It's easy to get caught up in the hype surrounding CBD.
Reported benefits range from pain relief to autoimmune improvements, and anecdotal tales regarding what CBD did for me can get almost frenzied in their excitement.
While all these reports may be true, it's important to not brush over some of CBD's gentler qualities. CBD seems to have an impact on both one's mood and anxiety - both things that can slowly make or break a person's mental health over time.
Could CBD be the perfect companion, not just for overcoming pain or halting seizures, but simply for helping one get through the stress and strain of the day? Let's take a look at three areas where its psychoactive qualities are most applicable and do our best to find out...
MoodContrary to popular belief, CBD is psychoactive. In other words, it really is active within one's mind, and it really is capable of altering one's perceptual state - sometimes quite strongly.
The compound isn't psychotropic, however; so it won't get a person intoxicated or ‘high'. While this distinction may seem like mere semantics, it's an important one to make in our puritanical culture, where our collective fear of "getting high" is often countered with claims that CBD has no mental effects whatsoever. Not true!
With all that said, what kind of effects can one expect from using CBD? The most common thing is a little tough to put into words, a type of gentle upliftment that might have you looking hopefully forward instead of regretfully past.
According to molecular biologist Bob Melamede, there's a reason for that, and it all goes back to CBD ability to strengthen the endocannabinoid system (ECS) and boost endocannabinoid levels. According to Melamede, with endocannabinoid health comes an ability to think flexibly and look forward - he even goes so far as to say that the ECS has played a pivotal role in helping us humans get this far, developmentally speaking.
It's only natural that a person looking forward would be hopeful. Just think: the future is pure possibility, and those who believe they can shape it often do shape it.
And CBD might just help a person feel good enough to begin improving their life. This has already been demonstrated in dozens of rodent studies, and it's making researchers wonder - could CBD help with "disorders of motivation" in humans, too?
Dr. Bob's answer is yes: "cannabinoids facilitate man's interaction with his environment."
Yet not everyone experiences tangible upliftment with CBD; some people just notice the absence of negative feelings. But that might be just as helpful. Clear away things like anxiety and depression, and one's true nature could be set free to shine.
AnxietyCBD appears especially promising for those with anxiety. Indeed, a blanketing sense of calm is one of the first things many first-time CBD users experience.
A writer from PopSugar described her version of this experience well: "you'll experience the absence of anxiety [...] ." For her, the compound's mental effects have been completely transformative: "CBD has unlocked joy and peace that has been trapped under layers of overwhelming stress and anxiety."
Research indicates that CBD may be helpful for situational anxiety, too. A study from 2011 found that it reduced much of the nervousness associated with one of the scariest experiences of all: public speaking. Just imagine what the compound could do to help you stay anxiety-free amidst the more stressful parts of parenting!
How do all these anxiolytic effects work? There's more and more evidence that CBD can directly stimulate serotonin 5-HT1A receptors, but it doesn't do this like conventional SSRI-based drugs do. No, its mode of action is much more holistic than that! That's because the endocannabinoid system itself is actually intertwined with the serotonergic system. By taking CBD, one might just be able to feed two birds scone.
DepressionThe brain is a complicated, mysterious place. A lot can go wrong there, and it will likely be many years before science is able to peer, unhindered, into the inner workings of the mind.
Thankfully, the brain is usually self-correcting. But small imbalances can get magnified over time, and left unchecked they can morph into larger problems that affect the whole organism. People with depression, for example, aren't just mentally depressed. They're physically depressed, too, often to the point that it's hard to get out of bed in the morning, function well at work, or enjoy time with loved ones.
Could CBD help with these more severe types of neurochemical imbalances? Maybe so. Much like depression may start in the brain before trickling down to affect everything else, CBD's benefits seem to begin where endocannabinoid receptors are most concentrated - in the brain - before activation in the periphery can occur.
We also know that CBD's pro-serotonin effects stand to benefit those with depression just as much as they seem to reduce anxiety. One study found this out the simple way: injecting CBD directly into rodent brains reduced depression by activating intertwined serotonin-CB1 receptors.
There's another way CBD could plausibly reduce depression: by raising anandamide levels. Anandamide is the best-studied endocannabinoid, and the human body produces it naturally to provide itself with feelings of wellbeing and bliss. We can't say we blame it!
Anandamide levels are so important, some theorize that naturally-happy people have more of it than others. Anandamide has also been implicated as having a major role in runner's high. Apparently, both exercise and CBD may be good for depression.
Nature Knows Best
Keep in mind that we still don't know exactly what causes depression - serotonin is just part of the picture. By taking CBD, however, one is taking a route that nature fully understands...even if modern medicine hasn't quite gotten there yet.
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.