How can CBD potentially help with depression and anxiety?

Similar to clinically used antidepressants, cannabinoids (CBD being the most popular and well-researched cannabinoid among hundreds present in the cannabis plant) may also regulate anxiety and depressive symptoms.

Studies suggest cannabinoids may activate specific pathways in the brain that control cell growth and neural cell survival (similar to the mechanism of action of prescription antidepressants). By taking CBD, specific receptors are indirectly activated to protect against stress damage through negative feedback of the neuroendocrine stress response.*

Cannabis receptors (CB1 and CB2) are widespread in the human brain (CB1 receptors are most abundant in the hippocampus—a cortical region in the limbic system that regulates motivation, emotion, learning, and memory.)

Neurogenesis:

It is a big word, but this means the production of new neurons.
It is believed that the adult brain stops making new neurons at a certain age; however, studies have proved otherwise. Although adult neurogenesis is complex and not completely understood, it is confirmed we as adults continue to generate new neurons in the hippocampus every day. Evidence suggests adult hippocampal neurogenesis could play an essential role in the genesis of mood disorders. Stressful experiences that are closely related to anxiety and depression, suggest a down-regulation of hippocampal neurogenesis.

Neurogenesis & Antidepressants:

Antidepressants stop the down-regulation of hippocampal neurogenesis, aforementioned, which in turn causes anti-depressive and anti-anxiolytic effects, ultimately improving stress-disrupted responses. Common antidepressants include Zoloft and Celexa –classified SSRIs, or ‘Selective Serotonin Reuptake Inhibitors.’  SSRIs work by blocking the reabsorption of Serotonin into neurons, making more serotonin available to improve transmission of messages between neurons. Serotonin is the key neurotransmitter that modulates our mood. Essentially, serotonin signals your brain to be happy. 

Neurogenesis & Cannabinoids:

Studies suggest cannabinoids can increase brain activity by regulating the production of new neurons in the hippocampus. Several pieces of evidence support that cannabinoids may signal brain pathways that could participate in behavioral actions similar to SSRIs. Studies also suggest stressful situations may disrupt cannabinoid signaling, which can potentially reduce our brain from making new neurons cascading to uncontrolled mood disorders.

It is clear that more studies need to be conducted to elucidate the role of cannabinoids and its effects on mood disorders like anxiety and depression. One thing is for certain: the benefits of CBD and cannabinoids have been overlooked for centuries due to the stigma. However, we remain optimistic on the future of cannabis and are excited to continue to learn more about the healing benefits it has on the human body.

Sources:

https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC3648779/

https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC4604171/

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