Palmitoylethanolamide and the effects on pain (eg. migraine)

There is currently a less known but very promising alternative for pain medication that is often used: palmitoylethanolamide. This substance plays an important role in dealing with pain and inflammation that often go together.

Physical pain often has an important function. It lets us know that something is going wrong in our body, that there is a damage, an overuse, an inflammation or a disease. It forces us to take action to repair the damage. When pain is recurrent and a solution is not at hand, or it takes a long time, painkillers are a way to keep functioning normally. Nowadays, there is a less known, but very promising alternative for regular pain medication that is often used: palmitoylethanolamide.

Painkillers are not all that innocent. In the case of (recurrent) pain complaints that compromise a daily functioning, people, in general, are not very critical about finding a solution; everything that gives relief is welcome. Paracetamol, sometimes in combination with codeine, NSAIDs such as ibuprofen, diclofenac, naproxen tramadol and morphine are painkillers that are often used. Of all American people, 76% has said that they sometimes use a painkiller. Headaches often are an important reason for this, followed by a back pain or a joint pain.

A regular pain medication, however, has substantial side effects. Stomach and intestine mucous membranes can already be affected in short time periods and 50% of the people that use painkillers often experience stomach and intestinal problems. But it can be much worse. In the US, the ‘innocent’ easily available painkillers, such as aspirin, cost the lives of about 20 000 Americans.


Even though the best option should be to find the reason behind the pain and to solve it in a natural way, the fight against pain in the short term is often wanted or necessary for people to be able to function. Regular painkillers are not the only option for (chronic) pain complaints. For a couple  of decades, a research has been done on the bodily substance palmitoylethanolamide. This substance turns out to be the natural painkiller of the body. It plays an important role in relieving pain and inflammation that often come in pair.

Working of Palmidrol

Mast cells are involved in the processes of inflammation reactions. These cells influence the nervous system and the immune system. One of the functions of palmitoylethanolamide is the regulation of the functioning of the mast cells. For example, palmitoylethanolamide has a positive influence on the inflammation reactions in the body that have gotten out of hand. These reactions that have gotten out of hand can be the consequence of several diseases, ranging from neuropathic pain to migraines. palmitoylethanolamide, therefore, has an impressive effect on activated mast cells. It also has a painkilling and anti-inflammatory effect on neuropathic pain. palmitoylethanolamide also stops important inflammation mediators, such as TNF-alpha, IL1 and COX-2.

Palmitoylethanolamide can work as a painkiller for severe back and hernia pain, endometriosis, shingles, pain caused by the compression of nerves, such as carpal tunnel syndrome, prosopalgia and pain caused by diabetes.

The substance is easy to take with other painkillers if necessary, because, so far, there have been no negative side effects found in combination with other substances.

The metabolization of palmitoylethanolamide happens through intracellular enzymes. Adjusting dosages for liver or kidney insufficiency is probably not necessary. (source: stichting iocob; website for the complementary and alternative medicine).

Dosage and availability

The dosage of palmitoylethanolamide is 400 mg capsules three times a day for 2-4 weeks. After that, with good effects, the 400 mg capsules can be taken twice a day. If the pain comes back or does not respond to the treatment, the dosage can be increased to 800 mg three times a day.

The first painkilling effect can happen within a few days to several weeks later, sometimes even only after 6-8 weeks. When after 8 weeks of using palmitoylethanolamide, there still is no effect, the substance is probably not effective for this patient and the therapy can be stopped.

Palmitoylethanolamide is available in the United States as a supplement in 400 mg capsules. Since 2011, some universities in the US have been trying to create enzyme stoppers that try to stop the decline of palmitoylethanolamide in the cells. There is a chance that in the future a more financially interesting medicine could be developed – a one that makes use of the palmitoylethanolamide mechanism. However, all these attempts to create such an enzyme stopper have currently led to severe side effects. Taking pure palmitoylethanolamide currently seems to be the best option.