CBD oil has many beneficial effects, from pain relief to better, more nourishing sleep to reducing the effects of anxiety and depression. These benefits are fairly well known and written about, but did you know that taking CBD oil could have such a beneficial effect on the brain that it could help it form new, and better neuronal connections?
New research suggests that could very well be the case.
Specifically, CBD can affect two types of brain waves – alpha and beta – and the effects can be significantly far-reaching. And it’s all down to the concept of neuroplasticity.
What is Neuroplasticity?
The science of neuroplasticity is a relatively new concept, that’s the subject of much research. It relates to the ability of the brain to “change and adapt as a result of experience”. It’s possible that the brain can create new neuronal pathways and even create new neurons, therefore creating a different physical structure – all by us learning new things.
Like a muscle, where if it’s worked on, say a bicep muscle is worked on by lifting weights, it will create new muscle fibres, growing the muscle and changing its shape, it’s thought that the brain can do something similar.
Neuroplasticity allows us to learn new things and means that our cognition (our ability to think, reason, remember, solve problems and communicate effectively) can be improved. Astonishingly, it also means that in some cases, damaged parts of the brain, such as after traumatic injury or a stroke can recover.
What Are the Different Types of Brain Waves?
The human brain operates on five distinct brain waves patterns and frequencies…
Delta brain waves are the slowest brain wave and are produced when we’re in a deep sleep, but we’re not dreaming.
Theta brain waves are produced by the brain when we’re in a deeply relaxed but awake state or we’re in a light sleep.
Alpha brain waves are in the middle of the brain wave spectrum and are produced when we’re fairly calm and not really thinking about or concentrating on anything particularly taxing.
Beta brain waves are high-speed brain waves and are produced when we’re fully engaged and focussed and on full alert.
Gamma brain waves are the fastest brainwaves and are produced when we’re using our brain to problem solves, learn and concentrate.
For this article, we’re focussing on the alpha and beta brain waves. From
the list above, we can see that beta brain waves are related to a sense of arousal and alertness, whilst alpha brain waves are associated with the opposite – non-arousal and relaxation.
(And incidentally, electrical activity, in the form of brain waves, is routinely measured using an EEG machine in a clinical setting in case you were wondering if this was all a bit pseudoscience-y.)
How Does CBD Help us Respond to Stress?
Being in an alpha state when we’re awake, rather than a geared up beta state means that we’re more likely to make considered, informed, healthy choices, rather than being in a constant state of alert, or stress. (As much as beta brain waves help us fire on all cylinders, this isn’t a healthy state to be in, long term as it can be exhausting.)
Sadly, for most of us living everyday life, we’re more likely to be found in a beta state, than an alpha state. And living in a stressed state means that inflammation can build up in the body.
Chronic inflammation can make us more susceptible to developing chronic inflammatory diseases such as obesity, heart disease, type 2 diabetes, Alzheimer’s disease and even certain cancers.
Research has shown that taking CBD can cause alpha brain waves to significantly increase in frequency, whilst causing the beta brainwaves to decrease. So that is, an increase in relaxing, peaceful brain waves and a decrease in switched on, alert, fight or flight, inflammation-causing brain waves. Sounds blissful, huh?
And this is all down to the potential for CBD to affect neuroplasticity, altering the
connections in our brains. What’s most beneficial, especially so for the millions of us that experience regular stress, is that neuroplasticity and changes in brain connections could help us better deal with stress.
The Connection Between Neuroplasticity, Inflammation and CBD.
If we can allow our brain to move more easily into a calm, alpha state, after experiencing stress, it allows more blood to flow through the brain. It’s thought that this could help to clear plaque from the blood vessels in the brain. This allows it to function better, and respond more quickly to stress, reducing the inflammation caused by stress.
So like anything where being adaptable is beneficial and less stress-causing, if we can make our brains more adaptable by using CBD, then we’ll exist in a much calmer state. Seems to make sense, right?
And that’s yet another win for CBD.