Background and purpose:
Palmitoylethanolamide (PEA), a naturally occurring acylethanolamide chemically related to the endocannabinoid anandamide, interacts with targets that have been identified in peripheral nerves controlling gastrointestinal motility, such as cannabinoid CB1 and CB2 receptors, TRPV1 channels and PPARα. Here, we investigated the effect of PEA in a mouse model of functional accelerated transit which persists after the resolution of colonic inflammation (post-inflammatory irritable bowel syndrome).

Experimental approach:

Intestinal inflammation was induced by intracolonic administration of oil of mustard (OM). Mice were tested for motility and biochemical and molecular biology changes 4 weeks later. PEA, oleoylethanolamide and endocannabinoid levels were measured by liquid chromatography-mass spectrometry and receptor and enzyme mRNA expression by qRT-PCR.

Key results:

OM induced transient colitis and a functional post-inflammatory increase in upper gastrointestinal transit, associated with increased intestinal anandamide (but not 2-arachidonoylglycerol, PEA or oleoylethanolamide) levels and down-regulation of mRNA for TRPV1 channels. Exogenous PEA inhibited the OM-induced increase in transit and tended to increase anandamide levels. Palmitic acid had a weaker effect on transit. Inhibition of transit by PEA was blocked by rimonabant (CB1 receptor antagonist), further increased by 5′-iodoresiniferatoxin (TRPV1 antagonist) and not significantly modified by the PPARα antagonist GW6471.

Conclusions and implications:

Intestinal endocannabinoids and TRPV1 channel were dysregulated in a functional model of accelerated transit exhibiting aspects of post-inflammatory irritable bowel syndrome. PEA counteracted the accelerated transit, the effect being mediated by CB1 receptors (possibly via increased anandamide levels) and modulated by TRPV1 channels.

Palmitoylethanolamide is especially in Italy and the USA at the moment hot for the treatment of glaucoma. We prefer treatment either with the Italian PEA tablets, based on PEA-um or PEA-m, or by administrating the Dutch PEA capsules containing PEA-opt. Dutch capsules do not contain any chemical excipients and are 100% pure in vegetarian capsules.

Only for these the Dutch and the Italian formulations long term safety and efficacy data gathered under the supervision of MDs are available. And only for these formulations (PEA-um, PEA-m and PEA-opt) there are currently data available proving that after intake PEA levels in the body significantly rise. Such data do not exist for me-too PEA formulations.


Palmitoylethanolamide normalizes intestinal motility in a model of post-inflammatory accelerated transit: involvement of CB₁ receptors and TRPV1 channels.
Capasso R, Orlando P, Pagano E, Aveta T, Buono L, Borrelli F, Di Marzo V, Izzo AA.
Br J Pharmacol. 2014 Sep;171(17):4026-37. doi: 10.1111/bph.12759.