is even credited with slowing down breast cancer cell proliferation. (The rate at which a cancer cell copies its DNA and divides into two cells.)

If something is so good for you, you’d want to get more of it. Right?

First things first. Your brain already produces a certain amount of anandamide naturally. Having said that, there are plenty of ways you can boost anandamide and stimulate cannabinoid receptors in your brain and your endocannabinoid system in general. So what can you do to produce more of ‘the joy molecule’ in your brain? What foods should you eat that contains anandamide? What exercise can you do to boost your intake? What supplements should you add to your diet?

Myths aside, here are fifteen proven ways how to boost anandamide in your brain.

1. Eat more dark chocolate and Cacao (yes, more!)

You may be thinking – oh, joy, now I have full license to munch on that chocolate bar I felt so guilty buying. Erm, not quite… If it was milk, white, or the gooey type with caramel or cream filling then that’s not what I mean. Cacao, the main ingredient in chocolate prevents the breakdown of anandamide in the body. Cacao stimulates the endocannabinoid system’s receptors in the brain. This causes compounds like anandamide to stick around for longer. But you should only consume the dark, bitter type of chocolate or – better still – raw chocolate, Cacao. Subtract all the sugar and essences that get thrown into the mix and there you have it – rich, bitter and healthy. In other words, any dark chocolate with a cacao content of 70% or above is good for you. Alternatively, try having more hot chocolate. (But if you have it every day, then substitute hot water for milk to keep the calorie and fat intake down).

2. Get familiar with fatty acids

Omega-3 (ω-3) and omega-6 (ω-6) both belong to a group known as the polyunsaturated fatty acids (PUFAs). Evidence suggests that anandamide levels increase with omega-6 consumption. Omega-3 and omega-6 are unsaturated fatty acids which your body can’t produce by itself. It needs a little boost from you to maintain a healthy level of these acids. You can find omega-6 and omega-3 in nuts, seeds, fish and olive oil. Fish oil is also an accessible and popular supplement to take. To boost your omega-6 intake in particular, eat more poultry, eggs, hemp and whole grains. You can also try switching the oil you normally use for cooking. Instead, try canola, safflower, soybean, sunflower, walnut or corn oil.

3. Kaempferol: up your fruit and veg intake

Kaempferol, a type of flavonoid, inhibits the production of a certain enzyme called fatty acid amide hydrolase (FAAH). This enzyme breaks down anandamide and prevents it from interacting with your endocannabinoid system. So if you consume more foods that contain kaempferol, this flavanoid will slow down the rate at which anandamide breaks down in your body. Consequently, you will be able to feel the effects of anandamide for longer. And you can have your pick – plenty of fruit and veggies are rich in kaempferol. Try adding some apples, blackberries, grapes, peaches or raspberries to your diet. If you’re a fan of greens, you’ll love these – broccoli, green beans, lettuce, cucumbers and spinach. Potatoes, squash, onions and tomatoes are good for you, too. Wash it all down with a cup of green tea, another source of kaempferol.

4. Take probiotics for a healthy gut

A healthy gut is essential for the healthy functioning of the endocannabinoid system. The best way to boost your gut health is by improving your intake of probiotics. What are probiotics exactly? They are the so-called ‘good bacteria’ that live in your gut and stimulate digestion. There are many easy ways for how you can boost your probiotic intake. Try eating half-a-bowl of organic yoghurt daily. (But watch the label – make sure it says ‘contains live bacteria’). You can also drink a glass of kefir each day. Or add fermented foods, such as kimchi or sauerkraut to your daily diet. Make sure that the sauerkraut is organic and unpasteurised though.

5. Consume more Diindolylmethane

Remember when your mama said to eat up your greens? Well, she was right. Diindolylmethane (DIM) is a compound which is found in many varieties of greens. Among its many health benefits, DIM reduces inflammation and helps counter the development of cancer cells. It can also boost your anandamide levels by stimulating the cannabinoid receptors within your endocannabinoid system. And the good news is – it’s easy enough to find it in a variety of vegetables. Brussels sprouts may not be to everyone’s taste. The good news is, DIM can also be found in broccoli, cauliflower, kale and cabbage.

6. Sprinkle some black pepper on your next meal

Time to throw another scientific term into the mix. Are you ready? Here it is. Guineensine. This is a type of alkaloid, isolated from two types of pepper – Long Pepper and the cook’s old favourite Black Pepper. Guineensine can slow down the cellular reuptake of anandamide. This prolongs its beneficial effects on the brain and the rest of the body. And piperine, a compound found in Black Pepper, stimulates the synthesis and the release of anandamide. 

7. Treat yourself to some black truffles

Now, this may be a little pricey for the monthly budget, but if you can spare the cash, get your hands on some black truffles. These babies contain copious amounts of anandamide. And you don’t need to use very much to reap the positive rewards. But what on earth is the ‘bliss molecule’ doing hiding in this fungi, buried under layers of soil? Scientists believe that the reason may be evolutionary. This fungus has evolved to discharge a euphoric smell. This smell entices animals to dig the black truffles up from the ground and eat them. The animals then help the fungi to procreate – as the animals excrete, they spread its spores further.

8. Get that runner’s high

It’s a no-brainer but how many of us do it? As well as helping to maintain healthy body weight, exercise is one of the best ways to boost your mood. But it’s only recently that scientists have been getting to grips with the biomechanics of exercise. According to a recent study “exercise of moderate-intensity dramatically increased concentrations of anandamide in blood plasma”. Even if you can only spare 30 minutes every other day to go for a jog, make sure you do it. You’ll soon feel that runner’s high that will keep you hooked and coming back for more.

9. Start your morning with a cold shower

Research into the endocannabinoid system and receptors is very much an emerging field. Therefore, some evidence related to anandamide is not yet 100% clear. We don’t yet know whether cold exposure can increase the levels of anandamide. What we do know is that exposing your body to cold temperatures stimulates the endocannabinoid system. Health benefits of cold exposure are wide and varied. The process stimulates the body’s internal heat mechanisms. This reduces inflammation and edema, burns fat, boosts the immune system and reduces stress. It’s good for the body and good for your mental health. So while the researchers try to figure out the link between cold exposure and increase in anandamide, you can start using the benefits right now. Turn the tap to cold at the end of your shower routine (anywhere from 30 seconds to 2 minutes). Your central nervous system will thank you.

10. Take Echinacea 

The herb echinacea has long been known for its healing qualities. But only recently science has been catching up explaining the effects of echinacea. Recent research suggests that echinacea can enhance the immune system because the roots of the plant contain alkamides. These are structurally similar to anandamide and bind CB2 cannabinoid receptors. Echinacea doesn’t increase the levels of anandamide in the brain. But its effects can feel similar to anandamide. Echinacea is especially effective when it comes to relieving fatigue, anxiety disorders, migraines and arthritis.

11. CBD oil – yay or nay?

There has been a lot of controversy around the question ‘does CBD increase anandamide’? CBD oil is extracted from the marijuana plant. As opposed to THC, it does not have any psychoactive or hallucinogenic qualities. CBD However, it does interact with the cannabinoid receptors. Similarly to cacao, CBD oil inhibits the process of breaking down anandamide; allowing its blissful effects to linger for longer.

12. Try Magnolia Officinalis extract

Used in Asian traditional medicine for centuries, Magnolia Officinalis is also known as magnolia bark. It has been used to treat various conditions, including anxiety, allergies and sleeping disorders. The bioactive compounds found in magnolia bark stimulate the endocannabinoid receptors. In short, they’re telling the brain to chillax. Magnolia bark is particularly effective if you’re suffering from anxiety or having trouble sleeping.

13. Visit the osteopath

You may wonder what an osteopath has to do with increasing levels of anandamide in your brain. But one study has come to an astonishing conclusion. According to research, osteopathic manipulative treatment can boost the levels of anandamide by an astonishing 168%. So it’s well worth the trip.

14. Meet Palmitoylethanolamide, the Fatty Acid Amide

Palmitoylethanolamide (PEA), a type of fatty acid amide cannot be considered a classic endocannabinoid. However, early research suggests that PEA stimulates the cannabinoid receptors and anandamide activity. Its effects are anti‐inflammatory and analgesic. So if you suffer from chronic inflammation, it’s a good idea to look at increasing your PEA intake, either through supplements or diet. (Always seek medical advice from your doctor first.)

15. Have more social contact (Even via the Web)

There is a clear link between social contact and the activation of the endocannabinoid system. Social contact leads to the production of anandamide. A recent experiment, conducted at the University of California, Irvine revealed some interesting results. When people socialise, a brain structure called ‘nucleus accumbens’ triggers certain brain receptors in the endocannabinoid system. This produces more anandamide. The ‘bliss molecule’ acts as a reinforcement for more socialising. Why? Because socialising has obvious evolutionary benefits. Working together and taking care of each other helps a tribe to survive. It may also explain why social media, especially Facebook and What’sApp has taken the world by a storm. If you want a quick shot of anandamide right now, all you need to do is pick up your phone and message a friend. (But don’t spend too much time messaging, or you’ll have to pay a visit to that osteopath.)