PEA – New Hope for Chronic Pain? By Gemma Davies – Adv. Dip. Nat, Dip. Bot Med

PEA – New Hope for Chronic Pain? By Gemma Davies – Adv. Dip. Nat, Dip. Bot Med

What is PEA?

Palmitoylethanolamide, or PEA, is a fatty acid amide produced naturally in the body in response to pain and inflammation.1 PEA also occurs naturally in foods like alfalfa, corn, eggs, soybeans, tomatoes and peanuts.2 It was first isolated in 1957 and found to act as a potent anti-inflammatory in animal trials. We now have decades of research, including robust human trials, to help us understand the full potential of PEA as an anti-inflammatory, nerve-protective and analgesic3 dietary supplement for managing and relieving pain.


Over 3.6 million Australians,4 or 1 in 5 Australians over the age of 45, live with chronic pain, with females and the elderly most at risk.5 Whether it’s caused by injury, surgery, musculoskeletal problems (like arthritis) or other medical conditions chronic pain is an overwhelming issue for many.

We experience two types of pain: acute - a healthy and short-lived response to injury, and chronic – where pain continues beyond the expected time required for healing and often persisting due to an ongoing trigger. When pain persists in this way, it no longer serves a function but can have significant impacts on every area of life, from moving, sleeping, working, socialising and enjoyable activities and is often very emotionally and psychologically challenging.

Most pain treatments work either by changing pain messages in the brain or downregulating inflammation. PEA works on a different pathway and is available as an alternative option for pain management.

Pain and inflammation are very complex mechanisms designed to protect us by limiting our movement (and potential for further damage), creating heat to amplify healing and triggering the production of biological helpers, like white blood cells, prostaglandins and peptides. PEA is one of the substances we produce in response to pain, which can switch off pain signals by communicating with inflammatory mediators in a variety of ways, reducing their overproduction and/or overactivation.

When we’re able to produce adequate PEA to meet demand, it’s an ‘inbuilt’ anti-inflammatory and pain-relieving substance. However, if we experience chronic pain and inflammation, our PEA levels can deplete to very low levels over time. Luckily, we can supplement with PEA to help replenish these levels and help manage pain as an alternative to other substances on the market.

How does PEA work?

PEA works on pain and inflammation both directly and indirectly.

Its direct effects are the result of the ways it can influence cell receptors and how they take up inflammatory compounds, whilst its indirect effects work by either assisting or inhibiting the action of these compounds (known as the ‘entourage effect’).

Is PEA for me?

The clinical trials that have taken place on PEA to date suggest that it is especially effective in helping to manage pain related to mild osteoarthritis,6 and mild nerve pain (including mild sciatica).7-9

How do I take PEA?

Clinical trials on PEA have used doses ranging from 300-600 mg per day. It is not recommended to take PEA for more than 21 days and if symptoms persist talk to your health professional’

PEA can also be combined with other natural anti-inflammatory supplements, including curcumin, to target inflammation from multiple angles.