How Does CBD Affect Your Mood?

How Does CBD Affect Your Mood?

According to a recent study, 38% of people in Britain who take CBD do so to manage stress, anxiety, and depression, suggesting that a remarkably high percentage of people in the United Kingdom take CBD to help them balance their mood and deal with what life throws at them.

There are always ups and downs that people must manage daily, from family issues to personal introspection and job uncertainties. It’s, therefore, normal that such negative feelings have an impact on our mood. But why do so many people turn to CBD to alleviate their mood swings?

Does CBD Affect Our Mood?

Research suggests that CBD offers potential health benefits regarding our mental health and mood regulation. Because its effect is gentle and progressive, it feels less intrusive than anti-depression medication and conventional anxiolytics. Also, CBD displays few side effects, which is another reason people are trying it as a helpful natural compound in mood management.

Unlike its more famous counterpart, THC (tetrahydrocannabinol), CBD does not produce psychoactive effects. It’s non-addictive and well-tolerated by the human body and is often considered an alternative to traditional mental health treatments.

How does the human brain work?

But how does CBD work in the brain? How does it manage to calm nerves and help us recover a more balanced and peaceful outlook on life?

All humans have an endocannabinoid system (ECS). This is the system responsible for homeostasis—to maintain our body in balance and it controls many different functions, including appetite, pain perception, reproduction, memory, learning, temperature perception, and most importantly mood.

The ECS is made of cannabinoid receptors (CB1 and CB2), endocannabinoids (molecules that bind to these receptors), and enzymes that synthesize and degrade endocannabinoids. The ECS cannabinoid receptors are spread throughout the body, which explains why it has a such widespread effect.

When the ECS is alerted by an imbalance in the body, it releases endocannabinoids that bind to their respective receptors and activate an action. Once balance has been restored, the enzymes break down the endocannabinoids.

Here’s an example to explain all this in action: imagine you feel hungry, so your stomach sends a message to the brain that tells it it’s empty. Since the ECS controls appetite, its neurotransmitters pass on the message to the brain, which alerts you that you need to head to the kitchen for a snack.

While this example is simple and straightforward, sometimes things get more complicated. When brain neurotransmitters like serotonin and dopamine are involved, the message might get lost or mistranslated.

Neurotransmitter imbalances can be the reason why people feel angry, depressed, stressed, or anxious. Research suggests that the ECS and the brain neurotransmitter system interact constantly. When the ECS is out of balance, the brain finds it difficult to function in a positive and stress-free way.

Since CBD interacts with the ECS, it’s possible that CBD may help the brain work better.

How does CBD interact with the ECS?

CBD is thought to interact with the body’s endocannabinoid system (ECS) not directly with the receptors but by making the ECS work more efficiently on its own. There are various possibilities as to how CBD works with the ECS.

CBD and the ECS work together

CBD helps the ECS be more productive and use more efficiently its own endocannabinoids. If the ECS is more effective, it may restore balance and harmony faster when the body gets out of sync.

Another way CBD works in the brain is by slowing down the enzymes that break down the endocannabinoids. That means it lets the endocannabinoids stay longer in the system and do their job.

The role of neurotransmitters in the brain

Finally, CBD appears to activate brain receptors. We can think of neurotransmitters as tiny shuttles that transport messages between cells. When our brain cells send a message, the message is transmitted by neurotransmitters.

The neurotransmitter leaves one cell and binds to the receptors in the next cell. Once the second cell receives the message, it passes the message to the next cell until the cell that’s required to take action receives it.

CBD seems to mimic the role of human neurotransmitters and may activate receptors, thus making them more responsive to messages sent to them.

Let’s talk about neurotransmitters

You have probably heard of serotonin and dopamine, which are the most famous human brain neurotransmitters. Serotonin has been named the ‘happy neurotransmitter’ as it’s responsible for making us feel happy and good about ourselves. It regulates our mood and helps us feel calm and happy.

Dopamine is the reward neurotransmitter. It motivates us and gives us a sense of contentment and satisfaction: when you have finished a task successfully, even if it’s just folding laundry, dopamine is released in your brain.

Brain neurotransmitters out of sync

If your serotonin levels are out of sync, you may feel stressed, frustrated, and angry. Serotonin is also associated with calmness and patience, so an imbalance is bound to have the opposite effects. Too little serotonin is linked to depression, sleep problems, and phobias. 

Dopamine imbalance shows as an inability to start tasks or a lack of motivation that can lead to depression. Too little dopamine means the brain doesn’t get the reward and motivation to undertake tasks. Conversely, too much dopamine has been associated with addictive behaviours as the brain feels immense thrill and reward from stimuli such as alcohol, gambling, etc.

There are other neurotransmitters such as GABA and glutamate, norepinephrine, epinephrine, histamine, and acetylcholine.

GABA and glutamate work in opposite directions. Glutamate is meant to excite the brain and fire up action; GABA is the calming neurotransmitter that helps you relax and slow down.

Adrenaline is responsible for the body’s response to ‘fight or flight’ when in danger.

As for acetylcholine, it’s the neurotransmitter that moves your muscles once a message is sent from the brain. You wouldn’t be moving or physically responding to stimuli without acetylcholine.

CBD and neurotransmitters: balancing the brain

Let’s bring everything together now that we know more about CBD, the ECS, and the brain.

Serotonin receptors

About 90% of our serotonin receptors are located in the gut. This matters because the ECS is particularly active in the gut area where many of the ECS receptors are located. The gut seems to be a place where the ECS and various neurotransmitters meet and talk to each other.

Since CBD interacts with the ECS, CBD may be especially effective in the gut where it can interact and work with serotonin receptors. Serotonin is often portrayed as a key neurotransmitter that controls and manages the release of other neurotransmitters. Balancing serotonin may, therefore, help with bringing everything together in the world of neurotransmitters.

Research suggests that CBD has anxiolytic properties. Several studies have demonstrated its potential to reduce anxiety levels in various contexts, including social anxiety disorder and post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD). The anxiety-reducing effects of CBD are believed to be mediated through its action on serotonin receptors in the brain, specifically the 5-HT1A receptor, which is involved in mood regulation.

 While CBD does not increase serotonin levels directly, it is thought to influence how brain cells respond to the serotonin present in the system. By activating 5-HT1A receptors, CBD may exert antidepressant and anxiolytic effects. This is similar to how selective serotonin reuptake inhibitors (SSRIs) work, but without the side effects commonly associated with these medications. It would appear that CBD mimics the way SSRIs function and naturally targets the same areas as these antidepressants. 

CBD and dopamine

CBD is also being studied for its potential effects on other neurotransmitters. For example, it may interact with GABA (gamma-aminobutyric acid) receptors, enhancing the inhibitory action of GABA and reducing anxiety. Evidence suggests that CBD may thus work in the same way as antipsychotic medication prescribed for dopamine imbalances.

CBD and glutamate

Additionally, CBD may affect glutamate levels, which are involved in memory, learning, and stress responses. By modulating glutamate, CBD may help balance neural activity, contributing to its neuroprotective and potentially antipsychotic effects. Clinical evidence suggests that CBD may help decrease the severity of psychosis by modulating glutamate. 

But how does CBD talk with the neurotransmitters?

We have seen that CBD may interact with the endocannabinoid receptors to make them work better. But it appears that it can do more. Calcium motions the release of neurotransmitters. CBD seems to interact with that system of calcium signalling: as calcium gets released, neurotransmitters are activated and do their job.

What’s next for CBD and our mood?

Both clinical and anecdotal evidence suggests that CBD may help with our mood. It’s no surprise, then, that many people take CBD to boost their well-being and improve their mood.

As interest in CBD’s potential mental health benefits continues to grow, so does the need for more comprehensive and long-term studies.

Future research should also aim to standardize dosing, explore the effects of CBD in different populations, and understand the mechanisms by which CBD influences mood. This will help clarify its role in mental health treatment and create guidelines for its therapeutic use.

Until then, most people will be taking CBD as a botanical supplement to help them deal with life. Check our CBD oil reviews and our list of the best UK CBD stores and, with support from your GP, you can try CBD and see whether it helps improve your mood and balance your mental health. 

Nicholas C. Rossis, renowned by the IBBY Award and a roster of best-selling publications, is a leading voice in CBD research. His work combines critical acclaim with the analysis of the latest news, studies, research and legal developments in the world of CBD, providing readers with valuable data and insights.

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