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CBD (cannabidiol) is a bioactive component of the Cannabis plant (marijuana) that is becoming well-known for its potential brain health benefits, none of which involve getting high or compromising your short term memory.

When it comes to self-medicating — especially with prescription drugs — it’s important to remember that there is no such thing as a biological free lunch. For every action, there is an equal and opposite reaction (just read the side effects on the label of any pill bottle at the pharmacy).

The fact is, something as seemingly innocuous as Aspirin kills over 1,000 people every year, and alcohol kills over 110,000 people, but nobody has ever died from CBD (the same could be said about marijuana).

Marijuana is still a hugely controversial topic. So much so that the author of this academic article was fired for trying to prove that marijuana was one of the most innocuous drugs and that it may even be potentially beneficial in comparison to other compounds like alcohol, cocaine, or heroin.

Additionally, in the blog post, Will FDA Regulations Take Down The CBD Oil Supplement Industry?, we talked about how the FDA was targeting CBD supplements because of labeling discrepancies and potency issues, as well as it being incorrectly thought of as a “drug”, but now CBD is slowly gaining traction once again as a versatile, plant-based health compound.

According to a review published in the British Journal of Clinical Pharmacology, CBD has the following beneficial properties:

  • Antiemetic — reduces nausea and vomiting.
  • Anticonvulsant — suppresses seizure activity.
  • Antipsychotic (combats psychosis).
  • Anti-inflammatory (decreases inflammation).
  • Antioxidant (combats oxidative stress).
  • Anti-tumoral, Anti-cancer (combats tumor, cancer cell growth).
  • Anxiolytic, Antidepressant (combats anxiety and depression).

As you can see, CBD is shaping up to be one of the most promising candidates as a therapeutic tool in a broad range of disorders, but CBD was initially dragged under the microscope for two reasons:

Reason #1: Early research showed that CBD could improve symptoms of drug-resistant epilepsy comparable to the effects of anticonvulsant drugs.

Reason #2: Just like marijuana, CBD when taken in the right dose has been shown to match the same level of pain reduction compared to drugs like morphine and oxycodone.

Epilepsy treatment and pain reduction were among CBD’s most promising accolades, and as more research continues to amount, we’re learning that CBD may have a host of brain-related benefits involving reduction of stress, depression, and anxiety, plus some intriguing neuroprotective benefits as well.

But before we dig into the benefits…

THC and CBD. What’s The Difference?

While cannabidiol (CBD) and tetrahydrocannibidiol (THC) are the two primary chemical compounds found in the cannabis plant, the two are hardly created equal.

THC is the psychoactive cannabinoid in marijuana that gives you the sensation of being “high”, whereas CBD is completely non-psychoactive, possessing none of the euphoric, mind-altering effects that THC boasts (1, 2 ). CBD is among at least 85 different active cannabinoids found in cannabis, but accounts for a sizable 40% of the plant’s total cannabinoid content.

Mechanistically speaking, THC and CBD share some of the same target receptors in the brain. THC primarily acts upon receptors CB1 and CB2, the classic cannabinoid receptors involved in mood, appetite, pain, and memory. CBD can act indirectly on the two receptors, albeit with a significantly less affinity, which is why you won’t feel the psychological effects.

When taken together, CBD can extend the effects of THC, but when taken by itself, CBD acts upon the 5-HT1A receptor, which is the most widespread of the 5-HT receptors in the entire central nervous system (3). It is believed that the downstream benefits of CBD result from stimulation of this prominent receptor.

We know that CBD acts upon the 5-HT1A in the following systems in the brain:

  • The Dopamine System — regulates many aspects of behavior, cognition, including reward-seeking behavior and motivation.
  • The Serotonin System — involved in CBD’s antidepressant, anti-anxiety, neuroprotective benefits.
  • The Opioid System — CBD acts as an “allosteric modulator” on your opioid receptors to reduce pain and the effects of chronic inflammation.

Understanding the intricate details of the neurology of CBD is an impossibly complex task, as we have yet to elucidate the specific pathways and mechanisms of action. Alas, here’s what the research has to say about CBD and its effects on the brain.

CBD’s Effect On Brain Fog, Anxiety, Stress, and Depression

A number of human and animal studies have demonstrated CBD’s efficacy as an anxiolytic compound, which means it can relieve the characteristic network of symptoms related to stress, depression, and anxiety.

One study administering a dose of 400 mg CBD reduced anxiety in volunteers during a simulated public-speaking procedure and neuroimaging showed changes in brain activity related to the control of emotional processes (4, 5).

It’s thought that CBD influences neuron activity in the hippocampus (the region of the brain involved in memory consolidation and formation) by increasing calcium ion concentrations in the mitochondria. It has also been shown that CBD attenuates blood oxygenation and impairs connectivity in the amygdala, the region of the brain involved with the experiencing of emotions.

When looking to tie a reported benefit, such as reduced anxiety or stress, with a specific target mechanism, things can become pretty messy. The fact is, while these benefits have been observed in both human and animal trials, there is a considerable amount of overlap. Though the exact mechanisms are yet to be elucidated, it’s clear that CBD acts upon several different pathways involved in relieving the symptoms of stress and anxiety (6). In fact, the collective research demonstrates that something as natural and innocuous as CBD oil can be as effective as a pharmaceutical alternative like valium or diazepam (7, 8).

CBD and Sleep Quality

There are approximately 70 million people in America who suffer from insomnia, poor sleep, or other related sleep disorders. Interestingly, though CBD actually has a mild stimulatory effect on the same receptors in the brain as caffeine, studies and anecdotal reports show that taking CBD oil prior to bedtime can actually facilitate deep, restful, sleep (9, 10).

With regards to dosage, there is a massive delta in the amounts used in studies, ranging from 10 mg on the bottom end, all the way up to 1,300 mg. It’s clear that there is a significant amount of inter-individual variability when it comes to effective dosing, though benefits have been observed in doses of all different quantities. The good news is that there is seemingly no upper limit with regards to safety or toxicity. Ultimately, you’ll just have to experiment to find the right dose that works best for you.

You may want to try DREAM CBD for Sleep.

Neuroprotective Effects of CBD

CBD has shown the ability to support normal cellular function as well as support our natural immune response and promote healthy aging through mitochondrial support. (11).

Additionally, CBD may support healthy brain functioning and cellular repair (12, 13, 14).

What About CBD’s Clinical Application?

While the benefits of CBD look promising and there are some general mechanisms at play, the clinical application remains unknown.

An important point to remember is that clinical studies have the luxury of injecting CBD directly into brain tissue to observe its effects, especially in the case of animal studies. For human subjects, we just don’t have that luxury which is why it’s a good rule of thumb to take all animal research with a grain of salt. This findings of animal research help generate new knowledge and better questions to ask as we investigate the topic further in humans.

As far as the consumer is concerned, CBD oil is readily available on the market right now, however, the absorption rate is incredibly low, as CBD is a water insoluble compound. Additionally, there isn’t yet a clear dose-response relationship for any of the aforementioned benefits (though it’s clear they do exist).

It’s possible that consuming CBD oils or powders with a fat source could improve absorption, but until there is a novel and effective way of actually getting CBD to its target tissues and mechanisms of action in the brain, we should curtail our excitement and keep our eyes peeled for future developments on the topic.

This is one topic to bookmark, folks, and I suspect we’ll continue to learn much more about CBD and brain health in the near future.

To learn more about the health benefits of CBD, give a listen to one of our most controversial podcasts where we dive into the legality of marijuana and CBD oil, the best way to consume CBD, how CBD can improve performance and more. Listen to the episode here: The Health Benefits of Cannabis and CBD Oil.

Questions? Comments? Post them in the comments below and let us know about your experiences with CBD and how it’s influenced your brain performance!

CBD (cannabidiol) is a bioactive component of the Cannabis plant (marijuana) that is becoming well-known for its potential brain health benefits, none of which involve getting high or compromising your short term memory. When it comes to self-medicating — especially with prescription drugs — it’s important to remembe

Does CBD oil help with brain fog?

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What is Brain Fog?

A particularly distressing symptom, “brain fog”, as the name suggests, is described by patients as an inability to think clearly: “like thinking through cotton wool”; “can’t remember a thing”; or “woolly-headed”. Such feelings of disorientation and confusion can be enormously disabling: sufferers not only find that it affects their ability to complete everyday tasks, but it can also cause enormous mental distress: nobody likes to feel that they are “losing it”! The causes of brain fog are numerous and in some cases complex. This means that there is no “one size fits all” remedy. That said, scientific studies and a wealth of anecdotal evidence supports the view that, for some individuals, CBD oil can provide a degree of relief from brain fog.

Brain fog is a general umbrella term for what is actually a collection of different symptoms. Although brain fog can be a convenient, shorthand term to describe a general feeling of mental unwellness, different people may experience it in a different way. In addition, the symptoms of brain fog can vary over time. For example, one person may feel that their brain fog prompts less anxiety, but that their ability to concentrate has reduced over time. Another may feel that their brain fog is increasing their levels of frustration and irritation, but that their memory is improving. Let’s take a look at the various symptoms that can form part of brain fog and how CBD may be able to affect each one of them.

How does CBD oil work?

CBD oil is a derivative of the cannabis plant that’s rich in chemical compounds called cannabinoids. For clarification, it contains only trace amounts of THC – the chemical compound which causes cannabis users to get high. CBD oil targets the endocannabinoid system in the body, bonding with the chemical receptors which control functions such as: appetite; sensations of pain; concentration; memory; cognition; mood; and awareness of time. Some individuals find that the action of CBD results in an improvement in one or more of the factors that contribute to brain fog.

What is the medical evidence that CBD oil helps brain fog?

There are numerous factors which can contribute to brain fog: anything from fatigue through to pain, depression, anxiety or stress may result in brain fog. CBD may help with some of the factors which contribute to brain fog, thereby reducing its severity. Studies show that CBD oil can relieve anxiety symptoms in some sufferers. There has also been clinical research conducted which suggests that CBD oil may help to relieve pain and reduce insomnia. If anxiety, insomnia or pain are contributing factors to an individual’s brain fog state, CBD oil could provide some relief.

Poor memory

Divided into short term and long term, memory is a vital part of informed consciousness. Many sufferers of brain fog report that it is their short term memory which is affected, rather than more deeply rooted memories. This means that they are usually able to remember things such as the names of their children, childhood memories and how to perform repetitive activities. Short term memory failure involves being unable to recall information from a few minutes to a few hours ago. A trivial, but common, example is when an individual goes upstairs for something, but can’t remember what it is they’ve come up for once they get there. At times, people with brain fog may forget what they were saying mid-sentence, as well as forget important information such as train times, appointments or items of personal clothing. They may also frequently misplace keys, purses, wallets, mobile phones and similar small items.

Can CBD help memory?

Although study sizes are relatively small at this time, there is a growing body of evidence that suggests CBD can help to maintain and even improve memory function. Unlike cannabis (which has been shown to have an adverse effect on the memory), CBD promotes the growth of nervous tissue, potentially helping to repair damaged nerves which lead to memory loss. Some research also suggests that CBD can help to dull painful memories, although the mechanism for this is not fully understood. In general, there is compelling evidence that CBD doesn’t cause harm to memory and may actively promote it.

A key component of brain fog is anxiety. Intrusive thoughts, a sense of being overwhelmed and difficulty working out how to complete a variety of mental tasks are key symptoms of both brain fog and anxiety. Even if the two are caused for separate reasons, the symptoms blend into each other, causing enormous distress to the sufferer. Many individuals end up anxious because of the effects which brain fog is having on their life. Concerned that they are unable to complete the tasks they used to be able to (or even frightened that they are going mad), brain fog sufferers can feel enormous levels of anxiety, which in turn makes the brain fog symptoms worse.

Can CBD oil help anxiety?

Encouragingly, there is a significant amount of research which shows that people with anxiety almost always notice a significant improvement in their symptoms once they start taking CBD. Not only can it reduce the mental distress associated with anxiety, CBD is also found to improve the physical symptoms which the condition can cause. Various studies have noted that CBD appears to aid restful sleep and promote relaxation. This means that it has the potential to really make a difference to brain fog sufferers for whom anxiety is a significant problem.

Lack of concentration

An inability to focus is one of the most irritating brain fog symptoms: many sufferers speak of their frustration in “not being able to get down to things”, putting off tasks, not being able to get started on a task, losing track whilst completing a task, getting diverted from what they were meant to be doing and similar scenarios. This can have a devastating impact on work performance, as well as affect household routine and the completion of basic tasks. The frustration which otherwise able people feel when brain fog prevents them from completing even the simplest tasks is enormous. Some people find that their lack of concentration gets so bad that they have to give up work! In these circumstances, it’s comforting to know that research indicates CBD can have a beneficial effect on the ability to concentrate.

Does CBD Help brain fog – can it improve focus and concentration?

Intriguingly, lack of focus is a key symptom of anxiety. Some professionals suggest that the inability to concentrate which many brain fog sufferers describe could actually be down to high levels of anxiety. CBD has been shown to improve serotonin uptake in the brain, (working in a similar way to SSRI anti-depressants). It is also believed to affect brain physiology in a number of other ways, further reducing anxiety levels. Because CBD has reduced anxiety levels in many people, it’s highly likely that the reduction in anxiety which many users experience will result in improved focus and drive.

It has been shown that CBD and the brain interact together in a complex, multi-faceted manner. Addressing both mental and physical ill-health, CBD can be particularly effective in treating low energy, as it targets both physical and mental causes. As well as targeting the brain, reducing anxiety and making it easier for sufferers to believe they are strong enough to get up and do what they want to do, CBD also reduces pain in sore muscles and joints. It may also relieve nerve pain. Because many people with brain fog also experience listlessness, joint pain and lack of motivation, CBD is a good option because it also works on the physical causes of suffering, helping to reduce pain and provide users with some additional “get up and go.”

Is CBD oil right for you?

Generally, CBD oil is well-tolerated and, even if not beneficial in the relief of brain fog, is unlikely to make the condition worse. Make sure to pick a reputable supplier for your CBD oil and check its provenance: the higher the quality of the oil, the more likely it is to deliver the therapeutic effects you’re looking for. CBD oil isn’t a miracle cure, but there is certainly scientific evidence out there that suggests, for some people, it could provide a measure of relief from the symptoms of brain fog.

If you have any questions about CBD or require any further information about CBD and its benefits, we are always delighted to give you the information you need.

Does CBD help brain fog? Do you struggle with brain fog or lack clarity? Well CBD could help you. Find out how in this blog post.