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Many research labs are trying to figure out how CBD influences our brain. Even the skeptics are starting to believe that it doesn’t seem to be another overhyped thing that will be over soon. What’s the secret? How can we explain so many healing properties of this cannabis compound?

Although years of studies are ahead, it’s already clear that CBD affects many systems of the human body at once. It interacts with different receptors, not just cannabinoid ones such as CB1, CB2 and GPR55. What fascinates neurologists the most is that CBD has only a mild yet somehow powerful influence over these receptors. And it successfully fine-tunes the systems without any dramatic knockdowns and push-ups. It explains why it has far fewer side effects when compared to conventional medications and works even in microdoses.

A weapon against depression and anxiety

Black and gray waste paper is above a black head.
Studies show that cannabis influences the brain in different ways.

Many people use medical marijuana to cope with their anxiety and mood-related disorders. However, in some cases, it might bring about quite the opposite effects. This has led scientists to shift their attention to CBD as a non-psychoactive molecule that effectively relieves anxiety and depression.

One study sheds light on the anti-anxiety effects of CBD. It shows that CBD reduces blood flow to certain brain zones (including the hypothalamus) that get hyperactive in people with anxiety-related disorders.

As for its antidepressant properties, CBD apparently balances the endocannabinoid system. It boosts the amount of calcium within the mitochondria, which stimulates activity in the hippocampus (the part of the brain that is responsible for our emotions).

Recent studies reveal that CBD also affects the serotonergic system. It binds to 5-HT1A serotonin receptors, which brings about mood-enhancing and calming effects. Even when CBD doesn’t increase serotonin levels, it changes the way your brain’s chemical receptors react to the serotonin that’s present in your body.

Addictions fighter

The word Addiction is highlighted with pink color.
CBD can help you overcome unwanted addictions in an easier way.

We all have habits we would be happy to get rid of. Even if you know how to change the habit loop, it takes a lot of effort, time, and willpower to overcome your habit. However, it’s often not enough when it comes to getting addicted to substances like nicotine, opiates, alcohol, etc. Why? Because any addiction is a brain disorder, not just a behavioral problem as we previously believed.

The vicious circle of craving whatever you’re addicted to followed by the brain rewarding mechanism is what makes it so destructive. The brain creates connections. If you have ever tried to give up smoking, you know how hard it is to fight your desire to light up a cigarette whenever you drink coffee during the day. To quit, you basically need to break the chain of learned behavior. 

Promisingly enough, some studies show that CBD might do just that! For instance, the cannabis compound significantly reduces cravings prompted in heroin users. Moreover, it has a protracted effect so that the cravings remain reduced even after the discontinuation of CBD. 

Surprisingly, CBD can treat the physical dependency from cannabis that can develop over years of heavy use. CBD neutralizes the psychoactive effects of THC. And it can alleviate the symptoms of cannabis withdrawal when used with a 1:1 ratio of CBD to THC.

Sure, the effectiveness of CBD depends on the type of substance that causes addiction in the first place. There is a need for further research to see how exactly CBD affects neurobiological processes in people addicted to different substances.


The studies are only preliminary. But there are reasons to think that CBD can protect neurons from harm and slow down the progression of neurodegenerative diseases, including several common types of dementia.

Cognitive decline and memory loss issues often go together with impaired neurogenesis and reduced brain plasticity. CBD seems to be able to stimulate the growth of new brain cells. And it can increase brain plasticity, which leads to memory and changes the brain chemistry for the better.

 CBD use for brain injuries

TBI (traumatic brain injury) is a common cause of death worldwide in people under 45. About 1,7 million Americans get diagnoses like TBI as a result of falls, car accidents, sports, gunshot or stab wounds annually. Many of those who survive severe TBI gain permanent brain impairments and lower life expectancy. Standard treatment options have limits and are often ineffective.

Encouragingly, there is finally hope for such patients. Recent studies suggest that CBD can prevent or reduce the damage after a traumatic brain injury when it’s used before or within 12 hours of the incident.

Anecdotal evidence is exceptionally strong, too. Many professional athletes have shared their admiration with the way CBD handles the treatment of brain injuries, including chronic traumatic encephalopathy. What’s more, CBD also helps them:

  • Wean off prescription painkillers or at least significantly reduce their use.
  • Improve physical function.
  • Enhance their mood.

Pain Management

Medical uses of CBD include treatment for different types of pain, including, but not limited to:

  • severe migraines
  • tension headaches
  • muscle spasms
  • chronic arthritis
  • back pain
  • cancer pain

 It can quickly reduce inflammation which is often the primary cause of pain. By connecting to the CB2 receptors that are in charge of inflammation signals, CBD dramatically reduces the amount of cytokines and chemokines, thus blocking pain signals from being sent to the brain.

Do topical CBD products influence the brain?

Cannabis oils in bottles and lotion in a box are on a table.
You apply topical products on your skin – just like any other balm or lotion.

CBD is ten times more permeable than THC when applied as a topical cream. It gets across the epidermis into the blood flow, but before it gets to the brain, it is distributed first of all to the body fat. If the user has extra body fat, the amount of CBD topical might be insufficient to affect their brain function.

Luckily, there are transdermal patches or gels with the enhanced ability to get absorbed. Their application offers some unique benefits. Still, further studies are needed to compare the benefits of topical, inhalation, and oral methods in humans.

Anything Negative?

A puzzle in a form of head.

No serious side effects of CBD have been spotted so far.  Even in super high doses. What’s more, WHO thinks this cannabis compound:

  • doesn’t cause physical dependence
  • has no negative public health effects
  • is well tolerated in humans (and animals).

The only thing that causes concern is the lack of complete understanding how it affects our brain when used long-term (for years). There is some risk of rare outcomes that may not have been found in previous studies. This is the reason why CBD isn’t recommended for use during pregnancy, in particular.

Still, many CBD users decide to accept such risks. It’s just common sense. Why give up something that really helps in slowing down your Alzheimer’s symptoms? Why not try something that can save your child from the rare kind of epilepsy when nothing else works? What’s the reason for taking opiates to alleviate the pain after chemo when there is a natural remedy that can cope with this without causing addiction and nasty side effects?

CBD benefits the brain without making users high. As scientists keep studying this cannabis compound, we are likely to find out more about the way CBD influences our brain health in the coming years.