5 Ways That CBD Benefits the Brain
CBD has several significant effects on the human brain even though it is not psychoactive.
Cannabidiol or CBD is produced by the cannabis plant and is the second most common compound that occurs in it. It is right next to the chemical THC which is the psychoactive ingredient in cannabis.
For most people, THC is the first thing that comes to mind when they think about marijuana. CBD is catching up to the popularity that THC has because of its wide array of health benefits.
People from all areas of life have praised CBD. Famous athletes have used it, parents of epileptic children have raved about it and now many cannabis growers are focusing their crops on breeding it. There are many CBD strains that include more CBD than they do THC. These include Charlotte’s Web or Avidekel.
So, how does CBD work on the brain? Science has the answers.
CBD’s Activation on the Endocannabinoid System
This system is made up of molecules and receptors that naturally occur in the body. The endocannabinoid system has CB1 receptors. These are found in the brain while the other receptors, the CB2s, are found in immune cells.
As marijuana is ingested, the THC and CBD compounds go into the bloodstream and reach the brain where they activate the endocannabinoid system.
When THC is in the brain it binds to the CB1 receptors. It produces several psychological side effects including short-term memory loss, a heightened mood, increased appetite, and relief from pain.
CBD plays a different role in the brain which is complex but compelling. As previously mentioned, CBD does not have psychoactive properties like THC does. It does not activate the CB1 receptors.
However, CBD will interact with CB1 receptors in a manner that keeps other compounds, including THC from attaching to these receptors. CBD, therefore, reduces the effects of THC like anxiety and memory problems.
CBD increases the brain’s anandamide. This is a naturally occurring cannabinoid in the body. It is responsible for maintaining adequate brain chemicals like serotonin and dopamine. When the anandamide levels are increased other neurotransmitters are also increased thanks to the CBD.
Help for Anxiety and Depression
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Cannabis users appreciate the compound’s ability to reduce stress and increase relaxation. Some users find that THC makes them feel extremely relaxed while others find it brings on anxiety. Researchers have been led to study CBD as a means of treating anxiety.
A study done on people made use of imaging scans. The scans were done to reveal how CBD acts on the brain to reduce anxiety.
The study found CBD reduces the flow of blood to areas of the brain like the hypothalamus that are responsible for causing anxiety. In people with anxiety disorders, these areas of the brain are overactive. CBD apparently reduces their activity and helps ease anxiety. Those involved in the study had lower anxiety scores.
CBD has also been found to be a natural antidepressant. It works by balancing dysfunction in the endocannabinoid system. For those with depression, this is how it helps ease their symptoms. It also acts on the serotonin receptor that causes depressive symptoms. This effect has been one aspect that has made CBD a must to study for the benefit of depressed patients.
Patients are looking for alternatives to antidepressants and the side effects they cause. They also take weeks to start working. CBD has no side effects and works right away.
Reduced Pain and Inflammation
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For thousands of years, cannabis has been used to treat pain. It has been used to heal menstrual cramps, headaches and other types of physical pain. THC also kills off pain but the studies done on CBD shows it does the same thing.
In a recent study, CBD ointment was shown to treat arthritis pain by reducing the inflammation of the joints. CBD apparently works best when it is absorbed into the blood directly rather than having to be metabolized.
CBD manages pain by acting on CB2 receptors. These are found throughout the body in the immune cells and are responsible for important functions. One main function is to suppress inflammation. The number of molecules like cytokines or chemokines occurring at the site of the inflammation is reduced and so is the pain. CBD also helps to stop pain signals from going to the brain.
Protecting Brain Cells from Harm
There is a commonly held belief that marijuana harms the brain. Studies have shown that it actually protects the brain and its cells from harm. There has even been a patent issued to the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services for the neuroprotective effects of cannabinoids. That is patent number 6630507 and it was issued in 1999.
The importance of the patent is that it lays the foundational claim that cannabis can protect the brain from neurodegenerative diseases like Parkinson’s disease, Alzheimer’s disease, and dementia.
Researchers studying how CBD protects the brain have found that it lowers the damage in the brain caused by certain traumas. They studied an animal model of brain injuries and found that that CBD protected the brain by increasing viable brain cells and lowering injured cells by more than half.
CBD’s neuroprotective effects are directly related to the action it has on CB2 receptors. When it acts on the CB2 receptors it elicits anti-inflammatory responses in the brain’s immune cells. This is how it minimizes the damage inflammation can cause.
Another type of damage to the brain is oxidation. When tissue is oxidized it contributes to Alzheimer’s or Parkinson’s disease. CBD studies have shown that CBD acts on the CB2 receptors and lowers this type of damage.
Damaged brain cells also cause harm by disrupting the functions occurring in normal cells. When these cells are disrupted they fire off repeatedly. This is called excitotoxicity. CBD controls this and helps the brain cells function more normally. It protects them from excitotoxicity.
Beat Seizures and Psychosis
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The most fascinating process of CBD is watching how it controls epilepsy. This process is one that has given CBD the worldwide attention it now has. It has also led to huge strides in the treatment of many seizure conditions.
The most famous CBD-epilepsy treatment case is that of a little girl who suffered from Dravet syndrome. Charlotte Figi, suffered from about 300 grand mal seizures every week. Her parents began experimenting with CBD oil and soon the child was having about 2 or 3 seizures a month.
These results were observed and it was shown that the CBD apparently acted on the brain in a manner that stopped the anticonvulsant behavior. It did this by reducing the excitation in the brain cells that are responsible for causing seizures. CBD was also shown to stop excitotoxicity in epilepsy, and also stop the brain’s convulsive effects. This helped it protect the brain cells.
It is believed CBD reduces seizures in epilepsy the same way that it controls other chemical activity in the brain. When it releases the inhibitory neurotransmitter GABA, CBD makes the brain stop seizing.
Besides this, CBD has clear antipsychotic properties. A double-blind clinical study was done where the effects of CBD were compared to a drug called amisulpride. This is an antipsychotic that is given to schizophrenic patients. The study found the antipsychotic effects of CBD were just like the ones of amisulpride. The main difference was that CBD was preferred by patients as it had fewer side effects.
The way CBD works to be an antipsychotic is due to the way it acts on anandamide. High levels of anandamide are linked to lowered psychotic symptoms, and CBD is increasing anandamide levels in the brain.
There are many conditions CBD can treat. Research is just starting to understand how the compound benefits the brain and the body.