WRITTEN BY CAROLINE CASSOL AND DR. SWATHI
On its own, CBD may promote relaxation–without the intoxicating effects that are more likely with marijuana consumption. It is suggested that the calming aspect of this cannabinoid may play a role in cognitive health and overall stress. Stress, when experienced frequently, can lead to a myriad of health issues down the line, ranging from high blood pressure to gastrointestinal issues. Preliminary research demonstrates that CBD may have neuroprotective effects, potentially helpful in patients with neurological disorders such as Alzheimer's disease.
So, how does CBD do it?
It’s easy to list the potential benefits of CBD, but what exactly is going on inside of the human brain? Well, CBD primarily affects the endocannabinoid system of receptors within the brain but there are other types of receptors that CBD is known to modulate as well that allow it to have many different applications. Serotonin receptors such as the serotonin 1A receptor are another type that is affected. These receptors are responsible for our mood and cognition, a critical aspect of brain health. For this reason, it is no surprise that CBD may be a possible therapy for anxiety and depressive disorders. Serotonin regulates the release of the stress hormone cortisol which allows CBD to possibly play a role in feelings of relaxation and stress (3). The possible neuroprotective effects may be in part attributed to CBD’s ability to inhibit the reuptake and degradation of anandamide–anandamide is an endocannabinoid, a chemical found in the brain that is similar to CBD, but produced internally. By inhibiting its degradation, more anandamide remains in the brain (1).
Neuroimaging has been used to study the effect of CBD on brain health by examining brain activity at rest and while actively performing a task. In a study, neuroimaging was conducted in both healthy individuals and those with a psychiatric disorder to examine effects beyond simply easing psychiatric disorder symptoms. Results showed that a 400mg dose of CBD may incrase cerebral blood flow at a resting state in healthy individuals. Also, it was found that CBD may increase the connectivity of the brain within the prefrontal cortex in a resting state. When performing tasks, CBD demonstrated a potential to increase the connectivity of the hippocampus which helped with tasks where healthy participants were asked to recall information. As for participants with social anxiety disorder, compared to the placebo, they reported feeling less anxious overall and their limbic area activity was activated (2). In a different study, it was found among patients with Autism Spectrum Disorder that CBD may later an aspect of brain function and may target areas of the brain involved in the condition such as the cerebellar vermis (4). Overall administering acute amounts of CBD was shown to potentially modulate brain activity in both healthy individuals and patients with psychiatric disorders (2).
Questions? No worries–ask us!
There are many potential applications for CBD today. There may in fact be a place for CBD products to enhance your lifestyle–and overall brain health. Regardless of whether you have tried CBD before, please reach out to Dr. Swathi via Dr. Swathi's Corner, where she can answer your questions.
- Ashton L. How does CBD affect the brain? Impact of cannabidiol on brain function. CFAH. https://cfah.org/cbd-effects-on-brain/. Published March 2, 2022. Accessed March 25, 2022.
- Batalla A, Bos J, Postma A, Bossong MG. The impact of Cannabidiol on Human Brain Function: A systematic review. Frontiers in Pharmacology. 2021;11. doi:10.3389/fphar.2020.618184
- CBD in the brain: The neurological effects of CBD oil. Ministry of Hemp. https://ministryofhemp.com/blog/cbd-in-the-brain/. Published May 11, 2019. Accessed March 25, 2022.
- Pretzsch CM, Voinescu B, Mendez MA, et al. The effect of cannabidiol (CBD) on low-frequency activity and functional connectivity in the brain of adults with and without autism spectrum disorder (ASD). Journal of Psychopharmacology. 2019;33(9):1141-1148. doi:10.1177/0269881119858306
This article was edited by Dr. Swathi and was written by Element Apothec Scientific Communications Intern, Caroline Cassol. She is a Doctor of Pharmacy (PharmD) student at University of Connecticut School of Pharmacy in Storrs, Connecticut.