The Surprising Way CBD Affects Your Brain Health

Photo: Allef Vinicius

By the year 2050, the United States will have 14 million people in need of full-time care for Alzheimer’s disease, a number equal to the populations of New York City, Los Angeles, and Chicago combined. Anxiety disorders are the most common mental illness in the United States, affecting 40 million adults, and issues like brain fog are finally being taken seriously. Taking care of our brain health is more urgent than ever, so we’re spending the next 10 days at mindbodygreen talking about our brains and what we can all do to protect our mental health. Follow along here at #mbgbrainhealth and on Instagram and Twitter. And be sure to sign up for our FREE brain health webinar with 11-time NYT best-selling author and pioneering functional medicine doctor Dr. Mark Hyman

If you look up the health benefits of CBD, you'll find a very, very long list. People all over the world are using CBD (aka cannabidiol) for a number of conditions, including (but not limited to) anxiety, chronic pain, seizure disorders, arthritis, headaches, PTSD, and even leaky gut and IBS. As the health editor here at mbg, I've written about the nitty-gritty differences between CBD and THC and about the entire endocannabinoid system. In other words, I've talked to the world's top CBD experts and done my fair share of research on the topic.

But, of all the exciting possibilities, there's one potential use of CBD that's caught my eye in recent months—and it has everything to do with protecting the brain and, more specifically, protecting the brain from diseases like Alzheimer's and dementia.

The statistics on Alzheimer's mentioned above are staggering, and many experts have started referring to the disease as type-3 diabetes because it's so closely related to lifestyle factors like diet, exercise, and sleep hygiene. And it's not just the United States that's suffering—as a planet, we're pretty desperate for new treatments for illnesses like Alzheimer's and dementia that overhaul the lives of those suffering from them, as well as the lives of their caretakers.

The research to back up using CBD for all of the conditions mentioned at the start of this article varies greatly—ranging from randomized double-blind placebo control studies to case studies and clinical observation—and it's important we recognize this so that we can talk about CBD's potential in a realistic and honest way. So what does the research say about CBD and brain health? Well, studies have demonstrated CBD's ability to prevent free radical damage, reduce inflammation, and protect brain cells. Other studies have also demonstrated the role of the endocannabinoid system in simulating neurogenesis, which is the very science-y way of saying "growing new brain cells." Another study showed that CBD modulates the expression of Alzheimer's-disease-related genes, meaning it might play a role in whether or not you actually develop the disease that you are predisposed to.

All this suggests that, in the future, we might be able to use cannabinoid-based therapies to prevent various types of brain disease.

But what about healing the brain when it's already damaged or unhealthy? There have also been studies on this. One, although very preliminary, showed that CBD was able to improve quality of life in people with Parkinson's disease. And what about the rest of us who just want to optimize brain health? Well, we already know that CBD has strong antioxidant, anti-inflammatory, and neuroprotective properties, so it's an all-around healthy ingredient to add to your wellness routine if you're interested in showing your brain a little extra love. If you're looking for some inspiration, try this CBD-Infused Lavender Hot Chocolate, this new CBD Golden Milk Powder, or one of these CBD Beauty & Self-Care Products to add this beneficial compound to your morning and nighttime rituals.

Ready to learn more about how you can keep your brain healthy, no matter your age? Register now for our FREE Functional Nutrition Webinar with Dr. Mark Hyman, where you’ll learn how to make diet and lifestyle modifications right now for better brain health!

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