Medical Research

Achieving Mental Clarity with CBD

Written by Loren Devito, PhD

What this popular cannabinoid may do for your focus and emotional balance

When you recall last taking a dose of cannabidiol (CBD) or eating a CBD gummy, thoughts of relaxation and calm might come to mind, as many people take CBD for its anti-anxiety effects. Or, perhaps to help with sleep or pain. But, have you ever noticed that you feel a bit more alert or in focus after taking CBD?

While CBD is not going to give you a quick jolt (save that for your morning coffee), there is some evidence supporting its role in mental clarity. CBD has been shown to help address symptoms of attention deficit hyperactivity disorder.1 By improving both attention and calmness, it may allow your brain to focus in on the task at hand, rather than get scattered by the many other distractions in life.2

There is also some data showing that CBD might actually improve cognition.3 But doesn’t cannabis mess with your thought processes?

Typical depictions of “stoner” stereotypes have left most of us, even those who recognize the spectrum of cannabis benefits, with images of “burn outs” who are not likely to win a Nobel prize anytime soon. But it’s important to remember that these archetypes conflict directly with findings from well-controlled studies. (While CBD is not “psychoactive,” THC does produce a “high” that certainly can disrupt thinking and memory processes).

Several studies have evaluated the role of CBD in cognitive tasks.However, the data is a bit mixed. While CBD administration does not appear to affect cognition in healthy people, data has indicated that it may improve cognitive deficits in models of Alzheimer’s disease and schizophrenia.4 In fact, two studies in pre-clinical models found that impairments in cognition caused by THC administration were actually rescued by CBD treatment.5,6

In addition to cognition, a key facet of mental clarity involves emotional processing and control. It would be tough getting through a big presentation, even if you were well prepared, right after hearing some emotionally charged news. Thus, emotions are a central part of our overall mental clarity and can greatly affect focus.

Imaging studies have shown that CBD administration increases activity in parts of the brain that are associated with emotional processing.7 In addition, a small clinical trial found that CBD increased emotional recognition memory for faces; these effects were in direct opposition to the effects of THC administration.8

CBD has widespread effects on attention, cognition, and emotional processing. And therefore can boost mental clarity. However, it’s important to note that everyone reacts differently to CBD. For some, it might be great for anxiety, while others find it’s best to manage pain. Additionally, dosage and frequency of administration, as well as other medications or substances taken, can greatly impact the effects of CBD.


  1. Cooper, R.E., et al., “Cannabinoids in Attention-deficit/Hyperactivity Disorder: A Randomised-controlled Trial”, Eur Neuropsychopharmacol, 2016, Volume 26.
  2. Murillo-Rodríguez, E., et al., “Potential Effects of Cannabidiol as a Wake-Promoting Agent”, Current Neuropharmacology, 2014, Volume 12.
  3. Crane, N.A., et al., “Effects of Cannabis on Neurocognitive Functioning: Recent

Advances, Neurodevelopmental Influences, and Sex Differences”, Neuropsychol Rev, 2013, Volume 23.

  1. Osborne, A.L., et al., “A Systematic Review of The Effect of Cannabidiol on Cognitive Function: Relevance to Schizophrenia”, Neuroscience & Biobehavioral Reviews, 2017, Volume 72.
  1. Wright, M.J., et al., “Cannabidiol Attenuates Deficits of VisuospatialAssociative Memory Induced by Δ9tetrahydrocannabinol”, British Journal of Pharmacology, 2013, Volume 170.
  2. Jacobs, D.S., et al., “Acute and Chronic Effects of Cannabidiol on
    Δ9-tetrahydrocannabinol (Δ9-THC)-induced Disruption in Stop Signal Task Performance”, Exp Clin Psychopharmacol, 2016, Volume 24.
  3. Kowal, M.A., et al., “Modulation of Cognitive And Emotional Processing By Cannabidiol: The role of The Anterior Cingulate Cortex”, Front Hum Neurosci, 2013, Volume 7.
  4. Hindocha, C., et al., “Acute Effects of Aelta-9-tetrahydrocannabinol, Cannabidiol and Their Combination on Facial Emotion Recognition: A Randomised, Double-blind, Placebo-controlled Study in Cannabis Users”, Eur Neuropsychopharmacol, 2015, Volume 25.

About the author

Loren Devito, PhD

Loren DeVito, PhD is a neuroscientist and science writer with expertise in cannabis science and medicine. She is committed to communicating evidence-based information about cannabis and its healing properties. Learn more about her work at