Can CBD really help with depression? Well, let’s start with what we know. Depression is experienced by over 300 million people globally according tothe World Health Organization. In the US, 17.3 million people, or 7.1% of all adults in the nation, have experienced a major depressive episode within the last year, and it's estimated that 15% of adults will experience depression at some point during their lifetime.
Each case is of depression unique, and each individual experiences it differently. As such, there is no one-size-fits-all treatment for depression. Experts agree that a holistic approach is the most beneficial for anyone struggling with mental health issues – a combination of psychotherapy, healthy lifestyle choices like regular exercise, and pharmaceutical treatment, supplementation, etc.
The general consensus is that one method of treatment alone is less effective than a combination of treatments. CBD (cannabidiol) can act as another tool to support your mental health. It is highly customizable, easy to use and self-administer, and does not have the same habit-forming risks or negative side effects of traditional pharmaceuticals. While there is still a lot we don’t know about the mechanism of CBD in the body, and how it is able to produce the results it does, huge strides are happening in researching its applications and clinical trials are underway. This article is meant to break down what we know so far about CBD as a potential aid for those suffering from depression and will be updated as new research studies are announced, and as the results of these studies are released.
There are countless user testimonials that support the hypothesis that CBD oil has the potential to help those who suffer from depression because many users say it positively impacts their mood and outlook. However, gathering supporting scientific evidence through clinical studies is still underway. Here’s what we know so far:
CBD is a non-psychoactive natural compound that may act in the same way that popular antidepressants do, by balancing levels of the neurotransmitter Serotonin. Serotonin is the neurotransmitter responsible for regulating mood, anxiety, pain perception, sleep, appetite and nausea. SSRIs, or Serotonin Reuptake Inhibitors, are commonly prescribed to help combat depression and anxiety by rebalancing this important neurotransmitter. CBD directly binds to the 5-HT serotonin receptors in your brain, the same receptor targeted by SSRI medications making it a good candidate for further clinical research.
But Serotonin is only one part of the depression equation. When someone suffers from depression or anxiety, physical changes in the brain often accompany it. The hippocampus is a region of the brain responsible for memory, learning, and emotion. In depression sufferers, this region of the brain can atrophy, and literally shrink in size. Another key component of treating depression is encouraging neural regeneration (or neurogenesis) in this area of the brain. SSRIs allow for this regeneration to occur over time, which is why it can take weeks to see legitimate improvements in mood once you’ve started taking them.
There is growing evidence that supports the notion that CBD may encourage this neural regeneration as well. In fact, the FDA recently approved a cannabidiol derived drug to treat epileptic seizures. According to the researchers that developed this drug, the major reason it may work is that CBD may protect neuronal health – specifically in the hippocampus - the same region that becomes atrophied when we experience prolonged depression. Rodent studies back this up, showing that in epileptic rats,CBD treatments actively reduced neuron atrophy and neuron death in the hippocampus.
In another rodent study,CBD was shown to increase BDNF levels in the hippocampus, while reducing symptoms of depression in rodents. BDNF (brain-derived neurotrophic factor) is a protein that helps to support and protect existing neurons while it encourages the growth of new neurons and neuronal networks (or synapses).
Research has also shown that CBD binds to the PPARy receptors in our brains. These receptors tell DNA that it needs to manufacture a range of neuron-protecting and anti-inflammatory compounds. It was recently discovered that thisreceptor may help CBD encourage neurogenesis in the hippocampus.
Lastly, we need to take the endocannabinoid system into account. The endocannabinoid systemconsists of a network of receptors all over the body – in our brains, skin, immune cells, bones, fatty tissues, liver, heart, blood vessels, the list really does go on and on. These receptors contribute to the mediation of inflammation, nausea, pain, memory, mood, sleep, and an array of other biological functions throughout our bodies.
A few years ago, a weight-loss drug was released that inhibited the body’s endocannabinoid system.It was discontinued almost immediately after it was found that the drug drastically increased its users’ risk of depression and suicide. While the endocannabinoid system’s relationship to mental health is still being uncovered, cases like this reiterate that it may be far more important than previously thought.
While all of this evidence supports the hypothesis that CBD may be beneficial to those who suffer from depression, we cannot know for certain until more clinical studies with human participants are conducted. That being said, the countless testimonials from those who claim their lives have improved with the use of CBD can’t be ignored. Depression is a difficult hole to crawl out of – recovery takes time, energy, and patience. But changes to daily routine, breaking unhealthy thought patterns, learning healthy coping mechanisms, and bringing balance to neurochemistry can help to pull you back out.
As discussed earlier, there is no one-size-fits-all cure for mental illness, but there is emerging evidence to support thatCBD& hemp health products may help you on your journey to mental wellness. If you’re interested in buying CBD to begin a regimen, or just curious about learning more about this incredible compound, check out ourIntro to CBD. As always, it is important to speak to your doctor or pharmacist before starting supplementation of any kind to avoid negative drug interactions.
These statements have not been evaluated by the Food and Drug Administration and are not intended to diagnose, treat, or cure any disease. Check with your medical care provider if you are pregnant, breastfeeding of take any other medications. These products are not intended for children under 18. The opinions and views expressed in this article are solely those of the author, are intended for informational purposes only, and do not reflect the views of Harvest Hemp LLC or its affiliates.
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While the effects of CBD on health really speak for themselves, academic research into the compound has had a tremendous surge in popularity recently. As our knowledge of CBD grows, so does our understanding of how it works to benefit our bodies. So, with all of this buzz around CBD and mental health, how does it actually affect our brains?