For the past few months I have been feeling anxious and just wound up. As a twenty-four year old this is nothing too out of the ordinary, but nonetheless it isn’t good for your body to exist in a constant state of stress. Age and societal pressures aside, the human body is made to experience stress in short bursts. I’ve heard that we are meant to live 60% of our lives in “rest and digest” mode which is the opposite of “fight or flight”. Our ancient ancestors were equipped with a “fight or flight” response and the corresponding stress hormones to enable them to survive and to, quite literally, respond to fighting or fleeing from lions and tigers. Once they were done fighting or fleeing, the stress response would stop. Nowadays, we don’t encounter lions on a daily basis and don’t often experience short, adrenaline filled stressful moments. What we have instead is a prolonged, lingering feeling of stress that, in time, really takes a toll on our bodies if we are enable to release it.
There are many natural ways to deal with stress. I discuss a bunch of them in an article here. Briefly, they include, supplements, exercise, time outside and quality sleep. However, everyone is different in the way that their bodies respond to and intake supplements and stress relieving activities. So, here is a supplement that I have been curious about and testing for the last couple of weeks.
What is CBD?
In short, CBD is a herb derived compound or cannabidiol. It is legal in all 50 states as a hemp-derived substance rather than a substance derived from Cannabis. Wait, what? I thought CBD was found in weed! The short answer is, it is. But it is also found in hemp, a closely related plant, in a smaller concentration. This enables the medicinal qualities of this compound to be legally distributed in all 50 states, because hemp-derived CBD contains less than 0.3% THC, making it impossible to get high off of it or have any psychoactive effects.
What Does it Do?
CBD is a phytocannabinoid that interacts with various receptors in the brain and body to create distinct effects. It has been used clinically in patients with chronic inflammation, overactive neurons, and in cases of anxiety and depression. In order to truly understand what is is doing, you’ll need to have a basic understanding of the Endocannabinoid System in your body.
The Endocannabinoid System (ECS)
The human body is actively regulating most of your biological systems to maintain conditions within a narrow range. This range is referred to as homeostasis. It can also be referred to as body balance, both of which I will use interchangeably throughout the rest of this article. The Endocannabinoid system (ECS) plays a crucial role in maintaining this body balance through the management of levels such as blood sugar, and temperature. The ECS is found throughout the animal kingdom in all vertebrate species and is thought to have evolved 1000’s of years ago (My theory is that it evolved to help us manage our new constant levels of stress as civilization grew, but I’m no scientist), but was recently named to reflect its similarities in compounds to phytocannabinoids or cannabinoids found in plants.
The ECS is made up of three major components. The first are Cannabinoid receptors which are found on the surface of cells and “listen” to conditions outside the cell in order to transmit that information to the inside to prompt the appropriate response. Kind of like, hearing raining when you wake up and knowing that you have to put on a raincoat, or get the buckets out to catch the water leaking from your roof. The two main receptors in this component are CB1 and CB2. These receptors are abundant in different parts of the body which accounts for the difference in body response from THC and CBD, constituents in Cannabis.
CB1 receptors are found in abundance in the brain, and interact with THC, causing the psychoactive effects of weed. CB2 receptors, however, are found in both the brain and the body, but exist outside of the nervous system. So when these receptors interact with CBD there are no psychoactive effects, because they are not part of that system.
The second component are Endocannabinoids. These molecules are made by your body and bind to and activate cannabinoid receptors. The two major molecules are anandamide and 2-AG. Both of these are made from fat-like molecules within the cell membranes and are synthesized on demand, meaning that when they are needed, the body makes them, and then they are promptly destroyed by our next component.
The last component of the ECS is in charge of destroying the endocannabinoids. They are called Metabolic Enzymes. The most common are FAAH, which destroys anandamide, and MAGL which destroys 2-AG. This destruction ensures that endocannabinoids get used when they are needed, but not longer than necessary. This mechanism of the ECS distinguishes it from other systems in the body such as hormones which tend to hang around long after they are needed or packed up and stored somewhere for later use.
The ECS is prompted to respond when something brings a cell out of homeostasis in order to help that cell and that system return back to balance.
Plant Cannabinoids or Phytocannabinoids
The reason that phytocannabinoids have an psychoactive and medicinal effects within our bodies is because we have a ECS that they can interact with. Without this they would simply be transported straight through our system without any effect at all.
So why aren’t we high all the time from the cannabinoids that our body produces? Well, those cannabinoids don’t stick around for long enough to create a noticeable effect on our bodies, which is why phytocannabinoids are so useful medicinally.
Because phytocannabinoids are similar to our own and bind to the same receptors, we are able to understand generally where they are going and what they are going to do. The fact that they linger around for a bit creates a distinct effect on the body.
CBD & Anxiety
When CBD is introduced to the body, it interacts with various receptors in the brain creating its distinct effects. In terms of anxiety, anxiousness, fear and general panic, it increases the “endocannabinoid tone” or overall levels of endocannabinoids of the brain.
It does this by inhibiting the FAAH enzyme from breaking down anandamide, thus increasing anandamide levels in the brain. This action has been shown to be helpful in the treatment of anxiety disorders. In a clinical trial, an injection of anandamide was shown to reduce panic and anxiety behavior or the “fight or flight” phenomenon (This appears to be dose dependent, so always talk to a professional before adding a new herbal supplement).
This introduction of CBD to the body helps in the maintenance of a healthy Endocannabinoid system “tone” and improves stress resilience, and reduction of residual anxiety, fear and panic behaviors from chronic exposure to stress.
Like I said, I’ve been incorporating CBD into my own stress-reduction routine for the last couple of weeks and I have definitely noticed a difference. I have to say that I am taking other supplements as well, but I have been taking those for a while (See what they are here) and there was definitely a piece missing for me still.
I am one that responds to stress with anger, irritability and then tears. Lots of tears. I’ve been known to “fly off the handle” when given more than I can handle or overwhelming myself. With my first round of supplements, which are mostly adaptogenic herbs, I noticed that my digestive issues related to stress where improving but I still had that anxious, pit of the stomach feeling, and I still had a few tears. When I added CBD, I felt these aspects lessen almost immediately and then lessen in intensity over time. I can feel that I still have a ways to go before my resilience to stress is toned enough for me to handle it alone and I definitely have a lot to learn about physical ways to reduce stress, but the difference is real.
I wake up and I drink a cup of tea with the dosage of CBD tincture that was recommended for me by my CBD provider. I chose this time around to use a company called Infinite CBD, mostly because of their reasonable prices, but I plan on trying other brands when I finish these bottles up. Starting my day like this helps me approach the world in a much more grounded way. I have noticed that I am better able to breathe before reacting and things like bad drivers, and slow traffic do not make me nearly as angry as before (annoyed, yes).
If you are considering CBD, I would recommend it, especially for anxiety and fear related issues. For those and other issues such as inflammation or migraines, I recommend talking to a specialist on dosing. You can either do this with the distributor of your CBD (if they won’t talk to you, don’t buy from them) or you can go to a site called HelloMD. HelloMD is the official place to talk to medical professionals about the benefits of medical marijuana and the use of CBD. You can discuss your situation and symptoms with them as well as your own personal goals for your health and they will give you a recommendation for what you should be doing to assist your body in healing. They are super knowledgeable, and also have a great blog to read through if you’re interested.
I hope you found this article detailed and informative, and I hope you learned something. The hemp plant, and marijuana are very useful herbs that, just like anything, when used correctly can make a difference for a lot of people.