What are Endorphins?


Endorphins are natural pain killing substances found in the human brain. The name comes from endogenous (meaning within) and morphine (morphine being a pain killer). Endorphins are one of the neurotransmitters in the brain. Levels of endorphins in the brain may be changed by taking a number of drugs including alcohol, anabolic steroids and heroin and other opiates. Electro-acupuncture and binaural sound have been used to stimulate the production of endorphins

Endorphins belong to a class of biochemicals commonly referred to as neurohormones that act by modifying the way in which nerve cells respond to transmitters. The discovery of this class of biochemicals has an unusual and interesting history. In the 1960s, biomedical researchers studying the causes and effects of opium addiction had detected what they suspected were "opiate receptors" in brain tissue. Since it seemed quite unlikely that humans (or other vertebrates) would contain a specific receptor designed for a chemical derived from the poppy plant, the researchers focused their attention on biochemicals that might be synthesized in the brain itself. Early in the 1970s, several small peptides were isolated that appeared to possess natural analgesic properties, and these were collectively termed enkephalins and endorphins. The modification of neural transmissions by these biochemicals now appears to be responsible for the insensitivity to pain that is experienced by individuals under conditions of great stress or shock. The effectiveness of analgesic opiate derivatives such as opium, morphine, and heroin is an accidental side effect that derives from the ability of these substances to bind to neurohormone receptors despite their very different structure.

Endorphins control emotions as well. The psychological model is "Glad, sad, and mad", with fear as a sidebar. The average person is typically in glad mode. If duress downshifts them to sad or mad, endorphins are released for re-elevating them to glad. If fear strikes, endorphins similarly allow coping by providing a feeling of calm euphoria. Such a nice feeling, perhaps too nice of one. Your brain (the primal portion) maintains a certain quota of endorphins to ensure survival under duress. .


Endorphins are most heavily released in the human body during stressful events or in moments of great pain. The rush of endorphins into the system at such times is often felt as a queasy or nervous feeling in the stomach. However, the amount of endorphins released by individuals varies so that an occurrence that stimulates significant neurohormone secretion in some people will not necessarily do so in others. In addition to stress and pain, endorphin secretion may be triggered by the consumption of certain foods, such as chocolate and chili peppers. Indeed, the characteristic increase in bodily endorphin levels caused by chocolate is believed to play a significant role in its often being turned to as a comfort food in times of stress. Moreover, due to the endorphin release associated with chili peppers, they have been utilized in various kinds of medical treatments, especially as part of therapy for chronic pain, and are sometimes considered an aphrodisiac. Certain kinds of physical activity have been associated with endorphin secretion in recent years as well. Undergoing massage therapy or acupuncture, for example, is believed to stimulate endorphin release, and the natural painkillers may be responsible for the euphoric feelings known as "runner's high" and "adrenaline rush."

Other actions of endorphins include:

Stimulation of the immune system by the activation of natural killer cells
Postponement of aging

Endorphins are the body's natural pain medication hormones. Endorphins (en-dor-fins), when they're released, make us feel better, improve our mood, increase pleasure, and minimize pain.



Biologists have discovered that the emotional richness of music can give people a sense of euphoria, or 'a high'. "The healing chemicals created by the joy and emotional richness in music (movie soundtracks, religious music, marching bands, and drumming ensembles) enable the body to create its own anesthetic and enhance the immune function." (ME p. 71) One music study found that half of the expectant mothers who listened to music during childbirth did not require anesthesia. It is believed that the music stimulated endorphin levels and provided a distraction from pain and anxiety . (ME p 71)

Hospitals and clinics around the world use music therapy, and not only on their patients! Here are some examples: (from ME p. 132-133)

Opiate of the Masses

In a 1995 study it was found that surgeons who listened to the music of their choice while operating, were found to have lower blood pressure and a slower heart rate and could perform mental tasks more quickly and accurately.
A profesor of music and psychiatry, Dr. Paul Robertson of Kingston Univ. in Ontario, Canada, shares studies that show that patients who are exposed to 15 minutes of soothing music require only half the recommended doses of sedatives and anesthetic drugs for painful operations.
Harp music has been prescribed instead of tranquilizers and painkillers for cancer patients at the University of Massachusetts Medical Center.
The use of chants, tones, and music have been used to aid a variety of clients and Alzheimer patients at the University of Louisville School of Medicine. This Medical center sponsors an Arts in Medicine program which coordinates with the Department of Psychiatry and Behavior Sciences.
Deaf and hearing-impaired children are "learning to hear" at a Multisensory Sound Lab developed at the University of Oklahoma Dept. of Communication Sciences and Disorders. A floor containing an audio system amplifies sound and as children sit on it, it transforms into vibrations that can be felt through their bodies.There are also light shows, and other displays that are sensitive to the music, making this an intense experience that has often helped these children with the development of speech, control of their voice, and an ability to hear.


Cranial electrical stimulation, and stimulation at selected points of the peripheral nervous system, have been shown to modulate brain neurochemicals, such as endorphins, serotonin, ACTH, epinephrine and norepinephrine. Some of these neurochemicals act as natural morphine-like agents to inhibit pain, while others raise the pain threshold in a natural manner. Studies have shown that serotonin, beta-endorphins and ACTH levels have continued to change up to four hours following treatment. However, the positive effect of the neurochemical changes on patient pain level has been reported to last up to 48 hours after treatment.

A recent neurochemical study indicates that beta-endorphin, serotonin and melatonin increase in plasma and cerebrospinal fluid after a 20-minute cranial stimulation treatment. (J Neurol OrthopMed Surg (1998) 18:94-97)

Endorphins are the body's natural pain medication hormones. Endorphins (en-dor-fins), when they're released, make us feel better, improve our mood, increase pleasure, and minimize pain.

4 hz releases endorphins, 50 - 200 hz releases seratonin



Low endorphin levels make us crave fat

Nan Allison in her excellent book Full & Fulfilled describes the relationship between endorphins, food, and exercise. By permission, Nan Allison, M.S., RD writes:

High concentrations of endorphins in the brain produce a sense of euphoria, enhance pleasure, and suppress pain, both emotionally and physically. When endorphins are low, people feel anxious; they are also more aware of pain. They have an appetite for fat and fatty foods, such as fries, cheese, creamy sauces, margarine, butter, fried chicken, potato chips, and chocolate, to name some of the most popular examples. Upon eating some fat, they will notice a change in mood, feeling more pleasure. This feeling is related to a higher concentration of endorphin. Exercise, by releasing fat from within the body, raises endorphins and causes the same mood changes.

Mild Drugs, such as the Caffeine in Coffee, Cola, and Tea, can produce withdrawal symptoms. People who drink as little as TWO cups of Coffee or Three Colas per day experience Withdrawal if they suddenly give up the Habit. The symptoms range from mild headache to those resembling the flu

When we have cravings for potato chips and chocolate, it may mean that we need an endorphin pill rather than all the empty calories from chips.


‘It’s a hit’, screams the advertisement for Coca-Cola. ‘I can see clearly now, the rain has gone’, goes the song for a Nescaf commercial. ‘Happiness is a small cigar’, intones the Hamlet voice-over. The craving associated with thirst and hunger pangs is considered normal, and is well understood by the fast-food industry.


For many people it is love at first puff. Cigarettes contain 4,000+ deadly toxins including nicotine. A nicotine "high" reaches the brain within seven seconds. Nicotine, when first ingested, causes a person to feel awake and alert, shortly after that person feels calm and relaxed. This is due to an elevation in endorphins, which are the body's natural pain reduction and pleasure chemicals that are produced in the brain. After time, more and more nicotine is needed to achieve the same pleasurable feeling, leaving the smoker addicted. The usage of this narcotic creates a roller coaster effect in your system that is very hard to break free from.

Once you are a habitual smoker, your mind and body develop a physical dependence for nicotine. Smoking excites your body's pleasure chemicals, endorphins, and puts them into high gear. This makes you feel very good - until your body summons you to replenish the depletion of nicotine in your system. So you smoke again, and again, and again. It is a vicious cycle that never stops until you quit smoking for good.


Low dopamine make us feel foggy

Mentally "foggy" at times? This just may be caused by low dopamine levels. When we don't get adequate protein, dopamine levels drop and this makes us mentally sluggish.

The best way to raise dopamine levels, get plenty of lean protein in you diet, with moderate fat and carbs, advises Nan Allison.

Endorphins are the body's natural pain medication hormones. Endorphins (en-dor-fins), when they're released, make us feel better, improve our mood, increase pleasure, and minimize pain.

My doctor prescribed narcotics after my accident and now I can't get off them.

So why do you feel so rotten when you try to stop? Narcotics work because they affect the cells more than your own endorphins do; in response, your body adapts and tries to return things to normal by reducing the cells' sensitivity to both the painkilling drugs and the natural endorphins. That's how what is called tolerance to a particular drug develops.

The feeling you get when you stop is called withdrawal, and it may be responsible for most of your woes. Your digestive tract offers a good example of this process. Opiates slow the movement of material through the intestine, so it's likely you suffered from constipation at first. Since you have been taking a painkiller for quite a while, your body has probably adapted to this retarding effect by speeding things up, leading to relatively normal bowel function even while you're taking the drug..

When you stop ingesting the drug, this speeding-up effect remains, but is no longer balanced by the slowing influence of the drug. The result: stomach cramps and diarrhea. The other sensations you experience when you stop -- chills, achiness, flulike symptoms and increased sensitivity to pain -- arise because many parts of your body have reduced their sensitivity to your own endorphins. When you feel compelled to keep taking the drug to avoid the unpleasant effects of withdrawal, you are experiencing a physical dependence -- which can happen even when you take the drugs as prescribed by a doctor.Induce euphoria and stop your gut churning, it may well be that addiction to opiates is just a lack of natural endorphins, NOW you can produce natural endorphines


Endorphins are the body's natural pain medication hormones. Endorphins (en-dor-fins), when they're released, make us feel better, improve our mood, increase pleasure, and minimize pain.



Over the past 30 years, medical science has learned the importance of brain chemistry. Previously, depression was thought to result from problems of living, with a psychiatrist's couch the best remedy. It is now clear that most victims of depression have something wrong with their neurotransmitters—decisive brain chemicals such as serotonin, dopamine, norepinepherine, and the endorphins, all of which have a powerful influence on intelligence, personality, and moods.

Most psychiatrists resort to powerful brain-altering drugs, in an attempt to help their patients. However, individual responses to drug medications are extremely variable and this therapy is more of an art than a science, with medications administered on a crude trial-and-error basis.

There is no doubt that prozac, zoloft, risperdal, and other medications provide benefits to many patients. However, the benefits are usually quite incomplete and these medications often have serious side effects, such as blunting of personality, movement disorders, and fatigue. Even when a medication effectively alters serotonin or dopamine functioning, as desired by the psychiatrist, the drug may effect other brain chemicals with adverse effects.

Laughter diminishes the secretion of cortisol and epinephrine, while enhancing immune reactivity. In addition, laughter boosts secretion of growth hormone, an enhancer of these same key immune responses. The physiological effects of a single 1-hour session viewing a humorous video has appeared to last up to 12-24 hours in some individuals.

Endorphins are the body's natural pain medication hormones. Endorphins (en-dor-fins), when they're released, make us feel better, improve our mood, increase pleasure, and minimize pain.