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3 CBD Effects on the Brain

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For a long time, a lot of the negative stigma of any product related to the cannabis plant was related to the way these products could affect your brain. Many of those myths have been debunked, but the reality of what these products do to your brain is still poorly understood by the public. 

So, as the popularity of CBD products rises, we hope that people will become aware of its benefits for the human brain as well. This article will review the specific interactions and processes that occur when you consume CBD.

How Does CBD Work in the Brain

It may not be something we actively think about when consuming CBD, but there’s a lot more going on in your body than you may be aware of. Let’s break down the interaction between CBD and the brain into easier-to-understand categories: 

Endocannabinoid System

CBD's potential health benefits come from its interaction with this particular system. So, what exactly happens? CBD interacts with the ECS not by directly binding to the cannabinoid receptors (CB1 and CB2) as THC does but by influencing the body's natural cannabinoids (endocannabinoids) to either increase their levels or enhance or inhibit their effects on these receptors.

Serotonin Receptors

This particular interaction has caught the attention of many researchers. CBD interacts with the 5-HT1A receptor, which is involved in the regulation of mood and pain perception. This interaction has shown potential anti-anxiety and antidepressant effects. Many users of CBD are drawn to it for this reason. 

This interaction is one reason why CBD is being studied for its potential anti-anxiety and antidepressant effects [1]. 

Vanilloid Receptors

Many people in the CBD industry, like us, talk about CBD’s potential role in reducing pain and inflammation. CBD interacts with TRPV1 receptors, which regulate pain, body temperature, and inflammation. By activating these receptors, CBD may help reduce pain and inflammation [2]. 

Adenosine Receptors

A lot of research on CBD in the medical industry has focused on its effects on epilepsy, so there’s a fair bit of research on this interaction. Research shows that CBD may enhance the release of dopamine and glutamate, neurotransmitters that play key roles in regulating cognition, motivation, reward, and motor control for epilepsy [3]. 

GABA Receptors

CBD is thought to enhance the action of GABA, an inhibitory neurotransmitter, contributing to its calming effects and making it potentially useful in managing conditions like anxiety and epilepsy [4]. 

Neurogenesis Potential

Some studies suggest that CBD may promote neurogenesis, the formation of new neurons in the brain, particularly in the hippocampus. This could have implications for conditions like depression and anxiety, where reduced hippocampal neurogenesis is often observed [5].  

3 Effects of CBD on the Brain

Healthy Inflammation


Man holding his head in pain

As we said earlier, many CBD users are interested in CBD because of its potential to reduce inflammation. But how does it do this exactly? CBD interacts with CB2 receptors to create anti-inflammatory responses in immune cells in the brain. 

Research shows that this may reduce the extent to which damage to the brain is caused by inflammation. As we age, it becomes increasingly important to protect the brain from inflammation, and studies think consistent CBD usage may be a good way to do exactly this [6].

Healthy Blood Flow

A render of red cells flowing through a vein

Research has shown that CBD has vasodilatory effects, meaning it can cause blood vessels to widen. This dilation can lead to increased blood flow, which can be beneficial for several reasons. 

The mechanism behind this effect involves the interaction of CBD with the endocannabinoid system (ECS) and other receptor systems in the body, which can influence cardiovascular function and blood pressure [7].

Mood Support

A woman smilink while talking to another person


CBD elevates mood by working with the endocannabinoid system. It also interacts with serotonin (feel-good hormones) and GABA (a neurotransmitter influencing stress response). 

We want to be clear that CBD should not be used as a treatment replacement from talking to a professional. There are mechanisms and actions that occur from the way CBD interacts with the body that supports mental health, but it should be seen as support and not a sole treatment plan. There are clinical trials currently that support using CBD to alleviate certain symptoms of anxiety [8], but more research is still needed.  

Best CBD Types for Brain Health

So we talked about CBD's effects on brain health, but which types of CBD are the best for brain health? We’re looking at which CBD types interact with the central nervous system and cannabinoid receptors. 

CBD Gummies

5 colored gummies

The first type of CBD we’re going to recommend is CBD gummies. One thing we know is that our brain likes little treats, and if it’s a little treat that also offers potential wellness benefits, then it seems like we’re on to something. 

They’re convenient because they can be taken on the go. They are also typically flavored, which is a big plus for those who don’t love the bitterness of the natural flavor in most CBD products. 


Woman pouring a CBD Oil dropper into her mouth

CBD oil is another popular type of CBD. The most popular way to consume CBD oil is sublingually (under the tongue), and this has benefits because you can feel the effects much quicker than you can with most other methods. 

Many people report feeling effects in as soon as 15 minutes when consuming CBD oil this way, which can be helpful if wanting to experience calming effects quickly. 

CBD Capsules

A hand holding one CBD Capsule very close

If you already have a supplement routine, you may find adding another capsule to that mix easy. CBD capsules are great for those who want to add CBD to their daily routine. 

Are There Negative Effects of CBD for the Brain?

Negative Drug Interactions

CBD can interact with other medications, affecting how they are metabolized. This includes medications processed by the liver, where CBD can inhibit the enzyme systems (notably CYP450 enzymes) involved in drug metabolism. 

This can potentially lead to elevated levels of these medications and an increased risk of side effects. If you’re currently on medication, then you should talk to your healthcare provider before adding CBD into the mix. 

Fatigue and Drowsiness

One of the things we love about CBD is its relaxing and calming effects, but when taken in higher doses, it can make you feel a little too relaxed, meaning you may feel tired and potentially less alert. 

Impact on Developing Brains

The brain continues to develop into the early twenties, and there is some concern about the potential impacts of cannabinoids on cognitive development and mental health during this critical period. However, most of the cautionary evidence relates more to THC than CBD.

Mental Health Effects

While research does suggest some positive benefits of CBD on various mental health conditions, there is also evidence that some individuals may experience worsening symptoms when consuming CBD, especially at higher doses.

Quality and Purity Effects

This is not directly a side effect of CBD itself. Still, the unregulated nature of the CBD market can lead to products that are mislabeled, contaminated, or contain different concentrations of CBD than advertised.

Does THC Alter the Brain Differently from CBD?

While THC is a psychoactive molecule that alters brain function, producing changes in perception, mood, cognition, or behavior, CBD does not.

When most people think about cannabis and the traditional experience, they are usually thinking about the effects of THC. THC is the primary psychoactive compound in cannabis, so you can blame or thank it for the munchies, chill vibes, and psychoactive experiences that come with the "high" sensation. It activates cannabinoid receptors in the brain, particularly the CB1 receptors, which are abundant in areas associated with memory, pleasure, coordination, and perception of time.

On the other hand, CBD does not directly bind to cannabinoid receptors in the same way as THC. Instead, it influences the endocannabinoid system indirectly by modulating the activity of cannabinoid receptors and other neurotransmitter systems. 

Because of this, it is known to have a range of effects, including anti-anxiety, anti-inflammatory, and neuroprotective properties, which we talked about earlier. It can also counteract some of the negative effects of THC, such as anxiety and paranoia. Some people prefer CBD products over THC products for this specific reason.

In summary, while both THC and CBD interact with the brain and the endocannabinoid system, they do so in different ways, resulting in distinct effects on cognition, mood, and behavior.

The Takeaway: CBD Effects on the Brain

Our brain health affects our everyday lives. The wellness potential of CBD and the effects it has on the brain is still being researched, but current research and personal testimonies demonstrate positive results. 

Understanding how CBD interacts with the brain is important to understanding the potential benefits CBD has to offer. But it’s important to take articles like this and others on the internet as tools to help you talk to your healthcare professional about cannabis — not to self-diagnose and treat your health conditions. 


  1. Russo, E. B., Burnett, A., Hall, B., & Parker, K. K. (2005). Agonistic properties of cannabidiol at 5-HT1a receptors. Neurochemical research, 30, 1037-1043.
  2. Iannotti, F. A., Hill, C. L., Leo, A., Alhusaini, A., Soubrane, C., Mazzarella, E., ... & Stephens, G. J. (2014). Nonpsychotropic plant cannabinoids, cannabidivarin (CBDV) and cannabidiol (CBD), activate and desensitize transient receptor potential vanilloid 1 (TRPV1) channels in vitro: potential for the treatment of neuronal hyperexcitability. ACS chemical neuroscience, 5(11), 1131-1141.
  3. Nichol, K., Stott, C., Jones, N., Gray, R. A., Bazelot, M., & Whalley, B. J. (2019). The proposed multimodal mechanism of action of cannabidiol (CBD) in epilepsy: modulation of intracellular calcium and adenosine-mediated signaling (P5. 5-007).
  4. Bakas, T., Van Nieuwenhuijzen, P. S., Devenish, S. O., McGregor, I. S., Arnold, J. C., & Chebib, M. (2017). The direct actions of cannabidiol and 2-arachidonoyl glycerol at GABAA receptors. Pharmacological research, 119, 358-370.
  5. Campos, A. C., Ortega, Z., Palazuelos, J., Fogaça, M. V., Aguiar, D. C., Díaz-Alonso, J., ... & Guimaraes, F. S. (2013). The anxiolytic effect of cannabidiol on chronically stressed mice depends on hippocampal neurogenesis: involvement of the endocannabinoid system. International Journal of Neuropsychopharmacology, 16(6), 1407-1419.
  6. Ranieri, R., Laezza, C., Bifulco, M., Marasco, D., & M Malfitano, A. (2015). Cannabinoids and neuro-inflammation: regulation of brain immune response. Recent Patents on CNS Drug Discovery (Discontinued), 10(2), 178-203.
  7. Baranowska-Kuczko, M., Kozlowska, H., Kloza, M., Sadowska, O., Kozlowski, M., Kusaczuk, M., ... & Malinowska, B. (2020). Vasodilatory effects of cannabidiol in human pulmonary and rat small mesenteric arteries: Modification by hypertension and the potential pharmacological opportunities. Journal of hypertension, 38(5), 896-911.
  8. Skelley, J. W., Deas, C. M., Curren, Z., & Ennis, J. (2020). Use of cannabidiol in anxiety and anxiety-related disorders. Journal of the American Pharmacists Association, 60(1), 253-261.
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Anna Deutschman

Masters Degree in English Literature, Educator & Content Writer Anna Deutschman is an educator and content writer with a Master's degree in English Literature. Throughout her career, Anna has dedicated herself to both education and writing, refining her skills to produce compelling and inform...

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