Let’s face it, it’s a difficult world to live in, and the stressors of modern life are enough to make anyone’s head spin. In all reality and seriousness, the world is in a mental health crisis, with issues like anxiety and depression permeating the lives and homes of people all over the world.
It was recently reported that Ireland had one of the highest rates of mental illness in Europe, with 18.5% of the population experiencing a mental health issue or condition, in comparison to the 1 in 6 (16.6%) experiences in Europe overall.
Globally, according to the World Health Organization, 1 in 4 people will experience a mental health issue or neurological condition within their lifetime.
While the list of mental health issues, diseases and disorders is long and vast, anxiety, depression, and Post Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD) are common mental health-related conditions that can often be disruptive to the daily tasks of life when left untreated.
Common treatments include powerful pharmaceuticals that have unwanted side effects for users, leaving people living with mental health issues looking for a safe alternative to popping pills simply to just feel better.
Enter CBD, the endocannabinoid system, and a bit of neuroscience and now people are finding hope in the treatment of mental illness.
In order to understand how CBD can affect mental health, it’s important to understand the different aspects of the brain and our bodily systems that affect mood and the way we generally feel.
The Endocannabinoid System
The Endocannabinoid System (ECS) is an under-recognized part of medical science that has gained importance in the medical cannabis and CBD communities.
Acting as a master conductor, the ECS is responsible for regulating the most important physiological processes for establishing and maintaining health, while regulating all the body’s systems. The ECS has a large role to play in the regulation of mood and mental health.
The ECS is believed to have more cellular receptors than any system within the human body. It is made of two main receptors, the CB1 and CB2, which act as conductors of signals throughout the whole body, delivering cannabinoids to the places of the body that need them most.
The ECS also contains naturally produced endocannabinoids that bind to the CB1 and CB2 receptors. Adding phytocannabinoids in the form of CBD gives the body more of what it already uses to maintain health and bring the body to a state of homeostasis.
A Bit of How the Brain Works
Serotonin is a chemical released in the nerves that provides a wide range of functions in the body. Serotonin is thought to play a role in regulating the emotions and mood, with low serotonin levels being associated with depression.
Related serotonin levels and how our brain handles our mood and emotions is the process of neurogenesis, a normal process that occurs in a healthy brain. This is the process that literally allows the brain to heal itself, and in turn, helps repair the functions of the brain that affect mood, emotions, and one’s sense of well-being.
Selective serotonin reuptake inhibitors (SSRIs) and serotonin and norepinephrine reuptake inhibitors (SNRIs) have traditionally been the route taken using a pharmaceutical approach to mental health.
SSRIs and SNRIs work by increasing the production of serotonin in the brain while blocking the brain’s reabsorption of serotonin, thus reducing depressive effects.
While these interventions may work for some, others are finding unwanted side effects from these medications such as drowsiness or insomnia, dry mouth, dizziness or loss of equilibrium, and for some, loss of sexual libido.
Ready to move on to alternative ways of treating mental health, more and more people are exploring CBD.
CBD to Promote Serotonin and Neurogenesis
CBD has been found to boost signals to the brain, helping the brain transmit more serotonin to its receptors, which is what pharmaceutical interventions for mental health strive to do.
When your serotonin system is activated, the mood is boosted, and symptoms of depression and anxiety are relieved.
CBD may provide the brain what it needs to literally repair itself through the process of neurogenesis. Preliminary studies in mice looked at hippocampal neuroregeneration, which is a repair of the brain cells of the hippocampus.
The studies showed that with CBD, the cells in the hippocampus begin to repair themselves while activating the important parts of the endocannabinoid system that regulate mood.
What We Know About CBD and Mental Health
While the legal status of cannabis and CBD has significantly dampened the potential of research. There is still a growing body of research emerging that is supporting the effectiveness of CBD for many mental health issues, illnesses, and disorders.
Of the most common interest is anxiety, being the most prevalent mental health disorder experienced worldwide. Anxiety is caused by both genetic and non-genetic factors, such as environment, diet, stress, and socialization. Anxiety can be both acute, or for some, plague every aspect of their life.
CBD is believed to have the ability to increase the effectiveness of the brain’s serotonin receptors, helping to reduce anxiety. CBD also is being shown to help the brain regenerate neurons in through that important process of neurogenesis, providing people relief from the “fight or flight” response often tied to anxiety.
A human study on CBD and its effects on anxiety with those facing Seasonal Affective Disorder was completed in 2011, showing promising results. The study looked at the effects of 400mg of CBD, ingested daily, compared to a control group who took a placebo. The results showed that participants who were given CBD demonstrated a significant decrease in signs of anxiety.
A 2015 review of previous studies concluded that “CBD oil is a promising treatment for numerous forms of anxiety, including social anxiety disorder, panic disorder, obsessive-compulsive disorder (OCD), generalized anxiety disorder, and post-traumatic stress disorder”, yet this specific study cited that more longitudinal (long-term) research is needed to be able to fully embrace the potential of CBD for anxiety.
CBD is also showing promise in treating Post Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD). When cannabis is introduced to the endocannabinoid receptors, CBD especially is shown to alter the human “normal fear-extinction” or “fight or flight” response.
CBD interrupts signals in the amygdala-hippocampal-cortico-striatal circuit, which is the primary brain function that coordinates fear-related memories and brings one’s body to respond to fear-related behaviors.
Embracing CBD Worldwide
With CBD being recently legalized across the United States, and the European CBD market projected to be worth $1.7 billion by 2023, CBD is only becoming more mainstream as people look for alternatives to pharmaceuticals to treat common mental health issues.
If you’re interested in CBD, be sure to effectively research potential products to ensure they come from a good source, and are extracted using high-tech methods.
Explore the various methods of consumption for CBD to find the best way that works for you, your desires, and your lifestyle.
Like any traditional medication, always give CBD a few weeks to work on the regulation of your system so to experience the maximum benefit from this incredible cannabinoid.