What comes to your mind when you think of cannabis and calmness?
Up until the last few years, the image you may have had was of the marijuana user blissfully lying in a vegetative state on the couch watching TV or listening to some groovy tunes.
But for some people, using marijuana induces a state of paranoia or anxiety rather than tranquility.
The good news is that another compound derived from cannabis—CBD—may help you feel calmer without making you high.
Now legally available in all 50 U.S. states, hemp-derived CBD has been shown in several preliminary research studies to bring the body into a better state of balance. And in doing so, CBD may help your mind feel calmer and your body more relaxed.
How Is CBD Different From Marijuana For Calmness?
We’ll review a couple of those studies further on. But first, if you’re new to using CBD, perhaps you’re not all too familiar with cannabis terminology, which is crucial for understanding what makes CBD so calming.
Like marijuana, CBD, which stands for cannabidiol, is a cannabinoid that comes from cannabis.
Sounds confusing, right?
Don’t worry, here’s a simple breakdown…
Marijuana’s main psychoactive molecule is THC (tetrahydrocannabinol). In addition to THC, there are anywhere from 80 to 100 unique molecules in marijuana called cannabinoids. CBD is also a cannabinoid molecule in marijuana.
In fact, CBD is the second most abundant cannabinoid in marijuana after THC.
So THC and CBD are both cannabinoid chemicals, or to be more precise exogenous cannabinoids. “Exogenous” means external. And as you’ll learn more about shortly, your body contains endogenous (or internal) cannabinoids.
Then why the need for external cannabinoids if your body naturally contains them? The answer to that will also be revealed shortly.
But first, more cannabis terminology basics…
Both marijuana and hemp are bred from the cannabis family of plants. The main difference between the two is of course the intoxicating factor. The former makes you feel stoned while hemp-derived CBD, by federal law, contains a maximum of 0.3% THC, an amount that is so low, it’s non-intoxicating. (CBD that is extracted from marijuana plants are illegal under federal law.)
Interestingly, CBD can counteract the anxiety- and psychoactive-producing effects of THC, according to research studies such as this one published in the Journal of Neuroscience.
Modern strains of marijuana are stronger than those of previous decades because there’s more THC. Researchers believe that some people may feel anxiety after using high-THC marijuana because the brain becomes overstimulated. The heavy load of THC causes a flood of cannabinoids to interact with receptors in the amygdala, the area of the brain that controls emotions, including anxiousness and fear.
Some marijuana users who experience anxiety after getting high supplement with hemp-derived CBD oil to ease their anxiousness. This is just one way in which the evidence suggests CBD can exert a calming effect.
How CBD Promotes Calmness
CBD interacts differently with brain receptors than THC. Unlike THC, which overwhelms a brain receptor called CB1 that’s part of a system in the body called the endocannabinoid system, or ECS for short, CBD does not activate the CB1 receptor.
And the reason why CBD counteracts the effects of THC and calms brain activity is that it acts like a burly bouncer at a bar, standing at the entrance way to the CB1 receptor, preventing other compounds (like THC) from stimulating the CB1 receptor.
Remember reading earlier that your body has an internal source of cannabinoids? Well, the ECS is essentially your body’s internal cannabinoid storefront. More accurately, the ECS is like your body’s second nervous system, a collection of cell-signaling molecules, brain receptors, enzymes and brain transmitters. These neurotransmitters are actually the source of your body’s internal or endo-cannabinoids.
And rather than bombard your ECS with endocannabinoids all at once like THC does, CBD indirectly stimulates the ECS in a far more gentle way.
With regular use of CBD, some users report better balance in the body, from higher-quality sleep, an increased ability to deal with stressors and more positive effects.
Sometimes, your body will automatically release cannabinoids without the need for cannabis-derived sources such as CBD to drive the body back to balance. This is especially true in cases of an acute injury or major stressor.
But the effects of your body’s internal (endo) cannabinoids are very short-lived. And if your body’s myriad systems are under-performing to begin with (i.e. you have chronic stress), your body is going to need a major assist in activating its reserves of endocannabinoids.
Researchers believe that several mood disorders that cause anxiety are due to a dysfunction of the ECS (endocannabinoid system). Can CBD, then, help the body achieve a more natural, relaxed state? This is what researchers are still assessing, but as mentioned above, there is promising research that points to that conclusion.
CBD has a similar molecular structure to the body’s internal cannabinoid system and in light of this, researchers speculate CBD may help you feel more calm in two ways: by strengthening the endocannabinoid system in the first place, and secondly, by delaying the length of time it takes for endocannabinoids to break down.
CBD For Feeling Blissed Out
In particular, there’s one endocannabinoid that CBD interacts with that can make you feel profoundly more calm (albeit indirectly): anandamide. Known as the body’s bliss chemical, anandamide was discovered only recently, in the early 1990s. There is huge therapeutic potential in anandamide but the problem is that it breaks down very easily.
This is why many cannabis experts advocate for regular, daily use of CBD, particularly full-spectrum CBD Drops, which contain more cannabinoids than CBD isolate extracts.
CBD is thought to reduce the enzymes that encourage anandamide depletion in the body.
In addition, the non-intoxicating cannabis compound is thought to bind to a receptor that activates serotonin, a hormone-like neurotransmitter that among other things, is critical for maintaining a stable mood and inducing calmness.
Should You Try CBD To Feel Calmer?
CBD acts like a savings account for your body’s endocannabinoid system. Because CBD is stored in your body’s fat cells, it can be drawn from at any time in order to promote calmness.
There is no FDA-approved CBD drug for specifically inducing calmness. However, there is one FDA-approved CBD-based medication for two rare forms of epilepsy. The drug, Epidiolex, has demonstrated impressive results in calming the nervous system in people with these debilitating neurological conditions.
Your body has been naturally gifted with endocannabinoids. But because of modern-day stressors, your body needs an extra helping of cannabinoids. Hemp-derived CBD is a gift from Mother Nature and may be just what you need to feel calmer.