CBD (cannabidiol) is a bioactive component of the cannabis plant (marijuana), which is known for its potential brain health benefits, none of which is high in onset or impaired short term memory.
When it comes to the self-medication – especially with prescription drugs – it is important to remember that each drug in addition to effects, especially a wealth of side effects. For every action there is an equal and opposite reaction (just read the side effects on the label of a pill bottle in the pharmacy).
The fact is, something as innocuous as aspirin kills more than 1,000 people each year, and alcohol kills more than 110,000 people, but no one ever died of CBD products available on the market (the same could be said about marijuana).
CBD Effect in the Brain
According to a survey published by the Hemp Association CBD has the following positive characteristics:
- Antiemetic – reduces nausea and vomiting.
- Anticonvulsant – suppresses seizure activity.
- Antipsychotic (combats psychosis).
- Anti-inflammatory (reduces inflammation).
- Antioxidant (combats oxidative stress).
- Anti-tumor, anti-cancer (combats tumor, cancer cell growth).
- Anxiolytic, antidepressant (combats anxiety and depression).
As you can see, CBD is becoming one of the most promising candidates as a therapeutic tool for a wide range of diseases, but CBD was initially screened for two reasons:
Reason # 1: Early research has shown that CBD can improve the symptoms of drug-resistant epilepsy comparable to the effects of anticonvulsant drugs.
Reason # 2: As with marijuana, it has been shown that CBD, when taken at the right dose, has the same pain reduction compared to drugs such as morphine and oxycodone.
Epilepsy treatment and pain reduction have been among the most promising awards in CBD, and as more and more research is added, we learn that CBD can provide a variety of brain benefits that can reduce stress, depression and anxiety.
THC and CBD – What’s the difference?
While cannabidiol (CBD) and tetrahydrocannabinol (THC) are the two major chemical compounds found in the cannabis plant, the two are barely the same.
THC is the psychoactive cannabinoid in marijuana that gives you the feeling of being “high” while CBD is completely non-psychoactive and has none of the euphoric mind-altering effects of THC. CBD is one of at least 85 different active cannabinoids found in cannabis but accounts for 40% of the total cannabinoid content of the plant.
Mechanically speaking, THC and CBD share some of the same target receptors in the brain. THC mainly affects the receptors CB1 and CB2, the classic cannabinoid receptors involved in mood, appetite, pain, and memory. CBD can act indirectly on the two receptors, but with a much lower affinity, so you will not feel the psychological effects.
Taken together, CBD can extend the action of THC, but CBD, when taken on its own, acts on the 5-HT 1A receptor, the most widely used 5-HT receptor in the entire central nervous system. It is believed that the downstream benefits of CBD result from the stimulation of this prominent receptor.
We know that CBD affects the 5-HT1A in the brain in the following systems:
- The dopamine system – regulates many aspects of behavior, cognition, including reward behavior and motivation.
- The serotonin system – involved in CBDs antidepressant, anxiolytic, neuroprotective benefits.
- The Opioid System – CBD acts as an “allosteric modulator” on your opioid receptors to reduce pain and the effects of chronic inflammation.
- Understanding the complicated details of CBD neurology is an incredibly complex task because we can not yet elucidate the specific pathways and mechanisms of action.
CBD effect on anxiety, stress and depression
A number of studies in humans and animals have demonstrated the efficacy of CBD as an anxiolytic compound, meaning that it can alleviate the characteristic network of symptoms associated with stress, depression and anxiety.
A study that reduced a dose of 400 mg CBD reduced subjects’ anxiety during a simulated public speaking procedure, and neuroimaging showed changes in brain activity in terms of controlling emotional processes.
It is believed that CBD affects neuronal activity in the hippocampus (the brain region involved in memory consolidation and formation) by increasing calcium-ion concentrations in the mitochondria. It has also been shown that CBD attenuates blood oxygenation and impairs connectivity in the amygdala, the region of the brain associated with experiencing emotions.
If a reported benefit, such as, reduced anxiety or stress associated with a particular targeting mechanism can make things quite messy. The fact is that these benefits have been observed in both human and animal studies, but there is considerable overlap. Although the exact mechanisms have not yet been clarified, it is clear that CBD acts in a variety of ways that help alleviate the symptoms of stress and anxiety. In fact, collective research shows that something as natural and harmless as CBD oil can be as effective as a pharmaceutical alternative such as valium or diazepam.
CBD improves the quality of sleep
More than 35% of the workforce over the age of 18 suffer from insomnia, poor sleep or other related sleep disorders. (Source: DAK Health Report)
Interestingly, studies and reports show that CBD oil actually allows a deep, restful sleep before going to bed, although CBD actually has a mild stimulating effect on the same receptors in the brain as caffeine.
In terms of dosage, there is an enormous delta in the amounts used in the studies, ranging from 10 mg at the lower end to 1300 mg. It is clear that there is a significant amount of inter-individual variability when it comes to effective dosing, although benefits have been observed in doses of all different amounts. The good news is that there seems to be no limit to safety or toxicity. After all, all you have to do is the experiment to find the right dose that suits you best.
Neuro-protective effects of CBD
CBD has demonstrated the ability to support normal cellular function, support our natural immune response, and promote healthy aging through mitochondrial support.
Clinical application of CBD
While the benefits of CBD are promising and some general mechanisms at play, clinical application remains unknown.
An important point to remember is that clinical trials have the luxury of injecting CBD directly into brain tissue to monitor its effects, especially in the case of animal testing. For humans, we just do not have that luxury, which is why it is a good rule of thumb to scrutinize all animal experiments critically, but to look at them with a spark of hope.
These animal research findings help to generate new knowledge and better questions as we continue to explore the topic in humans.
As far as the consumer is concerned, CBD oil is currently available on the market but the absorption rate is incredibly low as CBD is a water-insoluble compound. In addition, there is still no clear dose-response relationship for any of the above benefits (though it is clear that they exist).
It is possible that consumption of CBD oils or powders with a source of fat could improve absorption.