Pain that never quite goes away – chronic pain – can ruin your life. It’s hard to enjoy life when everything you do hurts.
Sadly, while the pain-fighting medications offered by conventional doctors may blunt pain for a time, they can cause devastating side effects – mainly intestinal bleeding – that result in something like 100,000 hospitalizations per year and thousands of death.
On top of that, they don’t do much for your pain in the long run. If you depend on NSAIDs to deal with long-term pain, you know what I’m talking about.
But a natural substance that’s been used for decades in Europe may be the answer for many of the estimated 50 million Americans who wake up every day to body parts that ache.1
One of the most attractive aspects of this natural substance is that it’s a chemical that your own body makes – what medical people call an “endogenous” molecule. And the side effects? Just about nil. I’ve been taking this pain solution myself for a couple of weeks and the results have been remarkable.
The compound I’m talking about has the long-winded name palmitoylethanolamide, but everyone just calls it PEA. It was first produced in labs in 1957 when it was found in egg yolks, soy and peanuts.2
PEA has been termed an autacoid – a chemical that is made throughout the body by just about every organ. Beginning in the 1970s, the first tests of the substance demonstrated that it could limit inflammation and might help support immunity against diseases like the common cold and flu.
But researchers soon realized that PEA could be very useful in helping people deal with various kinds of chronic pain that are often hard to cope with.
For example, conditions like sciatica (back pain that often radiates into your legs) and carpal tunnel syndrome (hand pain resulting from inflammation of the nerves in the wrist) are classified as “nerve compression syndromes.”
This means that when nerves in these parts of the body are squeezed (compressed), the pressure sets off inflammation of both the nerve and nerve roots. That leads to immune cells releasing inflammatory signals in the area. And the inflammation eventually leads to a chronic condition in which, researchers say, you suffer “abnormal and enhanced pain sensitivity.”3
Now, studies indicate that PEA produced by the body can help keep this type of inflammation under control and prevent it from getting so intense that the resulting pain never stops. But research shows that among people who suffer continuous discomfort due to conditions like arthritis, back pain and carpal tunnel syndrome, the levels of the body’s own PEA in the painful areas are unusually low.4
Extra PEA For Bodies that Don’t Make Enough
For whatever reason, these people don’t produce enough PEA or it fails to get to the sites where pain is worst. Good news: studies have produced solid evidence that taking PEA can offset this deficiency and relieve inflammation in ways that cut down significantly on pain.
Demonstrating this, Italian researchers have tested how taking PEA affects the immune cells that collect when nerve compression sets off sciatic back pain. They found that initially, when PEA is low, immune cells called mast cells become overactive and cause inflammation around the compressed area. Added to that, in the case of sciatica, groups of microglia (another type of immune cell) become activated in the spinal cord.
But supplemental PEA can work against both of these pain-causing events. It effectively deactivates the mast cells, reduces the harm caused by microglia at the spine, and cuts back on the accumulation of growth factors that harm the nerve tissue.5
In addition to these pain-relieving and inflammation-lowering benefits, Dutch researchers, in reviewing the Italian study as well as other research on PEA, note that PEA is “devoid of addiction potential.”6 And they add that research has never shown side-effects of PEA or harmful interactions with pharmaceuticals.
Along with its uses for these types of pain, research shows other great potential to use PEA in cases of:
- The cold and flu: In reviewing the studies of PEA, researchers in Europe note that six different placebo-controlled double-blind trials in the 1970s indicated it can be used to lower the risk of respiratory infections and fight infections once they start.7
- Diabetic neuropathy: Researchers have found that PEA may help alleviate nerve pain linked to diabetes that does not respond to other pain-relievers.8
- Parkinson’s disease: A study in Europe shows that giving PEA to Parkinson’s patients already being treated with levdopa slows down the progression of the disease and can ease disabilities linked to the condition.9
Considering all this research on the uses for PEA makes me wonder why it hasn’t received more attention. After all, it’s been around since the 1970s!
The reason? As researcher Jon Hesselink at University of Witten/Herdecke in Germany says, nutraceuticals like PEA cannot be “patent-protected so are not a focus for the pharmaceutical industry and therefore less studied, publicized, and recognized.”10
All the same, it’s available on the Internet. I’ve been using a brand called PEA Cure and, as I said, the results so far are impressive. I take it along with my other natural anti-inflammatories – boswellia, silymarin, curcumin, fish oil, and our new find called Jewel Vine (available from Green Valley Natural Solutions, in a product called 5X Joint Relief. However, PEA is not available at this time from Green Valley.) All of these plant-based solutions are completely safe and nontoxic when used as directed (with the exception of the rare person who may be allergic to one or more of them).