A Single Dose of CBD Boosts Blood Flow to the Brain

Soft Secrets
29 Nov 2020

One dose of cannabidiol (CBD), the non-psychoactive compound of cannabis, temporarily increases blood flow to certain parts of the brain. According to scientists, this observation may explain why people who struggle with various mental health issues find relief in CBD-based products. 

While it’s no news that CBD has protective properties on the brain and helps those medical cannabis users who struggle with anxiety, PTSD, or depression, there has been some obscurity of the mechanisms behind how CBD performs its healing job in the brain.

According to a new piece of research, the relief CBD facilitates to those who struggle with different mental health issues may be due to the compound significantly boosting blood flow to the hippocampus, the part of the brain that is critical to human memory, learning, and emotions. Scientists at the University College London (UCL) recently reported in the Journal of Psychopharmacology that they administered 600 mg of oral CBD in 15 healthy young individuals or placebo. The candidates chosen for the study had little to no history of cannabis use. Magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) scans revealed how the drugs changed blood oxygen levels in their brains.

Notably, CBD improved blood flow to the hippocampus, a part of the brain that is said to be a vulnerable structure, nestled deep into the temporal lobe. Previous research has linked neurological or psychiatric disorders with deficiencies of the hippocampus.  In the study, which sought to investigate how CBD influences cerebral blood flow in various parts of the brain associated with memory processing, the scientists further observed that CBD increased blood flow also in the prefrontal cortex, an area of the brain known to regulate social behavior and decision-making. 

Dr. Michael Bloomfield (UCL Psychiatry), the lead author of the study, said in a statement: “To our knowledge, this is the first study to find that CBD increases blood flow to key regions involved in memory processing, particularly the hippocampus.” Such a find confirms the view that CBD has region-specific blood flow effects in the human brain, a claim previously disputed. 

Dr. Bloomfield added: “There is evidence that CBD may help reduce symptoms of psychosis and anxiety. There is some evidence to suggest that CBD may improve memory function.” 

“Additionally, CBD changes how the brain processes emotional memories, which could help to explain its reputed therapeutic effects in PTSD and other psychiatric disorders. However, the precise mechanisms underlying the effects of CBD on memory are unclear,” he said. 

The results of the study may further need to be replicated, however. The current trial involved only a single dose of CBD. Future research needs to find out if the same findings replicate by administering multiple doses of CBD. Research in this direction may benefit those who have Alzheimer’s disease, PTSD, or schizophrenia, disorders associated with defects in the control of blood control flow and characterized by changes in how the brain processes memories. The relationship cannabis has on the brain is fairly the one most perplexed.

While millions of people already rely on cannabis to treat mental health problems, THC, the other main constituent of cannabis, might cause the onset of slight to mild paranoia in some users.

How is CBD different than THC?

Both CBD and THC have similar chemical compositions, but how they affect the human body and brain varies greatly. CBD is the byproduct of CBDA (Cannabidiolic acid), and THC is the byproduct of THCA (Δ9-tetrahydrocannabinolic acid) cannabinoid acids unique to the cannabis plant. Heat or decarboxylation helps the acids convert into CBD and THC, the two main constitutes of cannabis.

While THC has its share of medical uses, it’s more popular among recreational users. CBD does not produce ‘high’ but instead gives a narcotic-like buzz, and its medicinal uses are more widespread than those of THC. CBD is praised for its qualities to shield the brain’s neurological network. It’s the most promising cannabinoid to treat anxiety and depression but also neurodegenerative diseases such as Alzheimer’s and Parkinson’s.

As a powerful anticonvulsant, CBD in the form of Epidiolex is the only FDA-approved prescription CBD, used to treat rare forms of epilepsy such as Dravet syndrome and Lennox-Gastaut syndrome. Medical patients need to consult with their physician and apply for a medical marijuana card (MMJ) to get prescription CBD to treat their condition.

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