CBD has gotten more and more popular over the past few years. For this reason, there have been several claims online of the health effects of CBD (or the health effects of cannabis in general), some true and some untrue.
One of the main claims we have seen online is regarding CBD’s effect on the brain: that it increases activity in dopamine receptors (or D2 receptors) and serotonin, making you feel happier and less stressed.
So this is the claim we will focus on in this article. Is this really true? Can CBD make you a happier person?
What Is CBD?
While there are many people these days that are aware of CBD and its vast health benefits, not many people really know what it is or understand where it comes from. So let's quickly run through it before we start off - CBD is short for cannabidiol.
Together with THC (tetrahydrocannabinol), it is one of the, or the second most, to be exact, significant components of marijuana, or the cannabis plant. CBD also comes from a hemp plant.
How Is It Different From Marijuana?
As was said above, while CBD is itself a major component of marijuana, it is not one of the main components that cause you to feel high. It is known for not causing any addiction or dependency either.
It is also considered completely safe to use by the World Health Organization. Its effects and the effects of THC and marijuana differ significantly.
Is CBD Legal?
Since CBD is a component of marijuana, it is to be expected that people are unsure of its legality in the United States. That being said, the answer to this particular question is not very simple, as it varies from state to state.
Every state in the country has its own laws regulating the use of CBD, but how strict they are or how much they allow it differs quite a lot. What we do know, however, is that the federal government does not put marijuana and CBD on similar levels of illegality - as of 2015, the FDA has allowed researchers to start conducting CBD trials.
The legality of CBD is also expected to increase as Congress seems to be leaning towards making hemp crop legal. This would essentially make CBD legal, or at the very least, incredibly difficult to regulate.
What Are The Health Benefits Of CBD?
There are incredible amounts of health benefits to CBD, which might surprise you considering the substance is still mostly illegal (or partly so) in the United States and all over the world. We will list the main ones below in this section.
CBD’s most notable use is for terrible childhood epilepsy syndromes such as Lennox-Gastaut syndrome (LGS) and Dravet syndrome - these specific diseases often do not respond to antiseizure medication, yet have been found to be eased with the use of CBD.
You can find real evidence of these syndromes being eased with the use of CBD online, as there are a variety of videos on the internet that show epileptic attacks being prevented by CBD or a CBD-infused medication, such as Epidiolex, which has recently been approved by the FDA as medication for these conditions.
For those who do not have such intense conditions, yet still find themselves interesting in the regular health benefits of CBD, here is what else this substance can do:
1. It Can Relieve Pain
This is not specific to CBD but is also applicable to marijuana. Humans have been using weed has been used as a pain reliever since as far back as 2900 B.C. This is because our bodies have a system in it called the endocannabinoid system (ECS).
This specialized system is responsible for regulating certain functions such as sleep, appetite, pain, and immune system response. It produces neurotransmitters called endocannabinoids that bind to cannabinoid receptors (CB1 receptors and CB2 receptors) in our nervous system.
CBD is able to interact with these neurotransmitters to reduce inflammation and reduce chronic pain by default. CBD is also responsible for interacting with the opioid receptors in our body, altering our perception of pain and lowering it.
2. It Could Reduce Anxiety and Depression
This is something that will be further discussed below when we talk about CBD’s effect on both serotonin and dopamine in your brain. This health benefit is very often promoted by supporters of CBD, since it may provide a less addictive way through which you can help lift (or ease) your depression or anxiety.
Depression is a terrible illness that, according to the World Health Organization, is the largest contributor to disability the world over. Anxiety disorders are ranked at number six. This means that both of these issues can cause an array of other issues, be it financial, social, and (obviously) emotional.
Although these are often treated with pharmaceutical drugs, and you should consult your doctor if you have them instead of relying completely on CBD, their symptoms can be mitigated with it for those that may not have access to the pharmacological substances they need.
CBD is also not an addictive substance, unlike most benzodiazepines and amphetamines, so in some cases it can provide a safer alternative to pharmaceutical help.
3. It Can Alleviate Cancer-Related Symptoms
This might be something you have seen on TV before, as CBD has been used as an aid in cancer treatment for a while now. CBD use can help ease the symptoms of nausea and pain that are associated with chemo and other cancer treatments, which can be an absolute godsend to the people who undergo it.
It has been found that most cancer patients experience both pain and nausea during their treatments, and for patients who may not experience relief with other pain and nausea medications, or prefer a more natural method, CBD can be a fantastic alternative.
4. It May Reduce Acne
This is a special kind of benefit that you may not have heard of. CBD oil has been found to stop sebaceous gland cells from secreting excessive sebum, which is one of the causes of acne, and it has also been found to have anti-inflammatory qualities that attack “pro-acne” agents like inflammatory cytokines.
Underlying inflammation is yet another cause of acne, along with genetics and bacteria. Acne affects more than 9 percent of people in the United States, and while for some people it can be a simple matter of aesthetics to want to get rid of it (which in itself is perfectly valid), there are some people for which acne can be a real cause for health concern. This is why this added benefit of CBD can be an incredible help for people struggling with acne.
5. It Might Have Neuroprotective Properties
As we mentioned at the beginning of this list, CBD has been found to be effective in lowering the symptoms (sometimes stopping them altogether) of certain neurological disorders such as Lennox-Gastaut syndrome (LGS) and Dravet syndrome. However, CBD features even more neuroprotective properties, such as being able to ease the symptoms of multiple sclerosis (MS).
Although this research is still fairly new, CBD has been found to lower muscle spasticity that is commonly found in people with MS, even when other pharmaceutical drugs built to address it have failed. CBD might also be able to help with Parkinson’s disease by improving the sleep quality of its sufferers and increasing their dopamine levels, which increases their quality of life.
It may also be able to help with Alzheimer’s disease, as both animal models and test-tube studies (unfortunately, there are still no human neuroscience trials done on this) found that CBD can help decrease inflammation. This means that CBD might be able to prevent some of the cognitive decline experienced by people with Alzheimer’s disease.
6. It Could Benefit Heart Health
Considering how rampant and deadly heart disease and heart issues can be all over the world, this is yet another fantastic benefit of using CBD. High blood pressure is the cause of many health issues such as strokes, heart attacks, and metabolic syndrome, and is in itself a distressing issue to have that may disrupt your everyday life, as it can cause stress and anxiety.
CBD has been found through some studies to lower your blood pressure, and therefore lowering the incidence of these issues and symptoms. At the same time, CBD has also been found to reduce the inflammation and cell death that is associated with heart disease, since it features both antioxidant and stress-reducing (due to its lowering of your blood pressure) properties.More studies are needed, but CBD is also thought to provide the following health benefits:
- Antipsychotic Effects (for people with schizophrenia and other mental health and psychiatry issues with high levels of psychosis)
- Substance Abuse Treatment (it reduces withdrawal symptoms)
- Anti-Tumor Effects
- Diabetes Prevention
Are There Any Side Effects To CBD?
CBD is largely considered safe to use, but as with anything, there can be side effects to it. However, none of these side effects tend to be very dangerous. The ones which have been mentioned in studies include:
- Changes in appetite and weight
The most significant thing to watch out for is whether CBD has the ability to interact with other medications you might be taking, which is why it is important to talk to your doctor before you decide to start taking it. If there is anything you can take away from this article health-wise before you talk to your doctor, it is that you should absolutely avoid taking CBD with any medications that come with a grapefruit warning.
Both grapefruits and CBD are known to interfere with cytochromes P450 (CYPs). These are a group of enzymes that are vital to metabolizing medication, so taking CBD while taking these sorts of medications can interfere with this process and cause liver toxicity.
Does CBD Increase Your Dopamine And Your Serotonin?
The short answer is - indirectly, yes. Directly, however, not really. CBD is not an antidepressant and should likely not be used as such, but it can also have some impact on the levels of both these chemicals and neurons in your brain, even sometimes helping you treat depression.
CBD acts on 5-HT1A receptors, which are found in many regions of your brain but specifically found in the pleasure areas of your brain. Since the dopamine system acts in the pleasure centers of your brain, activity of the two is highly linked. CBD also raises the levels of anandamide in your brain, which is a naturally occurring cannabinoid in your body.
This cannabinoid aids in the regulation and activation of other chemicals in your brain, including both serotonin and dopamine release. This means that CBD, by directly affecting the production of this chemical, indirectly aids in the production of both serotonin and dopamine.
Finally, CBD stimulates the adenosine receptor, which increases the release of both glutamate and dopamine neurotransmitters. Once these bind to dopaminergic receptors it will increase dopamine levels in your brain and help your body regulate motivation, cognition, and reward-seeking behaviors. CBD has a definite impact on neuronal activity in your brain.
How Important Is Dopamine For Your Body?
Dopamine is an incredibly important neurotransmitter that is not only responsible for pleasure, as most people associate with it, but also responsible for an array of other functions, including:
- Memory & focus
- Digestive processes
- Executive functions
- Reward-seeking behavior
- Motor control
- Emotions & mood
- Blood flow
- Stress response
- Processing of pain
- Functioning of heart and kidney
- Pancreatic functioning
- Regulation of insulin
- Learning, productivity, planning
This is why having healthy levels of dopamine neurons in your system is extremely important. Apart from making you feel low and discontent, a lack of dopamine in the brain is the cause of issues such as Parkinson’s disease, Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder (ADHD), depression and addiction. CBD may help mitigate some of the symptoms of these disorders by increasing dopamine levels.
How Important Is Serotonin For Your Body?
Serotonin is another thing people talk about when they talk about “happy chemicals” in the brain. Serotonin is a hormone that is known for stabilizing your mood and increasing feelings of happiness and well-being.
However, serotonin does not just affect your brain, but your entire body too. It allows for communication between your brain and your nervous system. It helps with sleeping as well as eating and digesting. Here are some of the things serotonin is responsible for in your body:
- Mood regulation
- Bowel movements regulation
- Producing nausea
- Regulating sleep
- Helping blood clotting
- Maintaining bone health
It is important to have regular, normal production of serotonin in the brain, as a lack of it will cause depression, anxiety, inhibition, and other behavioral and emotional disorders, but an overflow of it will lead to excessive nerve cell activity.
When you have a stable amount of serotonin in your body, you will feel focused, emotionally stable, happier, and calmer, which is why the effects of cannabidiol on this hormone can have a multitude of advantages.
Apart from the well-studied and confirmed medical and physical health benefits of CBD, there are also emotional and mental benefits that you can experience and should be aware of.
Having low levels of both the dopamine and serotonin neurochemicals in your brain will affect you physically, mentally, and emotionally, so if you can, and if your doctor approves it, then trying out this method in order to increase them will never be a bad choice!