Western society has historically placed a much greater importance on physical health than mental health. In recent times, this has shown to be a foolish move, given the huge uptick in mental illness that has occurred. Even more worryingly, this is a crisis that medical professionals don’t currently have the tools to treat, with existing antidepressants at best inefficient and at worst ineffective.
However, many people are looking to alternative mental health treatments – either to treat a particular ailment or simply for self-care purposes. And they are returning to natural, plant-based options, such as cannabis. Cannabinoids, the unique compounds in marijuana, have a powerful effect on the brain. Research has confirmed the neuroprotective and antioxidant properties of these chemicals. However, cannabis has fought a frustrating losing battle with the mainstream until now because of its misunderstood psychoactive properties.
But cannabidiol (CBD) is a type of cannabis that is free from the criticism that it makes mental health worse, since it is non-psychoactive. And studies have actually shown that CBD can not only be beneficial for numerous psychological ailments, but that it helps to suppress the psychoactive effects of cannabis, by reducing activity at the receptors which the cannabinoid tetrahydrocannabinol (THC) binds to.
Now we have determined that CBD is safe and holds general therapeutic value, let’s consider how it could be used to manage anxiety, depression, post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) and more.
Taking CBD for anxiety relief
Anxiety causes changes in the central nervous system which leads to fear and worry, and in severe cases can result in physical symptoms, such as aches, pains and tension headaches. Anxious people tend to find themselves more on edge and irritable, and can suffer from reduced concentration and, over time, fatigue. Researchers have found that the amygdala and the hippocampus are brain regions significantly affected by most anxiety disorders. High anxiety and stress may ultimately lead to hippocampal atrophy, increasing the risk of other psychological disorders.
The most effective anxiety treatments are those that work rapidly, however the SSRI drugs which are usually prescribed for the condition fail to deliver such a result, taking several weeks to benefit the patient. In contrast, studies indicate that CBD treatment can start to have a positive effect from the very first dose. This was demonstrated in an experiment in 2011 , where anxiety sufferers were trialled on CBD and then asked to participate in a public speaking test.
Hemp-derived CBD-isolate products are perhaps best suited to relieving anxiety, because they are made with just one cannabinoid and contain zero THC. Anxious symptoms start to recede within minutes after vaping a CBD Drip e-liquid, as this consumption method takes CBD molecules into the bloodstream almost immediately.
Using CBD to manage depressive symptoms
Depression is a complex psychological disorder which causes a decline in mood. Those who experience feelings of sadness and a loss of interest in previously enjoyed activities for more than two weeks are deemed as having major depressive disorder by the National Institute of Mental Health . SSRI drugs are also used to alleviate depression. These supposedly work by blocking the reuptake of serotonin neurotransmitters, making more of this so-called “happy” chemical available in the body. SSRIs were first introduced in the 1980s and more recent research also suggests they also help to promote neurogenesis, which may more accurately describe their antidepressant mechanism.
However, a 2012 study found that more than one-third of patients have treatment-resistant depression . Encouragingly, CBD has also displayed potent and unique antidepressant properties, with the added benefit of helping from the first dose and producing sustained results.
The theory that depression is caused by inflammation of the brain has gained traction over time, making the neurogenesis qualities of CBD even more relevant. The cannabinoid has been found to stimulate the growth of new brain cells in the hippocampus and amygdala, and can heal broken circuitry in the prefrontal cortex, which is involved with complex social and behavioral processes.
Could CBD help with PTSD?
PTSD is a condition that is estimated to affect 8 percent of Americans, and particularly combat veterans, causing nightmares and intense flashbacks. Cannabis and even MDMA has been touted as potential treatments for the disorder, but non-psychoactive CBD may also help to reduce fear-based responses. A 2016 study in Frontiers in Pharmacology revealed CBD can disrupt fear memory and decrease learned fear expression.
A product that offers extended benefits may be preferable for PTSD, such as gummy edibles from Chill Plus CBD .