“Pot smoking every day was like giving anxiety medication to a cat. There’s mellow, then there’s ‘Is he even breathing?`” ~ Robin Williams
When someone says CBD relieves stress, at least 90% of the people are sarcastically thinking, “look who discovered the moon!” Hemp, ganja, weed, and “hierba loca'' have a rather fascinating history as holistic anxiety and stress medication; just ask Willie Nelson. Nonetheless, it’s important to make a few distinctions and differentiate between Bob Marley’s morning, afternoon & nightly refreshment and hemp-derived CBD. And, yes, this is going to be a star-studded article because we rock! It’s just how we roll.
What Woodstock made famous and Jerry Garcia praised was commonly known in the market as marihuana. Also called Mary Jane. Herb. Ganja. Reefer. Blaze. Skunk. To be honest, we could fill up this whole page with the many ever-changing names of this controversial substance.
The primary psychoactive compound in marijuana (a type of cannabis) is tetrahydrocannabinol or THC. It’s a chemical agent thought to have evolved as a botanical self-defense system and is increasingly present in a certain group of hemp family plants.
Cannabidiol (CBD), on the other hand, is another compound derived from the cannabis plant but usually from hemp. CBD, less intense and has a non-intoxicating effect. CBD is commonly used for pain management due to its homeopathic qualities. Doses of CBD have often produced a profound feeling of well being. Of relaxation. Or as a few interviewers described it:
“Like stepping out of a hot tub. Body feeling tingly and relaxed. Brain may be clear.”
The history of CBD as a stress reliever
CBD to battle stress and anxiety isn’t something new. It didn’t start with working moms trying to battle the blues brought on by COVID lockdown. The history of medical cannabis and its derivatives goes back to ancient times. It is a thrilling tale that involved some of the most advanced civilizations of antiquity. Ancient physicians used to swear by the plant’s uncanny abilities and constantly mixed cannabis into medicine not only to treat pain but to battle “the demons of the mind” as they so elegantly called stress back in Medieval Europe.
Cannabis called má or dàmá - the former translating as great - was used by botanists about 10,000 years ago. Surgeons relied on its properties not only to calm the mind but for its numbing effects during operations. The oldest Chinese pharmacopeia described the effects of dàmá for calming nerves and the spirit.
“The use of Cannabis in medicine was probably a very early development. It was quite natural for people to discover the medicinal properties of the plant.”
During the late Neolithic the Beaker culture used cannabis as a painkiller and balm against the worries of the days.
The Ebers Papyrus - a text from that old empire - is one of a thousand documents that described cannabis medicinal purposes and application. The plant was widely used in the land of the Nile as a suppository, a pain reliever, and, later, as a way to “exorcise spirits” what the ancient Egyptian thought stress and other emotional afflictions were.
Cannabis was a major component in religious practices. Text from that epoch confirms the plant's medicinal properties. Doctors used oils created from the plant to battle insomnia, headaches, gastrointestinal disorders, relieve childbirth pain, etc. Indian Philosophers swore that its quality was ethereal and great. They called the plant “bhang” and were quoted as saying:
“A guardian lives in the bhang leaf. …To see in a dream the leaves, plant, or water of bhang is lucky. …A longing for bhang foretells happiness.”
The Greeks used cannabis to dress wounds and expel tapeworms. Over time they started employing the plant in the wine manufacturing process and, finally, in their steam bathhouses for a more mellow vibe and overall groovy atmosphere.
Medieval Islamic World
Cannabis sativa was used extensively as medication from the 7th to 19th century. It was a great one-stop plant that cure most ailments or at-least alleviated the pain they caused.
Up until cannabis became a controlled substance, interest in the plant was trending in the medical community. Not only among those that treated ailments of the body but among those that soothed the mind’s rages; psychologist.
Irish physician, William Brooke O’Shaughnessy was on the cutting edge of medicine; he was the first to start using - in the West - cannabis as a therapeutic drug. By the 1830s, Williams and a few of his contemporary, like Moreau de Tour, began using oils distilled from cannabis to treat melancholia, migraines, sleeping problems, and convulsions.
In the West, mid 19th century, enthusiasm in the use of Cannabis and its derivatives began to grow. By 1937 there were more than 2000 cannabis medicines on the market.
CBD and Stress
But was all of that - eons of cultivated and gathered wisdom, from different cultures, and different periods - just pseudoscience? Were the Egyptians, Greeks, Indians, and thousands of other civilizations just selling “snake oil”?
Luckily, nowadays we have science. We don’t need to have faith in the power of CBD against stress when we can simply turn to all those scholars with all their gadgets and ask them to do the research and come to us with a definitive answer.
“Is CBD good for combating stress?”
The scientific community spoke, in unison, and its answer was a resounding “YES!”
CBD, How it works
Unlike THC, CBD doesn’t give you that high you normally associate with cannabis. It does nonetheless help you in coping with stress and anxiety.
CBD works by interacting with protein-based receptors that are attached to our cells. In the scientific community, the receptors CBD mostly connects with are the CB1 and CB2 receptors; two of the most important receptors in the body’s central nervous system. They are the sensory molecules that manage serotonin; a neurotransmitter that is commonly associated with happiness. Low serotonin levels produce depression and anxiety.
Healing without the high
The National Institute on Drug Abuse has stated that CBD has been shown to reduce, significantly, the stress in subjects. Physiologically it even improved a subjects’ heart rate and repealed the symptoms of anxiety.
CBD has also helped patients with social anxiety disorders and post-traumatic stress disorder, as well as people who suffer from insomnia.
In 2011, a study demonstrated that CBD was a perfect way to complement cognitive-behavioral therapy. Patients on CBD oil advanced at a quicker pace in their therapy than their non-CBD counterparts.
In 2017, a literature review and peer study, done by psychiatrists, found evidence that CBD not only helps patients with anxiety disorder but in ideal doses could be used to treat schizophrenia; due to its antipsychotic effects and the fact that it has none of the debilitating side-effect normally associated with antipsychotic drugs.
The Power of CBD on Stress
Finally, among the thousands of studies performed on CBD oil, one, in particular, has the scientific community taking notice. CBD and other cannabis compounds have helped patients with depression. A study that used CBD as an antidepressant demonstrated, through the use of MRI, that people who had been diagnosed with depression were getting better. The part of their brain, normally associated with this illness, was no longer showing flare-ups during the MRI. And what were they taking? CBD oil!
The power of CBD as a stress reliever is nothing new. To be honest, due to the various laws that prohibited the compound, we as a society simply took a detour during the last 100 years or so. CBD and the cannabis plant have existed since the dawn of time. Up until the early 20th century it was one of the most common drugs to treat depression, stress, and anxiety… We just lost our way this past few years, that’s all.