Dr Sarah Brewer July 23, 2019

If you think CBD could be used to support your health, but can't take it due to potential interactions with other medicines or because even the trace amounts of THC present in CBD could cause a problem with your job, PEA - the CBD alternative - could be for you.

CBD (cannabidiol) oil is currently one of the most popular supplements in the UK and is increasingly used to support various aspects of wellbeing. Some people are unable to take CBD, however, due to interactions with their prescribed medicines. What's more, for those taking part in elite sports, CBD must be avoided, as it is an extract from the cannabis plant. Until recently, there was no real alternative, but Healthspan has now launched PEA: a supplement offering all the benefits of CBD with none of the above drawbacks.

To check whether or not cannabidiol (CBD) interacts with your medication, see the Drug Interactions Checker at Drugs.com.

What is PEA?

PEA is short for palmitoylethanolamide, a naturally occurring substance made in the body in small amounts. PEA enhances the effects of anandamide, another fatty acid amide that forms part of our endocannabinoid system.1 Anandamide has anti-inflammatory and relaxing effects, and also reduces pain perception, which makes PEA an ideal alternative to CBD.2

The PEA found in supplements is made from palmitic acid, derived from sustainably grown palm trees.

PEA can be produced by every cell in the body as part of the biological response to pain and inflammation. It is produced when you cut yourself, for example, or experience frostbite, burns, infections or allergic reactions, and in chronic inflammatory conditions such as rheumatoid arthritis.

Dr Sarah Brewer

PEA effects


PEA is effective for reducing many different types of chronic and neurological pain, such as neuralgia,3 diabetic neuropathy,4 sciatica,5 carpel tunnel syndrome6 and other trapped nerve conditions. The results from 10 studies showed that people taking PEA had significantly greater relief from acute or chronic pain conditions than those not taking PEA.7

Analysis of 12 studies suggested that PEA produces a progressive reduction in pain intensity, reducing by an average of 1 (on a 0 to 10 pain intensity score) every two weeks. Over 80% of those taking PEA achieved a pain score of 3 or less by day 60 of treatment.8


PEA can reduce pain arising due to osteoarthritis - an inflammatory condition associated with the breakdown and degeneration of joint cartilage. In one study, 111 people with mild to moderate knee osteoarthritis took either 300 mg PEA, 600 mg PEA or placebo every day (in divided doses spread throughout the day) for 8 weeks. Significant improvements in pain and stiffness occurred at both doses compared with placebo, as well as reduced levels of anxiety.9

This was a double-blind, randomised, placebo-controlled study on the safety and efficacy of PEA for the management of mild to moderate osteoarthritis symptoms.


During times of acute stress, the body responds by raising levels of endocannabinoids and related substances such as anandamide and PEA. These naturally damp down anxiety, and also regulate the way traumatic memories are encoded and extinguished. People with higher blood levels of PEA appear to have a higher stress tolerance and are less prone to depression and post-traumatic stress than those with lower levels.10


PEA has a calming effect and helps to induce restful REM sleep through its effects on the sleep regulatory areas of the brain.11 Interestingly, PEA contributes to circadian rhythms and, in some animals, PEA contributes to hibernation.12 PEA helps to improve the quality of slow wave sleep (an alternative name for deep sleep) by reducing inflammation and pain. In people with carpal tunnel syndrome who were experiencing fragmentary sleep, PEA supplements both reduced pain intensity and improved sleep quality, when compared with no treatment; they fell asleep more quickly and experienced longer durations of continuous sleep time.13


PEA is a lipid that is found in skin cells and it is used in veterinary medicine to treat a variety of skin conditions. In a study involving 60 people with eczema characterised by itchy, dry, rough, and scaling skin, adding PEA to topical emollient treatments for 28 days improved skin barrier function, as well as skin hydration by reducing water loss.14

Other information

Getting PEA from your diet

PEA is found in small quantities in some foods, such as soybeans, peanuts and egg yolks.


PEA is typically used in doses of 200mg to 600mg per day.

Perfect partners

PEA is often combined with vitamin C and vitamin D3. Vitamin C is an antioxidant that contributes to normal collagen formation for the normal function of cartilage, while vitamin D3 contributes to the maintenance of normal muscle function and normal bones.


There are no reported serious unwanted effects associated with PEA.

1Ho W-SV et al. (2008). 'Entourage' effects of N-palmitoylethanolamide and N-oleoylethanolamide on vasorelaxation to anandamide occur through TRPV1 receptors. Br J Pharmacol. 155(6): 837–846.
2Jonsson KO et al. (2001). Effects of homologues and analogues of palmitoylethanolamide upon the inactivation of the endocannabinoid anandamide. Br J Pharmacol. 133(8):1263-75.
3Calabro RS, Bramanti P. (2017). Occipital neuralgia responding to palmitoylethanolamide. Headache. 57:E23–E24
4Schifilliti C et al. (2014). Micronized palmitoylethanolamide reduces the symptoms of neuropathic pain in diabetic patients. Pain Res Treat. 8496234
5Dominguez MC et al. (2012). N-palmitoylethanolamide in the treatment of the neuropathic pain associated with lumbosciatica. Pain Manag. 2:119–124
6Conigliaro R et al. (2011). Use of palmitoylethanolamide in the entrapment neuropathy of the median in the wrist. Minerva Med. 102:141–147
7Artukoglu BB et al. (2017). Efficacy of Palmitoylethanolamide for Pain: A Meta-Analysis. Pain Physician. Pain Physician. 20(5):353-362
8Paladini A et al. (2016). Palmitoylethanolamide, a Special Food for Medical Purposes, in the Treatment of Chronic Pain: A Pooled Data Meta-analysis. Pain Physician. 19(2):11-24
9Steels E et al. (2019). A double‑blind randomized placebo controlled study assessing safety, tolerability and efficacy of palmitoylethanolamide for symptoms of knee osteoarthritis. Inflammopharmacology. 27(3):475-485.
10Hauer D et al. (2013). Plasma concentrations of endocannabinoids and related primary fatty acid amides in patients with post-traumatic stress disorder. PLoS One. 7;8(5):e62741
11Murillo-Rodríguez E (2008). The role of the CB1 receptor in the regulation of sleep. Prog Neuropsychopharmacol Biol Psychiatry. 1;32(6):1420-7
12Vaughn LK et al. (2010). Endocannabinoid signalling: has it got rhythm? Br J Pharmacol. 160(3):530-43
13Evangelista M et al. (2018). Ultra-micronized Palmitoylethanolamide Effects on Sleep-wake Rhythm and Neuropathic Pain Phenotypes in Patients with Carpal Tunnel Syndrome: An Open-label, Randomized Controlled Study. CNS Neurol Disord Drug Targets. 17(4):291-298
14Yuan C et al. (2014). N-palmitoylethanolamine and N-acetylethanolamine are effective in asteatotic eczema: results of a randomized, double-blind, controlled study in 60 patients. Clin Interv Aging. 17;9:1163-9

Nothing beats a healthy, balanced diet to provide all the nutrients we need. But when this isn't possible, supplements can help. This article isn't intended to replace medical advice. Please consult your healthcare professional before trying supplements or herbal medicines.



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