Many people choose CBD as a natural way to relax and reduce stress. But what exactly are the mechanisms involved in CBD’s stress-relief benefits? And how else is it impacting your brain?
The answer: More ways than you think.
Recent research has revealed that CBD usage can benefit your brain whether you’re healthy, have been diagnosed with a mental illness, or have recently experienced a physical brain injury.
In today’s blog, we’re going to get into the four biggest ways CBD is supporting your brain. But a lot of it comes down to the endocannabinoid system. So before we go any further, let’s quickly cover what the endocannabinoid system is and its function within your body.
The endocannabinoid system
The endocannabinoid system (ECS) is a vast network of chemical signals and cellular receptors that are densely packed throughout our brains and bodies.
Within it, your body makes molecules called endogenous cannabinoids – or endocannabinoids – which bind to receptors in order to signal that they need to take action on a certain function.
These receptors regulate various functions throughout the body, including:
- Learning and memory
- Temperature control
- Pain control
- Inflammatory and immune responses
- And more
Already, you can probably see how the ECS can play a major role in the function of the brain.
But how does CBD fit in?
CBD interacts with certain receptors within the brain. However, it’s largely unknown exactly how it does so. Some theorize that CBD prevents endocannabinoids from breaking down, making them more effective, while others believe CBD may bind to a currently undiscovered receptor.
Regardless, CBD interacts with the ECS in a way which makes it more powerful.
You can read more about the endocannabinoid system in our blog on the topic here.
So, now that you understand the ECS better, it’s time to look at how CBD can impact the brain.
4 ways CBD repairs and improves brain function
As we mentioned, most of the ways in which CBD affects the brain has to do with the ECS. And we think you’ll be shocked at just how busy it can be!
So keep reading to learn how CBD can help your brain and protect it from damage.
1. Relieves anxiety and depression
A lot of what causes anxiety and depression has to do with chemical reactions in the brain. Regulating levels of these chemicals is how it’s believed CBD can help reduce symptoms of these two conditions.
CBD helps increase levels of what’s been dubbed the “bliss molecule” – a neurotransmitter called anandamide named after the Sanskrit word for “happiness, pleasure, joy, and delight”. 
Researchers believe that a deficiency in endocannabinoids, such as anandamide, can lead to depression, migraines, and other conditions of the brain and nervous system. They also theorize that endocannabinoids like anandamide can offer protection against conditions like anxiety and depression [2, 3]
It’s also thought that anandamide can help better regulate the body’s stress response. 
But there’s another neurotransmitter CBD can influence – serotonin, a chemical which controls mood and makes you feel happy. Low levels of serotonin are linked to depression. Though CBD isn’t thought to necessarily increase serotonin levels, it changes how your body uses the serotonin it does have, activating it and allowing it to better bind to receptors. 
So how does this translate to helping you?
There have been plenty of studies on CBD and anxiety in particular. Let’s take a look:
- A 2011 study showed that CBD reduced anxiety and discomfort during public speaking in people with social anxiety disorder. 
- Another 2011 study found that CBD reduced anxiety symptoms in people with social anxiety disorder. 
- A 2015 review of 49 studies found evidence that suggests CBD could help with generalized anxiety disorder, panic disorder, social anxiety disorder, obsessive-compulsive disorder, and post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD). 
- A 2019 study found that out of 11 patients with PTSD, 91% experienced reduced symptoms after taking CBD. 
- A study in 2019 used CBD to treat people who were struggling with anxiety and sleep. Almost 80% of people’s anxiety improved, and almost 70% reported improved sleep in the first month. 
2. Protects and supports brain cells
Ongoing research is showing that CBD may have neuroprotective properties, specifically against cognitive decline and certain conditions and disorders of the brain. 
One of the main factors in cognitive decline has to do with oxidative stress and inflammation. These cause damage to neurons, inhibiting proper brain function. Thankfully, CBD has been shown to offer protective effects in the brain by reducing these factors. [12, 13]
Another major factor for neurodegeneration is the loss and degradation of neurons. It was once thought that once brain cells were lost, they were gone forever, but scientists now understand that the opposite is true – through neurogenesis, your neurons can be repaired and even replaced.
Tests from 2021 showed that CBD can help both repair and replace neurons, supporting cognition. 
3. May treat brain injuries
A traumatic brain injury (TBI) is a head injury which causes your brain to slam into the inside of your skull, resulting in damage to the brain. These can trigger neurotransmitters that cause inflammation, blood vessel injury, chemical imbalances, tissue damage, and cell death.
While a severe TBI can be deadly or cause lifelong complications, even a mild TBI – known as a concussion – can cause ongoing symptoms and issues. And concussions aren’t confined to athletes. Research shows that it’s easier to get a concussion than one may think, and the consequences include an increased risk of neurodegeneration. 
Interestingly, research has found that endocannabinoid levels are elevated during and after a TBI, suggesting that the ECS plays a neuroprotective role. 
Other research has substantiated this idea, showing that cannabinoid receptors in the brain may help limit nerve cell damage and promote healing by increasing blood flow to the brain. 
Rats genetically modified to not have these receptors were found to have more severe brain damage and cognitive deficits after a TBI, as well as a reduced ability to create new brain cells. [18, 19, 20]
CBD is also thought to affect the cells which insulate your neurons and facilitate your brain’s immune response following injury. A 2017 study found that – through interacting with these cells – CBD reduced swelling while another 2017 study found that CBD helped to better manage brain inflammation. [21, 22]
4. Fights psychosis, epilepsy, and other disorders
Neuroimaging studies have shown that CBD intake increases brain activity and the performance of cognitive tasks in both those with and without a psychiatric disorder. 
This has researchers looking into how CBD can help those with a wide range of brain conditions – from epilepsy to psychosis. And the results have been promising.
Psychosis is used to describe conditions that affect the mind, where there has been some loss of contact with reality. Schizophrenia is the most common psychotic disorder. 
Initial clinical trials suggest that CBD use can help those with psychosis. Researchers believe that CBD may be particularly beneficial to those in the early stages of the disorder. 
Epilepsy is a brain disorder in which a person regularly has seizures. Research has been so promising into using CBD to treat epilepsy that there’s now even an FDA approved CBD-based medication for epileptics. 
CBD for your brain
Cannabinoid receptors are dispersed throughout many brain regions and are responsible for regulating numerous aspects of activity within your brain. 
As such, introducing a compound such as CBD that has been shown to effectively manage cannabinoids and their receptors can support your brain in amazing ways.
Research into CBD is still somewhat new, with it only being recently legalized, and the ECS itself only being discovered in 1988. More and more studies are coming out every year showing the amazing effects CBD has on this system, your brain, and overall health.
But CBD can’t do you any good if you’re not able to fully absorb it. That’s why here at SomaLeaf, we infuse our CBD with a micelle liposomal formula so that you can get FULL absorption of this incredible compound.
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