The Endocannabinoid System and Stress
Posted on November 25th, 2020
The endocannabinoid system (or ECS) is one of the most complicated cell-signaling systems found inside of our bodies. Researchers identified this system in the 1990s when they were researching a still very popular cannabinoid called THC.
According to experts, the endocannabinoid system plays a role in regulating a wide range of body functions. Mood, memory, appetite, reproduction, fertility, and sleep are all things it lends a hand in managing
Many people think that the relationship between the endocannabinoid system and stress only results in relief if they actually consume cannabis. That’s not the case. This system works even if people don’t consume cannabis with a high content of THC. Although it is a complicated system, so far, we know it plays a part in specific processes in the body, such as:
- Learning and memory
- Inflammation and immune system responses
- Cardiovascular system function
- Bone remodeling and growth
- Liver function
- Digestion and appetite
- Muscle formation
- Skin and nerve function
Why Is The Relationship Between The Endocannabinoid System and Stress Important?
The fast-paced lifestyle places more pressure on the endocannabinoid system. And that translates into stress at almost every stage of it. From handling the demands of the workplace to managing children after coming home, life is more stressful than ever. But what does the endocannabinoid system have to do with all this? Well, the more these external factors challenge the endocannabinoid system, the quicker it overwhelms it. It will either not produce enough endocannabinoids when needed or deliver it in huge quantities when the body doesn’t need it.
This creates an imbalance in the body, leading to chronic diseases like anxiety and depression. When the mind perceives a stressful situation, it first communicates with the pituitary gland before releasing hormones into the adrenal glands. The adrenal gland then releases hormones to communicate with some of the other organs and cells in the body. This response immediately alerts the sympathetic nervous system and inhibits the parasympathetic nervous system. Furthermore, it mobilizes necessary energies so that the mind can overcome the stressful situation.
The entire process above forms the HPA (hypothalamus, pituitary, and adrenal) axis. When someone goes through a period of consistent stress, the adrenal gland starts producing cortisol. Cortisol, by the way, is popularly known as the stress hormone. With the increased production of cortisol, the body will produce more glucose to mobilize energy. The point of this whole metabolic process is to try to cope with stress.
How Are The Endocannabinoid System and Stress Related?
Researchers suggest that the endocannabinoid system plays an integral role in relieving stress. It creates an interface between the stimulus input and respective responses at different behavioral levels. This system defines the importance of the situation. For example, when there is too much stress, a person may get anxiety or panic attacks.
Certain portions of the brain are responsible for stress processing. These regions contain a high density of cannabinoid receptors, the cell membrane receptors that make up most of the endocannabinoid system.
The hypothalamus, pituitary gland, prefrontal cortex, and even the hippocampus responds to stressful conditions. And those same regions also contain cannabinoid receptors. Thus, needless to say, the presence of cannabinoid receptors and the ECS itself is crucial for our body to coordinate its responses to stressors properly.
The regions of the brain involved in stress processing have enough resources from the endocannabinoid system. On the other hand, cannabinoids modulate synaptic transmission. This implies that the neural synapses trigged by cannabinoids function as the brain’s retrograde messengers. That means the endocannabinoid system and stress go hand in hand. Thus, the cannabinoid receptors play a significant role in managing the responses from this system. The endocannabinoid system manages the secretion of necessary hormones. Therefore, it’s responsible for your mind’s ability to calm itself down.
Importance of Phytocannabinoids
While changes in food and lifestyle may help deal with stress, they can’t offer immediate relief. If asked, most people would demand something of a quicker solution, instant if possible. Here’s where phytocannabinoid supplements might just come in handy. CBD or cannabidiol is the phytocannabinoid that, according to a ton of anecdotal evidence, may help with stress management.
Most research on CBD so far points repeatedly towards one direction: the compound seems able to relieve anxiety in subjects. A number of research studies also suggest that CBD might work as a guardian molecule. It appears capable of creating a shield to surround cells and protect them from the effects of stress that could potentially cause their degradation. Said effects are ultimately capable of protecting adrenal glands, brain, and thyroid glands during overwhelming stress.
People suffering from sleep disorders, digestion problems, immune issues, and fatigue often say that CBD helped them manage the disorders. This phytocannabinoid interacts with the endocannabinoid system once ingested. Its ultimate effect is to help regulate neurotransmitters and cortisol, often resulting in a calm mind after a stressful event.
Is Momentary Calm and A ‘High’ The Same Thing?
People often confuse CBD with cannabis. Yes, you can extract CBD from both the cannabis and hemp plant. Yet, is it the cannabinoid THC the actual responsible for the famous ‘high’ associated with cannabis. However, CBD products require to have a THC content of 0.3% or less for their legal commercialization. That amount is not remotely enough to get you ‘high.’ Thus, you will not feel impaired in any way after taking CBD.
Supplement Your Endocannabinoid System With CBD to Treat Stress
Stress can threaten anyone’s daily life. It will slowly take over the brain and take a toll on physical health. Luckily, CBD products are fast becoming an alternative supplement that may help with stress-relief.
According to a study performed in 2010, CBD worked very well on people with a social anxiety disorder. The study explored how CBD is capable of reducing anxiety and if it actually changes the brain’s initial reaction to stress.
Brain scans from the participants show significant changes in the blood flow patterns in the regions associated with anxiety and stress.
Another study in 2011 proved how CBD is useful to reduce social anxiety induced by public speaking. Many people panic when they are about to address a group of people. This happens out of stress and anxiety. But a dose of CBD product every day may leave you showing signs of confidence after a few weeks.
In 2015, researchers analyzed various other aspects of CBD. They concluded that CBD not only reduces stress. But it may work as a useful supplement for people with other anxiety-related disorders, although further research is needed. Said disorders include different conditions triggered by stress, such as post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD), generalized anxiety disorder, panic disorder, obsessive-compulsive disorder (OCD), and social anxiety disorder.
Types of CBD products
Now that it is clear how the endocannabinoid system and stress react to CBD let’s take a more in-depth look at some of the different CBD products out there and how to use them.
Users say that a tincture is the most effective CBD product as they can swallow the full-spectrum product right away. This means the dosage mixes with the blood immediately. Again, it is best to consult a doctor instead of taking random doses of CBD. Doses may range between 100 and 1000 mg. Only a couple of drops of CBD tincture are enough to keep stress away.
Any new user may feel confused about how to take CBD tinctures. Just place the drops right underneath the tongue and also along the cheeks. It is also wise to check the number of times the manufacturer advises to take the product in one day.
CBD capsules have become a very popular supplement among CBD users. A big reason for that is users don’t have to place the product under their tongue. Just take the capsule and gulp it down with a glass of water.
Capsules usually come with a dosage that ranges between 10 and 25 mg. Some of the high-end pills also contain 50 mg per tablet. Doctors typically recommend consuming one capsule per day if it has a higher concentration.
3. Lotions and salves
Lotions, lip balms, and salves are becoming increasingly popular because CBD not only deals with stress but it may also improve skin conditions. In fact, topical application of CBD may help with inflammation, psoriasis, anti-aging, acne, inflammation, and chronic pain.
Lotions and salves are made using encapsulation, nanotechnology, and micellization of CBD. This means the CBD extract in the product can penetrate through the dermal layers instead of just staying on the skin’s surface.
4. Water soluble
Water-soluble CBD is pretty much like CBD tinctures but with a small difference: users can mix this CBD product in water or in their smoothies. Instead of dropping it inside their mouth directly, you can mix it with a smoothie, for example. This is ideal for those who don’t like the taste of CBD tinctures. Just add a few drops of water-soluble CBD into a cup of water and drink the solution.
The Endocannabinoid System and Stress – The Takeaway
With so many products to choose from, you now have the chance to better control the relationship between your endocannabinoid system and stress. Have fun trying out a variety of CBD products in order to find the one best for you and the condition you are looking to manage.