How CBD Boosts Your Body’s Natural Anti-Depressant

Amir Zendehnam

Dec 19, 2019 · 4 min read


Did you know? Research shows CBD can help boost your anandamide aka

“The Bliss Molecule” or “Nature’s Anti-Depressant.”

How CBD fights depression

Ever heard of the runner’s high? You’ve probably heard this comes from a release of endorphins, which have effects like morphine. But there is a new emerging hypothesis where your endocannabinoid anandamide releases inside your body, giving you that “high” feeling.

Anandamide, also known as N-arachidonoylethanolamine or AEA, has effects that can occur in either the central or peripheral nervous system.

How does CBD work inside of your body? First, it has to pass through the cell membrane by hitching a ride with a FABP [fatty acid binding protein], which guides various lipid molecules into the cell’s interior. These intracellular transport molecules also transport the brain’s own naturally occurring cannabinoids, the endocannabinoids N-Arachidonoylethanolamine, or anandamide and 2-Arachidonoylglycerol or 2AG, across the membrane to several targets within the cell. CBD modulates receptors on the surface of the nucleus, which regulate gene expression and mitochondrial activity.

With a strong affinity for three kinds of FABPs, CBD competes with our endocannabinoids, which are fatty acids, for the same transport molecules. Once it is inside the cell, anandamide is broken down by FAAH [fatty acid amide hydrolase], which is a metabolic enzyme, as part of its natural molecular life cycle. But CBD interferes with this process by reducing anandamide’s access to FABP transport molecules and delaying endocannabinoid passage into the cell’s interior.

CBD has been shown to function as an anandamide reuptake and breakdown inhibitor, thereby raising endocannabinoid levels in the brain’s synapses. Enhancing endocannabinoid tone via reuptake inhibition may be a key mechanism whereby CBD confers neuroprotective effects against seizures, as well as many other health benefits [1].

Cannabinoids like THC have distinct effects that are mediated primarily by CB1 receptors in the central nervous system, and CB2 receptors in the periphery. And while CBD has very low binding affinity with your CB1 and CB2 receptors, it still leads to elevated anandamide levels. As mentioned above, anandamide has effects that can occur in either the peripheral or central nervous system.


Anandamide is a high-affinity, partial agonist of CB1, and almost inactive at CB2. But 2-AG, another endocannabinoid, acts as a full agonist at both cannabinoid receptors with moderate-to-low affinity. Both anandamide and 2-AG have been reported to interact with various receptors [2].

How does this all happen? Endocannabinoids like Anandamide are substances produced from within the body that activate cannabinoid receptors.

The main components of the endocannabinoid system

The three key components of the endocannabinoid system:

  • Cannabinoid receptors: found on the surface of cells. Ex: CB1, CB2
  • Endocannabinoids: small molecules that activate cannabinoid receptors. Ex: Anandamide, 2-AG
  • Metabolic enzymes: These break down endocannabinoids after they are used. Ex: Fatty acid amide hydrolase (FAAH), monoacylglycerol lipase (MAGI) 
CBD on the other hand is a phytocannabinoid, meaning a plant-based cannabinoid. Research shows one of the mechanisms for why CBD works so well inside the body is because it can help boost your Anandamide levels. This can give you an elongated sense of happiness, working as a natural anti-depressant [3].
Low endocannabinoid levels can lead to endocannabinoid deficiency disorder, which means adding phytocannabinoids like CBD into your lifestyle may help with a handful of health conditions [4].

Fun fact about anandamide and chocolate: In 1996, a study published in the clinical journal of Nature found that chocolate contains three fatty acid compounds that bind directly to cannabinoid receptors or indirectly act on them through increased anandamide levels by inhibiting the FAAH enzyme. The endocannabinoid anandamide is a brain lipid that binds to cannabinoid receptors with high affinity and mimics the psychoactive effects of plant-derived cannabinoid drugs. This suggests that certain chocolate compounds act on the same receptors as cannabis does [5].