The Anti Anxiety Mechanisms of CBD
CBD for Anxiety
Cannabidiol, better known as CBD, is an excellent anxiety-fighting compound. It occurs in trace amounts in most varieties of cannabis, but recent years have seen a surge of high-CBD strains and products. CBD isn’t psychoactive like THC (which just happens to be the only psychoactive compound in cannabis) and when isolated from its THC counterpart, CBD does not produce the obvious euphoria. It's probably important to underline, that CBD anxiety cannot happen. Ever. This has led many to turn to CBD as a natural method of reducing the high associated with some modern day, high potency THC strains that can involve a serious bout of anxiety for some people. It has also led to new research into the potential for CBD to offer a serious alternative to prescription anti-anxiety medications currently on the market.
Although THC and CBD are two distinctive compounds, they work intricately together in somewhat counterproductive ways. For example, CBD has been found to enhance THC's painkilling properties while diminishing the paranoia it can cause in some people.
According to Martin A Lee, in his book Smoke Signals, “Cannabidiol balances the buzz and softens the euphoria – or, in some cases, the dysphoria – induced by THC, which, in concentrated form, can make people feel very loopy and weird. CBD is the yin of THC’s yang.” In other words, CBD and THC naturally go hand in hand.
You’ve probably experienced this yin-and-yang balance within certain strains or cannabis tinctures that contain both THC and CBD. After all, it only takes a small amount of CBD to counteract a larger amount of THC content. For example, even 6 mg of CBD will counter 24 mg of THC. This balanced mechanism found within the same plant makes you wonder how do these profound anti-anxiety effects actually work?
CBD’s Interaction with the Endocannabinoid System
Before understanding CBD and anxiety, first it's important to understand CBD’s interaction with the endocannabinoid system. This system refers to a network of receptors and compounds that bind to them. Think of it like a series of keys and locks. These receptors, primarily CB1 and CB2, are found concentrated within many areas of the body, like the brain, the digestive tract, and the immune system. Cannabinoids lock with a receptor, which triggers a response within that cell, and gives a specific direction for that cell to carry out.
Phytocannabinoids, or plant produced cannabinoids, lock with the receptors just like the ones naturally produced within our own bodies. A common locking interaction is that of THC, which binds to these receptor sites and induces a variety of effects from euphoria to anxiety. But cannabinoids don’t all have to lock, as some can still powerfully influence the system through more complex but less understood interactions. This is the case with CBD, as it hasn’t been found to directly lock with either of the main receptors, but seemingly interacts with other cannabinoids (THC) and the receptors to trigger different cellular responses.
CBD and Its Anti-Anxiety Mechanisms
Many conditions and diseases can be characterized by underactive or overactive endocannabinoid systems. People who suffer from Post Traumatic Stress Syndrome, for example, are known to produce insufficient levels of anandamide, a natural endocannabinoid that is structurally similar to THC. Introducing underwhelmed receptor sites with cannabinoids that act like endocannabinoids can, in a sense, correct the deficiency and result in a therapeutic effect. Cannabinoid has been found to stimulate the serotonin receptors, mimicking the mood stabilizing effects of some SSRI prescriptions.
When it comes down to the interactive dance performed between CBD and THC, scientists believe that CBD modulates the CB1 receptor signaling associated with THC, which is why their co-presence has become so important in the field of cannabis therapeutics. Relevant to this particular discussion is CBD’s ability to modulate excess cannabinoid activity in the brain, which can result in anxiety. From what has been evidenced so far in this virgin field of scientific study, is that CBD seems to limit the time THC is able to lock with the CB1 receptor, and thereby limit the strength of the high. In this way, CBD can certainly mitigate the anxious, paranoid side effects associated with THC over-consumption.
Outside of any THC triggered anxiety, using CBD for environmental anxiety has been studied through multiple human trials. One of the most often cited is the study of CBD’s effects on people prior to and after facing a stress inducing situation. The situation the study used was public speaking, and half of the participants were given a dose of CBD prior to the event while the other half were the control group. Each participant's physiological stress indicators (heart rate, blood pressure, body temperature) was measured throughout the experiment, and they were also asked to self-report their feelings of anxiety. The participants who were given CBD treatment, all had significantly lower stress levels before and after the speech. This included both the way they felt about the situation, and how their bodies reacted. Clearly, CBD for anxiety is a powerful tool for combatting both, THC induced and environmentally caused anxieties.
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