The rapid pace of modern life has lead to a rise in stress induced symptoms and anxiety, with many patients turning to a regimen of pharmaceuticals to combat it. Cannabidiol (CBD) has shown significant promise in helping manage anxiety, stress and more acute cases such as generalized anxiety disorder, panic disorder, social anxiety disorder, depression, obsessive-compulsive disorder (OCD), and post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD).
Though the early science lacks large-scale clinical trials, small studies have begun to appear suggesting CBD can have calming and easing effects and help balance mood regulation. But how does it all work? We’ll explore the currently understood pathways in our discussion below.
SEROTONIN: THE HAPPY MOLECULE
Serotonin is a powerful hormone and neurotransmitter that is recognized to be largely responsible for the regulation of our bodies in mood, digestion, sleep, sexual function and more. Common anti-depression drugs have been known to target serotonin by inhibiting reuptake of the molecule, such as Prozac and Zoloft.
CBD is an agonist (stimulator) of the 5-HT1A receptor, which typically responds to serotonin and plays an important role in regulating anxiety, addiction, appetite, sleep, pain perception, nausea and vomiting. If you’re familiar with common supplements, this is the same family of receptors that the amino acid 5 HTP helps to trigger.
By stimulating the 5-HT1A receptor, CBD (and more specifically CBDA in this pathway) can be a powerful anti-anxiety and mood boosting cannabinoid, helping to alleviate symptoms. When acute attacks happen, CBD can be rapidly effective when vaporized, while ingesting CBD can take longer to have effect but produce prolonged relief over a greater time period.
ADENOSINE REUPTAKE INHIBITION
Adenosine is another neurotransmitter naturally produced in the human body and is a powerful antidepressant and anti-inflammatory agent.
As we mentioned in our article on pain management, CBD is an adenosine reuptake inhibitor, meaning it allows the neurotransmitter to stick around longer before being metabolized or absorbed. Adenosine directly works on the A1 and A2A G-coupled protein receptors to produce these effects in the body.
By intaking CBD, levels of adenosine in the brain and body can be elevated over time to provide an increase of mood and a regulation of anxiety symptoms.
GETTING MORE OUT OF GABA
CBD is a positive allosteric modulator of the GABA-A receptor in the human brain, which is a fancy way of saying it increases the response of the receptor to your body’s naturally occuring and supplemented GABA levels.
Gamma-Aminobutyric acid (GABA) is the main inhibitor of neurotransmitter response, meaning it has a powerful calming effect by blocking signals. Commonly, drugs like valium and benzos work on the same pathway to provide their calming effects. By changing the shape of the GABA-A receptors, CBD only further enhances GABA by amplifying it’s naturally calming effects.
TURNING DOWN THC
In opposition to the effect that CBD has on the GABA-A receptor, CBD is a negative allosteric modulator of the cannabinoid CB1 receptor. Because the CB1 receptor is stimulated heavily by the use of THC, CBD can help turn down the effects of THC and negative side effects.
Users who report THC induced anxiety and discomfort often find that adding CBD to their THC or taking it in conjunction can help reduce or eliminate these symptoms. Commonly, “rescue tonics” used to help calm those who have smoked too much cannabis or ingested too much THC in edible form contain large amounts of CBD and fat – one to help reduce the effects of THC and the later to slow the absorption of THC that is already in the system.
IS CBD THE ANSWER?
Just like any emerging topic on cannabis science and pharmacology, we recommend you consult your physician when managing symptoms of depression, anxiety and stress.
CBD continues to have a lack of research funding that inhibits the production of high quality studies and our ability to learn more on how this powerful cannabinoid can improve the lives of countless individuals.
Anecdotally, CBD has restored the quality of life for those suffering from anxiety symptoms caused by social interaction, stress and trauma. With it’s lack of intoxicating effects or toxicity, CBD can be a great alternative to products that on the market which may produce undesired side effects.