By Heather Ritchie, Staff Writer for Terpenes and Testing Magazine
Cannabis still remains a controversial medical treatment in the U.S. even though people used it for millennia to treat various ailments. Anxiety is a common, debilitating problem that keeps those suffering from it from even leaving their house. It's getting difficult for those opposed to cannabis, however, to keep ignoring its continuing success as a viable medical solution.
Research illustrates that cannabidiol or CBD is an effective treatment for anxiety. In cannabis plants, the dominant cannabinoid synthesized besides tetrahydrocannabinolic acid (THCA) is typically cannabidiolic acid (CBDA), and like the transformation of THCA into THC, CBDA decarboxylates to CBD. Unlike THC (tetrahydrocannabinol), however, CBD doesn’t elicit the high or intoxication associated with cannabis.
CBD has been postulated as working in conjunction with the CB1 receptor. Receptors, in general, are proteins that receive chemical signals from outside of cells. When these chemical signals bind to receptors, they initiate a response. Cannabinoids bind to endocannabinoid receptors, and once this interaction has begun, signal transduction pathways turn on, and thus, the physiological effects cannabinoids have on our bodies begins. Scientists think that the CB1 receptor changes serotonin signals. Low serotonin levels have been linked to depression, and they can even cause anxiety in some individuals.
Traditional treatment for anxiety involves selective serotonin reuptake inhibitors (SSRIs) like Zoloft® and Prozac®. One study by the National Institute on Drug Abuse discusses the potential therapeutic benefits of CBD.
Another study illustrated the anxiolytic-like and antidepressant-like effects that CBD has using animal models. Animals given CBD in this study experienced lower levels of depression and anxiety when put through tests like puzzle-mazes and swimming.
One unique study discussed the effects of CBD on pathological anxiety in people and the underlying neural processes associated with it. Patients were either given an oral dose of CBD or a placebo. The study focused on social anxiety and illustrated that CBD indeed reduced this type of anxiety due to the effects of the compound on paralimbic and limbic brain activity. The limbic system is known as the border where neurology meets psychiatry.
As cannabis becomes legalized in more states, additional studies will bolster the research that is currently out there showing that CBD also can remove the anxiety, physical response, and fear of illnesses like PTSD through extinction.
THC and CBD Together
It’s also important to understand the way CBD and THC work together for better medicinal efficacy. Some people claim that after taking medical cannabis that they felt more anxious after using it. That is because many chemovars used for medicinal purposes have higher levels of THC.
In contrast to CBD, THC is known to have the opposite effect on anxiety symptoms. Rather, it can cause paranoia and anxiety. It activates the amygdala area of the brain that is related to fear. CBD counteracts the feelings associated with THC and taken on its own may even eliminate anxiety. It is key to find the right mix of both CBD and THC in cannabis varieties that have significant levels of both so that therapeutic benefits can be even more effective.
Recently, CBD rich chemovars have become popular for medicinal purposes. Since certain thresholds of THC can increase anxiety, plants with high levels of CBD should be used for those wanting to treat anxiety-related symptoms.
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