Can CBD heal the brain? Does CBD create brain cells? Is CBD good for memory?

These are normal questions to be asking yourself these days. We've all felt it – stress's uninvited intrusion into our lives, clouding our thinking, sapping our memory, and dulling our mental faculties.

It's common in today's fast-paced world, where information overload and daily pressures can take a toll on your brain's health and performance. You're not alone if you've wondered whether there's a solution to boost your brainpower and reclaim your mental edge.

And, yes, CBD does have the potential to heal the brain, create new brain cells, and improve your memory, supporting your cognitive goals and your brain's long-term vitality.

Ever the medicinal molecule, CBD interacts with several pathways that play roles that are critical to your brain's health and function, including:

  • Homeostasis (or balance), a steady state of internal conditions maintained by our bodies for optimal functioning
  • Functional brain connectivity, the way that different brain regions and networks communicate with each other
  • Neurogenesis, the process in which neurons are generated from neural stem cells in the nervous system
  • Neuroprotection, protecting neurons from injury, degeneration, or death by intervening in and inhibiting the pathogenetic cascade that results in cell dysfunction and eventual death
  • Synaptogenesis, the formation of synapses between neurons in the nervous system
  • Neuroplasticity, the ability of the brain to change and adapt to new information (also activity-dependent, e.g. cognitive behavioural therapy)
  • Serotonin 5-HT1A activity, which is responsible for CBD's calming (anxiolytic) and mood-boosting (antidepressant) actions

In this article, we'll explore how CBD could be the answer to unlocking your brain's full potential and supporting memory, mental performance, and overall brain health.

1. CBD supports and enhances the endocannabinoid system.

CBD lightly touches dozens of systems to deliver its therapeutic benefits. However, there is one system that is arguably the most important system in your body: the endocannabinoid system (ECS).

The ECS is a little-known system made up of extremely sensitive receptors, CB1 and CB2, which are found throughout your nervous and immune systems, as well as vital organs. These receptors are found throughout the body because the ECS serves to keep all your systems balanced and functioning optimally.

One of these systems if the central nervous system, including your brain. In addition to its other responsibilities, it regulates how brain cells talk to each other (called neuronal synaptic communication) and acts on different parts of the nervous system, managing the stress response, neurotransmitter levels, learning, memory, and more.

What does the endocannabinoid system (ECS) do?

Infographic of the endocannabinoid system for an article about how CBD supports brain health & performance

In 2022, GSC Biological and Pharmaceutical Sciences called the ECS the "single most important scientific medical discovery since the recognition of surgical techniques. As our understanding of its complexities expands, it becomes increasingly evident that the endocannabinoid system controls all physiological and psychological processes."

In 2019, Cerebrum called the ECS "one of the most important physiologic systems involved in establishing and maintaining human health."

The ECS plays several primary roles in the body, including:

  • Regulation of Homeostasis: The ECS helps maintain a stable internal environment, or homeostasis, by regulating various bodily functions such as temperature, pH balance, and fluid levels.
  • Neurotransmitter Regulation: It modulates the release of neurotransmitters, including serotonin and dopamine, which are crucial for mood, appetite, and overall mental well-being.
  • Neuroprotection: It is involved in the protection of nerve cells, which can be important for conditions like Alzheimer's and Parkinson's disease.
  • Memory and Learning: It plays a role in memory formation and cognitive processes.
  • Stress Response: The ECS helps the body adapt to stress and regulates the release of stress hormones.
  • Pain Perception: The ECS influences how the body perceives and manages pain, making it an important target for pain management and relief.
  • Inflammation Control: It plays a role in regulating the body's inflammatory response, which is essential for the immune system's proper functioning.
  • Immune System Modulation: The ECS helps in balancing immune system activity and responding to infections and diseases.
  • Metabolism and Appetite Regulation: The ECS influences appetite and metabolic processes, which has implications for weight management and related disorders.

Overall, the ECS is a complex system that helps regulate numerous physiological processes, maintaining the body's balance and promoting overall health and well-being.

Cognitive signs of an impaired ECS.

A weakened endocannabinoid system (ECS) can be caused by various factors, including genetics, chronic stress, aging, poor diet, lack of physical activity, chronic illness, medications, and exposure to environmental toxins. When the ECS is weakened, it can no longer keep your body balanced and functioning optimally, which leads to a range of dysfunctions.

This can impact your cognition in several significant ways, including:

  • Stress Sensitivity: An exaggerated stress response reduces your ability to cope with stress and its associated physical, emotional, mental, and hormonal effects.
  • Mood Imbalances: Increased susceptibility to mood disorders like anxiety and depression.
  • Cognitive Problems: Impaired memory, learning, decision-making, and mental clarity.
  • Inflammation: Increased inflammatory response throughout the body, including the brain.
  • Imbalanced Immune System: Greater vulnerability to infections and immune-related issues, such as autoimmune disease.
  • Sleep Problems: Difficulty in achieving restful sleep.

CBD supports and enhances ECS function.

Infographic about the known effects of CBD oil for an article about how CBD supports brain health & performance

Supplementing with CBD can restore your ECS tone and function, which is how CBD exerts its effects on the human body.

By restoring and enhancing ECS function, CBD's effects include:

  • improving memory by creating new brain cells (neurogenic)
  • improving neurotransmitter activity
  • protecting, recovering, or regenerating the nervous system (neuroprotective)
  • reducing or preventing anxiety (anti-anxiety)
  • promoting clarity, mood, and calm focus by regulating the stress response (adaptogenic)
  • supporting gut microbiota and gut health, which is essential to mood
  • balancing the immune system (immune-modulating)
  • supporting healthy inflammation (anti-inflammatory)

2. CBD improves functional brain connectivity.

Digital art of a man from the shoulders up, his mind glowing, for an article about how CBD supports brain health & performance

Many people accept a certain degree of age-related cognitive decline as a natural part of growing older. However, factors like stress, diet, and poor sleep can accelerate the biological age of your brain, leading to a range of dysfunctions in the brain and body.

Long-term stress and exposure to cortisol are especially damaging and can trigger chronic inflammation, throw off hormonal balance, and disrupt vital brain chemistry. This impacts what's called your functional brain connectivity, noticeably impacting your processing, clarity, mental stamina, memory, emotions, and mental health.

Functional brain connectivity refers to the patterns of synchronized activity between different brain regions, which allows them to work together efficiently during various cognitive tasks and functions. It's like different parts of the brain "talking" to each other and coordinating their activities to perform specific mental processes or behaviors.

However, you can take steps to preserve your brain function and mental well-being. And CBD is a powerful neuro-adaptogenic cannabinoid that can help you do just that.

How CBD improves functional brain connectivity.

In a systematic review of 194 studies investigating the acute effects of CBD on brain function during resting state or in the context of cognitive tasks, of which 17 met inclusion criteria, researchers found that:

1. CBD improves the health of brain networks that control working memory, adapting to changes, planning and organization, behavioural control, and decision-making.

The researchers found that CBD enhances frontostriatal resting state connectivity compared to placebo and THC. Frontostriatal circuits are part of your executive functions, and are involved in neurodegenerative disorders such as Alzheimer's disease and Parkinson's disease, as well as neuropsychiatric disorders like schizophrenia, depression, obsessive-compulsive disorder (OCD), and attention-deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD).

2. CBD changed the patterns of brain activity.

The researchers also demonstrated that CBD modulates (changes) brain activity. For example:

  • it improves emotional processing
  • it enhances verbal memory
  • it promoted auditory/visual processing
  • It reduced the brain's sensitivity to stress

In 2021, a study on CBD and PTSD found that CBD reduced PTSD symptoms by improving functional deficits of the amygdala (processing fear & emotions), hippocampus (memory), PFC (mood & executive function).

They found that CBD can potentially lead to improvements in functional brain connectivity, allowing different brain regions to work together more effectively, contributing to better emotional regulation and reducing PTSD symptoms. For otherwise healthy individuals, it can improve their mental stamina, processing, clarity, memory, and memory recall.

3. CBD promotes the creation and growth of brain cells (neurogenesis).

Image of a neuron for an article about how CBD supports brain health & performance

Although the mechanisms underlying the creation and integration of brain networks have yet to be fully understood, considerable evidence suggests that the endocannabinoid system plays a pivotal role throughout the processes of adult neurogenesis, or the production and integration of new neurons in the brain.

It follows that CBD's well-documented ability to stimulate neurogenesis is the basis underlying many of CBD’s medical uses. This is mainly thought to be caused by its interaction with serotonin 5-HT1A and ability to increase BDNF (brain-derived neurotrophic factor).

CBD's ability to promote neurogenesis is significant for optimal brain performance because the hippocampus plays important roles in learning and memory organization, the consolidation of information from short-term memory to long-term memory, and in spatial memory. By increasing the pool of healthy, vital neurons, CBD improves your brain's ability to create and store memories.

A recent study examined whether the daily use of CBD in regular cannabis users within the community could reverse or reduce the damage to the hippocampus that chronic THC use causes. They found that CBD protects against the damage THC causes to the hippocampus by stimulating neurogenesis. They also found that this may be therapeutic for a range of clinical disorders caused by declining hippocampal health, such as schizophrenia, Alzheimer's disease, and major depressive disorder.

A 2021 study found that CBD's ability to promote neurogenesis may be dose-dependent. For example, repeated doses of CBD effectively reduced anxiety regardless of the dose; however, only lower doses of CBD increased brain cell growth and neurogenesis. On the contrary, while long-term high doses of CBD daily continued to provide antidepressant effects, they stopped stimulating neurogenesis. This apparently weird behavior of CBD can be explained by the desensitization of CB1 receptor, which after high repeated doses of CBD is no longer able to promote neurogenesis, resulting in a decreased number of DCX-positive cells.

Other studies have shown that CBD's effects are only dose-dependent when consuming a CBD isolate. For instance, a study by Gallily and colleagues found that when studying the pain-relieving and anti-inflammatory effects of CBD in rodents, the dose-response curve for CBD isolate looked like a bell or a U-shape. In contrast, the full-spectrum CBD extract showed a linear effect, meaning the effect increased with the dosage. This indicates that the choice between isolate and full-spectrum CBD can significantly influence the observed outcomes.

4. CBD repairs and protects brain cells (neuroprotective).

Infographic showing how CBD enhances and protects your brain at a cellular level for an article about how CBD supports brain health & performance

CBD (cannabidiol) is believed to offer neuroprotective benefits through various mechanisms, assisting with the repair and protection of brain cells and structures

This ensures that cognitive processes, including memory formation, information processing, and overall mental sharpness, remain at their best, maintaining mental stamina and clarity as you age.

Here are some ways in which CBD may contribute to brain cell repair and protection:

  • Neuroprotection: CBD has antioxidant and anti-inflammatory properties. It can neutralize harmful free radicals and reduce neuroinflammation, which are associated with brain cell damage. By preventing or limiting these processes, CBD may protect brain cells from degeneration and death.
  • Enhancing Neuroplasticity: CBD is thought to support neuroplasticity, the brain's ability to adapt and form new neural connections. This can help repair and regenerate brain cells, especially after injury or damage.
  • Stimulating Neurogenesis: Some research suggests that CBD may promote neurogenesis, the generation of new neurons from neural stem cells. This can be particularly important for brain cell repair and growth.
  • Anti-Excitotoxicity: CBD may reduce excitotoxicity, a process where excessive glutamate, a neurotransmitter, overstimulates brain cells, leading to cell damage or death. By modulating glutamate release, CBD can prevent excitotoxicity and its harmful effects on brain cells.
  • Balancing Neurotransmitters: CBD interacts with various neurotransmitter systems in the brain, including serotonin and dopamine. By regulating these neurotransmitters, CBD may contribute to maintaining a healthy balance in brain function and protecting against conditions associated with neurotransmitter imbalances.
  • Reducing Oxidative Stress: CBD's antioxidant properties help reduce oxidative stress in the brain. This stress results from an imbalance between free radicals and antioxidants, and it can damage brain cells. CBD's ability to counteract oxidative stress can help protect brain cells.
  • Anti-Inflammatory Effects: CBD's anti-inflammatory actions extend to the brain, where it can help reduce inflammation associated with neurodegenerative conditions and injuries. This anti-inflammatory effect contributes to brain cell protection and recovery.
  • Alleviating Neurological Symptoms: CBD is known for its symptom-relief effects in various neurological conditions, such as epilepsy and multiple sclerosis. While not directly repairing brain cells, these therapeutic benefits improve overall brain function and quality of life.

It's important to note that while there is a growing body of preclinical and clinical evidence supporting these potential benefits of CBD, further research is needed to fully understand the extent of its effects on brain cell repair and protection. Individual responses to CBD can also vary, and its use should be discussed with a healthcare professional, particularly when addressing specific neurological conditions or concerns.

5. CBD promotes the formation of new connections (synaptogenesis).

Digital art of synapses for an article about how CBD supports brain health & performance

 As mentioned earlier, CBD increases BDNF production, a protein that plays a crucial role in the growth, survival, and maintenance of neurons. It's also essential for the formation and strengthening of synapses.

CBD's neuroprotective properties also help to to facilitate synaptogenesis by protecting nerves from damage, promoting nerve cell regeneration, and maintaining optimal cell function.

By improving the density and strength of your brain networks, CBD can help to:

  • enhance cognitive function
  • improve learning & memory
  • promote neurological recovery
  • enhance brain health
  • improve mood and well-being
  • help you stay mentally agile
  • help you adapt to new information, skills, and experiences

6. CBD keeps your brain agile and adaptable (neuroplasticity).

Digital art representing neuroplasticity for an article about how CBD supports brain health & performance

Improved neuroplasticity offers a range of cognitive benefits, including enhanced learning, better memory, increased adaptability, and improved recovery from brain injuries or stress. These factors can either promote or hinder the brain's ability to reorganize and adapt. However, age and stress can disrupt the environment necessary for neuroplasticity, which can lead to even more stress and reduced cognitive function.

CBD plays a crucial role in facilitating neuroplasticity.

It can increase BDNF levels, a protein linked to neuroplasticity, and modulate serotonin receptors, which are responsible for mood and cognitive functions. Moreover, CBD interacts with the endocannabinoid system, regulating neurotransmission and contributing to the brain's adaptability.

This combined action makes CBD a promising agent for optimizing cognitive function, memory, mental clarity, information processing, and mental stamina by promoting neuroplasticity and helping the brain cope with the challenges of stress.

7. CBD reduces anxiety and depression (anxiolytic/antidepressant).

There are two main ways CBD can better balance your mood and sense of calm and well-being: your ECS, and your serotonergic system.

By enhancing ECS function, CBD can effectively combat stress and its manifestations. 7 clinical studies found that daily CBD use was effective at combating stress and its manifestations (anxiety, depression, fear, burnout), and was as effective as benzodiazepines and SSRIs at managing the stress response. All the clinical trials used 150 - 300mg of CBD daily.

CBD also interacts with serotonin 5-HT1A receptors, which are responsible for mood and emotional regulation, which helps to reduce anxiety and depression. 5-HT1A receptors are the same receptors targeted by conventional anti-depressants, hence the growing interest in CBD as a novel treatment for not only anxiety, but also depression.

One 2021 study found that 300mg of CBD taken daily was sufficient to treat burnout in frontline healthcare workers during COVID-19.

Another study found that taking 600mg of CBD per day reduced social anxiety, while another similar study looked found that using half the dose (300 mg of CBD) was also just as effective at reducing anxiety.

The Journal of Psychopharmacology published a study that performed brain scans on people reporting that they were successfully treating their Social Anxiety Disorder (SAD) with CBD. Researchers performed brain scans and noticed that there were noticeable changes to the blood flow in areas of the brain that are commonly related to anxiety.

In a 2022 survey published in Frontiers in Psychology, the majority (86%) of the 90 respondents self-treating with CBD for depression said they felt better after CBD treatment.

In a clinical trial carried out in patients with chronic pain, high doses of nabiximols (an FDA-approved 1:1 CBD:THC product) significantly reduced depression.

In another trial, CBD significantly decreased depressive and psychotic symptoms in chronic (frequent daily) cannabis users, reversing the harmful effects of cannabis and restoring key regions of the hippocampus.

Similar results were observed in frequent cannabis users using CBD reduced depressive- and psychotic-like symptoms and improved attentional switching, verbal learning, and memory.

Accordingly, nabiximols, used as an agonist replacement therapy during cannabis withdrawal, significantly reduced depression.

More recently, 2,409 CBD users reported mood-improving effects in several medical conditions in an online survey. The study did not discriminate between pure CBD and marijuana-derived CBD products with different components in the formulations.

How to use CBD to improve your brain health.

Good things take time.

We designed our CBD Dosage Calculator to help you find the ideal CBD dosage for your health and well-being goals. But if you're looking for a quick and easy way to start your CBD dosing protocol, here's the quick and dirty:

  • We recommend a daily regimen of up to 150mg CBD with breakfast and dinner, preferably with a meal that is rich in healthy fats. That's because healthy fats can increase the bioavailability of CBD by up to 5x.
  • If you're still finding your dose, we recommend starting with 50mg of CBD per dose and assessing the results at the results after a week. Increase your dose accordingly.
  • Drop your CBD dose sublingually (under your tongue) and hold it there for 90 seconds.

Research suggests that CBD isolate only works at a specific dosage, whereas the benefits of full-spectrum CBD increase with the dosage. This may be due to the entourage effect, the theory suggesting that the compounds found in the whole plant work together to enhance each other's benefits.

Expect to see improved mood, clarity, and focus within 2 weeks, and improvements in overall brain function after 1 month. Of course, your body is unique and may respond differently to plant-sourced technologies, so you may need a little more time and patience to see results.

We recommend tinctures (oil drops), such as Full Spec. CBD and CBD Isolate as they are the most bioavailable, consistent, and cost-effective method of consumption. They also have a faster onset time than edibles and beverages. However, if you have a sweet tooth, you might want to complement your personal care regimen with our CBD Gummy Bears, a scrumptious alternative to getting your daily dose of full-spectrum CBD.

You might also be interested in trying Brain Stack, our master nootropic microdose blend. Organic, vegan, and additive-free. Take 1–4 capsules for 4 days followed by a 3-day break for optimal results.

Contact us to learn more about our CBD products.

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