Palmitoylethanolamide (PEA)

Palmitoylethanolamide (PEA) is a glial cell modulator. The body naturally produces PEA in small amounts. Glial cells are cells found within the central nervous system that control the release of inflammatory mediators acting on neurons and thus amplifying pain. (Watkins and Maier 2002).  Regular use of PEA over time dampens the release of inflammatory mediators and decreases pain. PEA has been found to be useful in the treatment of a number of pain scenarios including:

  • chronic pain
  • neuropathic pain
  • headaches
  • peripheral neuropathy
  • osteoarthritis
  • carpel tunnel syndrome
  • sciatic pain
  • back pain
  • dental pain
  • multiple sclerosis
  • vaginal pain

PEA’s anti-inflammatory actions allow for a reduction of peripheral and central sensitisation. This occurs through both neuronal and non-neuronal cells like glia, peripheral mast cells and central mast cells. This may also explain the broad potential for the range of conditions PEA can be used to treat.

PEA is a food supplement which has a molecular composition similar to natural fatty acids such as those found in eggs and milk. This is thought to be the reason why it is generally very well tolerated. There are no side effects or long term negative effects associated with PEA. It can also be taken with other medications with few interactions. (Hesselink and Hekker 2012)

Dosing protocol usually is to start low and titrate dosage according to response and the maximum dose tolerated.

Take one capsule daily at 8 pm for days 1-3, then take one capsule twice a day (8am and 8pm)  for days 4-6, then increase to 3 capsules daily ( 1 at 8am and 2 at 8pm) for days 7-9, then again increase to four capsules daily (2 at 8am and 2 at 8pm) days 10-12.

Note: can be taken with or after food, or sprinkle the contents of the capsule on your food.

In severe pain i.e. migraines it is recommended that the capsule can be opened and the contents of PEA placed under the tongue for a few minutes. PEA under the tongue is absorbed sublingually and this can improve absorption and decrease the duration of onset. If no improvement dosage can be doubled up to 16 capsules (100mg/kg bodyweight/day) have been proven to be safe in adults.