What does CBD do in the brain?
The Effects of CBD on Brain Function
In the cannabis plant, there are two primary cannabinoid compounds, delta-9 tetrahydrocannabinol (THC) and cannabidiol (CBD). Over the years, THC has been the more widely known compound, but over time, CBD research and use has become more widely accepted. CBD does not have the same psychoactive properties as THC and doesn't give you the feeling of "being high". Studies have begun to show how CBD may improve brain function, even slowing the progression of Alzheimer’s for patients in the early stages of development.
The Endocannabinoid System and CBD
In order to understand how CBD affects the brain and brain function, you have to understand how the body utilizes it. We have what is known as the Endocannabinoid System (ECS) in our body that is a neuro-modulatory system. From the research that has been done thus far, findings suggest that the ECS is responsible for the regulation of physiological as well as cognitive processes, such as fertility, mood, memory, and even pharmacological effects of cannabis.
Maintaining homeostasis is the primary function of the endocannabinoid system, or a stable environment internally, despite external changes in the environment. Cannabis, including CBD, contains chemicals that naturally mimic these endocannabinoid messengers and bind to the same receptors. Researchers conducting clinical trials are seeing how compounds may be useful for the treatment of some diseases, pain, and even mental health conditions.
CBD and Brain Function
Reducing inflammation is the single most important role of CBD for brain function. Inflammatory response is necessary for the body to survive, but when overactive, causes “neuroinflammation” which is responsible for many neurological conditions.
Studies have linked inflammation to issues such as anxiety, depression, memory trouble, stroke, epilepsy, Alzheimer’s disease, fatigue, and brain fog. Additionally, these studies suggest CBD can slow inflammatory responses in the body. When reducing inflammation in the brain it means alleviating many symptoms associated with neurological conditions.
The goal is to maintain healthy brain function as one gets older in age. Most people start to experience a slow decline in memory and learning efficiency as they age. With that being said, there are many who have suffered sharp declines at a fast rate.
Millions of people are living with dementia globally, and the rate is continuing to climb. “Age-related cognitive decline” has many causes ranging from lifestyle habits to genetics, but also from decreases in neuroplasticity and neurogenesis.
What is Neuroplasticity? It's the ability of your brain to change and reorganize and is the process through which all memory and learning take place. What is Neurogenesis? It's the growth and development of nervous tissue .
There is a study out on mice that determined CBD reduces stroke-induced neuroinflammation and increases neuroplasticity and neurogenesis.
CBD and Alzheimer’s Disease
Alzheimer's disease is by some considered the most commonly known neurological disorder. Alzheimer’s disease is a form of dementia intensified by inflammation, brain cell decline, and oxygen buildup. More specifically, when inflammation occurs in the brain, excess oxygen is released in brain cells, leading to brain deterioration and memory loss.
This is known as neurotoxicity, and it affects more than five million people in the United States alone. One of the positive things CBD can do is that it helps clear disorienting blockages. CBD can decrease the excess oxygen, as an antioxidant, caused by brain inflammation.
The endocannabinoid system is made up of two receptors: CB1 and CB2. CB1 is present in each part of the brain, including the hippocampus, which is responsible for our memory function and learning ability. CB2 receptors live in certain immune cells in our brain called microglia.
The ECS that responds to the signals sent by CBD products is very much responsible for memory and the hippocampus is the first major part of the body to be destroyed by Alzheimer’s. As in many neurological disorders, ongoing research finds CBD to protect nerve cells against deterioration and provide antioxidant properties to the whole body, including the brain.
5 Ways CBD Affects our Brain
1 – CBD Reduces Blood Flow
A study by Crippa et al., published in the Journal of Psychopharmacology in September 2010, looked at the effects of CBD on a small group of subjects with Social Anxiety Disorder (SAD). The researchers discovered that the participants felt better, and CBD helped change the way their brains responded to anxiety. What’s fascinating; the brain scans revealed changes in blood flow to the areas of the brain usually linked with anxiety.
2 – CBD Works to Manage Pain
People who suffer from chronic pain are using CBD everywhere and finding relief. CBD modifies the CB2 receptors’ ability to bind endocannabinoids. Alternatively, it may cause the body to produce more of the natural cannabinoids that attach to the CB2 receptors. CBD also affects the way in which these receptors respond to the pain signals we receive, which helps reduce pain and inflammation.
3 – Reduces Oxidative Damage
Maintaining good health means our bodies need to manage oxidative stress efficiently. Oxidative stress is a natural process that happens at a cellular level. When a cell generates energy, it generates free radicals as a waste product. Environmental toxins, such as smog exposure, can also create free radicals.
Our body responds to the creation of free radicals by using antioxidants to stabilize the waste and ensure they don’t cause damage to the DNA in our cells. If our bodies don’t produce enough antioxidants, the waste products begin stealing DNA particles.
CBD acts on the CB2 receptors to decrease the level of oxidative damage. Possessing strong antioxidant abilities, researchers believe that cannabidiol’s neuroprotective antioxidant capacity is similar to that of Vitamins C and E.
4 – CBD Lowers the Degree of Excitation in Brain Cells
The damage caused when our brain cells become overactive due to excessive stimulation is called excitotoxicity. It can result from traumatic brain injury, stroke, hearing loss, and brain degenerating diseases of the CNS, including multiple sclerosis and Alzheimer’s.
A study by Pretzsch et al., published in the Neuropsychopharmacology journal in February 2019, looked at the effects of CBD on brain excitation and inhibition systems. The team concluded that CBD could ‘shift’ the level of Glx and GABA+ metabolites; they are known to contribute to the regulation of inhibitory and excitatory neurotransmission in the autistic and typical brains. The researchers pointed out that further studies were required.
5 – CBD Has Significant Antipsychotic Properties
This benefit relates to CBD’s effects on anandamide. Anandamide was discovered in the 1990s and is a neurotransmitter that can both improve mood while also potentially reducing pain sensitivity.
Fatty acid amide hydrolase (FAAH) breaks down anandamide. However, CBD inhibits the FAAH enzyme, which means the bliss molecule remains active in the ECS for longer; thus enhancing its potency.
CBD’s antipsychotic effects relate to its impact on anandamide. Scientists link higher levels of the bliss molecule with a decrease in psychotic symptoms.