Before we can determine if CBD can help with anxiety and depression, we need a basic understanding of how certain things can affect these conditions. We will also look at how CBD works with the physiology of the body.
Our goal is to outline a scientific case for the benefits of CBD. Specifically, we’ll look at how CBD works with our neurochemistry, our neurotransmitters – because CBD does have a powerful effect on anxiety and depression.
CB1 and CB2 receptors
First off, we have to know that we have CB1 and CB2 receptors in the body. These are the receptors that usually are acted upon by endocannabinoids like CBD and THC (the psychoactive component of cannabis). Now the interesting thing is CBD cannabidiol oil does not directly affect the CB1 and CB2 receptors, unlike THC.
Now, CB1 and CB2 can give you those sensations of wellbeing, bliss, contentment – everything like that. CBD oil doesn’t directly affect those receptors like cannabis would. What CBD does is it actually allows the body to create more of its natural endocannabinoids so that those CB1 and CB2 receptors can be acted upon by naturally produced endocannabinoids. Basically what that means is CBD oil allows your body to create more of the things that make you feel good.
5-HT1A and serotonin’s role in anxiety and depression
Okay, so let’s talk about how it works when it comes down to your brain and as potential anti-anxiety and antidepressant. We have this receptor in the prefrontal cortex portion of our brain and the hippocampus portion of our brain. It’s called the “5-HT1A’ receptor.
5-HT1A is hydroxytryptamine. Hydroxytryptamine is a form or a subset of serotonin. Serotonin is the “feel-good neurotransmitter” that helps regulate mood, intestinal activity, appetite, memory, and sleep. (Antidepressants work by increasing your body’s utilisation of serotonin, so help you feel better.)
When we are depressed or when we are anxious, we have fewer receptors for 5-HT1A in the prefrontal cortex and in the hippocampus. This means we have less ability for the body to process certain types of serotonin. Since serotonin is the neurotransmitter that gives us a sense of wellbeing, if we cannot process it effectively, we begin to go down that spiral of feeling anxious or depressed.
CBD and 5-HT1A
CBD directly affects the 5-HT1A receptor, making it more sensitive, making our body more responsive to it. So we’re not adding more of something that’s going to make us feel good, we’re just helping the brain become more receptive to the neurotransmitters that help us feel good.
And here’s what’s really interesting. The same neuron that actually releases serotonin or 5-TH1A is the same neuron that receives it. So, there is a dispatch and the receiving portion of this neuron. Now, why would a neuron both release and absorb serotonin? It has to do with a negative feedback loop.
When the body recognises that it’s released serotonin, it needs to be able to know how much is out there so that way you can modulate how much more release. The neuron has the ability to control how much serotonin is in your body. It’s your body’s natural way of modulating how good you should feel ultimately. Since CBD works on this 5-TH1A receptor, it allows your body to actually absorb it better instead of just wasting it and turning off production.
CBD and SSRIs approach to anxiety and depression
SSRIs (Selective Serotonin Reuptake Inhibitors) are a group of antidepressant drugs (including Prozac, Zoloft, Paxil) which inhibit the uptake of serotonin in the brain. SSRIs work in a very interesting way. They block the reabsorption of serotonin. The reason you feel better when you take an antidepressant is because it’s blocking the reabsorption of the serotonin, the “feel-good” neurotransmitter.
An SSRI like Prozac blocks the reabsorption. So the neuron released serotonin. The serotonin would normally go out to where it needs to go, but instead of your body reabsorbing, the extra the SSRIs the pharmaceuticals that you’re taking is blocking – artificially blocking – the neuron’s ability to reabsorb it. So you have all this spare serotonin floating around.You can see how that could be detrimental in the long term. It just doesn’t seem healthy to just block something.
So here’s what happens in your body. Whenever you have a natural production of serotonin your body produces serotonin. If it produces too much, it takes the extra and it reabsorbs it and releases it again later. It basically recycles it. What CBD does in relation to anxiety and depression is that it acts on the serotonin receptor to make it so that it doesn’t have to recycle it.
What does CBD do? It naturally allows the 5-TH1A receptor to absorb more of what your body has already released. So ultimately there’s less to reabsorb because your body’s fully utilising it. We hope that makes sense. It’s a pretty complex thing and this is about as distilled as we could make it.
CBD and the hippocampus
Now additionally, there’s another more long-term component that happens when it comes down to consuming CBD. We have a part in our brain called the “hippocampus.” The hippocampus is the portion of the brain that is responsible for memory, long term memory, spatial memory, even navigation. And when we’re talking about navigation, we’re not talking about just driving down the road. We’re talking about navigation through life, spatial awareness in a room. If you’re standing in a room right now and there are things all around you, if you didn’t have a hippocampus, you would be completely disoriented and wouldn’t be able to even navigate your way through it. So again, it’s not just geographically, it’s life in general and emotionally as well.
Unfortunately when people suffer from anxiety and depression, there are a lot of studies and scans that show that these patients end up having atrophy of the hippocampus portion of their brain. They have less activity, less neuron activity, and their brain cells actually start to die.
There’s an interesting study that was actually published in the International Journal of Neuropsychopharmacology. It found that administering CBD regularly over an extended period of time to those suffering from a shrunken hippocampus started to have neuro-regenerative effects. They were creating new neurons in the hippocampus. New neurons in the hippocampus mean that new life could be breathed into the brain that was actually starting to shrink.
So the portion of the brain that was becoming less and less active was now able to have new cells, new life, something that quite honestly, 50 60 years ago we didn’t think was possible at all.
That neuro-regeneration is extremely powerful. So not only can you have a short term effect by utilising CBD properly, you can actually have an effect that lasts beyond just the actual utilisation of the compound.
CBD promotes health on a profound level
So that’s why we wanted to break this down. It goes a lot further than what is just happening in the very minute that you’re in. It goes beyond that and it reaches into your overall nutrition and your overall genome and how your body is actually responding in the long term. And again, the nice thing about CBD, if it’s good quality, it’s not triggering the CB1 and CB2 receptors. It’s allowing your body to naturally utilise what it already has just more efficiently so that it can help alleviate anxiety and depression which, sadly, are all too common in with all the challenges that we go through in this world.