Is CBD a Nootropic?

Is CBD a Nootropic?


From revitalizing to promoting restful sleep, CBD has several badges of honor to its name. A fairly new addition is its nootropic property. Now wait a minute, what is nootropic?

A nootropic is a substance that has a positive effect on your brain. It helps in enhancing memory, focus, and mood and supports healthy brain function. A common nootropic is caffeine which helps boost energy and focus. Other natural nootropics you’ve heard of are ginseng, green tea, rosemary, etc.

But how does it work? Even though the brain comprises only 2% of the body weight, it uses about 20% of our total blood supply. What a nootropic does is it increases the blood circulation to the brain, thus feeding it with additional energy and oxygen. When the brain receives enough blood supply and oxygen, it stays healthy and functions to its optimum level.

So where does CBD come into this? To understand how CBD is connected with this concept, it’s important to first lay down how CBD interacts with the body. Every time there is talk of CBD, the endocannabinoid system is front and center. This is because CBD interacts primarily with our endocannabinoid system (ECS) which acts as a bridge between the mind and the body to keep the body in a balanced state, also known as homeostasis.

The ECS is a network of cannabinoid receptors, endocannabinoids, and enzymes. There are two types of cannabinoid receptors, CB1 and CB2 that are spread throughout the body. The endocannabinoids interact with your body through these receptors. It has been found that the naturally-occurring chemicals in CBD mimic the endocannabinoids and bind with the same receptors including the ones present in different parts of your brain. This facilitates the communication between cells to achieve homeostasis.

In an attempt to get down to the specifics of CBD’s nootropic property, researchers set out to investigate how CBD influences blood flow to different regions of the brain. A study was conducted with 15 young adults with no history of cannabis use. The participants were divided into two groups - one group was given 600 mg of CBD orally and the other group was given a placebo. Before and after MRIs were performed to compare the outcome between the two groups.

It was found that those given CBD had a significant increase in blood flow to the hippocampus, which is responsible for learning and memory, while the blood flow to the other parts of the same cerebral region remained unchanged. In addition, the orbitofrontal cortex in the prefrontal cortex of the brain, which does all the planning and decision-making, also saw a remarkable increase in blood flow triggered by CBD.

Both the hippocampus and the prefrontal cortex are sensitive to stress which can wreak havoc with their daily duties. Since the hippocampus has the highest level of binding of cannabinoid receptors, the use of CBD helps tremendously in supporting stress management, mood regulation, and mental clarity. CBD does this by activating the serotonin receptors and regulating distress signals.

Serotonin is a compound that carries signals between the nerve cells of our body and is associated with the feeling of well-being. CBD improves how the brain responds to the serotonin in your system. This process helps calm the mind and reduce stress, thus restoring balance. 

Studies have also shown CBD’s anti-neuroinflammation properties. Neuroinflammation in the brain is the primary cause of ‘brain fog’. ‘Brain fog’ is the feeling you get when your days lack variety for a long period of time, a common example being the work-from-home monotony due to the COVID19 pandemic. This is where CBD’s role as a nootropic comes to the rescue.

Thankfully, CBD is a safe and reliable nootropic that does not cause any side effects. It’s important to understand here that CBD does not increase your brainpower. Instead, it works to mitigate hurdles that your brain comes across in functioning at its ideal level.