Can CBD Make You Smarter? A Look at CBD’s Effect on the Brain

Can CBD Make You Smarter?

Posted on December 14th, 2020

Nowadays, almost everyone has come across CBD. This substance seemingly aids in everything from dealing with anxiety to helping you sleep. The compound has become increasingly popular thanks to a legion of enthusiasts who swear by its potential therapeutic benefits. But just what is CBD? Is it safe to consume? And is there any truth to the rumor regarding if can CBD make you smarter? These are some of the questions we’ll address here.

What is CBD?

Also referred to as cannabidiol, CBD is one of the many compounds known as cannabinoids that are present in the Cannabis sativa plant. They are responsible for the many health benefits associated with cannabis. However, most people are familiar with THC or tetrahydrocannabinol, the cannabinoid behind the ‘high’ experienced after smoking weed.

What Makes CBD Different?

Cannabidiol is notably different from THC and other compounds found in cannabis and hemp. While almost every other cannabinoid interacts with the two primary cannabinoid receptors, CB1 and CB2, CBD has less of an effect on them. CB1 receptors are present in different parts of the brain.

These include those tasked with memory, cognition, sensory perception, and emotions, and the cannabinoid THC acts on these receptors. When it attaches to them, you will experience psychoactive effects capable of altering your perception or impairing you somewhat. Thus, sending users on a cerebral adventure.

It’s primarily found in the resin secreted by the plant’s glands and binds with both the CB1 and CB2 receptors. It activates these receptors, leading to changes in perception, thinking, memory, concentration, pleasure, as well as making the user high.

On the other hand, consuming CBD will not trigger these effects since the compound attaches differently to these receptors. Cannabidiol’s distinct effects result in a host of potential therapeutic effects in the brain and across the rest of the body.

Also, CBD can also moderate the effects of tetrahydrocannabinol. While some individuals report anxiety and paranoia from using marijuana, strains that are rich in CBD can reduce these effects. This is due to CBD’s binding to the CB1 receptor preventing THC from doing the same if you consume both. So, cannabidiol itself might be good at treating anxiety? But, again, can CBD make you smarter?


The ECS or endocannabinoid system includes receptors that activate in response to cannabinoids like CBD. A better way to understand this is to imagine receptors as locks and cannabinoids as keys that open those locks and unleash the effect. The endocannabinoid system regulates a wide range of bodily processes, which include:

  • Inflammation
  • Digestion, appetite, and metabolism
  • Memory & learning
  • Sleep
  • Pain
  • Immune system function
  • Mood, fear, stress, and anxiety

Researchers first spotted the endocannabinoid system during studies on the effect of plant-derived cannabinoids, also known as phytocannabinoids. Later they also found out that the body produces its own cannabinoids known as endocannabinoids. The most salient endocannabinoids are anandamide and 2-AG.

Interestingly, studies show that cannabidiol doesn’t strongly interact with the two primary receptors in the ECS, CB1 and CB2. However, the compound interacts with other unknown receptors that might be part of the system. Additionally, CBD may affect the endocannabinoid system by slowing down anandamide’s breakdown.

Can CBD Make You Smarter? - nootropics can help boost your cognitive output

So, Can CBD Make You Smarter? The Nootropic Side of CBD:

Nootropics also go by the name ‘smart drugs’ and are supplements or substances that boost cognitive functions. They boost focus, memory, mood, attention span, creativity, and even motivation.

So, does cannabidiol also affect the brain in this manner? Well, it’s more accurate to say that CBD may mitigate things like anxiety, allowing the brain to operate more effectively. CBD won’t ‘boost’ brainpower beyond the potential the user was born with. However, it may present an ideal platform to stack or carry nootropics as it’s non-addictive and non-toxic. A nootropic stack entails combining dietary supplements that work in tandem to improve the desired benefits.

How Cannabidiol Works in the Brain

Cannabidiol, as hinted in the discussion about its interaction with the ECS, delivers its effects through a number of pathways. Even though this cannabinoid does not bind with the primary receptors as the others do, it acts via various receptor-independent channels. The substance inhibits the binding action of particular protein-coupled receptors.

The following are examples of the receptor systems and their association with CBD. Learning about them will further explaining whether can CBD make you smarter or not.

1. The Serotonin System

Cannabidiol targets a specific serotonin receptor known as the serotonin 1A receptor. The compound’s affinity with this receptor relates to most of its therapeutic benefits. The distinct neurological effects that CBD may provide come without the psychoactive effect of THC.

Keep in mind that these receptors handle the release of hormones such as oxytocin, responsible for social behavior, and cortisol, responsible for reactions to stress and metabolism. Also, serotonin receptors also regulate an individual’s mood, appetite, and cognition.

Boosting serotonin 1A receptors certainly supports the theory of how cannabidiol impedes particular issues. After all, serotonin plays a crucial part in disorders like anxiety, nausea, neuropathic pain, and depression.

2. Orphan Receptors

GPR55 also referred to as the ‘orphan receptor,’ is a receptor scientists are still uncertain whether it belongs to a bigger family tree. It apparently plays a part in the process of regulating bone density, bone reabsorption, and blood pressure.

When overactive, GPR55 can lead to osteoporosis and can contribute to the migration and multiplication of cancer cells. Cannabidiol blocks the signaling of GPR55, something that has the potential of preventing cancer cell proliferation under the right conditions.

3. Vanilloid Receptors

Cannabidiol also binds to TRPV1 receptors, or vanilloid receptors, in order to give a potential therapeutic effect. TRPV1 is an ion channel and plays a role in temperature regulation, or thermoregulation, inflammation as well as pain perception.

4. Nuclear Receptors

Also referred to as Peroxisome proliferator-activated receptors or PPARs, nuclear receptors activated by cannabidiol give a potent anti-cancer effect. They are on the surface of the cell’s nucleus, and an anti-proliferative effect starts when activating a receptor called PPAR-gamma. Also, its activation leads to regress in tumors found in lung cell lines.

Cannabidiol as an Anandamide Reuptake Inhibitor

According to research, cannabidiol in the brain inhibits anandamide breakdown and reuptake. Thus, boosting endocannabinoid levels in the synapses found in the brain. Anandamide is a very potent cannabis-like substance found in the brain that induces neuroprotective effects against seizures, etc.

Given that CBD is a plant compound, it has to go through the cell membrane in order to enter a human cell and ultimately bind with nuclear receptors. It achieves this by attaching to a fatty acid-binding protein or FABP, which transports it into the interior of the cell.

The compound has a strong affinity to 3 types of fatty acid-binding proteins, and this makes it compete with endocannabinoids. Once inside the cell, the metabolic enzyme fatty acid amide hydrolase breaks down anandamide. Cannabidiol interferes with the process of endocannabinoids by minimizing the anandamide’s access to transporting FABPs. Thus, delaying the entrance into the cell and allowing you to keep more anandamide for a longer time.

What May Be CBDs Therapeutic Effects on the BrainCan CBD Make You Smarter? - girl studying without a lick of anxiety

Cannabidiol has potential therapeutic properties that can help people facing both psychological and physical issues.

1. Anxiety, Depression, and Stress

Tetrahydrocannabinol amplifies paranoia and anxiety in some people. Yet, a study conducted by Neurotherapeutics shows that the compound can help people with certain anxiety disorders. CBD’s neurological effects could result in it becoming a supplement to existing treatments, but more research will be necessary. As we all know, a healthy mind, free of stress and anxiety, helps a person focus better on tasks. Therefore, a little help from CBD could, thus, boost their cognitive function.

2. Sleep Quality

CBD may help improve brain function by reducing anxiety, which in turn helps deal with sleeping difficulties. CBD may subdue chronic pain and insomnia, thus increase the number of hours spent sleeping. At a small dosage, cannabidiol induces wakefulness. Yet, a heavy dose consumed a few hours before bedtime may have a balancing effect that could result in a good night’s sleep.

Other Ways CBD Can Make A Person Smarter:

  • Sensory perception increases when one consumes CBD. Thus, helping them get a different perspective during emotional events and other situations. It also might even help unlock some creative potential.
  • People struggling with addiction to drugs or alcohol might use some CBD. The intense withdrawal anxiety of trying to quit is something CBD might help them handle.
  • THC can actually be detrimental to the brain, especially due to the psychoactive effects. However, cannabidiol seems to improve brain cells and might even improve cognitive function.
  • For those who have an issue with distractions, consuming the right dosage of cannabidiol might help put them back on track and allow for a steady focus to get tasks done.

Can CBD Make You Smarter? – The Takeaway

While most research so far focused on understanding THC, CBD shows huge potential regarding its therapeutic applications. However, it’s essential to understand the properties of hemp and cannabis so you can leverage their benefits. As scientists and researchers understand more of this compound, they may find newer ways to improve brain health with it.

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