CBD And The Nervous System
By Amrit-Sadhana Boyd - The Untamed Herbalist
As someone who works with people daily to help them shift their anxiety and depression, CBD is an element that often comes into the conversation. It is a safe and effective tool that can help get you through the days when you are working through some intense emotions and anxiety. But why? What is actually happening when you ingest CBD? CBD is short for cannabidiol. THC’s non-psychoactive sister has a great list of therapeutic benefits, including, but not limited to, soothing pain, anxiety, and inflammation. It is extracted from the flowers, leaves, and stems of the cannabis plant, and when pure CBD is ingested, there are no mind-altering effects. Before we dive into what happens in the body when we take CBD, we need a general understanding of the nervous system.
The Autonomic Nervous System is a part of the peripheral nervous system which regulates involuntary physiological processes. These processes include heart rate, digestion, respiration, elimination, blood pressure, and sexual arousal. There are three divisions: sympathetic, parasympathetic, and enteric. For this article, we will be focusing on the sympathetic (SNS) and the parasympathetic (PNS), also known as the “fight or flight” and the “rest and digest.” Under conditions of stress, the SNS is called upon. The fight or flight response causes the body to release epinephrine from the adrenal glands, which causes the heart rate to increase, the pupils to dilate, digestion slows or cuts down, and blood vessels to dilate. The body is preparing for imminent danger. The body does not know the difference between physical danger and psychological danger, which is why anxiety can put you into fight or flight.
The PSN, also known as the “rest & digest,” contains the vagus nerve and lumbar spinal nerve; it increases digestion secretions and reduces the heartbeat. This state is achieved by strengthening the vagus nerve, which can be done by meditating, chanting/ singing, cold showers, etc. One of the most incredible things about using cannabis as medicine is that our bodies have something called the endocannabinoid system. There is a regulatory system in our bodies with receptors that interact with the cannabinoids in the cannabis plant. It is responsible for maintaining homeostasis or balance in the body, which is why cannabis is helpful for so many things, from depression to anxiety to pain relief.
The endocannabinoid not only reacts with molecules inside the cannabis plant but our bodies also produce cannabinoids. The cannabinoids we make are called endocannabinoids (endo meaning “within”), and the cannabinoids we receive from plants are called phytocannabinoids “(Phyto” meaning plant). These receptors exist throughout our body. The Endocannabinoids we produce help regulate stress, depression, anxiety, pain, appetite, sleep, memory, and the immune system. When we fall out of balance in any of these areas, our bodies produce endocannabinoids to bring us back into balance. When we experience inflammation, stress, anxiety, and pain, this production increases as a response.
There are two known types of Endocannabinoids: anandamide and 2-AG. For anxiety and depression, we will focus on anandamide. This molecule is derived from the word “ananda” in Sanskrit, meaning “bliss.” It is also referred to as the “bliss molecule.” This molecule is involved in mood enhancement and has also decreased depression and anxiety. We have two receptors, and they are called CB1 and CB2. CB1 receptors are primarily located in the brain, spinal cord, and central nervous system. These receptors help regulate memory, pain, emotion, appetite, digestion, movement, and nausea. They are often referred to as the “psychoactive receptors” and are responsible for the intoxicating effects of cannabis. CB2 is mainly located in the immune system, the peripheral nervous system, and many organs in the body.
They are responsible for the regulation of inflammation, immunity, and pain. So why does CBD work so well for anxiety and depression? It works with the endocannabinoid system by inhibiting the fatty acid amide hydrolase (FAAH). It breaks down the anandamide, leading to higher levels circulating through our body. Therefore creating a calm and bliss-like state which helps alleviate the symptoms of depression and anxiety.
Because CBD is non-habit inducing, it is safe to take daily but can also be called upon in times of need. Taking it daily can create ease, especially if you are dealing with chronic anxiety or depression. I often have clients who include it in their morning or bedtime routine. This makes a sense of intention and connection to yourself and the plant. As someone who has personally struggled with anxiety and depression, I found that including CBD in my daily routine to be, not only helpful but comforting. Knew I was doing something that would support my mind, body, and spirit and help me to feel better overall.
CBD is not a means to an end, but it is a tool that works for many. It can help you get out of your own way so that you can take a deeper look at what is happening inside you and heal it. CBD alone will not cure you, but it can help to turn on healing inside you.
Hemp entered my life at a time when I desperately needed support in moving through some heavy things. It allowed me to take a step back and look at things from a non-reactive point of view so that I could do some more profound work. Whether you choose to access CBD, meditation, or mindfulness practices, your nervous system will thank you for giving it the support it needs. Sources:
The Rebel’s Apothecary by Jenny Sansouci
CBD is not intended to diagnose, treat, cure or prevent any disease. These statements have not been evaluated by the FDA, and are for educational purposes only. These are not meant to be a substitute for medical advice. Seek the counsel of a qualified medical health care provider before changing or adding anything to your health care regimen.