Six Ways CBD Boosts Brain Health

The potential of cannabidiol (CBD) to address a number of health issues and enhance the body’s functionality continues to be a focus of the research community. Brain health is one of those areas and several studies point to the potential of CBD to boost brain function through its effect on the body’s endocannabinoid system (ECS).

The ECS is a vital molecular system that plays a very important role in maintaining homeostasis, which is the body’s efforts to maintain stable functionality and operate optimally regardless of any changes in its environment.  For example, homeostasis comes into play when we want our cells to maintain optimum performance so that our body temperature isn’t too hot or cold.

CBD and the ECS

The ECS is made up of three components: endocannabinoids; cannabinoid receptors, which act as neurotransmitters (neurotransmitters send and receive messages over small gaps between neurons, which are called synapses) and enzymes.  CBD stimulates the endocannabinoid system to produce more of its own cannabinoids, and it and slows their breakdown.[1]

Impact of CBD on the Brain

While more research is needed, there are a number of ways that CBD can benefit brain health, according to studies already conducted.  Among them:

Promotes Healthy Brain Cells (brain cell growth)

One of reasons for age-related cognitive decline, of which there are many, is a decrease in neuroplasticity and neurogenesis. Neuroplasticity is the brain’s ability to continue to grow and evolve in response to intrinsic or extrinsic stimuli. Neurogenesis is the birth of new brain cells. One study conducted on animal subjects found that CBD reduced stroke-inducted neuroinflammation, promoted neuroplasticity and stimulated neurogenesis. [2]

Decreases Brain Inflammation

Brain inflammation can lead to many serious conditions, such as meningitis. While brain swelling is the main cause of brain inflammation, there are other causes. Spinal cord swelling and viral or bacterial infection can cause brain inflammation, which left untreated can be fatal.  One of the effects of CBD effects is treating multiple stages of inflammation. CBD’s anti-inflammatory properties start in the immune system.[3] CBD seems to be able to interact with the immune system, reduce inflammation and reduce pain from a number of conditions.[4]

A study reported in the European Journal of Pain looked into the effectiveness of a topical CBD gel on animal subjects to reduce inflammation and pain from arthritis. The CBD was applied to the animals for four consecutive days. Results indicated a significant drop in joint swelling and signs of pain. The data indicated that topical CBD has therapeutic potential for relief of arthritis pain-related behaviors and inflammation without evident side effects.[5]

Prevents Oxidative Damage

Cell oxidation underlies many health conditions. As we breathe, cells take oxygen to use for energy, and at the same time, we take in free radicals from atmospheric pollution. Free radicals damage and kill off healthy cells. Antioxidants fight free radicals and kill them off. [6] CBD not only has anti-inflammatory effects; it also has antioxidant properties.

Impacts Common Neurotransmitters

The brain uses neurotransmitters to tell various parts of the body to function, such as the lungs to breath. Neurotransmitters also affect mood, sleep and concentration.  Animal studies indicate CBD increased levels of neurotransmitters, including serotonin and glutamate.[7]

Serotonin is responsible for good mood and is associated with sleep patterns.  Glutamate, is the most abundant excitatory neurotransmitter in the brain and is necessary for proper brain functioning. Excitatory neurotransmitters excite or stimulate nerve cells so that they can receive critical information. [8]

Another neurotransmitter impacted by CBD is dopamine, your brain’s reward system. If dopamine levels are too high or too low, it can cause addiction or depression.  CBD has been shown to replenish low levels of dopamine in the brain, suggesting it might serve as a dopamine regulator and as a result help those suffering from addiction. [9]

Acts as Anticonvulsant (seizures)

Research has shown the adjunctive use of CBD improves seizure control in patients with specific epilepsy syndromes.[10]  Epilepsy is a neurological condition that is characterized by frequent seizures. In 2018, The Food and Drug Administration approved Epidiolex, a prescription CBD medicine to treat rare and severe forms of epilepsy.

Improves Blood Flow

A study that appeared in the Journal of Psychopharmacology found CBD causes a significant increase in regional cerebral blood flow (CBD) to the hippocampus. The hippocamus plays a critical role in forming, organizing and storing memories as well as connecting certain sensations and emotions to these memories.

 Researchers concluded that their finding may have implications for the potential use of CBD to treat a range of conditions associated with altered memory processing, including Alzheimer’s disease, schizophrenia, post-traumatic stress disorder and cannabis-use disorders.[11]

Additional research on CBD will provide new insights into the effects of CBD on the brain.

 

[1] Ashton, Livvy, “How Does CBD Affect the Brain? Impact of Cannabidiol on Brain Function,” CFAH, Last updated November 1, 2021. https://cfah.org/cbd-effects-on-brain/
[2] Mori MA, Meyer E, Soares LM, Milani H, Guimarães FS, de Oliveira RMW. Cannabidiol reduces neuroinflammation and promotes neuroplasticity and functional recovery after brain ischemia. Prog Neuropsychopharmacol Biol Psychiatry. 2017 Apr 3;75:94-105. doi: 10.1016/j.pnpbp.2016.11.005. Epub 2016 Nov 23. PMID: 27889412.  https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/27889412/
 [3] Editorial staff, “10 CBD Effects on the Brain,” cannabisMD, accessed November 29, 2021. https://cannabismd.com/basics/cbd/10-cbd-effects-brain/
[4] “CBD Oil for Inflammation,” Weedmaps, accessed July 18, 2020. https://weedmaps.com/learn/cbd/cbd-oil-inflammation#
[5] Hammell DC, Zhang LP, Ma F, et al. Transdermal cannabidiol reduces inflammation and pain-related behaviours in a rat model of arthritis. Eur J Pain. 2016;20(6):936‐948. doi:10.1002/ejp.818  https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC4851925
[6] Editorial staff, “10 CBD Effects on the Brain,” cannabisMD
[7] Hampton, Debbie, “5 Ways Cannabidiol (CBD) Can Boost Your Brain,” The Best Brain Possible, February 3, 2019. https://thebestbrainpossible.com/cbd-brain-endocannabinoid-supplement/
[8] Pugle, Michelle, “What is Glutamate,” verywell health, July 21, 2021. https://www.verywellhealth.com/what-is-glutamate-5188294
[9] “Does CBD Increase Dopamine,” Harloh CBD, Accessed November 29, 2021. https://harlohcbd.com/does-cbd-increase-dopamine/
[10] Perucca E. Cannabinoids in the Treatment of Epilepsy: Hard Evidence at Last?. J Epilepsy Res. 2017;7(2):61-76. Published 2017 Dec 31. doi:10.14581/jer.17012  https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC5767492/
[11] Bloomfield MAP, Green SF, Hindocha C, Yamamori Y, Yim JLL, Jones APM, Walker HR, Tokarczuk P, Statton B, Howes OD, Curran HV, Freeman TP. The effects of acute cannabidiol on cerebral blood flow and its relationship to memory: An arterial spin labelling magnetic resonance imaging study. J Psychopharmacol. 2020 Sep;34(9):981-989. doi: 10.1177/0269881120936419. Epub 2020 Aug 7. PMID: 32762272; PMCID: PMC7436497. https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/32762272/