The four most common claims found on CBD product labels and the internet are:
- CBD aids with mind clarity
- CBD aids with sleep
- CBD aids with pain relief, and
- CBD aids with exercise
We want to get to the bottom of these bold statements surrounding CBD’s health benefits. So, we’ve partnered with Tech Access Canada, Julien Le Roy, director of the Canadian college consortium of applied cannabis research, and researchers from three different colleges. Thank you to Annabelle St-Pierre, M. Sc., Innofibre, Xavier Toussay, PhD, Collège La Cité, and Max Bezaire, Loyalist College, for helping us unearth the truth about CBD.
Our first deep dive into these three claims explores how CBD aids with the clarity of the mind. We will be covering whether the strain helps with sleep in another paper. After extensive research, scientist Xavier Toussay has the 411 on CBD and mental clarity.
Does CBD improve focus and give clarity?
Many cannabis users opt for CBD strains to help improve the clarity of the mind. But do these products work? Or are these skillful marketing illusions perfected by cannabis companies?
The media and cannabis companies report that CBD products improve “mental clarity”. We’re told that these products will work wonders to better our mindsets. They promise the ability to stay focused and help organize thoughts. In scientific terms, this suggests that CBD may be a “cognitive enhancement”. A more complex concept that establishes mindfulness, self-clarity and psychological well-being .
Now, this sounds like a dream come true. But is it accurate according to scientific research?
According to blogs and articles on the internet, the answer is a big yes. You don’t have to do much scavenging on the internet to find material in CBD’s favour. Well-written artcicles on the benefits of cannabis are on the rise. Listicles of CBD wellness benefits spread like wildfire as people write based on personal experience. Yet, the majority of these articles are not backed by scientific studies. And while personal experiences are valid to the individual, they are not universal.
If you look up scientific articles about CBD and mental clarity, you’ll see a lack of publications. Unfortunately, few studies validate the link between CBD and mental clarity. So, let’s explore the publications available, and break down what they mean.
In a 2014 study conducted in Mexico, research shows CBD as a potential wake-promoting agent . This study suggests a strong correlation linking CBD with mental focus and wakefulness. To back this theory, the team sourced published and already validated works on the topic. Furthermore, they conducted their own research with animal models. With a primary focus on adult male rats, they discovered that CBD can act as a wake-promoting agent . Results varied depending on how the molecule was administered (aka dosing and way of injection). The rats remained at ease yet alert, supporting the scientist’s hypothesis.
According to the researchers, this data reveals that CBD increases the levels of dopamine (the neurotransmitter crucial for learning, focus, and motivation ), thus activating neurons in specific brain regions [12, 13]. This is a huge discovery and a big win for CBD. However, because this study is based on rats, we cannot assume the same conclusion in humans. More clinical studies are crucial to determine if CBD improves mental clarity and focus in humans.
This brings us to another issue; the utter lack of clinical trials on the health benefits of CBD.
Among a sea of marketing blogs hyping up the benefits of cannabis, the internet lacks clinical trials backing up said benefits. After some digging, Toussay found an interesting scope of clinical studies published in 2021. The publications cross-examine CBD and cognitive enhancement and psychological well-being in humans.
These studies investigate the potential effect of CBD on the human brain by using neuroimaging techniques . Alterations (increase or decrease) of signals observed in specific brain regions suggest that CBD can help with psychiatric disorders, such as anxiety and depression. Yet, while the evidence is promising, there isn’t enough to 100% support these findings. We need more clinical studies on how the modulation of brain activity by CBD can improve cognitive functions or psychological well-being in patients with mental health disorders.
Other clinical studies on CBD improving mental clarity exist, but the results (while positive) are biased.
In one study, the data collected was purely based on already existing cannabis users . A mix of cannabis users and non-cannabis users would have made the experiment more viable. Other studies analyze data seeking the effects of both CBD and THC on humans . This does not offer conclusive information on the effects of CBD alone. The findings of these studies were promising, but cannot be fairly considered.
It’s easy to see why there is so much CBD optimism. A lot of studies on CBD improving mental clarity and focus suggest positive results. However, there must be more specific research on humans to reach a clear answer. In the future, clinical studies with random, human subjects will help determine CBD’s ability to improve mental clarity.
- Hanley, A.W. and E.L. Garland, Clarity of mind: Structural equation modeling of associations between dispositional mindfulness, self-concept clarity and psychological well-being. Pers Individ Dif, 2017. 106: p. 334-339.
- Murillo-Rodríguez, E., et al., Potential effects of cannabidiol as a wake-promoting agent. Curr Neuropharmacol, 2014. 12(3): p. 269-72.
- Walton, M.E. and S. Bouret, What Is the Relationship between Dopamine and Effort? Trends Neurosci, 2019. 42(2): p. 79-91.
- Murillo-Rodríguez, E., et al., The nonpsychoactive Cannabis constituent cannabidiol is a wake-inducing agent. Behav Neurosci, 2008. 122(6): p. 1378-82.
- Guimarães, V.M., et al., Cannabidiol increases Fos expression in the nucleus accumbens but not in the dorsal striatum. Life Sci, 2004. 75(5): p. 633-8.
- Batalla, A., et al., The Impact of Cannabidiol on Human Brain Function: A Systematic Review. Front Pharmacol, 2020. 11: p. 618184.
- Broyd, S.J., et al., Acute and Chronic Effects of Cannabinoids on Human Cognition-A Systematic Review. Biol Psychiatry, 2016. 79(7): p. 557-67.
- Freeman, A.M., et al., How does cannabidiol (CBD) influence the acute effects of delta-9-tetrahydrocannabinol (THC) in humans? A systematic review. Neurosci Biobehav Rev, 2019. 107: p. 696-712.