Anandamide was the first such compound identified as arachidonoyl ethanolamine. The name is derived from the Sanskrit word for bliss and -amide. It has a pharmacology similar to THC, although its structure is quite different. Anandamide binds to the central (CB1) and, to a lesser extent, peripheral (CB2) cannabinoid receptors, where it acts as a partial agonist. Anandamide is about as potent as THC at the CB1 receptor.
Anandamide is found in nearly all tissues in a wide range of animals. Anandamide has also been found in plants, including small amounts in chocolate. Two analogs of anandamide, 7,10,13,16-docosatetraenoylethanolamide, and homo-linolenoylethanolamine, have similar pharmacology. All of these compounds are members of a family of signaling lipids called N-acylethanolamines, which also includes the noncannabimimetic palmitoylethanolamide and oleoylethanolamide, which possess anti-inflammatory and anorexigenic effects, respectively. Many N-acylethanolamines have also been identified in plant seeds and in mollusks.