Benefits of PEA
Not to be confused with the tiny green pea that many of us enjoy, this PEA is short for palmitoylethanolamide. PEA is a naturally occurring fatty acid derivative made in our body, found in foods, and is now available as a dietary supplement. PEA can also be referred to as palmitate monoethanolamide, palmitic acid monoethanolamide, or simply PEA.
The History of PEA
Although you may have never heard of PEA, it was first discovered more than 60 years ago. As early as the 1940s, scientists found that supplementing the diet of children with powdered egg yolk promoted a healthy immune response and decreased their risk of developing rheumatic fever. Further research lead to the discovery that egg yolks contained this special compound, PEA, which was providing those immune health benefits. PEA has now also been found in peanuts and soy.
Besides being found in certain foods, PEA is made in our body by many of our cells. Both animals and humans make PEA as part of a healthy immune response. PEA is also made in response to inflammation. It helps to protect our immune system from overreacting. The protective benefits of PEA support healthy immune and inflammatory responses in the body.
PEA and the Cannabinoid Family
PEA can be considered part of the cannabinoid family. It does not come from cannabis (marijuana or hemp), but it works in a very similar way to CBD (cannabidiol). You have probably heard of CBD, one of the main compounds in cannabis. It is very popular these days and is available in everything from oils, to creams, to food products. Unlike its chemical cousin THC (tetrahydrocannabinol), CBD does not have psychogenic effects. In other words, CBD does not make you feel high. CBD products are touted for many potential health benefits, including joint, mental, and nerve health, to name a few.
CBD and THC are plant cannabinoids, as they are found in cannabis (a plant). PEA is also a cannabinoid, but it is classified as an endocannabinoid because it is made in the body (‘endo’ means ‘within’). The body does not make CBD and THC.
PEA and its Benefits to Our Endocannabinoid System
PEA, along with other endocannabinoids, and the body’s cannabinoid receptors, are all part of what is called the Human Endocannabinoid System (ECS). The ECS is responsible for maintaining the body’s homeostasis (balance). In other words, when something in our environment creates a reaction in our body, the ECS helps to regulate our response to that reaction and helps the body ‘return to baseline,’ or keep us in balance.
There is a lot yet to learn about the ECS, but as our knowledge grows, so does our understanding of how cannabinoids work in the body. Both PEA and CBD target various receptors in the ECS and can work together to support endocannabinoid signalling. When PEA and CBD work together, there is a boost in their overall therapeutic effect. This is often referred to as the ‘entourage effect.’
Though PEA may be less well-known than CBD, PEA has been thoroughly researched over the years, and the amount of research continues to grow. PEA is involved in various body functions and has been shown in several trials to support joint, nerve, and immune health. It is also a safe choice for those concerned about required drug testing or looking for a non-cannabis option.