Your brain relies on neurotransmitters, in specific chemical
combinations, to regulate your moods, thoughts, feelings, and behavior.
The driving force behind your system of neurotransmitters and their
corresponding receptors is called your endocannabinoid system. Thanks to
the discovery of the endocannabinoid system, researchers now have a
better understanding of how brain chemicals interact and communicate,
what happens when the communication system fails, and how to potentially
restore the communication processes.
The Neurotransmitters that Influence Your Endocannabinoid System
Your body makes the neurotransmitters that regulate this vital
system. They are called endocannabinoids because they are processed
within. Your two main endocannabinoids are anandamide and 2-AG.
Your body also responds to exogenous cannabinoids, cannabinoids from
an outside source. Exogenous cannabinoids are found in the extract (CBD)
of the cannabis plants, hemp, and marijuana. Both plants are equally
beneficial, but marijuana has high levels of THC (tetrahydrocannabinol)
which is a psychoactive cannabinoid, hemp does not. You will not get
high from hemp CBD oil.
The Many Functions of Your Endocannabinoid System
Exogenous cannabinoids mimic the effects of your endocannabinoids,
interacting and communicating with receptors throughout your
endocannabinoid system. Your endocannabinoid system is responsible for
nearly every function and process in your body. Just some of the
functions regulated by this system include:
- Your moods and emotional responses
- Stress responses and anxiety
- Metabolism and energy
- Neuroprotection and muscle movement
- Memory and learning
- Sleep cycles
- Reproductive function
- Pain perception and inflammation
- Cardiovascular function
The endocannabinoids in your body are produced as needed and quickly
broken down by enzymes. The exogenous cannabinoids from CBD are stronger
and longer lasting.
The Potential Consequences of System Imbalance
Because your endocannabinoid system is crucial to so many vital
functions, some researchers are suggesting that many health concerns
could be the result of imbalances within the endocannabinoid system.
This theory could explain why the research into supplementing the
endocannabinoid system with CBD is showing so many potential benefits.
Research shows that CBD has the potential to alleviate pain, improve
sleep, reduce inflammation, and improve the symptoms of anxiety and
depressive disorders, including bipolar affective disorder. While the
study of the endocannabinoid system is relatively new, the results have
been quite fascinating.
Understanding the Basics of Bipolar Disorders
Bipolar disorders cause marked changes in a persons mood, behavior,
energy levels, and function. Those living with a bipolar disorder
experience extreme, intense emotional states, referred to as mood
episodes. Due to the complexity of the condition, bipolar disorder often
goes undiagnosed or misdiagnosed as depression. Episodes of extreme
emotion can be classified as manic, hypomanic or depressive.
A manic episode is a period where a person has more energy than
usual. They may seem high-spirited, very happy, or irritable. During a
manic episode, a person may sleep less, have racing thoughts or engage
in risky behaviors, like spending sprees or reckless driving. A manic
mood episode may be severe enough to cause problems with work, family,
social relationships and interfere with responsible behavior. Manic
episodes may also progress to paranoia, delusions or psychosis.
Symptoms of hypomanic episodes are similar to manic episodes, though
less severe. Hypomania does not cause as many potential problems as
mania, and the person living with hypomania is typically still able to
Major Depressive Episodes
A depressive episode is classified as a period where a person has
lost interest in activities they previously enjoyed, experiences
feelings of hopelessness, worthlessness or guilt. During a depressive
episode, a person may experience extreme fatigue and sleep disturbances.
Concentration levels or decision-making processes may be impaired. Some
may have thoughts of suicide or death.
The Medications Typically Used to Treat Bipolar Disorder
Some people living with bipolar disorder may only experience a few
cycles of episodes in their entire lifetime, while others will cycle
through both extremes of the disorder daily. Treatment typically
involves a combination of support programs, psychiatric counseling, and
possibly hospitalization to get a severe manic or depressive episode
stabilized with medications. Some of the medications typically used to
treat the symptoms of bipolar disorder include:
- Mood Stabilizers to control manic or hypomanic episodes (lithium, valproic acid, carbamazepine)
- Antipsychotics- if manic symptoms or depression persist (Abilify, Zyprexa, Latuda)
- Antidepressants – usually prescribed with a mood stabilizer to avoid triggering a manic episode
- Anti depressant-antipsychotic – depression treatment with a mood stabilizer (Symbyax)
- Anticonvulsants – to control manic episodes and depression ( Depakote, Tegretol)
While antidepressants, anticonvulsants and anti-psychotic medication
are typically used for bipolar symptoms, finding the optimal combination
of drugs can be tricky. Treating the symptoms of one aspect of the
disorder can trigger the other. More than half of those living with
bipolar do not feel that their medications alleviate their symptoms,
many stop taking their medications.
Some give up taking medications because of the side effects, some for
the high costs, and others because they believe they no longer need
them. While many eventually return to taking prescription medications,
some patients look to diet, exercise or supplementing their
neurotransmitters and receptors with CBD from non-psychoactive hemp, for
the potential benefits of mood stabilization.
The Potential Benefits of CBD for the Symptoms of Bipolar Disorder
While there are currently few studies on the use of CBD for bipolar
disorder, CBD appears to generate the same type of response in the body
as many of the medications used to treat the condition. The
neuroprotective and antioxidative benefits of CBD may also help to
alleviate the symptoms of bipolar and increase the levels of
brain-derived neurotrophic factor levels.
It’s not difficult to find testimony from people living with bipolar
disorder crediting CBD for relieving their symptoms, or reducing the
side effects of their current medications. While testimonies are
anecdotal, their findings appear to be backed by scientific evidence.
- A federally funded research study
neurologically assessed 133 patients diagnosed with bipolar disorder.
The test subjects took 100 mg of CBD daily over the course of several
weeks. All 133 participants reported feeling consistent energy levels
throughout the day and stable mood levels. At the end of the study,
their neurological tests were administered Each of the participants
showed remarkable improvement in attention, verbal fluency, executive
functioning and logical- memory recall.
Research also suggests that CBD appears to act similarly to atypical
antipsychotic drugs without the potentially serious and long-term side
effects, by providing anticonvulsant and mood-stabilizing benefits,
similarly to the medications used to treat manic episodes. CBD is also
shown to have value as a low-risk antidepressant that is unlikely to
interfere with prescription medications.
CBD as a Natural Dietary Supplement
It’s important to remember that CBD is not a cure or treatment for
any disorder. CBD is not a medication; it is a dietary supplement with
the potential to supplement the neurotransmitters and influence the
receptors that regulate your moods, emotions, and nearly every
important function regulated by your endocannabinoid system.
The information supporting the use of CBD from hemp is based on
research results, animal studies and the testimonies of those who claim
benefits from CBD supplements. If you have a medical condition or take
medication, it is important to discuss the potential benefits of CBD
with your healthcare provider. CBD is known to interact with some