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How CBD Works in The Brain

Melissa Cox September 2, 2020 0 comments

CBD for Brain Health and Mental Health

CBD and Brain Health – How CBD Oil Works in The Brain- CBD Oil in Baltimore, MD – CBD Oil in Timonium Lutherville, MD – CBD Oil in Towson, MD

So, how do CBD or Hemp Oil work in the brain and nervous system? Let’s take a closer look and find out….

Did you know that 14% of Americans regularly use CBD? That’s one in seven adults that use a variety of different CBD products.

While clinical trials of CBD’s effects on brain activity are limited, there is evidence from some studies that suggest many of the effects CBD contains are related to the neurological impact of the cannabinoid. This includes both cannabinoid receptors found throughout the endocannabinoid system, as well as a number of others found in the brain. 

CBD for Brain Health – How Does CBD Work?

One of the many reasons CBD continues to gain in popularity is for the neurological influence it contains. What happens in your brain when you take CBD is directly responsible for many of the beneficial effects it’s suggested to contain. 

Here we’ll take a look at how CBD acts in relation to various receptor systems in the brain and the effects that are suggested to entail because of it. 

The Influence of CBD on Brain Receptors and Brain Health

Within the brain are some 86 billion specialized brain cells known as neurons. These neurons communicate with one another by releasing what are known as neurotransmitters. 

A receptor is a protein or combination of proteins that a molecule (such as a neurotransmitter) binds to. Whether or not a neuron is sensitive to a particular neurotransmitter depends on if that neuron contains a receptor that binds to it. 

Some of the most well-known neurotransmitters in the brain are dopamine and serotonin, often referred to as the brain’s “feel-good” chemicals. Other molecules (such as illicit and prescription drugs and hormones) can also bind to receptors in the brain. Cannabinoids like THC and CBD are an example of molecules that influence the brain through their binding affinity or indirect influence on certain receptor systems. 

CBD and Cannabinoid Receptors

In the endocannabinoid system, there are two cannabinoid receptors, known as CB1 and CB2. Both are found throughout the human body, however, CB1 receptors are more prominent in the brain and central nervous system, while CB2 receptors are found predominantly in the immune cells and tissues. 

Here’s the thing, though. CBD doesn’t directly interact with either of these. If they’re such an integral aspect of the endocannabinoid system, how does CBD affect the brain if there’s no direct interaction? 

Let’s take a deeper look at how CBD affects brain health.

The Indirect Influence of CBD on CB1 Receptors and The Endocannabinoid System

We just mentioned that CBD doesn’t have any binding affinity to CB1 receptors in the brain. Just because it doesn’t bind directly to these receptors like THC, it’s known to contain a significant influence. 

Instead of binding to them, CBD is known for its indirect influence on CB1 and other receptors in the brain. 

For one, CBD activates TRPV1 receptors, also known as the vanilloid receptor 1 and capsaicin receptor. TRPV1s are directly involved in functions such as regulating body temperature and certain other responses. 

CBD also inhibits FAAH (fatty acid amide hydrolase), which creates higher levels of the endocannabinoid anandamide (AEA). And what does research show about people with lower FAAH levels? They’re happier than those with a higher level of FAAH.

A fatty acid-binding protein mediates AEA to FAAH, and, according to research, CBD acts as a binder for FABPs. More and more studies get into details of how exactly CBD helps epilepsy treatment and other neurological disorders.

CBD for Brain Health – Why CBD Doesn’t Make You High

Have you ever stopped to wonder why CBD doesn’t get you high? 

It’s directly related to the influence CBD has on the CB1 receptor, which is found primarily in the central nervous system, which is also responsible for the psychoactive effects of THC. When THC binds to CB1s, they become activated, and various chemical signals are sent to the brain. The result is the intoxicating effects (or even psychotic symptoms) THC is famous for. Basically, if there was no CB1 receptor, cannabis couldn’t get you high. 

CBD is different. It doesn’t bind to the CB1 receptor. No activation of the CB1 receptor means no mind-altering effects. CBD may block THC from binding to CB1s, which may decrease the psychoactive effects of THC.

In fact, when taken with THC, CBD actually reduces just how high you can get. Think of THC and CBD as batteries. THC is a AA, and CBD is a AAA. The cannabinoid receptor CB1 in your brain only turns on when the right size battery is inserted—in this case, the AA (THC). The AA fits nicely into the receptor, turns it on, and produces the psychoactive high we all know and love. But the AAA (CBD) also fits into the receptor. It’s not an exact match like the AA, so the AAA doesn’t activate the receptor. That’s why CBD doesn’t get you high: it’s not built to activate the receptors that cause a psychoactive effect.

Aside from its indirect influence on CB1s in the brain, research shows that the cannabinoid interacts with several other receptors found throughout the brain. Following are a few receptors sites where CBD works, as well as some of the suggested effects of CBD related to its impact on these specific receptor sites.

The Influence of CBD on Serotonin Receptors

Serotonin is one of the most famous neurotransmitters found in the brain. It’s responsible for a multitude of different functions, including mood regulation, social behavior, memory, sleep, and sexual function. This can be beneficial for those suffering from depression, anxiety disorders, and other conditions that are impacted by the amount of serotonin in the brain, but also for treating severe conditions like neurodegenerative diseases, e.g., Alzheimer’s disease.

Researchers discovered that CBD interacts with the 5-HT1A serotonin receptor, which would explain why the cannabinoid is associated with such a broad scope of potential health benefits. While many experts confirm that CBD use, due to its influence on the 5-HT1A serotonin receptor, could support a variety of healthy mental functions, more research is needed before it could be used in certain clinical applications. 

The serotonin system also influences our pain perception, which makes CBD potential support for managing pain.

The Influence of CBD on Dopamine Receptors 

All drugs that are known to cause abuse increase dopamine levels in the brain. It’s these increases in dopamine levels that are suggested to mediate the positive reinforcement and rewarding properties of such drugs. Drug withdrawal symptoms are connected to a decrease in dopamine function. 

Dopamine is responsible for regulating a number of different functions, including movement, motivation, reward, sleep, mood, and attention. Low levels of dopamine are associated with many different conditions, including Parkinson’s disease and schizophrenia, but it may also take part in the effective treatment of other diseases, including Alzheimer’s disease.

CBD, however, does not directly act on dopamine receptors. Instead, it has an indirect influence on dopamine by its effect on activating adenosine receptors. Aside from the role they play in cardiovascular function, they also play a significant role in the brain by downregulating the release of dopamine, which makes CBD a potential treatment for numerous conditions.

The Influence of CBD on Pain Receptors

Pain receptors are known as nociceptors, which are a type of cell that responds to noxious stimuli by sending pain signals to the spinal cord and the brain, also contributing to the inflammatory responses. The activation of these receptors can cause the perception of pain.

Various compounds found in the cannabis plant, CBD included, are being studied as potential pain relievers due to their possible interactions with the nociceptive system. According to NCCIH, CBD might be an effective support in chronic pain management, though more scientific evidence is needed to determine its potential therapeutic benefits, risks, required doses, and specific medical conditions it can help with.

Different studies showed, among other things, that CBD might provide pain relief to patients with conditions like chronic neuropathy, arthritis, or multiple sclerosis.

The Complex Connection Between the Brain and CBD

The relationship natural cannabinoids, CBD included, have with the brain is undoubtedly complex, one that researchers are still continuing to explore. While there are still many unanswered questions when it comes to the neurological effects of this cannabinoid on brain function, one thing is certain. CBD interacts with several different receptors in the brain, something ultimately believed to be the reason behind the myriad of beneficial potential it contains, influencing various parts of our bodies, from the immune system to brain cells to the nervous system and moods.

As researchers begin to gain a better understanding of the way CBD affects the brain, they will likely continue to discover and convey the promising benefits the non-intoxicating cannabinoid contains. 




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