In December of 2016, the DEA amended the classification of cannabis to include all of its extracts — namely cannabidiol (CBD) — as Schedule 1 drugs. That’s right, CBD, a non-psychoactive compound in cannabis, is listed right alongside heroin as having no medicinal benefits. Despite this, CBD has received attention for its ability to treat refractory epilepsy in children, depression, and other neurological disorders.
CBD Effects on the Brain
CBD’s Interaction with Cannabinoid Receptors
CBD works by indirectly interacting with the Cannabinoid 1 (CB1) and Cannabinoid 2 (CB2) receptors. These actions contrast with THC — which directly interacts with the receptors — and explain why CBD is (largely) non-psychoactive. CBD is not only non-psychoactive but has shown to counteract the psychoactive effects of THC and has been used by many as a way to get some of the medical benefits of cannabis without experiencing the high.
Cannabinoid receptors play many roles in the body, including regulation of mood, pain sensation, appetite, and memory. CBD can increase the level of the body’s naturally-produced cannabinoids, known as endocannabinoids, by inhibiting the enzymes that break them down.
TPRV-1 receptors are known to mediate pain sensation, inflammation and body temperature. CBD is an agonist, or stimulant, of TPRV-1 meaning it can directly interact with TPRV-1 receptors resulting in the possible therapeutic effects mentioned above.
CBD and Serotonin Receptors
A study out of the University of San Paulo in Brazil and King’s College in London has shown that at high concentrations CBD can fight depression and anxiety. Studies involving animal models, performing a variety of experiments on the disorders mentioned above, such as the forced swimming test (FST), elevated plus maze (EPM) and Vogel conflict test (VCT), suggest that CBD exhibited anti-anxiety and antidepressant effects in the animal models discussed.
CBD works its magic by activating an inhibitory response in the 5-HT1A serotonin receptor which is implicated in processes such as anxiety, appetite, addiction, pain perception, nausea, sleep, and vomiting.
CBD’s Neuroprotective Effect
Researchers at the University Hospital Puerta de Hierro Majadahonda Madrid published a study about CBD’s neuroprotective effects in an issue of Neuropharmacology. Researchers used newborn piglets as test subjects, limiting oxygen flow to their brain by 10%. Lack of oxygen to the brain is associated with inflammation and excitotoxicity.
Excitotoxicity is a process in which nerve cells are damaged or killed and may be related to neurodegenerative diseases, such as Multiple Sclerosis, Parkinson’s, and Alzheimer’s.
The researchers recorded the effects of limited oxygen to the piglet’s brains and then administered a placebo to some piglets and CBD to others. The researchers concluded that “administration of CBD after HI (temporary occlusion of both carotid arteries plus hypoxia) reduced short-term brain damage and was associated with extracerebral benefits.”
Conclusion: CBD Effects on the Brain
The research on CBD has been promising in its ability to produce therapeutic and neuroprotective effects. It appears to be a sound choice for those who are seeking the medicinal benefits of cannabis while hoping to avoid the high that is brought on by THC.