Using CBD to successfully treat physical ailments like inflammation, nausea, or migraine is widely known and well-documented, but did you know that the hemp-derived cannabinoid may also improve your mental and emotional health?
Alongside mounting anecdotal evidence, an ever-growing number of studies confirm CBD to be a powerful treatment option for symptoms like depression or anxiety, and diagnosed illnesses such as post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) or social anxiety disorder (SAD).
Interested in understanding how CBD may benefit your mental and emotional well-being? Read on to learn more!
What is the endocannabinoid system?
The human body is made up of several systems that control different bodily functions. For example, the cardiovascular system controls your heartbeat and blood flow, your respiratory system controls your breathing, and your digestive system controls your stomach and intestines. Each system works individually and with all other systems to keep our bodies healthy and well-functioning.
Like all other systems, every human being also has an endocannabinoid system (ECS). The ECS both creates endocannabinoids and processes phytocannabinoids like CBD, which is derived from the legal hemp plant.
The ECS is made up of neurotransmitters called endocannabinoid receptors. CB1 endocannabinoid receptors are primarily concentrated in the brain, and CB2 receptors are located throughout the body.
CB1 receptors regulate pain perception, appetite, and immunity. They also help balance short-term memory, motor functioning, and thinking. By and large, CB2 receptors target everything else: eyes, bones, muscles, kidneys, liver, bladder, skin, and other systems, organs, and body parts.
Today, we’re diving deeper into CB1 receptors and their direct relation to mental and emotional health states.
How are CBD, CB1 receptors, and mental health related?
CB1 receptors are a type of neurotransmitter largely located in the brain. They influence neurological functioning by modulating hormone production. When targeting CB1 receptors, CBD prompts the brain to create and/or regulate feel-good endorphins and other hormones. Some examples of these are:
- Serotonin: This endorphin is also known as 5-hydroxytryptamine (5-HT). It acts as an all-around mood stabilizer, producing feelings of happiness and emotional homeostasis. Low levels of serotonin are common in those suffering from chronic depression and other depressive disorders. Abnormally high amounts of serotonin can lead to a rare disorder called serotonin syndrome.
- Dopamine: Another feel-good endorphin, this hormone is responsible for feelings of pleasure and motivation. It is directly related to our ability to focus, think, plan, and take an interest in things. Excessive amounts of dopamine have been linked to hallucinogenic disorders like schizophrenia, and chronic dopamine shortages often accompany attention disorders like attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD). Additionally, certain chemical addictions center around dopamine misuse and overuse.
- Epinephrine: Also known as adrenaline, this hormone is responsible for alertness and the body’s stress response. It is a fast-acting hormone that increases heart rate, blood pressure, and glucose production to induce a surge of energy throughout the body. Although epinephrine plays a vital role in the fight-or-flight response that allows us to act quickly and efficiently in dangerous situations, its overproduction can become problematic in those who suffer from chronic stress.
- Cortisol: This stress hormone tags alongside epinephrine. Essentially, cortisol maintains the momentum produced by epinephrine to keep us energized in stressful or overwhelming situations.
When these (and other) hormones are properly balanced, many achieve an increased sense of emotional stability. CBD aids in this balancing act by triggering CB1 receptors to bring about overall mental homeostasis.
Anecdotal reports have long implicated CBD as an effective treatment for mental health symptoms and chronic disorders. Modern research confirms many of these claims, asserting CBD to be a potent anti-depressant, anti-anxiety, anti-psychotic, and anti-addictive agent.
Can CBD help depression?
Depression and chronic depressive disorders are most often linked to decreased levels of serotonin or inadequate serotonin production in the brain. Many who use CBD to treat diagnosed depression find that the cannabinoid significantly decreases depressive symptoms like excessive sadness and intrusive thoughts while increasing feelings of contentment and stimulating motivation.
This 2010 study found that CBD acts similarly to the pharmaceutical antidepressant imipramine by activating serotonin receptors in the brain.
A more recent 2016 study confirmed similar results: CBD reduces depressive symptoms by triggering CB1 receptors in the brain to increase serotonin production. Furthermore, this study found that CBD functions as a particularly fast-acting serotonin and glutamine booster.
What about chronic stress and anxiety?
Stress and anxiety are often described as overwhelming feelings of worry or fear. When these feelings become long-lasting, chronic conditions, they can be debilitating and interfere with everyday life.
Chronic stress and anxiety result from excessive epinephrine and cortisol production. When these stress hormones are continuously elevated, people often experience physiologically detrimental effects like chronic coronary conditions which may increase the risk of heart attack or stroke.
This recent 2020 review observed a positive impact on patients with diagnosed generalized anxiety disorder (GAD), post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD), and social anxiety disorder (SAD) when administered various daily doses of CBD. Researchers concluded that these findings resulted from CBD’s direct interaction with limbic and paralimbic brain activity, which significantly decreased feelings of anxiety.
Another 2020 review noted that, alongside decreasing stress, CBD also reduced cardiovascular and other physiological responses to stress.
Additionally, this 2019 study found that CBD decreased clinical and subjective anxiety scores within just a month of treatment. A study from that same year concluded similarly: high doses of CBD reduced anxiety in users placed in high anxiety-provoking situations.
Does CBD alleviate psychotic symptoms?
Symptoms of psychosis, like hallucinations, delusions, dissociation, paranoia, disorganized behavior, impulsivity, or catatonia can be difficult to treat. These symptoms often accompany mental illnesses like schizophrenia, schizoaffective disorder, dissociative identity disorder (DID), bipolar disorder, or borderline personality disorder (BPD).
Research consistently indicates that issues surrounding dopamine centers in the brain may be a central culprit to the onset and persistence of psychotic symptoms. CBD acts as an effective anti-psychotic here by modulating dopamine production.
This 2020 review found that CBD regulated dopaminergic activity without worsening motor activity in Parkinson’s disease patients with psychosis. Researchers here noted that CBD does not increase plasma prolactin like pharmaceutical antipsychotics, suggesting that CBD has a high safety profile. An earlier 2006 study concluded similar findings, deeming CBD a potent antipsychotic with an efficacy profile similar to that of atypical antipsychotic medications.
This additional 2015 review additionally concluded CBD to not only be an effective treatment for existing psychotic disorders like schizophrenia, but also a preventative agent for the onset and development of psychosis and other relevant mental conditions.
Can CBD help combat addiction?
Substance use disorders (SUDs) are on the rise, and according to this 2021 survey, 94% of sufferers did not receive treatment. Of the total U.S. population, 9.2 million people aged 12 years or older misused opioids in the last year, and 29.5 million were diagnosed with alcohol use disorder.
Addiction creates new neurological pathways in the brain, making addictive tendencies difficult to beat. CBD combats addiction by modulating serotonin and dopamine production while regulating opioidergic pathways and promoting neurogenesis, or the creation of new brain cells.
This recent 2021 review confirms these findings, concluding CBD to be an effective treatment for a variety of SUDs. Here, researchers discussed CBD’s efficacy in alleviating alcohol cravings with regular transdermal application. By balancing dopamine production, CBD also reduced impulsivity and the incidence of alcoholic relapse with minimal side effects presented. Additionally, that same review found that CBD reduces opioid cravings and accelerated neurogenesis in psychostimulant abuse patients by reversing long-term memory loss.
Another 2018 study concluded similarly, finding that CBD reduces the incidence of relapse and even prevents addictive relapse up to 5 months post-CBD treatment.
Could CBD help you?
Whether you struggle with occasional emotional disruptions or suffer from chronic, debilitating mental illness, CBD may help you achieve psychological wellness.
The key to deriving maximum benefit from CBD is consistency: some see results right away, but for many others, it takes time (typically around 30 days) for cannabinoids to build up in your system and create a marked difference. Be patient with yourself and start slow, easing yourself into your ideal dosage without inducing unwanted side effects. Once you’ve found the right dose for you, emphasize a daily CBD routine to ensure you find the relief you’re looking for.
As with any treatment, it’s up to you to determine which path is right for you as you journey towards wellness. Always consult a trusted medical professional if you have any concerns regarding potential interactions between CBD and preexisting medical conditions or pharmaceutical therapeutics.
When battling mental or emotional conditions, it’s important to remember that you aren’t alone. You may be surprised to learn that many people suffer from similar issues and that there are plenty of resources to explore as you work to improve your psychological well-being.
We hope that you consider CBD as a natural therapeutic agent as you continue working towards good health. With a considerable track record of success, this versatile cannabinoid may just be the mental and emotional boost you’re searching for.