1. The antiinflammatory activity of synthetic cannabinoid nabilone in the rat model of carrageenan-induced acute hindpaw inflammation was compared with that of the endocannabinoid palmitoylethanolamide and the nonsteroidal antiinflammatory drug indomethacin. 2. Preliminary experiments in rats used a tetrad of behavioural tests, specific for tetrahydrocannabinol-type activity in the CNS. These showed that the oral dose of nabilone 2.5 mg kg(-1) had no cannabinoid psychoactivity. 3. Intraplantar injection of carrageenan (1% w v(-1)) elicited a time-dependent increase in paw volume and thermal hyperalgesia. 4. Nabilone (0.75, 1.5, 2.5 mg kg(-1), p.o.), given 1 h before carrageenan, reduced the development of oedema and the associated hyperalgesia in a dose-related manner. Nabilone 2.5 mg kg(-1), palmitoylethanolamide 10 mg kg(-1) and indomethacin 5 mg kg(-1), given p.o. 1 h before carrageenan, also reduced the inflammatory parameters in a time-dependent manner. 5. The selective CB(2) cannabinoid receptor antagonist [N-[(1S)-endo-1,3,3-trimethyl bicyclo [2.2.1]heptan-2-yl]-5-(4-chloro-3-methylphenyl)-1-(4-methylbenzyl)pyrazole-3 carboxamide] (SR 144528), 3 mg kg(-1) p.o. 1 h before nabilone and palmitoylethanolamide, prevented the anti-oedema and antihyperalgesic effects of the two cannabinoid agonists 3 h after carrageenan. 6. Our findings show the antiinflammatory effect of nabilone and confirm that of palmitoylethanolamide indicating that these actions are mediated by an uncharacterized CB(2)-like cannabinoid receptor.