When you think of cannabis sativa, alertness, energy and focus probably aren’t the first things that come to mind – but the more we learn about this wonder-plant, the more surprises we discover. As it turns out, the CBD molecule in hemp has shown promise as a ‘wake promoting agent’, providing an all-natural jump start and focus-puller to those who need it.
But how is this possible? You’d be right in thinking that CBD is extremely popular for inducing a restful slumber, so it seems beyond the realm of possibility that this phytocannabinoid could serve as a pick-me-up – but for many, it does.
Although not officially classed as an adaptogen, CBD and a variety of other phytocannabinoids in the hemp plant do appear to behave in an adaptogenic manner. These molecules are now believed to have a range of different affects through multiple pathways in the brain and body, and what’s more, these can be different from one user to the next depending on a number of factors, including:
- What your body is lacking or overwhelmed by.
- Production of your own endocannabinoids.
- Your metabolism, which can differ dramatically from person to person depending on what your body is breaking down and how it deals with each thing.
- Your weight, blood volume and age.
- Which terpenes are present – either naturally or infused in a CBD oil.
But today, let’s look at CBD on its own and explore the theories on how it impacts energy and focus…
Increased Blood-flow to the Brain
We’re at an extremely exciting point in history with cannabis research. The more we gain (and spread) awareness of the potential this plant holds, the more perceptions change and the more studies are able to take place. Over the past 20 years, the pace has really picked up and now we’re starting to see fascinating results from long-haul studies, as well as new ideas opening up for exploration.
A very recent study, published in August 2020 by UCL researchers, indicated that CBD can increase blood flow to the Hippocampus – the region of the brain associated with memory, decision making and emotion. It was also noted in the study, in which participants were given 600mg of CBD, that no significant blood flow increase occurred in other parts of the brain. When held alongside other neuroanatomical studies into the hippocampus, which have indicated a direct link between this part of the brain and energy regulation, this makes for a very exciting discovery! And certainly begins to paint a clearer picture too, in terms of why CBD may increase energy levels.
Activation of Serotonin Receptors
You may know a bit about how CBD interacts with the endocannabinoid system, but did you know that this molecule also directly activates serotonin receptors?
The link between serotonin and energy has been very well established within the scientific community – higher levels go hand in hand with higher energy and positive mood, while lower levels can contribute to low energy and depression and are often seen in patients suffering chronic fatigue and central nervous fatigue.
Natural Dopamine Boost
Cannabidiol (CBD) has also been shown to directly activate dopamine receptors, which has been of vital importance to researchers exploring potential therapeutic use for those with ADHD.
ADHD is one of the most common behavioural problems in the UK (present in 8% to 12% of children, and 4% of adults worldwide) and is characterised by a number of behaviours and symptoms, including finding it very difficult to focus. There are working theories which suggest people with ADHD tend to have an imbalance of dopamine, a key hormone and neurotransmitter. One small study published in 2013 found that Ritalin significantly increased levels of dopamine in the brain of ADHD patients, with the result of improved attention in participants with and without ADHD.
Unfortunately, Ritalin (which is widely prescribed for ADHD) has a raft of unpleasant side effects and hefty potential for abuse. CBD, on the other hand, does not – according to the World Health Organisation.
A ‘Wake-Promoting’ Agent
A 2014 study published in Current Neuropharmacology dubbed CBD a ‘wake-promoting agent’ after repeated testing showed increased alertness after administration. The group hypothesised that dopamine release may play a role, as could the supported release of our own endocannabinoid Anandamide, but further investigations need to take place before we can fully understand the mechanism.
But don’t worry! If you’re hoping to get a little shut-eye after taking your CBD, this study still showed that despite wakefulness at around the hour mark after taking, the rats tested on did still experience an enhanced total percentage of sleep overall.
As time goes on, we will learn more and more about how CBD impacts the brain and body, and hopefully we can soon start to fully understand not only the mechanisms by which it works, but how best to use it.