Paranoia, anxiety, and addictive behaviors are all conditions linked to the use of products with high levels of psychoactive tetrahydrocannabinol (THC). But researchers at Western University in Ontario, Canada, have revealed how cannabidiol (CBD) can block these THC-related side effects.
Using animal models to provide an indication of how humans might respond, researchers investigated the role of a molecule–the extracellular-signal regulated kinase (ERK)–in the brain’s memory center (the hippocampus) that contributes to the neuropsychiatric impacts of THC.
Their paper “CBD counteracts the psychotropic side-effects of Δ-9-tetrahydrocannabinol in the ventral hippocampus through bi-directional control of ERK1-2 phosphorylation,” published in The Journal of Neuroscience, reports that rats in which THC was delivered into the hippocampus had higher levels of activated ERK and showed more anxiety. Rats that were given both CBD and THC had normal levels of activated ERK and were less anxious; therefore, CBD co-administration appeared to reverse the effects from THC alone.
Based on these findings, the research team proposed that CBD blocks the ability of THC to over-stimulate the ERK pathway in the hippocampus, thus preventing its side effects.
Their study is just one of a growing number focusing on CBD’s effects on the brain.
For example, standardized essential oils have been found to be clinically effective in treating common yet treatment-resistant anxiety disorders, such as depression, co-morbid anxiety, and bipolar disorders–which raises the question: could CBD play a similar role? According to a review of academic papers from researchers at Bar-Ilan University in Ramat Gan, Israel, a single cannabis compound may not be enough.
The review, “The ‘entourage effect:’ Terpenes coupled with cannabinoids for the treatment of mood disorders and anxiety disorders,” published in Current Neuropharmacology, summarizes existing research rather than reporting the results of a new experimental study. It explores the potential of harnessing the entourage effect–where cannabis compounds act in synergy to define their overall impact–by adding terpenes and terpenoids to cannabinoids.
The review considers the mechanisms underpinning anti-depressants and concludes: “These natural products may be an important potential source for new medications for the treatment of mood and anxiety disorders.”
However, according to another review, there is currently limited evidence to support the safety or efficacy of CBD as a treatment for psychiatric disorders. But there are potential therapeutic effects CBD can deliver for specific psychopathological conditions, such as substance use disorders, chronic psychosis, and anxiety.
Those are the findings from a systematic research review by researchers at the Camden and Islington NHS Mental Health Foundation Trust in London, England, and others, who examined existing research in the area. Their report, “CBD use in psychiatric disorders: A systematic review,” published in the journal Neurotoxicology, highlights the dearth of research.
Eligible studies included randomised controlled trials (RCTs) assessing the effect of CBD for a range of psychopathological conditions. Using established data-gathering guidelines, researchers initially identified 1,301 papers, but only 190 studies survived a screening process and only 27 articles fully met the inclusion criteria.
While the review nodded toward the potential that CBD might hold, researchers called for additional large-scale RCTs to better evaluate its efficacy in both acute and chronic conditions and to exclude possible abuse potential.
Meanwhile, interest continues in CBD’s potential to address physical ailments, as well.
For example, Canada’s Lexaria Bioscience Corp says research shows that its technology-enhanced, full-spectrum hemp oil, TurboCBD™, which seeks to enhance the absorption of CBD, has potential applications for the treatment of high blood pressure and to aid patients recovering from stroke.
The report “Examination of a new delivery approach for oral CBD in healthy subjects: A randomized, double-blinded, placebo-controlled pharmacokinetics study,” by researchers at the University of British Columbia, funded by Lexaria, is published in the journal Advances in Therapy. This trial found that TurboCBD™ raised circulating levels of CBD compared to control capsules.
Twelve participants each received, on five separate occasions, either placebo, 45 or 90 mg of generic CBD (control), or TurboCBD™. While the study found that there was no difference in CBD levels among those participants receiving 45 mg, those receiving 90 mg TurboCBD™ capsules were found to have higher levels of circulating CBD–at both 90 minutes (86% higher) and 120 minutes (65%)–compared with those who received the control dose. The peaks in CBD concentration were associated with an increase in blood supply to the brain and a slight reduction in blood pressure compared to baseline.
Researchers concluded further studies were needed to “explore the therapeutic potential of acute and chronic dosing.”
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