CBD is famous for the promise it holds for treating treatment-resistant forms of childhood epilepsy. A number of clinical trials, testing the efficacy of CBD in human epilepsy patients, are currently underway. But there is also evidence, mainly from animal studies and in vitro experiments, that CBD may have neuroprotective, anti-inflammatory and analgesic (pain-relieving) properties, and potential therapeutic value in the treatment of motivational disorders like depression, anxiety, and addiction. What’s the biological basis for this wide range of potential medical uses? A key part of the answer lies in CBD’s promiscuous pharmacology—its ability to influence a wide range of receptor systems in the brain and body, including not only cannabinoid receptors but a host of others.


How Does CBD Affect Your Brain?

The brain contains large numbers of highly specialized cells called neurons. Each neuron connects to many others through structures called synapses. These are sites where one neuron communicates to another by releasing chemical messengers known as neurotransmitters.

A neuron’s sensitivity to a specific neurotransmitter depends on whether or not it contains a receptor that “fits” that transmitter, like an electrical socket fits a plug. If a neuron contains receptors that match a particular neurotransmitter, then it can respond directly to that transmitter. Otherwise, it generally can’t. All neurons contain multiple neurotransmitter receptors, allowing them to respond to some neurotransmitters but not others.

Brain receptors are not only sensitive to neurotransmitters produced naturally within the brain, like dopamine or serotonin, but also chemical messengers produced outside the body, such as plant cannabinoids like THC or CBD. So when you ingest an edible like a CBD gummy or inhale some vapour from a CBD e-liquid, you’re allowing compounds originally produced by a plant to enter your body, travel through your bloodstream, and enter your brain.

Once they arrive, these plant-derived compounds can influence brain activity by interacting with receptors on neurons. But they don’t interact with all neurons, just the ones that have the appropriate receptors.


CBD Has Effects on Many Different Receptor Systems

Although it is a cannabinoid, CBD does not directly interact with the two classical cannabinoid receptors (CB1 and CB2). Instead, it affects signaling through CB1 and CB2 receptors indirectly. This partly explains why, in contrast to THC, CBD is non-intoxicating. In addition to its indirect influence on the CB1 and CB2 receptors, CBD can increase levels of the body’s own naturally-produced cannabinoids (known as endocannabinoids) by inhibiting the enzymes that break them down.Even more intriguing: CBD also influences many non-cannabinoid receptor systems in the brain, interacting with receptors sensitive to a variety of drugs and neurotransmitters. These include opioid receptors, known for their role in pain regulation.

Opioid receptors are the key targets of pharmaceutical pain killers and drugs of abuse such as morphine, heroin, and fentanyl. CBD can also interact with dopamine receptors, which play a crucial role in regulating many aspects of behavior and cognition, including motivation and reward-seeking behavior. This raises the intriguing possibility that CBD’s ability to influence either opioid or dopamine receptors may underlie its ability to dampen drug cravings and withdrawal symptoms, effects directly relevant to the treatment of addiction. However, we can’t say for sure at this point; more research on CBD’s interactions with the opioid and dopamine receptor systems is still needed.

CBD’s therapeutic potential with respect to addiction also extends to the serotonin system. Animal studies have demonstrated that CBD directly activates multiple serotonin receptors in the brain. These interactions have been implicated in its ability to reduce drug-seeking behavior. CBD’s influence on the serotonin system may also account in part for its anti-anxiety properties, which have been robustly demonstrated across both human and animal studies.


CBD's Effect On Anxiety, Stress, and Depression

A number of human and animal studies have demonstrated CBD’s efficacy as an anxiolytic compound, which means it can relieve the characteristic network of symptoms related to stress, depression, and anxiety. One study administering a dose of 400 mg CBD reduced anxiety in volunteers during a simulated public-speaking procedure and neuroimaging showed changes in brain activity related to the control of emotional processes.It’s thought that CBD influences neuron activity in the hippocampus (the region of the brain involved in memory consolidation and formation) by increasing calcium ion concentrations in the mitochondria.

It has also been shown that CBD attenuates blood oxygenation and impairs connectivity in the amygdala, the region of the brain involved with the experiencing of emotions.When looking to tie a reported benefit, such as reduced anxiety or stress, with a specific target mechanism, things can become pretty messy. The fact is, while these benefits have been observed in both human and animal trials, there is a considerable amount of overlap. Though the exact mechanisms are yet to be elucidated, it’s clear that CBD acts upon several different pathways involved in relieving the symptoms of stress and anxiety. In fact, the collective research demonstrates that something as natural and innocuous as a CBD oil (e.g from our Hemplucid range) can be as effective as a pharmaceutical alternative like valium or diazepam.


CBD Reduces Blood Flow

Not all strains work our body and mind the same way, but recent research has found that specific strains (those that are CBD dominant) can cause a reduction in blood flow to particular regions of the brain, linked to anxiety. This CBD was found to help reduce the overall anxiety scores of the study’s participants.


CBD Works to Manage Pain

We all know that THC has a positive effect on helping pain, but so does CBD. CBD helps with pain by acting on the CB2 receptor. These receptors are responsible for controlling important cellular functions such as suppressing the inflammation response, which sends a direct message to your brain of pain. CBD blocks that signal reducing the level of pain.


Reduces Oxidative Damage

Oxidation stress which contributes to brain damage seen in conditions such as Alzheimer’s and Parkinson’s disease is a condition of imbalance or malfunction in the balance of reactive species and their generating mechanisms with antioxidants and antioxidant mechanisms. Studies have shown that CBD acts on the CB2 receptor to reduce oxidative damage. This means that CBD can help minimize this type of stress and allow the brain to function normally.


CBD lowers the Degree of Excitation of Brain Cells

When brain cells don’t function normally and begin to work rapidly through excessive stimulation, the damage is known as excitotoxicity. Over the past couple of years, CBD has become a popular form of medicine for those that suffer from epilepsy. It has been found that CBD tends to lower the degree of excitation and minimize excitotoxicity in epilepsy patients, contributing to the protection of brain cells in the disorder. A disorder that often leads to convulsions and seizures.


CBD has Significant Antipsychotic Properties

To understand this, we, first of all, have to understand what is anandamide. Anandamide is a recently discovered neurotransmitter that plays a role in pain, depression, appetite, memory, and fertility. Its name originates from Ananda, the Sanskrit word for “bliss.”


Can CBD Protect the Brain?

The brain is a remarkable organ, but when it becomes damaged, repairing that damage is difficult at best, and seemingly impossible at worst. For example, there are currently no known cures for neurodegenerative diseases such as Alzheimer’s and Parkinson’s. However, and you probably know where we’re going with this by now, the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) has known since at least 1999 that CBD and other cannabinoids are potentially capable of protecting brain cells from these diseases, at least according to the patent they obtained.

Researchers have also discovered CBD’s ability to reduce brain damage due to trauma, with a 50 percent increase in viable cells along with a 50 percent decrease in damaged cells. In both treating neurodegenerative diseases and reducing brain damage, CBD’s effect on CB2 receptors is the key, as it works as an anti-inflammatory while also reducing oxidation.

Brain damaged cells also cause a type of damage known as excitotoxicity, which occurs when normal communication between brain cells is disrupted. The combined impact of reduced inflammation, oxidation, and excitotoxicity helps reduce brain damage and restore normal function.


It’s only the beginning

Though hemp has been used for thousands of years as effective treatment for pain and inflammation, researchers are only now discovering the true scope of CBD’s medicinal potential. With the laws being what they are, progress feels slow at times, especially when so many people could benefit from full legalization. However, as more and more scientists research the possibilities, expect to see changes sooner rather than later.