Many people have looked for ways to alleviate stress, and more and more, many are looking towards CBD to get that needed relief.
It makes sense that CBD would work well to relieve stress as for thousands of years many people have smoked or otherwise consume cannabis and found that it relaxed them. However, the relaxation came in the form of getting high. The component of that euphoric intoxicating high comes as the result of CBD’s sibling tetrahydrocannabinol also known as THC.
Why CBD for Stress?
Many people turn to CBD, or cannabidiol because it’s all natural. CBD is found naturally in all 3 main species of cannabis and also in animals and humans.
Research in the 1990s found that most vertebrate animals have a system of neurotransmitter and neuroreceptors that they called the endocannabinoid system or ECS.
The ECS is involved in regulating and modulating cognitive and physiological functions such as
- Pain sensation
- Postnatal development
- Prenatal development
- Processing the absorption of cannabinoids
The ECS is comprised of a system of endogenous (originating from within an organism) lipid-based (fatty acids) retrograde neurotransmitters (brain signals that travel “backward” form normal flow) that bind to cannabinoid receptors, and cannabinoid receptor proteins that are expressed throughout the brain, the central nervous system and the peripheral nervous system.
In a nutshell, the ECS is comprised of 3 main parts:
- The lipids anandamide and 2-arachidonoylglycerol (2-AG). These lipids are called endocannabinoids and are physiological ligands (molecules which produce a signal by binding to a target protein) for cannabinoid receptors
- The proteins (enzymes) that create and reduce the endocannabinoids
- The cannabinoid receptor type 1 (CB1) and cannabinoid receptor type 2 (CB2) that couple with guanine nucleotide-binding proteins (G-proteins) located throughout the brain, central nervous system, and the peripheral nervous system
Clinical studies over the past few decades have revealed that CBD acts as a neuromodulator that serves a number of functions that include:
- Motor learning
- Pain sensation
Binding sites for cannabinoids are found in the brain and the nervous systems. The 2 main cannabinoid receptors are the CB1 and CB2 receptors, which are found mostly in the brain and immune system.
CB1 receptors can be found in numerous places throughout the nervous systems including:
- Adrenal glands
- Digestive tract
- Pituitary gland
The CB1 receptors have a direct effect on anxiety, cardiovascular activity, gastrointestinal activity, motor control, as well as drug and behavioral addictions.
The CB2 are found in the brain, gastrointestinal system, immune system, and peripheral nervous system
The CB2 receptors are responsible for:
- Bone health
- Cancer inhibition
- Cardiovascular processes
- Gastrointestinal processes
- Kidney function
- Liver function
- Lung function
- Pain responses
- Skin reactions
The CB1 and CB2 bind to neurotransmitters in the body. Examples of major neurotransmitters include:
- Gamma-Aminobutyric acid
- Opioid peptides
The way CBD behavior is differentiated by the type of receptor that it is binding to. In the case of CB1 receptors, the CBD works as an agent that interferes with the binding to the CB1 receptors. This makes it an antagonist. Antagonists activate a cell receptor to prevent a response from the cell. CBD is a CB! Triggering agent but doesn’t bind to the receptor. This allows CBD to regulate the neurotransmitters to keep them from being quickly absorbed. This allows the neurotransmitter to build to proper levels to allow for homeostasis within the ECS.
The way CBD works with CB2 is the opposite. With a CB2 receptor, CBD binds and acts as an agonist. An agonist is a chemical that binds to a receptor and activates the receptor. By binding to the CB2 receptors, CBD allows neurotransmitters to pass through without any restrictions. (https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC2219532/)
There are many ways that CBD affects the body. It serves all of the following roles:
Stress can be defined as the body’s physiological or biological response to a condition such as a threat, challenge, physical barrier, or psychological barrier.
The presence of stress can affect memory functions, immune function, metabolism, and make a person susceptible to disease.
Five types of stress have been identified. They are:
- Acute time-limited stressors – a short-term challenge
- Brief naturalistic stressors – an event that is normal but nevertheless challenging
- Stressful event sequences – an aggravation that occurs, and then continues to yield stress into the immediate future
- Chronic stressors – involves exposure to a long-term aggravation
- Distant stressors – a distant aggravation that is not immediate.
Stress can affect the human body in many different ways. This is due to the brain and spinal cord paying a major role in the way a person processes stress.
Stress mechanisms are regulated by the body’s central nervous system and the endocrine system. Part of the nervous system activates during a stress response that helps the body’s physiological functions adapt to the stress.
In some cases, these mechanisms get thrown off kilter by the stress, usually in cases of severe stress. When this happens, it can produce abnormal behavior in the regulatory systems in the body. Primarily it affects:
- Serotonin systems
- Catecholamine systems
- Hypothalamic-pituitary-adrenocortical axis
The primary systems affected are either neurotransmitters or can affect neurotransmitters. As such, work with the ECS and can be treated with CBD.
Case Studies Regarding CBD and Forms of Stress
Stress case studies can provide interesting insights into how CBD and the ECS work together in various stages of stress. Stress can be caused by anything that a person considers as a barrier, threat, or challenge.
One such study was conducted in 2018 looked at the use of CBD in people with post-traumatic stress disorder. PTSD is a stress response to traumatic memories. The study found that “CBD may offer therapeutic benefits for disorders related to inappropriate responses to traumatic memories. The effects of CBD on the different stages of aversive memory processing make this compound a candidate pharmacological adjunct to psychological therapies for PTSD. CBD also shows an action profile with fewer side effects than the pharmacological therapy currently used to treat this type of disorder. In addition, even at high doses, CBD does not show the anxiogenic (anxiety producing) profile of compounds that directly activate eCB (endocannabinoid) transmission.” (https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC6066583/)
Another study in 2017 looked to see if CBD could show the cardiovascular benefits of a reduced blood pressure response to stress. The study found that the “cute administration of CBD reduces resting BP and the BP increase to stress in humans, associated with increased HR. These hemodynamic changes should be considered for people taking CBD. Further research is required to establish whether CBD has a role in the treatment of cardiovascular disorders.” (https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC5470879/)
Another study from 2017 looked at the targeting of the ECS by “novel anxiolytic drugs”. The study, in part, looked at CBD. It worked on the premise that “There is a growing interest in the eCB system as a target for anxiety, trauma, and stress-related disorders based on a burgeoning preclinical and clinical literature that supports a relationship between eCBs and fear, anxiety and stress.” The study found “there is the possibility of utilizing the constituent of cannabis, CBD, to treat anxiety and stress-related disorders, albeit via neural mechanisms that might be independent of eCB signaling.” (https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC5407316/)
A 2019 study sought to find is CBD could help with anxiety and sleep. They cited that “A recent surge in scientific publications has found preclinical and clinical evidence documenting value for CBD in some neuropsychiatric disorders, including epilepsy, anxiety, and schizophrenia. Evidence points toward a calming effect for CBD in the central nervous system. Interest in CBD as a treatment of a wide range of disorders has exploded, yet few clinical studies of CBD exist in the psychiatric literature.” So they did a study of 103 patients based on a series of other studies and found that “The results of our clinical report support the existing scientific evidence. In our study, we saw no evidence of a safety issue that would limit future studies. In this evaluation, CBD appears to be better tolerated than routine psychiatric medications. Furthermore, CBD displays promise as a tool for reducing anxiety in clinical populations”. (https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC6326553/)
A 2017 study looked at the effects of CBD on panic attacks and found that “CBD exhibits anti-panic properties. Despite the described panic response reported as a result of cannabis use, it is important to note that CBD does not present psychoactive effects; it is safe and well-tolerated via the oral route (up to 1,500 mg/day). Moreover, because this compound does not induce dependence, tolerance and abstinence symptoms, it can be, in the future, a good alternative as a substitute for high potency benzodiazepines and antidepressant drugs in panic disorder patients who are resistant to the current treatments.” (https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC5412699/)
CBD Products for Stress
CBD comes in a variety of forms. The CBD product that a person chooses to alleviate stress could depend on the severity of the stress that they’re under.
For everyday stress, a person may choose a low dose CBD product such as a bath product. Many bath products are manufactured that are infused with CBD. These include soaps, bubble baths, shampoos, conditioners, bath bombs, body lotions, colognes, aftershaves, perfumes, and shaving creams and gels.
In addition, a person with mild stress may choose to use CBD candles or diffusers around their home to get a continuous low-dose of CBD over time.
For moderate to high levels of stress, people may choose more traditional methods of taking CBD. One of the more popular was is vaping via an electronic cigarette. For thousands of years, people have smoked tobacco or cannabis to relieve stress. The feeling of the cylindrical tube of the substance as well as inhaling it helped in the overall stress release. Vapes allow this feeling to continue. A vape heats oil in the device and allows the user to inhale the CBD vapor and have both the psychological benefits of holding the device and the inhalation as well as the actual physiological effects of the CBD.
But these aren’t the only products available. Food and drink are other popular ways to take CBD. Pre-packaged foods such as baked goods, candies, cereals, snacks, and honey are all available. As for beverages, CBD infused water, sparkling water, soda, Kombucha, tea, coffee, sports drinks, beer, and wine are all available. For those who like to cook, there are even cooking oils and spices infused with CBD available.
In addition, the traditional options of pills are available. CBD user can choose tablets, gelcaps, capsules, and even gummies.
Stress is part of the human condition. Everyone has some sort of stress whether it’s from work, paying bills, dealing with family, or even a serious health condition.
Stress is so prevalent in America that the American Psychological Association does an annual stress survey on different stress triggers and on different age groups. In 2015, the study found that in the US, stress is on the rise and that there were three leading sources of stress:
- Family responsibility
- Work (https://www.apa.org/news/press/releases/stress/2015/snapshot)
It is fortunate that America is at a point, that as stress levels rise, CBD has become widely available to help mitigate the effects. It is equally as fortuitous that a host of studies over the last few decades support the notion of CBD as a way to relieve stress.
Stress isn’t going away. It’s a natural reaction to external stimuli. What can change is the way the medical profession and the population in general view stress. Instead of throwing synthetic pharmaceuticals at the issue, taking a holistic approach with techniques such as meditation, nutrition, exercise, and supplements such as CBD is a better and natural answer to the problem.