Not to be confused with the tiny green pea that many enjoy at dinner time, this PEA is short for palmitoylethanolamide. PEA is a naturally occurring fatty acid derivative made in your body, found in small amounts in certain foods, and is now available as a dietary supplement. PEA has many names, and may also be referred to as palmitate monoethanolamide or palmitic acid monoethanolamide.
The History of PEA
Although you may have never heard of PEA, it was first discovered over 60 years ago. As early as the 1940s, scientists found that supplementing children’s diets with powdered egg yolk promoted a healthy immune response. Further research led to the discovery that egg yolks contained a special compound, PEA, which provided those immune health benefits. PEA has now also been found in peanuts and soy.
PEA is also made naturally by many cells in the body. Both animals and humans make PEA as part of a healthy immune response.
PEA and the Cannabinoid Family
PEA is considered part of the cannabinoid family. It does not come from cannabis (marijuana or hemp), but it works in a very similar way to cannabidiol (CBD). You’ve probably heard of CBD, one of the main compounds in cannabis that has risen in popularity in recent years. Now, CBD is readily available in many forms – topical creams, lotions, gummies, dietary supplements, and more. Unlike its chemical cousin, tetrahydrocannabinol (THC), CBD does not make you feel high. CBD products are touted for many potential health benefits, and individuals take them for a multitude of reasons.
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 or 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 endocannabinoid system is responsible for maintaining homeostasis (balance) within your body. In other words, when something in your environment creates a reaction in your body, the endocannabinoid system helps to regulate your response and helps the body return to baseline,.
There is a lot yet to learn about the endocannabinoid system, but as the body of research grows, so does the understanding of how cannabinoids work in the body. Both PEA and CBD target various receptors in the ECS and can work together to support healthy endocannabinoid signaling. This phenomenon is often known as the “entourage effect.” So, taking PEA along with CBD may provide more benefits than taking them separately.
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.