According to the World Health Organisation, 25% of Europeans suffer from depression or anxiety each year. In the US, it is estimated that in 2015, at least 16.1 million adults over the age of 18 had at least one depressive episode. Depression is typically treated with antidepressants like selective serotonin reuptake inhibitors (SSRIs), and antipsychotic drugs. However, CBD has recently gained popularity as an alternative treatment for depression. Moreover, research strongly supports and even encourages its use.

WHAT IS DEPRESSION?

Regardless of its cause, the symptoms of depression are often quite similar. It is characterised by the dampening of mood, loss of motivation, loss of interest, loss of energy, disturbed sleep, and restlessness. Depression also comes with mental problems like loss of concentration and a reduced ability to think. Depression is a major risk factor for suicide and self-harm, substance abuse, and poor health outcomes.

Depression often gets simplified as a neurochemical imbalance and is treated as such. However, many scientists believe that neurochemical deficiencies are a symptom, rather than a cause of depression. As such, many doctors and researchers have turned their attention to prevention and minimising causes or triggers.

Consequences Depression

CAN CBD CURE DEPRESSION?

No. However, it has shown significant promise in treating depression. The human body produces its own cannabinoids, called endocannabinoids, aided by the consumption of fatty acids found in foods like fish, nuts, and seeds. Studies show that CBD is capable of interacting with the body’s endocannabinoid system. The endocannabinoid system is a network of cell receptors and molecules that help to regulate human functions like mood, appetite, and sleep. By binding to specific receptors in the human brain, endocannabinoids augment the action of serotonin, a neurochemical that improves mood and relieves stress.

HOW CAN CBD TREAT DEPRESSION?

CBD improves the symptoms of depression by enhancing the activity of the receptors to which serotonin binds. CBD’s effects on the endocannabinoid system and its ability to release and optimise serotonin are responsible for producing the calming and relaxing effect that is typically associated with cannabidiol.

Many people find that THC can be particularly effective for sudden flare-ups of depression. This is because THC stimulates a release of dopamine in the brain. Because both dopamine and serotonin can be affected by things like exercise, diet, stress, and mental state, people suffering from depression typically produce less of them. As such, a combination of the two cannabinoids could potentially function as a quick “pick-me-up” during periods of acute sadness.

CBD Oil Against Depression

WHAT DOES THE SCIENCE SAY?

The conclusions reached by scientific studies support the use of CBD as a potential treatment for both depression and anxiety.

A 2010 study on lab mice concluded that CBD displayed “antidepressant like effects comparable to imipramine”, a well-known antidepressant. The lab mice were put through a swimming test to determine the effects of CBD on motivation. Results showed that cannabidiol had a positive effect on the physical activity of mice. These results were replicated in 2016 when an animal model study similarly found that CBD was an effective antidepressant. The study concluded that mice were much more active and motivated after being orally administered CBD.

A 2011 study looking at the role of the endocannabinoid system in mitigating depression also found CBD to be beneficial. The study concluded that “a deficiency in endocannabinoid signalling is sufficient to produce a depressive-like phenotype”. The study also found that reversing this deficiency with CBD could treat depressive symptoms. Regulating the endocannabinoid system with CBD was sufficient to produce similar effects to conventional antidepressants.

A 2016 mouse study found that serotonin and glutamate levels significantly increased after dosing with CBD. Immediately after injecting subjects with CBD, researchers noted “fast antidepressant-like actions”.

WHAT ABOUT TERPENES?

Terpenes naturally occur in plant species throughout nature. When it comes to cannabis plants, terpenes are responsible for the smell and taste of the buds. However, they also play an important role when it comes to the effects that marijuana produces. Terpenes and cannabinoids are said to synergise, offering an effect greater than the sum of their parts. Still, terpenes present their own medicinal value in isolation.

The terpene beta-caryophyllene (BCP) is especially effective in combating the symptoms of anxiety and depression. BCP is found in numerous plant species in nature and is special because of its ability to function as a sort-of non-psychoactive cannabinoid. BCP is capable of interacting with the body’s endocannabinoid system in ways similar to CBD.

BCP does not produce a psychoactive high because it only targets the CB2 receptor, a point that is critical for the management of neuropathic pain and inflammation. Research on BCP is currently in its infancy, however, many medical marijuana activists are optimistic. There is hope that, similar to CBD, BCP can be a promising all-natural medical treatment in the future.

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