How Does CBD Interact With The Brain

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If you’re new to CBD and hemp-derived products in general, questions like “how does CBD affect the brain” and “what does CBD do to the brain” might bring up a few worries and negative associations. Fortunately, the effects of CBD on the brain are not only different from those of the psychoactive cannabinoid THC, they are actually overwhelmingly positive. Find out how CBD can help with learning, memory, and focus.

CBD and Your Cannabinoid Receptors

To understand how CBD affects the brain, let’s begin with a quick recap of the way cannabinoids interact with the human body. Firstly, our bodies themselves produce cannabinoids—the proteins anandamide and 2-AG. When these “feel-good” substances are produced, they bind to an extensive network of receptors located throughout the brain and body to give us a lift and help restore balance. For some people, this could mean a reduced sensation of pain. For others, it could mean a sense of calm in place of anxiety.

When we ingest or apply cannabinoids from plants—known as phytocannabinoids—these compounds stimulate our body’s own system of receptors in ways that are both similar and different to the cannabinoids we produce ourselves. THC, for example, slots into our receptors like a key in a lock and much in the same way as the endocannabinoid anandamide does. CBD, in contrast, affects the brain differently. Rather than slotting into the receptors directly, CBD modifies the way in which our endocannabinoids and hormones continue to circulate—amplifying and extending their effects.

What Does CBD do to the Brain: Understanding CB Receptor Activity

The brain is one of the places in the body where we have the highest concentration of cannabinoid receptors (CB receptors), and that’s why our sensorial perception, coordination, and ability to make decisions are so quickly affected by THC. So, how does CBD affect the brain? It’s all related to the part of the brain where cannabinoid (CB) receptors are located. Let’s take a look at the primary areas of the brain that CBD might potentially affect, thanks to the high concentration of CB receptors at these particular sites:

  • Olfactory bulb—important for the sense of smell
  • Hippocampus—important for long-term memory
  • Basal ganglia—important for coordination and emotion
  • Cerebellum—important for the senses as well as motor movements

A moderate number of CB1 receptors can be found in the following areas, which gives us more clues regarding the effects of CBD on the brain:

  • Cerebral cortex—responsible for attention, awareness, thought, memory, language, and consciousness
  • Septum—separates the lateral ventricles of the brain
  • Amygdala—responsible for emotional processing and behavior
  • Hypothalamus—responsible for maintaining homeostasis in the body
  • Parts of the brainstem—regulate heart rate, sleeping, eating, and breathing
  • Dorsal horn of the spinal cord—relates to sensory processing, excitatory and inhibitory neurons

The other type of cannabinoid receptor—CB2—is also present in the brain but to a much lesser degree. When exploring the question of how CBD affects the brain, researchers have discovered that the CB2 receptor “plays an active role in neurological activities, such as nociception, drug addiction, and neuroinflammation.” CB2 receptors are also thought to be involved in regulating the excitability of neurons (related to anxiety) in the prefrontal cortical pyramidal neurons.

The Effects of CBD on the Brain

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With so many receptors located in the brain, how does CBD actually affect the brain when you take a dropper of CBD oil or eat a CBD gummy or CBD supplement powder? Contrary to the near-instant “high” of psychoactive cannabinoids like THC, CBD actually has much slower and more subtle effects and seems to support healthy brain function for memory, learning, focus, and neural health. Check out some of the amazing things that CBD does to the brain:


Focus is essential for making the most of training sessions and maintaining peak performance, raising the question ‘what does CBD do to the brain in terms of focus?” Studies indicate that CBD could help with focus by reducing hyperactive and impulsive behaviors, helping with concentration, and improving the quality and effects of sleep. Cannabidiol has also been observed to have antipsychotic effects—which could be good news for anyone struggling with focus due to psychosis.


We know that smoking whole cannabis can affect and even impair memory, so how does CBD affect the brain in this regard? In a study published in August 2020, cannabidiol increased blood flow to the areas of the brain associated with memory and improved the reaction time of participants in a working memory task—although this didn’t necessarily correlate with more correct answers than the placebo.


How does CBD affect the brain in terms of learning ability and cognition? According to a clinical trial published in 2018, CBD has positive cognitive effects on the brain, including improvements in verbal learning, memory, and the ability to switch attention from one thing to another. In this trial, the participants were regular users of cannabis (including THC), and further studies would be needed to confirm these results in otherwise healthy non-cannabis-smokers.


Finally, how does CBD affect the brain over the long term? With neurodegenerative diseases like Alzheimer’s affecting 1 in 10 Americans (and this figure is expected to rise), health-conscious people are keen to find natural ways to support brain function and prevent dementia in their senior years.

While we can’t claim that CBD will prevent or cure Alzheimer’s, studies have shown that cannabidiol has a significant impact on oxidative stress in the neurons of the hippocampus—a process that is strongly linked with Alzheimer’s disease. Despite the fact that this disease is not considered to be preventable or curable, supplementing with CBD and other antioxidants is a strong step you could potentially take to give yourself the best chances of health.

Take Advantage of CBD’s Effects on the Brain with EndoCoast

For some, reading about how CBD affects the brain might have confirmed what you already knew. For others, it might have put your mind at ease about the benefits of CBD for every aspect of health. Now that you know what CBD does to the brain, experience CBD’s effects on the brain for yourself with our lab-tested, full-spectrum CBD oils and edibles. Our high-quality hemp oil comes from crops that are grown without herbicides or pesticides and extracted using a clean supercritical CO2 process. View our Certificates of Analysis for full peace of mind and #findyourflow with EndoCoast CBD today!