Since hemp was legalized at the federal level in the 2018 Farm Bill, one of its main compounds, CBD, has rapidly gained popularity for helping with a wide range of health conditions, from muscle recovery and pain relief to sleep aid. We’ve written several informative posts on CBD here on our blog, in which we’ve covered that CBD products are legal, do not make a person “high,” and are often used to help with physical conditions, such as chronic pain and acne. Here, we’ll focus on how people may use CBD oil to help ease the symptoms of some mental-health conditions. But before we get into the “how” of CBD, we need to first talk about the “why.”
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Why Does CBD Show So Much Promise?
As you may know, your brain controls most of your bodily functions by sending electrical signals through a complex system of nerves, everything from lifting a fork to your mouth to regulating your heartbeat. Your brain and body also communicate via chemicals and receptors known as the “endocannabinoid system.”
Both animals and plants produce cannabinoids, which are substances that regulate how cells communicate. Or, as Harvard Medical School phrased it, cannabinoid receptors in the brain “act like traffic cops to control the levels and activity of most of the other neurotransmitters. To stimulate these receptors, our bodies produce molecules called ‘endocannabinoids,’ which have a structural similarity to molecules in the cannabis plant.”
Because of this match made in nature, CBD is used by many people from California to New York and far beyond as a plant-based medicine.
Red Raven makes our Alaska CBD from legal, American-grown hemp plants (not marijuana) that contain zero or very small amounts of THC or Delta-9 THC (less than 0.3%). Our products are rigorously lab tested for purity and consistency.
CBD works differently than THC does, even though they are both cannabinoids produced by the same genus of plant, and they bind to different receptors. According to the NIH, activation of specific receptors by CBD has been shown in animal studies to reduce feelings of anxiety, and direct administration of CBD to the amygdala section of the brain “has caused a decrease in neurons associated with fear.”
Many of our customers report that CBD improves their mental health, from chronic conditions caused by trauma to simple, everyday stress. Let’s take a closer look at how CBD may be able to treat specific conditions.
Anxiety and Stress
“Anxiety” is a fairly broad term and is the root cause of several other conditions, including stress. According to the American Psychological Association, anxiety is “an emotion characterized by feelings of tension, worried thoughts, and physical changes, like increased blood pressure.” So, do you have anxiety? Everyone has these feelings at various times. The issue is how to keep them under control. If your anxiety has gotten to the point where it interferes with your normal life activities, we advise seeking the advice of a board-certified psychiatrist. But you may also take heart from knowing many of our customers report CBD helps them reduce anxiety and overall stress. Furthermore, medical research has been producing very promising results.
According to the NIH, there are dozens of clinical studies currently being conducted in the U.S. and other countries to evaluate the potential benefits of CBD for many mental-health conditions.
In a July 2020 NIH review of both animal and human studies, psychiatrists from University of Pittsburgh and Augusta University reported that CBD “led to decreased anxiety-related behaviors” by affecting neurons in the brain associated with anxiety and fear and even modified the blood flow in “brain areas that play a role in anxiety symptoms.”
Remember that the human brain has many different endocannabinoid receptors. In fact, Harvard Medical School posited that the brain’s endocannabinoid receptors even outnumber many of the other receptor types. CBD is important here because it interacts with the cannabinoid type 1 and serotonin 5-HT(1A) receptors, which are two of the main receptors that regulate fear and anxiety.
In a New Zealand human study, all groups of participants reported improvements in their overall quality of life after three weeks of taking CBD. “The individuals who received CBD treatment for anxiety or depression reportedly experienced improvements in their ability to perform daily functions and reduce pain and anxiety or depression symptoms.”
If your focus is on normal anxiety and daily activities, you may be interested to note that an Italian study focused on people during public speaking found that people given CBD exhibited a noticeable “reduction in anxiety, cognitive impairment as well as discomfort in speech performance.” So, we see that CBD may have an overall calming effect.
But CBD may also help people experiencing more-severe forms of anxiety. A U.K. study headed by a psychopharmacologist (which is a doctor who uses medications to treat mental-health issues) from University College London found that CBD may be effective in helping people outgrow fear. And that is very important for the treatment of PTSD.
PTSD and Depression
Extinction learning is the reduction of a conditioned response to stimulus after the stimulus disappears. For example, the famous psychology researcher Ivan Pavlov trained dogs to salivate at the sound of a bell by ringing the bell every time he gave them a food treat. But then he stopped giving the treat and the dogs slowly stopped salivating at the sound of the bell. That’s extinction learning. And it’s what does not happen with PTSD.
When a person is in combat, for example, he or she responds fearfully (often, but it can be other responses) to the sounds, sights, and traumas of war. But when that person comes home, the threats and stimuli of war go away – but his or her fearful reactions do not go away. PTSD, put in simple terms, is a failure of extinction learning.
In the past, we called it “shellshock” or “flashbacks” because it seems the person is reacting to something that is not here in the present but, rather, in the past. PTSD can cause intense, disturbing thoughts, nightmares, sadness, fear, anger, and estrangement or isolation from others, even from loving friends and family who desperately try to help. It can also cause sudden or extreme reactions to ordinary (loud) sounds or even someone accidentally touching him or her.
The doctors in London called extinction learning “fear extinction,” and that’s exactly what we all hope happens for people suffering with PTSD. It’s also why the London study’s apparent results are so exciting: Study participants (48 people) were studied for anxiety when they were given an electric shock when they touched a box – and afterward. Some were given CBD, some a placebo. The CBD group had “enhanced consolidation of extinction learning,” giving us the first evidence on record that CBD may be able to help people suffering with unfounded fears, such as combat-induced PTSD, train their brains to “forget” the fear of something that is no longer there.
NIH reports that, at some point in their lives, about 6.1% of Americans experience some form of PTSD – which can be caused by any number of traumas, not only combat, such as domestic abuse, car accident, etc. PTSD can even be caused by intellectual or visual stimuli.
The treatment for PTSD has mostly been psychology and prescription antidepressants, especially for nightmares. While not an FDA-approved treatment, CBD has been reported, according to the NIH, to be beneficial for nightmare symptoms and overall reduction of anxiety, which is closely related to PTSD.
Depression is also closely related to anxiety, and because CBD has an ability to impact the brain’s neurotransmission by binding to receptors, it may be able to play a role in the treatment of depression. But studies in humans have been very limited, so we cannot say for certain.
Both PTSD and depression are serious conditions that can lead to suicidal thoughts and other problems. We hope CBD will prove to be a powerful ally in the treatment of these debilitating conditions. If you believe you may have either PTSD or depression, please consult with a board-certified psychiatrist or your family doctor. And know that our whole team is rooting for you.
Discover the Potential of CBD Products
If you believe CBD may be right for you, Red Raven CBD products give you the confidence of knowing you’re getting pure CBD sourced from legal, American hemp. You can shop our collection of CBD oil, including both full-spectrum CBD products and THC-free options, gummies, and topicals.
Want to learn more about what CBD can do? Contact us with any questions.