by Allison Glennie December 16, 2019 3 min read

CBD’s reputation as an effective remedy for anxiety has huge momentum behind it and is supported by promising studies and countless user testimonials. According to a survey by Cannabis and Cannabinoid Researchin 2018, “Almost 62% of CBD users reported using CBD to treat a medical condition. The top three medical conditions were chronic pain, anxiety, and depression.” 

More and more people are adopting holistic approaches to their mental health, realizing that one method of treatment alone is less effective at mitigating symptoms than a combination of treatments - from medication to therapy and counselling to lifestyle changes and exercise. CBD (cannabidiol) is an easy to self-administer, non-habit-forming supplement that fits easily into any daily routine, which is why it’s seemingly boomed into our cultural consciousness so quickly. 

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. Today, CBD is being studied as a possible treatment for anxiety, depression, post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD), and even bipolar disorder and schizophrenia. 

So, with all of this buzz around CBD and mental health, how does it actually affect our brains? 

CBD and Brain Health

CBD Affects on the BrainThe thing is, the human brain is incredibly complex, and despite decades of research into its inner workings and mechanisms, there is a lot we still don’t know. But here’s what we do know: our brain cells, or neurons, work together to form complex neural networks which control every aspect of our body’s functioning and our thought processes. They communicate between each other by releasing specific chemicals called neurotransmitters. 

These neurotransmitters control our moods, thought patterns, and emotional responses to external and internal stimuli. When these chemicals get out of balance, or no longer do their job effectively, we experience mental illness. When these chemicals are balanced and working properly, they are responsible for a huge array of emotions from making us happy to emotionally bonding us to our loved ones. 

How CBD Affects the Brain

So how does CBD fit into this equation? Well, let’s focus on a specific example first: Serotonin. Serotonin is the neurotransmitter responsible for regulating mood, anxiety, pain perception, sleep, appetite and nausea. It’s a heavy hitter as far as its impact on our mental state goes, and it fulfills different roles as it interacts with different parts of our brain. Depression and anxiety disorders occur when Serotonin levels become imbalanced, which is why SSRIs, or Serotonin Reuptake Inhibitorsare a commonly prescribed antidepressant. CBD directly binds to the 5-HT serotonin receptorwhich has the strongest role in anxiety and depression, and is the same serotonin receptor that SSRI’s target.

CBD and GABA Receptors

Another important neurotransmitter, gamma-aminobutyric acid orGABA, works to inhibit brain cell activity. This means that it directly impacts the racing thoughts and exhaustingly overactive mindset that many anxiety sufferers contend with. The benzodiazepine class of drugs work to directly boost the effects of these GABA neurotransmitters, dialing down some of the mental chaos experienced during bouts of anxiety. Common anti-anxiety medications like Xanax and Klonopin fall into this class of drugs. Excitingly, CBD has been shown to directly interact with GABA receptors in a way that increases the effectiveness of the GABA neurotransmitter. 

CBD and Stress

Lastly, CBD can mitigate some of the profound damage chronic stress and anxiety can do to our bodies. Chronic stress essentially keeps your body and mind in a state of “fight or flight” for a prolonged period of time – something our body is designed to handle in small doses but can be dangerous the longer it lasts. Chronic stress is a killer. Plain and simple. It damages our bodies in physical waysas well as mentally, and can manifest in a weakened immune system, digestive issues, and even heart disease.

CBD and StressChronic stress not only impacts how our brain functions, but also the structure of the brain itself. Certain areas of the brain can become hyperactive while experiencing prolonged stress, while others can atrophy. Additionally, it increases our levels of the stress hormone cortisol, disrupts levels of important neurotransmitters (such as serotonin and dopamine), and our endocannabinoid system can also become imbalanced. Chronic stress ramps up the body’s production of an enzyme called fatty acid amide hydrolase (or FAAH). CBD can help to inhibit this enzymeprotecting your body from the negative effects of chronic stress. 

While CBD oils, tinctures, supplements, etc., are not  cure-alls, research indicates that it has the potential to help alleviate the symptoms of many mental illnesses. 

If you’re interested in pursuing a CBD regimen, or just curious about learning more about this incredible compound, check out our Intro to CBD. It’s important to speak to your doctor or pharmacist before starting supplementation of any kind to avoid negative drug interactions. 

Leave a comment

Comments will be approved before showing up.

Also in Field Notes

A Complete Breakdown of Cannabinoid Effects
A Complete Breakdown of Cannabinoid Effects

by Christopher Kraemer May 26, 2020 5 min read

We all know that the primary selling point of any hemp product is the fact that it contains an ample amount of CBD.  In fact, the compound CBD is so popular that the terms “hemp” and “CBD” are often used interchangeably for marketing purposes.  But, as hemp’s popularity continues to soar, researchers and enthusiasts alike are beginning to take a closer look into the other compounds that exist in the hemp plant, especially cannabinoids.
Read More
The Research Around CBD & Depression
The Research Around CBD & Depression

by Allison Glennie August 08, 2019 4 min read

Depression is unique to each person. In this article we explore some of the current research being conducted around how CBD interacts with the brain and why scientists are hopeful that it may help those who suffer from depression. Many people currently use CBD as a tool to support their mental health because it is natural, highly customizable, easy to use and self-administer, and does not have the same habit-forming risks or negative side effects of traditional pharmaceuticals.
Read More
Understanding CBD and Pain
Understanding CBD and Pain

by Allison Glennie July 31, 2019 4 min read

CBD’s reputation amongst users for easing pain is one of the most attractive aspects and research behind this potential benefit is partially responsible for its recent boom in popularity. Traditional pain management drugs, such as opioids, can do damage to their users health via their addictive chemical properties, dangerous side effects, and withdrawal symptoms- making natural CBD supplementation an even more intriguing alternative, but what does the current research suggest?
Read More