Medical Research

The Brain Loves CBD: What are the effects of this major cannabinoid?

Everyday scientists are expanding their studies of the relationship between cannabis and the human brain.

Thereare hundreds of cannabinoids, with two of the most well-known being Tetrahydrocannabinol (THC) and Cannabidiol (CBD). Amazingly, cannabinoid receptors within the brain are sensitive to these chemical compounds, or messengers if you will.

Part of the endocannabinoid system, these receptors influence a wide range of physiological processes, including mood, memory, appetite and pain. What’s even more amazing is the fact that CBD impacts more than one receptor system.

Which brain receptor systems does CBD affect?

Two main cannabinoid receptors (CB1 and CB2) are present in the central nervous system. CBD influences these receptors indirectly, unlike the psychoactive compound THC, which interacts with the cannabinoid receptors directly.

Aside from influencing cannabinoid receptors, CBD inhibits the enzymes that break down the body’s naturally-produced cannabinoids, thus increasing the levels of endocannabinoids inside the body.

Furthermore, CBD interacts with various non-cannabinoid receptor systems inside the brain – primarily opioid receptors and dopamine receptors. Since these receptors are highly sensitive to mood, behavior and cognition, CBD can be used as an alternative to opioid medications.

Anyone who consumes CBD can experience the medical benefits, minus the euphoric high produced by THC. Let’s take a look at the brain receptor systems that are affected by CBD:

  • TRPV-1 – These receptors moderate inflammation, pain sensation and body temperature.
  • GPR55 – This “orphan receptor” is largely expressed in the cerebellum. According to a 2010 study by the Chinese Academy of Sciences[i], GPR55 accelerates cancer cell proliferation when activated.
  • PPAR – These receptors can hinder the development of Alzheimer’s disease, once activated by CBD.
  • Reuptake Inhibitor – CBD can bind to nuclear receptors in the same way that antidepressants (selective serotonin reuptake inhibitors (SSRI’s)) can.
  • Serotonin Receptors – CBD activates an inhibitory response in the 5-HT1A serotonin receptor, making it suitable for treating nausea, vomiting, addiction, sleep disorders, pain and anxiety.
  • Allosteric Receptor Modulator – CBD functions as an allosteric modulator, meaning that it can change the shape of a receptor based on how a receptor transmits a signal.

In what ways does CBD have a positive effect on health?

The way in which CBD communicates with the brain has a direct effect on health. At low doses, CBD can be used as an antioxidant and anti-inflammatory. More effective at treating acne than vitamin C and E, (ii) this amazing cannabis compound has been studied in-depth for its neurological and neuropsychiatric effects.

Research shows that CBD has proved effective at treating anxiety and depression[iii], as well as for reducing pain and inflammation, reducing oxidative damage inside the brain, treating epilepsy/seizures, counterbalancing the negative effects of THC and minimizing excitotoxicity.[iii]

CBD has also been linked to brain cell protection and a reduction in the symptoms of psychosis, schizophrenia, PTSD, ADHD and OCD, among many other health conditions.


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