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The Effects of Cannabidiol (CBD) on the Brain

CBD seems to be everywhere these days, and you may be wondering if the benefits people mention are true. You have most likely seen CBD-infused products on the shelves. Ever since 2018 when the Farm Bill passed, CBD, or cannabidiol, has gained a lot of popularity throughout the US. Yet, despite the sudden explosion of CBD-based products, there is still so much to be discovered and understood about this compound, including the effects of cannabidiol on the brain.


Let’s talk about CBD, what it does to your brain, some of the possible benefits, and what to expect when taking it.


What is CBD?

Found within the cannabis plant (including hemp) are chemical compounds known as cannabinoids [1]. Cannabidiol, or CBD for short, is a cannabinoid that is similar to THC—the psychoactive ingredient in cannabis—but also very different. For starters, CBD does not get you high.


In fact, research states that CBD may modulate brain activity, meaning it does the exact opposite of THC [2].


How Does Cannabidiol Interact With The Brain

CBD is unique in how it interacts with the endocannabinoid system (ECS) [3]. While THC has a tendency to excite the endocannabinoid system, CBD binds with CB1 and CB2 receptors, similar to the way neurotransmitters would. The ECS works throughout the entire body and assists with a variety of functions that support homeostasis, or the equilibrium within which our bodies thrive.


When you introduce CBD to the ECS, the observed effects are typically therapeutic. More research is required to determine the extent of these positive effects or whether they will occur in the majority of the global population within issue.


That said, here are some of the receptors affected by CBD:


The Serotonin System

People are deeply affected by serotonin. Pain, mood, appetite, and thinking are influenced by the presence of serotonin. Moreover, serotonin is required for how you react to stressful situations.


According to studies using mice, CBD interacts with the 1A receptor, responsible for serotonin activity [4]. For this reason, scientists believe that CBD may one day be used when caring for pain, obesity, anxiety, and conditions like depression and schizophrenia.


Anandamide and FABPs

One of the most eye-opening studies that you need to know about if you are looking for the effects of cannabidiol on the brain is from 2016. The study was published in Frontiers of Pharmacology and reviewed how CBD inhibits anandamide breakdown [2]. What does that mean? Quite a lot.


Anandamide is often likened to THC, though it is made in the human body. Anandamide assists with temperature control, mood, appetite, and pain perception. In the 2016 study, CBD was observed binding with fatty acid-binding protein (FABP) and limiting the amount of anandamide transported, thus slowing its breakdown and lengthening the effects of the chemical.


Orphan Receptors

Fun fact about orphan receptors: they were named as such because researchers could not decide to which larger family these GPR55 receptors belonged. Orphan receptors are noted for their roles in bone reabsorption, bone density, and blood pressure.


CBD is thought to inhibit the growth of cancer cells by attaching to and hindering GPR55 signals [5]. Furthermore, when CBD attaches to GRP55, antiepileptic properties may be observed [6].


Nuclear Receptors

Also known as proliferator-activated receptors (PPARs), nuclear receptors have anti-tumor effects within the body. In a 2016 meta-analysis, researchers concluded that CBD may activate PPARs on the nucleus of cells, triggering effects like cancer regression [7].


Vanilloid Receptors

Also known as TRPV1 receptors, vanilloid receptors act as an ion channel that assists the body in dampening inflammation, controlling core temperature, and diminishing pain. One of the most recent studies from 2020 found that CBD attaches to TRPV1 receptors in the brain [8]. However, the study used rat brains; more human trials are needed to see if the interaction is the same in people.


Potential Effects on the Brain When Using CBD

Now that you know how cannabidiol interacts with different parts of the brain and endocannabinoid system, what should you take away from all this? Turns out, these researched interactions between CBD and the ECS have incredible potential.


Here are some potential benefits of CBD on the brain and central nervous system:


Reduced Depression, Anxiety, and Stress

Over 300 million people worldwide struggle with either anxiety or depression (or both). Due to the research showing how CBD interacts with the serotonin system, there is a hypothesis that cannabidiol may have a positive effect on depression and anxiety. For instance, a 2018 study looked at users of medical cannabis [9]. The participants tracked their symptoms and monitored the effects. Those who used cannabis had a 50% reduction in their depression symptoms, and those who used more CBD than THC saw the greatest results.


A case study from 2019 reported that an adolescent with depression, anxiety, and substance abuse issues improved when placed on an 8-week long CBD treatment [10].


A recent study from 2020 on rats found that CBD decreased the symptoms of depression and anhedonia, or the inability to perceive pain [11].


Neuroprotective Properties

As you may be aware, the FDA approved the CBD-based antiepileptic drug known as Epidiolex back in 2018 [12].


However, the neuroprotective properties of CBD may not be limited to epileptic disorders. Many studies have looked at the use of cannabidiol for neurodegenerative diseases, but a recent one from 2020 found that CBD decreases dopaminergic neuronal death [13, 14]. Thus, in the future, there may be more evidence of CBD assisting with the prevention of diseases like MS, ALS, Parkinson’s, and Alzheimer’s.


Improved Sleep

A lack of sleep—especially prolonged sleep deprivation—can have devastating effects on the brain. Not only is your mood worse, but your memory and decision-making is impaired [15]. Furthermore, research has found that insomnia increases your risk of dementia later in life [16].


Could CBD be an answer? Science is currently optimistic about the calming effects of CBD on the central nervous system and brain. For example, one study found that patients who took CBD saw increased sleep scores and decreased anxiety within the first month of use [17].


What To Know When Trying CBD

Yes, there is a lot of interest in CBD, as well as a lot of ongoing research. There is still much to learn about cannabidiol before it can be deemed 100% safe. Until then, you have to do your research, be cautious, and speak to a medical professional before adding CBD to your daily routine. Here are some things you should keep in mind before trying CBD:


You Won’t Get High

CBD is not THC, the compound that gives you a euphoric high. Therefore, you don’t have to worry about any of the side effects of using THC. As mentioned earlier, when used, CBD binds with CB1 and CB2 receptors in the body, potentially helping with anxiety, stress, pain, and inflammation.


Start With a Small Dose

Avoid rushing into CBD and using too large a dose. Research still needs to be done on how much CBD is too much. It is recommended that you begin with a small dose and work your way up. Too high a dose when you are not used to CBD can have some alarming side effects.


There Are Side Effects

Yes, CBD does have side effects [18]. If you take CBD correctly, the chance of experiencing side effects is lower—but still possible. However, there are some people who are at risk of negative reactions, including those on certain prescription medications. Antihistamines, blood thinners, blood pressure medication, and heart medication may interact poorly with CBD. Therefore, if you are on any prescription drugs, be sure to discuss adding CBD to your routine with your family doctor first.


CBD Does Not Work Right Away

There are several ways to take CBD, including oils, tinctures, topical lotions and creams, edibles, and flowers. Plus there is CBD isolate, broad spectrum, and full spectrum varieties. The type you use will impact the effects and how quickly it works. Do not get impatient if you don’t feel any effects right away. Be patient and see how you feel with your first dose before trying anything else. Give the CBD some time to work.


Looking For CBD Products?

Understanding cannabidiol and the effects it has on your brain is important if you are hoping to take it. Plus, knowing how it can affect you makes it easier to decide if CBD is right for you. While there is still much to learn about this chemical compound, research has uncovered many promising results on CBD’s effect on anxiety, depression, stress, and more. Just keep in mind that CBD is not a miracle worker! Be patient and use products of the highest quality.


If you are looking for CBD products, consider the high quality tinctures, edibles, and creams from Sugar Bottom Hemp. We use only organically grown hemp for our range of CBD products and have our CBD analyzed by a certified lab. Get in touch with us today to learn about everything we offer.




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