CBD and Brain Health

Multiple studies have shown on CBD to improve anxiety and depression, relieve pain, decrease neural degeneration and it was recently approved by the FDA as the drug Epidiolex for the treatment of certain seizure disorders. Some of these effects are mediated by CBD’s complex interaction with CB1 receptors as a non-competitive antagonist. The CB1 receptor facilitates inhibition and ongoing release of both excitatory and inhibitory neurotransmitters including norepinephrine, dopamine, 5-HTP, GABA, and glutamate.1  This suggests that CBD has a calming effect on the brain. It can decrease inflammation and inhibit the excitatory effects of certain neurotransmitters.

A 2017 study found that CBD is now widely used (both self-prescribed and recommended by practitioners) to replace pharmaceuticals in conditions such as anxiety, insomnia, and depression.2

Neuroimaging studies on CBD and the brain have shown that its influence changes activity in brain regions involved in emotional processing. CBD interacts with the 5-HT1A receptor (aka serotonin 1A) as an agonist in these key brain areas, which is likely a cause of its anxiolytic and anti-depressant effects.3 The anxiety medication buspirone works similarly as a 5-HT1A receptor agonist. Another mechanism for CBD’s antidepressant effects may be its ability to rapidly increase brain-derived neurotrophic factor (shown in mice models), similar to drugs like ketamine, but without a psychoactive component.4

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CBD also has direct action at specific GABAA receptor subtypes, perhaps further accounting for its anxiolytic quality. Because this GABAA receptor subtype differs from the one targeted by benzodiazepines, CBD may be helpful for individuals with anxiety who do not want to use or do not respond to benzodiazepines.5 Additionally, an in vitro study showed that CBD reduces the inflammation-mediated metabolism of tryptophan, and therefore may be especially useful in mood disorders related to chronic inflammatory diseases.6

Are you curious about your neurotransmitter levels? Whether you have clinically recommended CBD or your patients are self-supplementing, our NeuroBasic Profile (serotonin, GABA, dopamine, norepinephrine, epinephrine, glutamate, histamine, glycine, and PEA) can illuminate neurotransmitter levels reflective of potential CBD influence. Call our clinic today if interested.

  1. Pertwee RG. The diverse CB1 and CB2 receptor pharmacology of three plant cannabinoids: delta9-tetrahydrocannabinol, cannabidiol and delta9-tetrahydrocannabivarin. Br J Pharmacol. 2008;153(2):199-215.
  2. Hilderbrand RL. Hemp & Cannabidiol: What is a Medicine?. Mo Med. 2018;115(4):306-309.
  3. Campos AC, Moreira FA, Gomes FV, Del bel EA, Guimarães FS. Multiple mechanisms involved in the large-spectrum therapeutic potential of cannabidiol in psychiatric disorders. Philos Trans R Soc Lond, B, Biol Sci.2012;367(1607):3364-78.
  4. Sales AJ, Fogaça MV, Sartim AG, et al. Cannabidiol Induces Rapid and Sustained Antidepressant-Like Effects Through Increased BDNF Signaling and Synaptogenesis in the Prefrontal Cortex. Mol Neurobiol. 2019;56(2):1070-1081.
  5. Bakas T, Van Nieuwenhuijzen PS, Devenish SO, Mcgregor IS, Arnold JC, Chebib M. The direct actions of cannabidiol and 2-arachidonoyl glycerol at GABA receptors. Pharmacol Res.2017;119:358-370.
  6. Jenny M, Schröcksnadel S, Überall F, Fuchs D. The Potential Role of Cannabinoids in Modulating Serotonergic Signaling by Their Influence on Tryptophan Metabolism. Pharmaceuticals (Basel). 2010;3(8):2647-2660.