Understanding Palmitoylethanolamide (PEA)

Understanding Palmitoylethanolamide (PEA)

Palmitoylethanolamide (PEA) is basically a chemical obtained from fats. It is a fatty acid molecule formed in the body naturally. It is found in foods such as peanuts and egg yolks. It is also obtained from other protein-rich foods like meat and soya bean. [2] [3]

PEA is commonly used as a medicine for the management of diseases that cause pain and discomfort in the muscles, joints, bones, ligaments, and tendons. Research studies have revealed that PEA would act as an anti-inflammatory and provide relief from pain. [4] [5]

The use of supplements containing Palmitoylethanolamide is recommended for the management of conditions that cause pain and discomfort such as neuropathic pain, multiple sclerosis (MS), fibromyalgia, carpal tunnel syndrome, and infections of the airway. 


What are the Best Sources of PEA? 

PEA was first discovered nearly 60 years ago. During the 1940s, scientists found that children who consumed a diet containing powdered egg yolk had a healthier immune response. They also had a lower risk of developing rheumatic fever. 

Further research led to the discovery of these benefits of egg yolks being associated with a special compound, PEA, present in them. The presence of PEA was later detected in the food sources like peanuts and soy. 

Besides these foods, PEA is formed in our body by some cells as a part of the healthy immune response. It has been found to regulate the functions of the immune system thereby preventing an exaggerated response that could otherwise trigger inflammation and cause pain. [6]

These protective benefits of PEA would support a healthy immune response and control inflammation in the body thereby providing relief from the symptoms of painful conditions.

PEA and the Cannabinoid Family

PEA is considered a part of the cannabinoid family, though it is not derived from cannabis. However, the action of PEA is very similar to that of CBD (cannabidiol). CBD is one of the main compounds in cannabis that has shown promise in the management of pain.

Unlike its chemical cousin tetrahydrocannabinol (THC), CBD does not produce any psychogenic effect, making it a safer choice for patients who want to use cannabinoids for relieving pain and discomfort. 

PEA is revered for its ability to produce an analgesic effect that is similar to CBD and help patients overcome pain and discomfort associated with a number of musculoskeletal disorders. 

What makes PEA a safer choice is this compound can relieve pain without creating a sense of ‘high’ associated with THC or the other recreational drugs containing cannabis. 

Both PEA and CBD are touted for their potential health benefits and their ability to modulate the inflammatory response of the immune system. 

This is why; PEA is classified as an endocannabinoid because, unlike CBD, it is produced naturally in the body. It is this cannabinoid-like effect of PEA to which the ability of this compound to provide relief from musculoskeletal conditions could be attributed. [7

How does PEA work?

PEA acts as a glial cell modulator.  The glial cells are the cells of the central nervous system that release pro-inflammatory substances. These pro-inflammatory substances act upon neurons, thus amplifying pain. 

Patients who suffer from chronic painful conditions often have a low PEA level as a result of the body's attempt to constantly dampen the overactive response of the immune system.  

Supplementing with PEA could help to modulate the activities of the glial cells. This would reduce the secretion and release of pro-inflammatory substances, thereby relieving pain. 


How does Palmitoylethanolamide affect your body and why you should take it? 

  • PEA, together with the other endocannabinoids produced in the body and the cannabinoid receptors, form the Human Endocannabinoid System (ECS) that helps to regulate the body's response to any form of injury or inflammation. 

  • PEA can target the receptors in the ECS and support the endocannabinoid signaling thereby reducing inflammation in the joints, muscles, and other tissues. This action of PEA would provide significant relief from pain and discomfort in the musculoskeletal tissues. 
  • Research studies have shown that the use of Palmitoylethanolamide could reduce pain in the joints caused due to chronic conditions such as osteoarthritis, low back pain, cervical spondylitis, and lumbar spondylitis. [8]
  • The symptoms of muscle control disorders that are marked by the involuntary movements and tightness or spasticity of the muscles could be relieved significantly by using PEA. [9]
  • Research shows that Palmitoylethanolamide may also improve sleep quality in patients with spinal cord injuries or other painful musculoskeletal conditions. [10]
  • PEA would perform a broad range of biological functions linked to neuropathic and chronic inflammation in the muscles and joints. This action of PEA would provide relief from musculoskeletal conditions such as:
    • Chemotherapy-induced peripheral neuropathy 
    • Carpal tunnel syndrome 
    • Diabetic neuropathy 
    • Fibromyalgia 
    • Dental pain 
    • Migraines
    • Low back pain 
    • Neuropathic pain in patients with  multiple sclerosis and stroke
    • Sciatica
    • Osteoarthritis
    • Trigeminal neuralgia
    • Shingles


[2]J. M. Keppel Hesselink,1 Tineke de Boer,2 and Renger F. Witkamp, Palmitoylethanolamide: A Natural Body-Own Anti-Inflammatory Agent, Effective and Safe against Influenza and Common Cold, 2013 August, Article ID 151028 


[3]Maria Beatrice Passavanti, Aniello Alfieri, Maria Caterina Pace, Vincenzo Pota, Pasquale Sansone, Giacomo Piccinno, Manlio Barbarisi, Caterina Aurilio & Marco Fior, Clinical applications of palmitoylethanolamide in pain management: protocol for a scoping review, 2019 January, Article number: 9 

[4]Tai-Kyung Seol, Wonho Lee, Sunah Park, Kyu Nam Kim, Tae Yeon Kim, You Na Oh, and Jong Hun Jun, Effect of palmitoylethanolamide on inflammatory and neuropathic pain in rats, 2017 July, PMCID: PMC5645590, PMID: 29046777, doi: 10.4097/kjae.2017.70.5.561

[5]Ida Marini  1 , Maria Lavinia Bartolucci, Francesco Bortolotti, Maria Rosaria Gatto, Giulio Alessandri Bonetti, Palmitoylethanolamide versus a nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drug in the treatment of temporomandibular joint inflammatory pain, Spring 2012;26(2):99-104, PMID: 22558609

[6]Jan M.Keppel Hesselinka, David J.Kopskyb, Renger F.Witkamp, Palmitoylethanolamide (PEA)—‘Promiscuous’ anti-inflammatory and analgesic molecule at the interface between nutrition and pharma, 2014 January, Pages 19-25, 

[7]Mellar P Davis  1 , Bertrand Behm  1 , Zankhana Mehta  1 , Carlos Fernandez, The Potential Benefits of Palmitoylethanolamide in Palliation: A Qualitative Systematic Review, 2019 December, PMID: 31113223, DOI: 10.1177/1049909119850807

[8]Daniela Impellizzeri, Emanuela Esposito, Rosanna Di Paola, Akbar Ahmad, Michela Campolo, Angelo Peli, Valeria Maria Morittu, Domenico Britti, Salvatore Cuzzocrea, Palmitoylethanolamide and luteolin ameliorate development of arthritis caused by injection of collagen type II in mice, 2013, PMID: 24246048, PMCID: PMC3978572, DOI: 10.1186/ar4382

[9]Sven R Andresen  1 , Jette Bing  2 , Rikke M Hansen  1 , Fin Biering-Sørensen  2 , Inger L Johannesen  1 , Ellen Merete Hagen  1   3   4 , Andrew S C Rice  5 , Jørgen F Nielsen  6 , Flemming W Bach  7 , Nanna B Finnerup, Ultramicronized palmitoylethanolamide in spinal cord injury neuropathic pain: a randomized, double-blind, placebo-controlled trial, 2016 September, 157(9):2097-2103, PMID: 27227691, DOI: 10.1097/j.pain.0000000000000623

[10]Paul Clayton,1,* Mariko Hill,2 Nathasha Bogoda,2 Silma Subah,2 and Ruchitha Venkatesh, Palmitoylethanolamide: A Natural Compound for Health Management, 2021 May, doi: 10.3390/ijms22105305, PMCID: PMC8157570, PMID: 34069940

Back to Main Page

Leave a comment

Please note, comments need to be approved before they are published.