How CBD works for Stress and Anxiety
Whether its fighting traffic, paying the bills, or dealing with difficult people at work, we all experience stress. CBD can help ease your worried mind.
A little bit of stress can be a good thing, helping to keep our minds sharp, but when stress continues to build up over time, it starts to take its toll on our health. Chronic stress changes the structure of the brain, disrupts the immune system, and strains our hearts. It has been linked with diabetes, high blood pressure, autoimmune diseases, and cancer. (Mariotti, 2015.)
Anxiety is a particular expression of stress that involves being afraid of things that might or will happen in the future. (Crocq, 2015.) The source of your anxiety can be specific and immediate, like the nervousness you might feel before a job interview, or long-term like constantly worrying about your health. When anxiety becomes frequent or extreme, it can disrupt your daily life.
Whether you are going though a stressful time or struggling with anxiety, CBD may help. CBD oil is not a replacement for psychotherapy or medication, but it can help your body and your mind cope better with stress and anxiety.
What is CBD and How Does it Work?
CBD – cannabidiol – is a unique compound found in the flowers of the Cannabis plant. Our CBD products are all made from Hemp plants that don’t contain THC, the compound in Marijuana that makes people feel “high.” And if you have tried Cannabis in the past and felt anxious or agitated, you don’t need to worry about trying our products, THC is also the compound in Cannabis that makes some people’s minds race. CBD, on the other hand, has a calming effect. Since the 1970’s, studies have consistently shown that CBD relieves and reduces anxiety. ( Zuardi 2008)
The Cannabis plant has a unique relationship with the human body – it produces chemicals that interact with a special system in our bodies called the endocannabinoid system that helps us regulate our hormones, our neurotransmitters, and our immune systems. Our own body create molecules similar to the ones in the Cannabis plant to help regulate our stress response and keep us in balance. (Senst and Bains 2014, Hill 2010.) One of the most important of these compounds is anandamide.
Ananda is the Sanskrit word for bliss. True to its name, anandamide helps us experience pleasure. It also exerts a positive influence on the entire endocannabinoid system. CBD helps the body use the anandamide it produces more effectively, soothing anxiety (Lee 2017; Prud’homme 2015.)
CBD also acts directly on the nervous system, stimulating the same receptors as the neurotransmitter serotonin (Blessing 2015.) Serotonin plays an important role in regulating the ways our brain processes thoughts and emotions (Jenkins 2016.)
CBD works together with the body’s own anandamide and serotonin to promote feelings of calm and well being without the side-effects associated with a lot of anti-anxiety drugs. (Prudh’homme 2015; Blessing 2015.)
Calming Your Nerves
One way that scientists study anxiety is by getting them to do something that makes a lot of people nervous: public speaking. Researchers in Brazil randomly divided people dealing with social anxiety into two groups – one group received CBD and another group received a placebo. Both groups were then given two minutes to prepare a four minute speech about public transportation. Then they had to deliver the speech on camera while watching themselves on a TV screen. The group that received the CBD reported less anxiety, displayed clearer thinking, and felt better about their speeches and about themselves than the people in the group that received the placebo (Bergamaschi 2011.)
The researchers were especially happy to see such positive results from CBD, because it has significant advantages over the pharmaceuticals used to treat social anxiety. You need to take anti-depressants for a while before they begin to reduce social anxiety, but CBD works right away. And benzodiazapines, the most common anti-anxiety drugs, can slow movement and reflexes and cloud the brain. CBD does not (Bergamaschi 2011.) (Some people, of course, benefit greatly from pharmaceuticals that treat anxiety and depression, and if you are on one of these drugs you should never discontinue the medication or add something new to the mix without consulting your doctor or psychiatrist.)
Most drugs that treat anxiety work by slowing down an overactive brain. This can stop you from feeling anxious, but it also can make it harder for you to find new solutions to your problems or perform tasks like writing a report or giving a presentation.
CBD appears to specifically target the areas of the brain associated with fear, stress, and anxiety.
The limbic region and the paralimbic region are commonly called the “reptilian brain,” because, from an evolutionary perspective, they are the oldest parts of the brain, the parts we share in common with reptiles. They are responsible for processing sensations and emotions --- including fear. When we get scared, those areas of the brain become activated and let our bodies know that we are in danger. We quickly release hormones and neurotransmitters that focus our attention on the threat, raise our blood pressure, tense our muscles, spike our blood sugar, increase our heart rate, and make us ready to fight or run away. This is a useful response if you are confronted with a mountain lion. It is not as useful if you are trying to drive to work or do your taxes.
Brain scans show that CBD decreases blood flow to the limbic and para-limbic regions, reducing fear and anxiety, preventing the body from going into high alert or helping it calm back down. (Crippa 2013.)
Recent studies also show that the endocannabinoid system may have an effect on the part of our endocrine system that produces stress hormones. You have probably heard of adrenaline – the compound that makes you jittery and excited when you are stressed, whether the stress is good stress or bad stress. Adrenaline is released by your adrenal glands in response to a message from your pituitary gland. Your pituitary gland gets the message that you need to produce adrenaline from the hypothalamus, which in turn is activated by the limbic system. Together the hypothalamus, the pituitary, and the adrenals make up the HPA axis, which regulates our stress response.
Scientists have just discovered that the endocannabinoid system extends into the hypothalamus, and can essentially put the brakes on the HPA axis, regulating our stress response. (Hill 2019.) Given the role CBD plays in supporting healthy anandamide levels, it may also be reducing anxiety through taking the system that produces stress hormones off its hair-trigger alert.
Moving on From Your Troubles
Have you ever found yourself unable to shake your fear even after your conscious mind knows that you are safe?
One of the most remarkable ways that CBD can help you manage anxiety and stress is by helping you move on after you’ve experienced something that frightened or overwhelmed you.
Our bodies evolved to remember everything about painful and scary situations, so that we can avoid repeating them – this kind of memory is called aversive memory. This is a helpful mechanism in some ways, but it can cause problems too. When we experience something truly horrible, our aversive memories can become so strong and so easily triggered that they can make it hard to function.
When people experience traumatic events – situations where they believe that they can’t escape being killed or seriously hurt – the often develop Post Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD) which can cause mood swings, depression, anger, trouble focusing, and body pain. Most people associate PTSD with combat veterans, and certainly a lot of people come back from the battle field with extreme PTSD. But PTSD can also result from a car accident, a difficult childbirth, domestic violence, or any number of other situations that put someone’s life in danger. PTSD involves being flooded with aversive memories.
Frustrating and painful situations that don’t reach the level of trauma can also create aversive memories that are hard to shake.
CBD has the amazing ability to change the ways we create and recall painful memories. It reduces fear as we feel it, prevents the fear from consolidating into memory, and helps us forget the fear. (Lee 2017.) It also helps to reduce the nightmares old fears cause, and is gentle enough for children. (Shannon and Ophila-Lehman 2016).
CBD won’t make your troubles go away, but it may make them feel more manageable.
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