In the past several years, the popularity of hemp products has soared, thanks to research showing the plant’s potential therapeutic benefits. Hemp is part of the cannabis family. Unfortunately, the intoxicating effects of marijuana have recently overshadowed the wonders of the hemp plant. This is the primary reason why many confuse hemp with marijuana and one of the reasons it took a while for hemp to be legalized. Hemp actually refers to the industrial variant of cannabis, cultivated for its hurd, seeds, and fiber, and other natural healing compounds it contains. The effects of hemp on serotonin have been a particularly interesting field of hemp study.
Thanks to multiple studies in the past few decades, researchers have found compounds that may help address an array of conditions. Anxiety, depression, pain and inflammation, and liver conditions are some of the problems hemp may be able to ease. The best part is that the supplement is natural, helping avoid the many side effects that come with pharmaceutical medicine. Despite the FDA not fully regulating it, the demand for hemp extracts is rising. Compounds in the hemp plant interact with the endocannabinoid system to affect an array of bodily functions, including regulation of hormones such as serotonin. But what are these compounds? What are the effects of hemp on serotonin? Let us delve further.
What is Hemp?
According to the 2018 Farm Bill, hemp is the Cannabis sativa L. plant and any part of it, including the seeds and all cannabinoids, extracts, derivatives, isomers, salts, salts of isomers and acids. These all must have a delta-9 THC concentration of not more than 0.3%. It is a deciduous plant, meaning female and male plants can be distinguished. Hemp has served a wide array of purposes for millennia: for protein from seeds, fiber from plant stems, smokable portions and oils from flowers and leaves. Hemp fibers can be used to make clothing, rope, paper, furnishing fabric and building materials.
The entire hemp plant, from stalk to seed, is useful. For more specific applications, it helps to divide the plant into 4 categories:
-Leaves and flowers
-Shives or hurds
Does Hemp Contain THC?
Hemp contains a wide array of cannabinoids, including THC or tetrahydrocannabinol, the intoxicating cannabinoid abundant in marijuana. THC is responsible for making users high when they smoke weed. However, hemp does not make enough THC to give intoxicating effects when used.
However, even though hemp does not produce a substantial amount of THC, it’s capable of producing CBD or cannabidiol in high concentrations. As a matter of fact, hemp-derived CBD has quickly become one of the most popular forms of cannabinoids in the industry today. It is the main cause of the effects of hemp on serotonin, as we will discover soon.
Many regions differentiate marijuana and hemp by the amount of THC produced per weight of the dry plant. In the United States, hemp is the Cannabis sativa L. plant that doesn’t contain more than 0.3 percent of THC. The European Union set the limit at 0.2 percent THC. In Great Britain, it’s 0 percent, unless the farmers hold a cultivation license to grow the plant with no more than 0.2 percent THC.
Serotonin is a neurotransmitter, meaning it sends messages between varying nerve cells throughout the body. Extensive research suggests that serotonin is the compound responsible for feelings of joy and happiness. Surprisingly, most of it (over 90%, in fact) exists in the gastrointestinal tract, where it regulates intestinal movements.
Serotonin’s role in the brain is perhaps more popular. The serotonergic neurons of the central nervous system (CNS) contain this compound that aids neurological cells in the brain to form connections. Thus it affects all kinds of functions in the body including appetite, mood, as well as sleeping patterns.
Due to serotonin’s ability to affect these functions, it’s often called the happiness hormone. Unfortunately, we know little information regarding how it affects mood. We just know that it seems to have a specific link to happiness.
As a matter of fact, a study in the Journal of World Psychiatry showed that serotonin is naturally tied to depression. This implies that individuals who struggle with depression often produce low levels of serotonin.
This also means that any medicine or drug that induces the release of the compound encourages the individual to feel happy and hopefully combat depression. Selective Serotonin Reuptake Inhibitors or SSRIs are the most common treatments for the condition. They are designed to prevent your body from destroying serotonin and thus increasing its levels.
But what does hemp have to do with this? Are there any effects of hemp on serotonin?
Why There Are Effects of Hemp on Serotonin
In order to delve deeper, it is important to take a closer look at the system that makes all this possible. The endocannabinoid system or ECS, is the system responsible for homeostasis or the management of most bodily functions. It contains receptors that bind with cannabinoids and affect bodily functions. CB1 and CB2 receptors make up the bulk of the ECS, the former in the brain and the latter in immune cells. Consuming hemp increases the levels of anandamide (a naturally occurring endocannabinoid) in the brain.
Interestingly enough, anandamide regulates other chemicals in the brain, including serotonin. This is one of the numerous ways the ECS system, serotonin, and hemp interact.
How Effects of Hemp on Serotonin Happen
As mentioned earlier, serotonin is a neurotransmitter in the human body that transmits messages between nerve cells. As a result, it helps regulate social behavior, memory, mood, sleep and sexual desire, among other bodily functions and behaviors. Clearly, it plays a vital role in maintaining body balance.
If serotonin levels decrease, it puts individuals at greater risk of conditions such as insomnia, anxiety, depression, and other negative cycles in the human body. However, hemp, more specifically the extract CBD, can mimic the effects of the compound. It achieves this by binding and activating the 5-HT1A serotonin receptors in the body. Actually, many scientists suspect this to be the cause of the cannabinoid’s reported anti-anxiety effects. What this means is that hemp could potentially be useful in combating anxiety and depression.
A few years ago a lab study on mice revealed that using a chemical that mimics the cannabinoid CBD may provide powerful anti-depression effects. A vital element of this research was published in European Neuropsychopharmacology. Scientists blocked the serotonin receptors and the effects of mimicking the compound did not have the same calming effects. This clearly revealed that the serotonin system and cannabinoids are linked and can work in conjunction.
However, this wasn’t the first study of its kind. Back in 2011, a paper in Behavioural Brain Research showed how higher endocannabinoid levels made antidepressants even more effective. Not just by blocking the CB1 receptors, but by maximizing the same effects in the body.
These two studies point out the connection between the serotonergic system and the ECS. Therefore, using cannabinoids to supplement the naturally occurring endocannabinoids may help achieve homeostasis with much greater efficiency.
Conclusion on Effects of Hemp On Serotonin
SSRIs are currently the most common way to affect serotonin. Low serotonin levels can increase your risk of anxiety and depression. The medication works by minimizing or inhibiting the reuptake of serotonin in the brain. As a result, more of the compound stays in circulation to do its work. The problem is, SSRIs can cause an array of adverse side effects including sleep issues, nausea, nervousness, sexual dysfunction, and even tremors. They are also addictive and take a long time to provide substantial results for most users. This is why people are interested in the possibilities that hemp and CBD may offer.
Of course, scientists need more research in order to fully understand the impact of hemp on bodily functions, but it is almost always safe to use. Once your doctor clears you to try it, look for reliable or reputable hemp companies such as Tanasi. Millions of dollars of scientific research created the formulas for Tanasi’s hemp-extracts. Also, regardless of the potential benefits of hemp, you should not use it to replace your prescription drugs. Always take your medication as prescribed by your doctor and know that you risk suffering adverse side effects if you suddenly stop taking your medication. As with any new medication or supplement, it’s always a good idea to consult your doctor.