How Hemp CBD May Help Anxiety & Depression
Updated: Feb 15
Our big, beautiful and complex brain. In charge of how we perceive and experience the world around us, our brains play an integral role in nearly every body function. It’s no secret that our brains can be difficult to live with at times. The brain does show up when it needs to — you know, in making sure we keep breathing and pumping blood, but it can also make life kinda… hard.
Anxiety and depression are no secret in today’s society. Mental illness on the whole affects more than 51 million adults in the United States. As science understands mental health more through the lens of brain function and collective experience, it also sheds light on the truth of mental health hardship across the globe.
In the last year COVID-19 has impacted the US with extreme force. Social isolation, increased fear over infection, experiences of mass grief and the umbrella uncertainty of COVID each have their own unique detrimental effects on mental and physical function.
The Center for Disease Control and Prevention cites that it is natural to feel heightened stress, anxiety and grief during the pandemic. Though we believe COVID is an important factor in mental health right now, it will not be the lens of our discussion.
Here, we will focus on how mental health generally affects people in the United States. We’ll dive into the neurological makeup of anxiety and depression, common treatments and the research-based possibilities of Hemp CBD in offering alternative remedies.
No doubt you’ve probably heard more about mental health in the last year. If you experience symptoms of a mental health condition, you are certainly not alone. As mentioned earlier, there are 51.5 million US adults that suffer from mental health implications. That’s 1 in every 5 people. Mental illness shows up in a variety of ways including:
Each of these conditions resides on a spectrum, meaning some individuals may experience severe symptoms on a consistent basis, and others may only feel a symptom in passing.
When it comes to depression, there are different ways in which a person can develop symptoms. Most notably, major depressive disorder (MDD) is found within the family tree. According to the medical journal Neuron, first-degree relatives of individuals with MDD are three times more likely to experience depression than the general population. Other potential sources of depression symptoms can come from other physiological or psychological issues including substance abuse, HIV, cancer, hormone imbalance, postpartum and chronic pain among others. Experiencing depression symptoms is not the same as being diagnosed with MDD which can require extensive evaluations by doctors and mental health clinicians.
There are particular ways that depression manifests in every person. These different types range from seasonal affective disorder, postpartum depression, melancholic and atypical depression, and catatonic depression which can affect motor skills. Interestingly, women experience depression at significantly higher rates (20-26%) than men (8-12%). The median age for major depression is 32 years. Depending on the type of depression, the symptoms can also be very different for each person including:
Negative thinking with inability to see positive solutions
Inability to focus
Lashing out at loved ones
Withdrawing from loved ones and regular activities
Increase in sleeping
Exhaustion and lethargy
Morbid, suicidal thoughts
Weight loss or gain
Abnormal brain chemistry is one of the most widely accepted “causes” of depression. Research has found that people with lower levels of neurotransmitters in their brains may experience higher rates of depression. Neurotransmitters are the way that our brains transmit messages. The space between two nerve cells — called the synapse — is where particular molecules can meet their corresponding receptor. If too many molecules are released and not received, the presynaptic cell will take them back in to be redistributed for a different “communication.” When these transmitters are out of balance, they can lead to depression symptoms.
The three most significant neurotransmitters consistent in depression are serotonin, norepinephrine and dopamine. Serotonin is responsible for mood regulation and other body regulations from the gut to sexual function. Norepinephrine acts as the “fight or flight” agent alongside adrenaline. Dopamine is another mood regulating hormone and is responsible for the positive feelings associated with certain tasks and activities.
Science has shown that anxiety disorders (AD) are closely interconnected with major depressive disorder. Both can exacerbate the other’s effects — overlapping symptoms can include attention deficit, sleep disruption, fatigue, arousal, and psychomotor disabilities. Studies have shown that 60-90% of people experiencing MDD concurrently suffer with AD symptoms.
Research tells us that anxiety and mood disorders originate in the emotional brain, not the higher cognitive brain. This limbic system is a part of the brain that essentially controls how we react to and regulate different stimuli which includes maybe most importantly, our stress and fear responses. Anxiety disorders are also closely related to the neurotransmission of dopamine, serotonin and norepinephrine.
Like depression, anxiety disorders can manifest across a spectrum: generalized anxiety disorder, panic disorder, phobia disorders, social anxiety, separation anxiety, and agoraphobia which can relate to intense fears of being in enclosed spaces or out in public alone. This helpful breakdown from Kaplan and Sadock’s Synopsis of Psychiatry shows how anxiety, fear and anxiety disorders vary:
Fear represents an emotional response to a real or imagined imminent threat.
Anxiety represents an emotional response to some perceived future threat.
Anxiety disorders represent psychological disorders that share features of excessive anxieties and/or fear.
The determination of what constitutes excessive anxiety or fear is based on the notions of state and trait anxiety.
Trait anxiety refers to the personalized internal feelings that everyone has, but differs in when people experience anxiety or fear in accordance with the same or similar threatening situation.
State anxiety refers to the overall duration of the fearful anxious episodes, such that when a threat is present or perceived to be imminent, individuals experience anxiety or fear, and when the threat is removed, the anxiety or fear should dissipate.
Individuals with anxiety disorders experience state anxiety for periods far longer than would be expected under normal circumstances given the same level of threat, and they experience far more intense feelings of anxiety/fear than expected given the nature of the real or perceived threat.
Traditional treatments for anxiety and depression are as varied as the causes and symptom lists.
Science does not have all the answers when it comes to our brains, and it’s important to stress that our brains and bodies are incredibly different. What works for one person may not even come close to helping someone else.
Many resort to medication when symptoms become inhibitive to normal functioning. For more severe mental health conditions, medication can be essential in order to keep themselves and others safe. In the case of depression and some cases of anxiety disorders, the most commonly prescribed medications are called selective serotonin reuptake inhibitors (SSRIs) amongst many others. SSRIs work by taking extra quantities of neurotransmitters and transferring them back to the presynaptic nerve for future use.
Over time, SSRIs are meant to increase the serotonin levels in the brain to balance out depressive and anxious symptoms. As with many medications, SSRIs also have potential side effects that range from upset digestion and insomnia to even worsening the anxiety or depression.
According to a 2018 statement by the American Pharmacists Association, 25 million adults have been taking antidepressants for more than two years — a 60% increase since 2010. These drugs were initially formulated to be used in the short-term, but with millions of people taking them for longer periods it can be very difficult to stop taking them resulting in intense withdrawal symptoms. Scientists don’t have data to predict what may happen with longer-term use.
If certain drug compounds in antidepressants and other medications are being taken in such high quantities, why not plant medicine too? How might herbal medicine have potential in balancing brain function and mitigating side effects? What if Hemp CBD holds answers we are only just beginning to understand?
What if cannabis, a plant still most commonly associated with its psychoactive properties, could help us retain and sustain equilibrium in our bodies to support healthy and peaceful functioning?
These are questions that we like to ponder and dive into as much as possible. Science doesn’t have the data to fully answer these questions yet, but studies have pointed to the promising potential for Hemp CBD when it comes to treating conditions like generalized anxiety disorder and depression. Up to this point, there has mostly only been research with animals and in laboratories. While there is still so much to be discovered, science has worked to bring CBD into context with the experiences we go through as humans.
This can be exampled through the numerous studies conducted on rats, mice and other small animals. In a small dosage study on rats, CBD was found to attenuate emotional responses in conflict models of anxiety. With other studies, researchers have found CBD to decrease defensive behaviors and even the marble burying behavior in mice — which could point to combating obsessive compulsive disorder.
Based on the results from these animal studies, clinical trials have come to similar conclusions, pointing to CBD’s anxiolytic (decreasing anxiety) effects. In these trials, CBD was found to also have anxiogenic effects, meaning the compound was capable of significantly reducing the anxiety that can be caused by THC. Neuroimaging from these studies pointed to CBD being able to reduce anxiety after a simulated public-speaking procedure. Another study with a similar simulation showed that CBD was effective in decreasing social anxiety.
How does it do this? Neural imaging shows that CBD changes the blood and oxygen flow in regions of the brain that control emotional processing. As CBD interacts with our brains, it blocks and activates different compounds that we use to function on an emotional level, thus impacting our physical body. There are nervous system receptors that are impacted by CBD including CB1 (found primarily in the central nervous system) and CB2 (found primarily in immune cells), GPR55, TRPV1 and 5-HT1A (serotonin receptor). Some research indicates that only a certain dosage of CBD is necessary to produce affects. Too much or too little may not create a response in the brain.
The results from many of these studies points to CBD’s potential in acting as an antidepressant and anxiolytic alternative to traditional medication. Importantly, there were not any significant side effects from CBD use in these studies which also favors the compound as a potential non-addictive remedy. Some more recent data has also pointed to CBD being effective as an antipsychotic — producing favorable results with individual’s suffering from schizophrenia. Alternatively, if cannabis is consumed too much, more vulnerable populations have been shown to begin exhibiting schizophrenia symptoms. This is attributed to the THC compound found in cannabis though, not CBD.
As we discuss CBD’s incredible possibilities, we also want to highlight the importance of quality especially when being considered as a medication alternative. As Hemp CBD has received immense attention in the last few years, the market has naturally grown to meet demand. In 2020 the Food and Drug Administration released a report speaking to the lack of transparency and quality control in the hemp CBD market. The report stated that many products had less than 80% of the stated amount of CBD in them, and in some cases actually had 120% than what was labeled. At the end of 2018, many products were reported to have higher than legal limits of THC, and some did not have CBD at all!
At North Field Farmacy we hold the quality of our products to the highest standard. When it comes to medicine, quality should never be sacrificed. As a potential herbal alternative to such widely utilized medications, Hemp CBD should be grown and processed with utmost care to ensure it can thrive as a plant ally in our bodies. How a cannabis plant is treated along its lifecycle is Energy that will show up in a final product. NFF’s hemp plants are lovingly tended on our small organic farm from start to finish. We grow our plants outdoors, in the Colorado sunshine, without pesticides and herbicides. We harvest, dry and strip our plants to then be manufactured by a local, Colorado processor. Our beautiful hemp plants are then shared with you in our finished and third-party tested products. It is an honor to cultivate this medicine for you, and we strive to continue spreading the message of Hemp CBD backed by science.
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