Chances are, you already know that cannabidiol (CBD) doesn’t have any psychotropic effects on the human mind. In other words, it won’t make you high no matter what dose of the substance you decide to take.
While there aren’t any scientifically confirmed and universally established health benefits related to CBD usage, it’s apparent that the substance really has a lot of effects on the human brain.
But what do we really know about them?
Get ready for some neat scientific data!
Meet the endocannabinoid system
There is a specific receptor for any substance, hormone, or molecular messenger in your body.
For example, you have adrenergic receptors that interact with adrenaline to change your heart rate and blood pressure. As another example, you have cholinergic receptors that respond to acetylcholine and induce muscle contractions.
Well, it turns out your body has a specialized system of receptors and messengers for the compounds found in cannabis.
This system is called the endocannabinoid system (ECS). The ECS consists of two main types of cannabinoid receptors – CB1 and CB2. They are scattered all around your body, but CB1 is predominant in the nervous system, kidney, and lungs while CB2 is present in abundance in the immune system, peripheral nerves, and gastrointestinal tract.
Why does this matter?
The substances that interact with the ECS are called cannabinoids, and they can either be derived from plant sources (like cannabidiol or tetrahydrocannabinol) or be produced by the body itself (like anandamide). The first group of compounds is known as phytocannabinoids while the second is known as endocannabinoids.
All cannabinoids including CBD interact in different ways with the receptors found in the ECS. That’s where all the fun starts.
CBD apparently tweaks the function of the ECS
Tetrahydrocannabinol (THC) is a phytocannabinoid that gets people high as a kite when they take cannabis for recreational purposes. THC activates both CB1 and CB2 receptors, resulting in a vibrant cocktail of cognitive, emotional, and sensory effects.
Anandamide is a cannabinoid produced by the body itself. This compound is well-known for its ability to evoke euphoria (including the ”runner’s high”), and this is even reflected in the name of the chemical—ananda means ”internal bliss” in Sanskrit. Anandamide works mainly by activating the CB1 receptor in the brain and with the emerging CB3 type of receptors.
And here comes the surprise: CBD doesn’t interact well neither with CB1 nor with CB2. It’s like a key that hardly fits the lock that the body has for it. Instead of activating these two cannabinoid receptors directly, CBD seems to tweak their activity and sensitivity for other compounds (including the ones produced in the body, like anandamide).
Although scientists haven’t yet agreed on what is the exact mechanism of action of CBD, most likely it’s based on this ability to indirectly orchestrate the delicate molecular machinery that keeps all the body’s functions well-synched.
CBD may ”reset” some regions of the brain to prevent the development of psychosis
Impaired function in particular regions of the brain is statistically associated with a higher risk of developing psychosis—dangerous distortions of cognitive function and perception of the reality around us. One of the most well-known and feared forms of psychosis is schizophrenia, so you can imagine why this is such an important issue.
Recently, a study published in the Journal of the American Medical Association reported that a single dose of cannabidiol was able to regulate the function of the “dangerous” brain zones associated with psychosis. Although the individuals who received CBD weren’t liberated of their risk of developing the disease later, their levels of activation in the studied brain regions was significantly closer to that of a healthy person than to the activity of someone who didn’t receive CBD treatment.
CBD may protect the brain from getting Alzheimer’s
Alzheimer’s disease (AD) is a neurodegenerative disorder that accounts for about 70% of all cases of dementia around the world, according to the World Health Organization. There is no cure for this terrible condition at the moment.
But what exactly causes AD?
We don’t know yet.
The most popular theory states that the primary culprit is the beta-amyloid, a pathological protein formed in the brain of AD sufferers. Beta-amyloid plaques eventually disrupt the brain’s normal functions, severely impair memory, and cause chronic inflammation.
Well, although it’s too early to celebrate, a Spanish study reported that CBD could reduce the harmful impact of beta-amyloid and boost the brain’s own ability to heal itself.
Are we finally looking at a remedy for one of the world’s biggest health fears? Time will tell, but let’s hope for the best!
CBD interacts with the brain’s serotonin receptors
Serotonin is a neurotransmitter (signaling molecule) touted in popular science as one of the brain’s main ”feel good” chemicals. Although it’s really not that simple (serotonin has dozens of functions, and evoking joyful vibes is just one of them), CBD apparently interacts with serotonin-specific 5-HT1a receptors.
Potentially, this could mean that CBD fights anxiety and depression through the body’s own way of feeling good.
CBD may help with addiction disorders
If marijuana is a recreational drug, you could say that CBD is sort of an anti-drug.
Not only does CBD negate the psychoactive effect of other cannabinoids like THC, but it also alleviates many forms of substance addiction. It even seems to have potential in fighting opioid abuse problems!
Here are a few fantastic examples:
- In 2013, a study reported that CBD reduced cigarette smoking by 40%. Part of this beneficial effect remained after the study was over
- Animal studies reported that CBD can reduce alcohol consumption and drinking relapse
- Other studies suggest CBD could be effective in reducing the usage of cocaine and opioids as well
Most likely, this is because CBD acts as a modulator for several opioid receptors—meaning that it regulates their function without acting on them directly.
The bottom line
As you see, there are quite a few ways in which CBD interacts with the human brain but guess what? Most likely, science has just barely scratched the surface of this huge topic.
More studies are needed to pinpoint the fine interactions between CBD and other signaling molecules, or how it regulates the multitude of different receptors in the brain.
What’s highly encouraging is the fact that CBD has an outstanding safety profile, so we can only hope that its benefits will be confirmed and endorsed as soon as possible.
After all, as far as natural treatment goes, CBD seems to be one of the most reliable and universal options out there!
Please visit any of our 5 locations to learn more about CBD from our friendly and knowledgeable team members!
– The Cost Plus Nutrition Team