CBD and the Brain

CBD and brain

Many scientists view CBD as a potential treatment for various mental health disorders, but to date, accumulated research still lacks a clear understanding of CBD’s interaction with complex brain activity and its long-term effects. CBD products can be used for a number of reasons, one of which is to increase focus and productivity. But is CBD able to help with that? Here’s what you need to know about using CBD to improve concentration. In this article, we will take a look at the most prominent areas of research, recent findings and explanations as to how CBD can positively impact our brain function.

1. CBD’s interaction with the endocannabinoid system

The endocannabinoid system, or ECS for short, is a neuromodulatory system that plays a significant role in the development of the central nervous system, synaptic plasticity, and response to endogenous disturbances and environmental influences.

The endocannabinoid system is a complex network that includes three main segments, which are described below.

  • Cannabinoid receptors — elements that are responsible for the translation and relay of information to the cells. The principal receptors are CB1R and CB2R.
  • Endocannabinoids — molecules that bind to and stimulate cannabinoid receptors. AEA and 2-AG are two of the major endocannabinoids.
  • Enzymes — elements that break down the endocannabinoids after they have been used. The main enzymes are FAAH and MAGL.

In total, there is a huge number of receptors concentrated in the brain. CBD and THC can interact with the brain receptors, thereby modulating our immune system and body responses to pain or inflammation.

You can find more interesting information about the endocannabinoid system and how CBD can potentially interact with it in one of our previous blog articles.

Cannabidiol or CBD is a chemical compound, which is one of more than one hundred cannabinoids derived from the cannabis plant. It stimulates the body’s production of natural endocannabinoids. In turn, more endocannabinoids can lead to better regulation of physical and mental systems, enhanced performance and improved health. Various studies have shown that cannabidiol can potentially help to combat stress and anxiety.

CBD can affect non-endocannabinoid receptor sites in the brain that improve mood and minimize stress. Practically everyone knows that the less stress and anxiety a person feels, the more productive they are likely to be.

2. Some of the ways CBD can improve brain function

Brain function involves numerous complex mechanisms in our bodies. To get a clearer picture of CBD’s impact on multiple brain activities, we’ve focused on some of the most significant effects that deserve your attention.

2.1 Anxiolytic activity

Anxiolytic activity refers to anti-anxiety actions. Anxiety disorders are among the most common mental, emotional and behavioural problems, affecting one-eighth of the world’s population, and which have become a very important area of research in psychopharmacology. Here is a recent research overview that confirms the promising potential of CBD as an anxiolytic agent. The study concludes that CBD is responsible for modulations and alterations in brain activity, potentially resulting in demonstrated therapeutic effects such as lowering anxiety levels.

2.2 Binding with dopamine receptors

Dopamine is a hormone released during pleasurable experiences, such as eating delicious food or having sex. It is produced from the amino acids tyrosine and phenylalanine, which can be obtained from foods rich in protein. Dopamine has many roles in the brain, primarily related to movement, motivation and reinforcement of behaviour.

Cannabinoids can bind with dopamine receptors and help reduce dependence on nicotine or other drugs. However, CBD has no direct effect on dopamine levels in the body. It acts on 5-HT1A receptors found in many areas of the brain, especially in the pleasure regions where dopamine activity occurs.

2.3 Increasing glutamate and serotonin levels

Glutamate is an amino acid produced in the body and is also found naturally in many foods. Serotonin, in turn, is a naturally occurring chemical that acts as a neurotransmitter, transferring signals between nerve cells (called neurons) throughout the body.

According to this study, CBD can act as a “moderate affinity agonist” for the 5-HT1a receptor, meaning it increases receptor binding in the same way as serotonin. This mechanism makes CBD a potential therapeutic agent for conditions such as anxiety and depression due to its effects on serotonin.

Another study found that CBD can have an antidepressant effect directly through the serotonin system, as co-administration of CBD with a serotonin blocker negates the benefits of taking CBD on its own.

Studies have shown that CBD can increase the levels of glutamate and serotonin in the body, which helps control brain function and mood. They also play a role in learning and memory. In addition, building homeostasis of these neurotransmitters appears to help alleviate depression and may further improve brain function.

CBD can act on the serotonin 1A receptor, which offers the widest range of possibilities. This capability may allow CBD to help with disorders such as depression, neuropathic pain and anxiety.

2.4 Neurogenesis stimulation

Neurogenesis is the process whereby the brain forms new neurons. Neurons, also known as nerve cells, receive sensory information and send commands to our muscles to move. They are also responsible for converting and transmitting all electrical signals between each process.

So why is neurogenesis important? It is believed that neurogenesis improves our learning and memorising abilities. Several factors may stimulate neurogenesis, including:

  • exercise;
  • mental activity;
  • sleep;
  • meditation;
  • sexual activity.

According to several theories, cannabidiol may enhance neurogenesis by modulating the endocannabinoid system. As the study shows, a CBD-rich diet was found to aid the survival of newborn neurons in mice. In the study in mice with chronic stress, CBD was found to increase neuronal differentiation or the process of cell development.

2.5 Reducing ADHD symptoms

Attention deficit hyperactivity disorder or ADHD is a condition that affects people’s behaviour. ADHD is a brain disorder that scientists have shown results in differences in the brains of children with ADHD and that some of these differences change as the child grows older. ADHD is often associated with a variety of comorbid conditions, including anxiety and depression. People with ADHD can appear restless, have difficulty concentrating, and may act impulsively. While ADHD is one of the most common mental disorders among children, it also affects about 2.5% of adults.

Here’s one of the studies that points out the promising potential of CBD to counter ADHD symptoms in adults.

Therefore, by possibly helping to alleviate symptoms of ADHD such as hyperactivity and impulsivity, CBD can improve concentration and productivity.

These are just some of the brain disorders that CBD may help with. But there are a few side effects to consider, which we will discuss in the next section.

3. A note on side effects

Various medications are used to treat different brain disorders. For example, it’s important to mention that traditional ADHD medications are classified into two main groups: stimulants (they act fast and are widely used) and non-stimulants (less likely to cause side effects, although they’re still possible). The first one has side effects such as insomnia, headaches and weight loss. In turn, the second group has the following main side effects: dizziness, nausea and weight loss.

And what about CBD? According to this study, cannabidiol may be well tolerated at doses up to 1500 mg per day. One study showed an increased risk of liver toxicity (in this study, mice received acute doses of CBD). Moreover, like grapefruit, CBD affects enzymes that are vital for drug metabolism. For this reason, before you use cannabidiol, check if any of the medications or supplements you are taking contain a special “grapefruit warning”. Another study reports that taking cannabidiol can cause a dry mouth and eyes. Other possible side effects are drowsiness, gastrointestinal issues, nausea, and changes in alertness and appetite. Another point to consider is that CBD side effects may depend on the way you consume it. For example, inhaling CBD can cause asthma or other lung diseases. You can find more information about cannabidiol and its side effects in our blog article. Also, you can read about the possible side effects of taking CBD oil. Don’t forget that laws regarding CBD differ from country to country. Additionally, learn more about the CBD legal landscape in Europe.

We strongly recommend that you consult a doctor before taking CBD products. Also, it is best to start with smaller doses if you are a newbie to CBD and have never consumed it before.

4. Final thoughts

The brain is one of the most important organs in the human body. And just like any other part of the organism, it needs help, protection and strengthening. We hope this article has helped provide you with the information you need about the potential effect of CBD on brain function. Please remember to consult your doctor before mixing CBD with your medication. And keep in mind that more research is needed to prove the true benefits of CBD on the body. If you have any questions, don’t hesitate to contact us. Our team of professionals is always on hand to help you. Stay focused and have a productive day!

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