CBD & Brain Health
WRITTEN BY MELANIE FLORES AND DR. SWATHI
We all want to improve our focus and memory during the work day. The pandemic has dramatically changed the working culture of America. Many office workers are now adopting “hybrid work schedules” or starting their own businesses. Companies are also looking at four-day work weeks. These trends have given a new meaning to the saying “work smarter, not harder.” We want ways we can get our work done efficiently and get back to our lives away from work. The pandemic has also brought new light to living healthier lives for longer and keeping our minds sharp, no matter your age. New media is circulating that calls attention to activities and supplements that can boost brain functioning and prevent cognitive decline. Clinical research studies have shown that cannabidiol (CBD) can have neuroprotective effects on the brain, improve memory, and increase focus.
CBD, Memory, and Learning
A 2002 randomized double-blind trial examined how a 600 mg oral dose of CBD would influence cerebral blood flow (CBF) in the hippocampus brain region that functions in memory processing. The study also looked at the possible effect of CBD on working and episodic memory task performance. Working memory is the retainment of information in a readily available form and is often called short-term memory, but it is slightly distinct. Working memory is what allows our brains to briefly hold onto information while multitasking. It is essential in decision-making, problem-solving, and planning. The results revealed that CBD significantly increased CBF in the hippocampus and improved working memory task performance. These findings provide positive implications for the use of CBD in enhancing working memory in humans, and provide evidence on how daily CBD supplementation can promote optimal brain functioning.
A 2020 review study examined the acute effects of both THC and CBD on recognition memory. The review concluded that CBD can improve “cognitive processes including attention, executive function, working memory, and episodic memory.” It also cited CBD as a potential future treatment for cognitive impairments.
CBD and Healthy Aging
Due to an ever aging population, there has been an increased interest in supplements that promote healthy brain development and functioning as you age. Cognitive decline and forms of dementia in the aging population is known to be associated with plaques and neurofibrillary tangles in the brain that are caused by beta-amyloid peptide aggregation and changes in the tau protein. Research on the neuroprotective effects of CBD on beta-amyloid induced cell toxicity showed that cells treated with CBD significantly increased cell survival of beta-amyloid peptide exposure. A 2014 study looked at human cells in vitro that were induced to have neurotoxicity and then were exposed to CBD or another molecule. Of the treatments given to neurotoxic cells, CBD showed to be directly protective against neurotoxins. A review of current CBD and neuroprotective research showed that CBD was proven to protect against oxidative stress, increase cell survival, portray antioxidant properties, protect against beta-amyloid neurotoxicity, and reduce neuroinflammation. Most notably, CBD was also shown to improve memory deficits in mice. These findings suggest that CBD supplementation could be protective against the damaging effects of age-related cognitive decline in humans, but further studies in human subjects are needed to explore this theory.
The bottom line
Many of us already have supplements that we take to focus, ie. caffeine. Research has shown that CBD supplementation may also aid in improving both focus and memory, and without the jittery crash. Key elements of maintaining optimal brain health as we age are to continue mental and physical self-care activities. Activities we can include in our brain health routine are mediation, journaling, brain stimulation games, socialization, physical exercise, and breathing exercises. These activities will not only have a positive effect on your mood, but they can also increase your ability to focus and protect your brain from cognitive decline. CBD supplementation is being researched as another strategy that can promote optimal brain health by preventing inflammation and protecting against neurodegeneration. Research is showing that CBD may play a role in enhancing both cognition and memory in mammals. Brain care techniques are essential to develop, and it is exciting to see that as research advances that CBD may be a key supplement to aid in our daily work lives and provide neuroprotection as an added benefit.
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This article was edited by Dr. Swathi and was written by Element Apothec Scientific Communications Intern, Melanie Flores. She is a Doctor of Pharmacy (PharmD) student at Oregon State University and Oregon Health & Science University College of Pharmacy in Portland, Oregon.