Mental health is relevant to every one of us, and it has become an increasingly important topic as we have been forced to navigate the loss of jobs, social isolation, and the impossible balancing act of work and family in the midst of the pandemic. According to Mental Health News Today, mental health refers to cognitive, behavioral, and emotional well-being. It’s all about how people think, feel, and behave. And remarkably, mental disorders have a high prevalence compared with many other health conditions and are the leading cause of disability worldwide (1). Yet, despite its prevalence, the topic of mental health has long been considered taboo, and people are often more reluctant to talk about mental health and illness, which creates a challenge for individuals to get the medical help that they may desperately need.
Mental and physical health are associated with lifestyle choices such as physical activity, diet, and drug and alcohol consumption. And any kind of stress or emotional upset has physical implications, as well as the obvious mental health impacts. But when it comes to mental illness, there are often genetic factors and chemical imbalances that go beyond modifications to lifestyle, and we don’t get to choose to be mentally well or not. Many people require medications and professional help to ensure that they can manage their illness appropriately. Regardless of our mental challenges, it is clear that we do have the ability to make healthy choices to support a more balanced state of mental health.
When it comes to cannabis and mental health, the science is truly complex. Our body’s Endocannabinoid System (ECS) is the fundamental regulator of emotional homeostasis (balance) and cognitive function, and it modulates fear and anxiety related behaviors. Our body produces endocannabinoids that fit into the ECS’s receptors, but chronic stress as well as poor diet and lifestyle break down our body’s own endocannabinoids, resulting in dysregulation of a healthy Endocannabinoid system. Cannabis contains cannabinoids that also fit into those receptors, which is why it is so therapeutic for a wide range of conditions. This has led to recent exploration into developing drugs that target the Endocannabinoid system to treat mental disorders (1). But while the research in this area is promising, the science of the plant and how to use it to support better mental health is far from clear.
There is a limited body of evidence that links cannabis use with the alleviation of mental health disorders. A recent 2018 survey found that cannabis greatly reduced feelings of depression, anxiety, and stress (2). However, some scientific studies also report that too much THC can cause fear, anxiety, and even psychosis, and that high potency cannabis and synthetic cannabinoids pose the greatest risk (3). This conflicting data clearly illustrates that there is far more research that needs to be done.
The science is a little more clear when it comes to CBD. A recent clinical trial that evaluated the anti-psychotic effects of CBD in comparison to a typical anti-psychotic medication found that while both treatments were safe and led to significant clinical improvement, CBD had remarkably fewer side effects (1). Another recent study found that CBD may be a potential therapy for treating anxiety, depression, schizophrenia, and related psychotic disorders. But the study also found that the therapeutic efficacy of CBD was dependent on the strain, dose, gender, age, and route of administration (4).
So while CBD is considered to be potentially very effective and quite safe, there is not a “one size fits all” approach. Because of this, it may take some time to find the right product or strain for your needs. At Humboldt Apothecary, we offer a huge variety of tinctures that come in a range of CBD:THC ratios, so that you can customize your CBD intake and find the right ratio for your body. We choose our strains carefully based on their specific properties and terpene profiles. However, if you are on any other medications, you will want to consult with your doctor before you start taking any cannabis products.
We are big advocates for supporting wellness with healthy lifestyle choices. And as much as we like to empower people to use plant medicine and diet to modify and support vibrant health, we advise to do so under the guidance of qualified medical practitioners that can give appropriate medical advice, especially if you are on other medications. This is particularly important when it comes to mental health. If you or anyone that you know is struggling with mental illness, it is imperative to seek medical care and to share with your doctor whether you are using cannabis or any other natural medicines.
1) Inés Ibarra-Lecue, Fuencisla Pilar-Cuéllar, Carolina Muguruza, Eva Florensa-Zanuy, Álvaro Díaz, Leyre Urigüen, Elena Castro, Angel Pazos, Luis F. Callado,
The endocannabinoid system in mental disorders: Evidence from human brain studies,
Biochemical Pharmacology, Volume 157, 2018, Pages 97-107,
2) Carrie Cuttler, Alexander Spradlin, Ryan J. McLaughlin,
A naturalistic examination of the perceived effects of cannabis on negative affect,
Journal of Affective Disorders, Volume 235,2018,Pages 198-205.
3) Murray, R.M., Quigley, H., Quattrone, D., Englund, A. and Di Forti, M. (2016), Traditional marijuana, high‐potency cannabis and synthetic cannabinoids: increasing risk for psychosis. World Psychiatry, 15: 195-204. https://doi.org/10.1002/wps.20341
4) García-Gutiérrez, M.S.; Navarrete, F.; Gasparyan, A.; Austrich-Olivares, A.; Sala, F.; Manzanares, J. Cannabidiol: A Potential New Alternative for the Treatment of Anxiety, Depression, and Psychotic Disorders. Biomolecules 2020, 10, 1575. https://doi.org/10.3390/biom10111575