Anandamide (the human version of plant THC) is a fatty acid neurotransmitter. It was first discovered in humans in 1992. It is created to engage the endocannabinoid system and acts like an endorphin capable of relieving pain. It is present in mother’s breast milk and is thought to trigger an infant’s hunger hormones, their desire to nurse and their intense drive to engorge themselves with life-sustaining milk. Anyone who has watched a hungry infant anxiously attach to their mother’s breast and devour her milk and then, when satisfied, falls blissfully asleep into la la land is witnessing the effect of anandamide. Anandamide and THC come from the same family of chemicals, dock on the same CB1 cell receptor and engage similar biological processes. The fact that anandamide is a natural endorphin created in a mother’s body and transmitted to her infant makes enforcement of marijuana laws problematic. I don’t think the government will be arresting mothers and their infants for possessing a Class 1 controlled substance!

Anandamide is also thought to be responsible for the runner’s high experienced by athletes who get in the zone and push themselves to higher and higher levels of performance. Interestingly, it is also a chemical that helps us forget. That might sound like a bad thing for memory but it is actually very beneficial. Anandamide helps get rid of all of the clutter, allowing us to remember only the important things. The eyes, ears, nose and skin are bombarded by sensory input which would overwhelm our brains if we were forced to pay attention to each individual sensation. We would all be unfocused and overloaded with sensory input. This human produced chemical helps our brain filter out and erase specific inputs like all the faces in a crowded airport. We remember only the ones our brain deems important. This is a reason THC can be effective in treating certain psychological disorders, such as Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD), where patients struggle to overcome the negative memories surrounding a traumatic event.

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