The last couple of years have made one thing very clear: our mental health is just as important as our physical health. Our brains are wonderful, almost magical computers, but they’re fragile, too and need our care and attention.
With the rapid growth of health-conscious lifestyles and a booming wellbeing market, there are more solutions on offer than ever. There are all kinds of claims getting thrown around and it can be hard to find a reliable source.
It’s no different when it comes to CBD. While there’s a huge pool of anecdotal evidence about CBD’s effects on the brain, there’s also plenty of misinformation out there. Luckily for us, scientists and researchers are learning and publishing more about CBD almost every day.
So, keep reading if you want a look at science-backed resource on how CBD affects the brain in a positive way and why the latest research is more promising than ever.
How does CBD affect the brain?
CBD interacts with our endocannabinoid system (ECS), so it’s really not surprising that it affects our brain and many of its functions, including cognition, memory, appetite, immune responses, stress, and pain perception. 
There’s plenty of evidence showing that CBD is non-intoxicating, but it’s not 100% accurate to call it non-psychoactive.  Instead of the euphoric feeling of being high produced by THC, CBD’s effects tend to be less immediately observable yet no less impactful on the brain and associated mental health.
CBD acts differently from THC and has less impact on the CB1 and CB2 receptors than previously thought, but it still has a major influence on cognitive function. Instead of activating cannabinoid receptors, CBD seems to slow endocannabinoid breakdown, keeping them in your body for longer. 
CBD affects a wide set of molecular pathways, including G protein-coupled receptors (GCPRs) and the serotonin 5-HT1A receptor.  We still don’t understand exactly how CBD affects them, but there’s plenty of encouraging evidence supporting the use of CBD to treat anxiety, neuropathy, and many other neurological conditions.
Most people have heard of serotonin and its effects on cognition and mood (it’s sometimes called the happiness molecule). But there are other less-known receptors that CBD affects, promising huge potential when it comes to CBD’s effects on the brain.
A study published in the British Journal of Pharmacology showed how CBD specifically targets the vanilloid receptor,  which is directly involved in temperature regulation, reducing inflammation, and pain perception. 
And another paper from 2012 looked at the way CBD slows down anandamide breakdown.  Anandamide is often called the ‘body’s version of marijuana’ because of the way it moderates mood, pain perception, body temperature, and appetite. The study investigated CBD’s antipsychotic effects and concluded that it represents ‘a completely new mechanism in treating schizophrenia.’
How does CBD help the brain?
Some of the most promising research into the effects of CBD have to do with its neuroprotective properties – in other words, it may salvage, recover, and regenerate the nervous system. All good news for our brains.
One study out of Brazil found that treating cerebral ischemia (a condition where there isn’t enough blood flow to the brain) with CBD resulted in ‘global functional recovery’ and that it ‘impacts multiple and distinct targets’ involved in the brain injury. 
Another really encouraging paper published in Frontiers of Psychology found that CBD’s anti-inflammatory and antioxidant properties make it a ‘valid candidate’ for new Alzheimer’s disease therapies. 
While most people might not need CBD for treating such serious conditions and diseases, the research into these areas gives us hope to help everyone. CBD shows promise to benefit everything from recovering from a serious event like a stroke to maintaining a healthy brain and protecting it against natural wear and tear.
How can CBD help us maintain positive mental health?
Maintaining a healthy brain is imperative to long-term quality of life. We’re constantly learning more about the fragility of the human brain and the many factors contributing to our mental health, including things like diet, exercise, meditation, and supplements like CBD.
Healthy mental wellbeing has ripple effects throughout your entire life. From relationships to sleep quality, appetite, and mood, a healthy brain can improve everything we do.
There are still big gaps in the science when it comes to mental health in general and more research into CBD’s effects on the brain is definitely needed, but early signs are more than hopeful. It’s not surprising that CBD is a huge focus right now because of its potential to disrupt the mental health industry from a grassroots level.
With more people than ever beginning to understand and talk about mental health, along with the plethora of potential fixes, supplements, and drugs out there, it can be a confusing place. But there are some hard facts we can hold onto.
We know from multiple studies that CBD has anti-anxiety and antidepressant qualities. [10, 11, 12] There’s also good evidence that CBD has the potential to treat seizures and insomnia, both of which can wreak havoc on quality of life and mental health. [13, 14]
CBD has few negative side effects and isn’t addictive.  These qualities alone separate it from most prescription meds and make CBD one of the most exciting, fast-acting anti-anxiety and antidepressants out there.
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