Gencor partners with CBD researcher to study palmitoylethanolamide as CBD alternative


Palmitoylethanolamide (PEA), a naturally occurring fatty acid amide, stimulates the endocannabinoid system to support inflammation, and provide neuroprotection. 


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Gencor (Irvine, CA) recently announced that it is partnering with Daniele Piomelli, PhD, a renowned cannabis researcher who is director of the Center for the Study of Cannabis at the University of California, Irvine, and editor-in-chief for the peer-reviewed journal Cannabis and Cannabinoid Research. This partnership is not for the research and development of a new CBD product, but rather to study palmitoylethanolamide (PEA), a naturally occurring fatty acid amide, that Gencor is positioning as an alternative to CBD.

CBD has become popular because of its anti-inflammatory properties through the stimulation of the endocannabinoid system. PEA, said Piomelli, has similar properties to CBD, but is produced by the human body, unlike CBD. “PEA is a lipid amide that acts as an endogenous agonist of a nuclear receptor called PPAR-alpha. Activating this receptor, PEA exerts potent analgesic and anti-inflammatory effects and can enhance the analgesic effects of endocannabinoid substances such as anandamide (AEA),” he explained to Nutritional Outlook. “AEA is endocannabinoid associated with regulating pain. CBD appears to inhibit the enzyme Fatty Acid Amide Hydrolase (FAAH), which breaks down AEA. What makes PEA unique is its structural similarities to AEA. With PEA, studies have shown it may co-enhance the effects of AEA as well as inhibit FAAH.”

According to Piomelli, there are currently 21 clinical studies demonstrating the ingredient’s efficacy. In a double-blind, placebo-controlled study recently published in Inflammopharmacology1, 111 participants with mild to moderate osteoarthritis were given either 300 mg of PEA, 600 mg of PEA, or placebo each day for eight weeks. Results showed that participants taking both doses of PEA saw significant reductions in their scores on the Western Ontario and McMaster Universities Osteoarthritis Index (WOMAC) for pain and stiffness, compared to placebo. Subjects taking 600 mg of PEA saw a significant reduction in WOMAC function scores. In Numeric Rating Scales for pain, both PEA groups saw a significant reduction in evaluations for “worst pain” and “least pain” compared to placebo, and based on the Depression Anxiety Stress Scale (DASS), both PEA groups also saw significant reductions in anxiety, compared to placebo.

In addition to anti-inflammatory properties, PEA and CBD also share a number of centrally-mediated effects such as neuroprotection and the attenuation of seizure activity, said Piomelli. This is also demonstrated in the study with the decrease in anxiety among participants. While PEA does not share the same kind of buzz that CBD has gotten, its functional similarities may be attractive to finished product manufacturers who are wary of CBD’s current regulatory status.


1. Steels E et al. “A double-blind randomized placebo controlled study assessing safety, tolerability and efficacy of palmitoylethanolamide for symptoms of knee osteoarthritis.” Inflammopharmacology, vol. 27, no. 3 (2019): 475-485

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