A few years back, I watched a stand-up comedian named Frankie Boyle suggest that the term ‘stress’ was little more than a rebranding of the word ‘unhappy’, and there is a lot of merit in what he said. While there is no universal definition of the word, stress is a negative thing capable of causing a myriad of long-term health problems. Although stress can increase productivity, it does untold damage to the psyche over time. On a perfectly normal day, it could reach boiling point and cause a nervous breakdown.
Unfortunately, chronic stress is practically an everyday thing. In the United States, 77% of people experience physical symptoms caused by stress, while 73% of individuals experience psychological problems because of it. Almost half of Americans believe their stress level has increased in the last five years, while one-third admit to living with ‘extreme’ stress. This epidemic is great for Big Pharma and their vast assortment of anxiolytics and antidepressants, the side effects of which range from mild to severe.
As such, it’s almost beyond question that Americans need a better solution. Is CBD oil for stress the answer? Read on to find out.
What Causes Stress?
This is an interesting question because the answer depends on your lifestyle, beliefs, and general outlook on life. Interestingly enough the American Psychological Association’s (APA) most recent survey in 2017 found that senior citizens aged 72+ had the lowest levels of stress. In contrast, Millennials (those born between 1981 and 1996 according to Pew research) had the highest rate of stress, as they have each year since 2014. For younger Americans, finance is the biggest burden while seniors are more concerned about the government.
For the record, the APA listed the top five causes of stress amongst Americans:
- The country’s future – 63%
- Money – 62%
- Work – 61%
- The political climate at present – 57%
- Crime and violence – 51%
None of the above are surprises because they are age-old concerns. Picture this scene: you have to wake up at 6 am to three screaming kids and get them ready for school. Rush hour traffic means you’re five minutes late and your inconsiderate boss reprimands you and suggests you could be in for disciplinary action if it happens again. Sound familiar?
One hard day at work and three arguments with colleagues later, you fight rush hour traffic again on the way home. There is a letter from the IRS waiting for you, which demands the taxes you owe. The cupboards are bare so you have to rush to the store to get food to make dinner for your kids. You’re exhausted by that time, but have to finish a report for work tomorrow. This is your life. No wonder people are stressed!
When you’re in a stressful situation, your nervous system releases hormones in a ‘fight or flight’ response. Your heartbeat increases, as does your breathing, while your muscles become tense and you begin to sweat. This is perfectly natural short-term (acute) stress, which your body can recover from relatively quickly.
However, if your stress system is activated for a long time (chronic stress), symptoms can include:
- Hardening of the arteries
- Abnormal heartbeat
- High blood pressure
- Heart disease
- Weight loss or gain
- Ulcers, IBS, heartburn
Failure to manage your stress means you’re putting your health in serious jeopardy. If you think things are bad now, imagine what they’ll be like when you end up in the hospital and see the medical bill! As the recent saying goes, many Americans are just a hospital visit away from life-long debt.
As such, it is common for people with stress to try and find a ‘quick fix’ in the form of medication. Antidepressants and anti-anxiety drugs are popular, but come with a host of possible side effects. While antihistamines can calm you down, the sedating effect is powerful and you’ll feel groggy and disoriented for a considerable period after waking up. In contrast, about one-third of people who use bupropion experience insomnia. The list of side effects among Big Pharma’s endless array of “products” is concerning:
- Antidepressants could increase the risk of suicide in people up to the age of 24.
- Fast withdrawal of SSRIs causes confusion, dizziness, and anxiety.
- Prozac can cause rashes.
- Fluoxetine can cause insomnia and weight loss.
- Remeron has been known to cause a blood disorder called agranulocytosis.
The frightening list goes on and on, and the side effects and dubious efficacy of Big Pharma’s solutions mean Americans are beginning to flock to CBD as a means of tackling stress.
CBD Oil for Stress: Can it Help?
One of the main issues with stress is the problems it causes in your nervous system. When you have chronic stress, your body is in constant ‘fight or flight’ mode which quickly exhausts you. People who use CBD oil claim that it is capable of calming both the body and mind down within 15 minutes.
As a cannabinoid, CBD works with our endocannabinoid system (ECS), which has a significant impact on many of the body’s physiological functions. These include appetite, pain perception, mood, memory, and motor control. When you consume CBD, it regulates your emotional response to trauma and prevents more stress. It also minimizes the stress receptors in the brain in areas such as the amygdala and hippocampus. These are the areas responsible for processing our emotions and senses.
If you have a properly functioning ECS in the Hypothalamic-Pituitary-Adrenal (HPA) Axis and amygdala, studies show that your body will have the ability to cope better with elevated stress levels. The HPA Axis is in charge of controlling stress hormones, such as cortisol. If you suffer from disrupted ECS signaling (otherwise known as endocannabinoid deficiency), it would explain while you feel so stressed all the time. When you consume marijuana’s compounds such as CBD, it works with the ECS to restore balance.
Sachin Patel of the Vanderbilt University School of Medicine led a study which found that an endocannabinoid named 2-AG plays an important role in stress resilience. The team discovered that mice who had 2-AG administered to their amygdala had a higher tolerance to stress than mice who lacked 2-AG. The study concluded that boosting this signaling system was a potential way to treat disorders linked with stress.
THC, one of the psychoactive compounds of weed, has a binding affinity with CB1 receptors (which are primarily found in the nervous system and brain). It has a calming effect in small doses but interestingly, THC can produce anxiety in higher doses. In contrast, CBD oil doesn’t have a binding affinity with CB1 receptors, and it in fact counteracts the psychoactivity of THC.
FAAH is the enzyme that causes the breaking down of anandamide, which is known as the ‘bliss molecule’. As you can probably guess, low levels of anandamide are linked with both stress and depression. CBD inhibits the production of FAAH, which in turn boosts anandamide production and improves our capacity to handle stress.
CBD & Stress Symptoms
CBD is also excellent at dealing with several stress symptoms. For example, a 2009 study by Resstel et al. discovered that CBD activates the serotonin 5HT1a receptor. This helps to reduce anxiety. Moreover, it’s been common knowledge for years that cannabidiol is a strong anti-inflammatory agent, and as you probably know, inflammation is the cause of various medical issues including heart disease (which coincidentally is another malady exacerbated by stress).
A combination of inflammation and chronic stress increases your risk of hardened arteries, a dangerous condition known as atherosclerosis. In 2017, Associate Professor Saoirse O’Sullivan presented a paper which described how CBD reduces blood pressure in humans. In the publication, nine volunteers received 600mg of CBD in a double-blind study and found that the cannabinoid reduced resting blood pressure. Remember, an increase in blood pressure usually results in a faster heartbeat.
The paper also suggested that CBD inhibits the part of our nervous system responsible for the ‘fight or flight’ response that is associated with stress. As a result, repeated CBD use could alleviate chronic stress, reduce blood pressure, and slow down our heartbeat.
Final Thoughts on CBD for Stress Relief
It is not an exaggeration to suggest that chronic stress is a killer. If you continually expose yourself to stressful situations and don’t seek the right treatment, you could experience medical issues such as increased blood pressure and atherosclerosis, both of which can lead to heart disease and even death. Moreover, the wide range of easily procured pharmaceuticals available to treat stress appears to do as much harm as they do good.
In contrast, CBD comes from the marijuana plant which grows 100% naturally. It is non-intoxicating and produces little in the way of known side effects. Although research is ongoing, initial results suggest that it acts on our ECS to prevent the ‘fight or flight’ response that disrupts ECS signaling and takes a heavy toll on our physical and mental well-being. If you’re interested in using CBD oil for stress, choose full-spectrum products as the added cannabinoids and terpenes have shown to have a greater effect on the body than CBD alone.
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