In honor of National CBD Month this January, we will be offering up some juicy bits about how CBD can enhance overall wellness and help alleviate the effects of stress. Today we will be looking at how stress can have a strong negative impact our endocannabinoid system, and how CBD | cannabinoids can be used to reset and restore homeostasis - the body’s natural state of balance.
Understanding why CBD and other cannabinoids are powerful health agents for your body’s health
The body’s naturally occurring cannabinoids
A naturally occurring lipid-signaling molecule, endocannabinoids play a vital role in maintaining biological harmony and neuronal plasticity – how the brain adapts to change.
What are endocannabinoids?
Endocannabinoids are naturally occurring lipid signaling molecules that are found in the body, and that mediate normal physiological functions. The endocannabinoids appear to have evolved in the brain to maintain biological harmony and to reduce excessive and damaging excitability of neurons. They also play a role in neuronal plasticity, that is, how the brain adapts to change.
The two major endocannabinoids that have been discovered are:
anandamide (ananda is the Sanskrit word for bliss), and
2-arachidonoyl glycerol (2-AG).
Various biological proteins also exist that regulate the formation, transport and degradation of the endocannabinoids. These provide another drug target to help boost endocannabinoid levels, as there is an emerging viewpoint that many diseases involve a deficiency in endocannabinoids.
There are several mechanisms of action by which the endocannabinoids exert their effects. The classic understanding of the Endocannabinoid System (ECS) is well documented as it happens within our nervous system. The more complex picture involves almost every cell in the body. It is involved in the homeostasis (balance) of nearly all of our bodily systems. Underactive or hyperactive ECS is implicated in many different diseases and disorders, including mental health conditions.
To learn more about the some of complexities of the human ECS, visit the endocannabinoid system article in our resource library.
How CBD improves your body's ability to cope with stress
Stress is one of the most important and overlooked pathological factors in many illnesses. It is often difficult to quantify, and sometimes hard to describe. Stress has become a feature of modern life, and while some level of stress in our lives may be useful and serves purpose in survival instincts, chronic and unrelenting prolonged, overwhelming and extreme stress affects our mental and physical health.
The relationship between stress and inflammation is well known. There is increasing evidence that excessive inflammation plays a key role in stress-related diseases. In fact, it has been estimated that 75-90% of all diseases are related to the activation of the stress system.
The endocannabinoid system (ECS) regulates our responsiveness to stress and emotional behavior. It is also involved in the regulation of mood, anxiety, reward, and fear response. When there is a disruption of endocannabinoid signaling (altered by stress), the pathways for stress response modulation stop working efficiently creating an imbalance.
The relationship between stress and the ECS is bi-directional, meaning it is a two-way street. The balance can be tipped either direction. For some people, prolonged exposure to stress and overactive ECS imbalance has been linked to hormone disruption (increased levels of cortisol), high blood pressure, and a higher rate of mortality. In contrast, other people experience underactive ECS stress response which has been associated with obesity, lower immune function, depression, and addictive behaviors.
The magical thing about this two-way street of the ECS is that the CB1 receptors are located on both pre and post-synaptic neurons. The CB1 and CB2 receptors are found in the brain and the nervous system. Research suggests that these receptors have “functional selectivity” which means they can mediate and qualify different actions, depending on the state of the cell. When chronic or acute stress disrupts the nervous system, a small dose of CBD or other cannabinoid supplementation may be all that is needed to restore the balance and reduce inflammation.
What is the best form of CBD to take?
The best form of product matches the user’s preferred lifestyle and tastes. For example, capsules have a longer duration of action, but tinctures sublingually often provide immediate relief of acute stressful situations. A program might include both approaches.
Age and body mass are rough guides for dosing of cannabinoids. Users that are over the age of 70 may want to start with ½ of the recommended dose.
The effects are often immediate.Typical response for stress, anxiety, and depression is rapid when using a CBD-dominant formula once or twice daily. Not only do plant-derived cannabinoids allow for lower amounts to achieve benefits, they also can reduce adverse effects.
Terpenes, such as beta-caryophyllene may also be a significant part of the blend that complement cannabinoids. Using the whole plant represents variations of the “entourage effect”, which can dramatically increase potency and effectiveness, in contrast to using the isolated components of the cannabinoid profile.
In human anxiety and stress case studies, whole plant blends produced significant improvements (79%) over 4 weeks with only 25-75mg. It is important to remember that lifestyle factors, nutritional factors, and environmental factors may play an important role in stress management.
We always recommend an integrative approach to helping people heal.
Are you unsure where to start? Dr. Blair is available for personal consultations to help you determine the best cannabinoid products and dosages that fit your specific healthcare concerns.
Learn more about CBD and other cannabinoids on our CBD resource page.