By Thomas Wrona
CBD: it might be just the thing needed to give your brain a cognitive boost.
Ancient cultures certainly believed so, and to them, the zenith of cognitive ability was an encounter with the divine. So why not try to facilitate it by taking hemp?
According to a passage from the 2,000-year-old Chinese pharmacopeia, Shennong Ben Cao Jing, "if one takes it [hemp] over a long period of time one can communicate with the spirits." Asian cultures may have even seen the cannabis plant family, which they call "ma", as a personification of yin and yang. And the ancient Hebrews made extensive use of CBD-rich hemp, too, mixing it into their holy anointing oils and burning it as incense.
Could these ancient beliefs have some sort of biochemical basis? Could CBD help optimize cognitive function in an organ as complex as the brain?
Probably so. We live in a time where modern science is validating one traditional practice after another, and it seems like CBD is being backed up just the same. Here are three major ways that CBD could help your brain work for you:
CBD to Protect
It goes pretty much without saying, but we'll say it anyway: the human brain is amazing! There's billions of interconnected neurons reverberating, signaling, or otherwise talking to each other. It's practically a miracle that everything in the brain is held together, metaphorically speaking, in the first place.
The human brain has 100 billion neurons, each neuron connected to 10 thousand other neurons. Sitting on your shoulders is the most complicated object in the known universe.
- Physicist Michio Kaku
In light of this complexity, it follows that the very first step in any neuro-centric plan should be to preserve and protect the brain's existing capabilities. Thankfully, CBD can help with exactly that.
By strengthening endocannabinoid signaling, cannabidiol appears to function as a 'dimmer' that can quiet down the damage done by overactive signals. This effect is tangibly seen when CBD's given to those with epilepsy - as a 2014 study done by prominent researcher Bradley E. Alger says, "cannabinoids have been viewed as 'circuit breakers' because of their ability to halt seizures and limit degeneration" - yet the same concept holds true in the rest of us. On virtually the most micro-scale possible, CBD may help protect the brain.
Better still, this neuroprotective effect likely remains until old age. And even a few days of CBD dosing is enough to provide lasting benefits, according to more than a few rodent studies.
CBD to Perfect
CBD may also be able to optimize brain structure. If this sounds a little farfetched, consider that even common foods and drinks can be neuro-transformative. A longitudinal study from 2017, for example, revealed that tea intake is tied to reduced risks of cognitive decline. And now, new research by the same team that published the 2017 study shows that drinking tea literally helps organize one's brain.
CBD's mechanism is decidedly different than what's seen with the consumption of tea - and yet it still works. A recent study found that CBD could reverse structural imperfections resulting from THC abuse. Maybe that's why pharmaceuticals like Sativex feature both these cannabinoids together?
Back to isolated CBD for a moment: it seems to help synchronize the brain's flow of energy and information on the hormonal level, too! That's what researchers have inferred based on its impact on GABA neurons, at least.
CBD to Regenerate
Those who've already incurred some level of brain damage can also look to CBD for hope. We're not talking about obvious injuries like concussions or aneurisms, but rather about the every day assaults that all of our minds are subject to. Things like free radical damages or chronic inflammation, for example. Might CBD help one's brain recover from such things?
The answer is a resounding yes, and in fact this ability is among the compound's most closely inspected. A search of the available research reveals 31 studies, and almost all of them report back something favorable. Anecdotally, CBD's restorative value is just as obvious. It can even help in more severe situations we mentioned earlier; UFC president Dana White has called CBD's use "a no brainer" for concussed MMA athletes. Some anesthesiologists have gone as far as to wonder if CBD should be administered before and/or after surgery.
It was once thought that regeneration within the adult brain wasn't possible. We've since learned that it's very possible - especially when novel plant compounds like CBD can serve as the conduit.
CBD to Project
The future is bright. Right? It sure seems bright to us...but if you've been feeling otherwise for no apparent reason, consider a chemical cause: you might be endocannabinoid deficient.
According to expert Bob Melamdede, these little CBD-like molecules help foster flexibility and possibility within the brain. While it's "hypothesized that people with an endocannabinoid deficiency in critical areas of the brain will tend to look backward in time because that view minimizes the need for re-learning", the opposite is true of those with endocannabinoid-sufficient health:
"A robust endocannabinoid system equips an individual to adjust to the future by controlling the reformulation of old memories and patterns of behavior as new learning dictates."
And if you're wondering how to achieve this level of endocannabinoid health, you wouldn't be alone. The answer is simple: consider taking CBD. Dr. Melamede concludes by saying that the impact of cannabinoids on the brain's endocannabinoid levels is what promotes healthy aging...and open-mindedness. Quite the antithesis of that "you can't teach an old dog new tricks" mantra of year's past!
There's one more way CBD could increase creativity: by increasing blood flow to the brain's frontal lobe. There's a word for this creativity-boosting effect: neuroplasticity. And those who want to forge their own paths and actively create their own futures could likely use all the flexible thinking they could get...
Thomas Wrona is a cannabis consultant, health + wellness advisor, and former professional athlete. He enjoys writing about all things CBD, both here and at Wrona Inc.