Millions of Americans already trust cannabis to help with stress. As we’ve shared before, certain cannabis compounds—specifically the cannabinoid CBD—seem to promote better mood and emotional well-being, and studies suggest that CBD has stress-relieving properties.
Important though this is, it doesn’t tell us how CBD works in partnership with our body’s natural signaling system. And part of the answer may lie in the ways that CBD interacts with cortisol, the most important "stress hormone.”
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In today’s post, we’ll take a deep dive into the world of hormones and cannabinoids. And we’ll explore the endocannabinoid system to try and understand exactly why CBD for stress relief can be such a winning combination.
Cannabis for Wellness: The CBD vs THC Question
As you probably know, CBD is one of the most important cannabinoids in the cannabis plant. Current research is investigating CBD’s potential for a wide variety of therapeutic applications such as relieving discomfort and supporting better rest, among several others.
The other principal cannabinoid is THC, and in some ways it couldn’t be more different than CBD. For one thing, THC imparts a euphoric and intoxicating experience. But when it comes to using cannabis for wellness—specifically to fight stress—THC may heighten anxiety rather than reduce it.
According to a large-scale review of the medical literature, the effects of THC are highly dose dependent. At low doses THC can act as a mood booster while relieving tension, but at high doses THC may become anxiogenic, or produce anxiety. This is why the recommended approach of “start low and go slow” for finding the optimal amount of THC for your body is so valuable!
CBD, as we mentioned, does the opposite: It tends to promote and support a general feeling of wellness and vitality.What’s more, CBD may even work in concert with THC to balance its effects.
Cannabis for Wellness: CBD, Cortisol, and the Stress Response
People are turning to stress relief supplements more often than ever before, and the American Psychological Association has even gone so far as to label stress a national mental health crisis.
How does cortisol fit into the picture?
It’s true that cortisol is often labeled as “the stress hormone,” but in fact, it has a number of valuable functions outside the “fight or flight” stress response. Cortisol helps us regulate our blood sugar and contributes to healthy metabolic function, among other things. But when the body is subjected to an excess of cortisol—typically from a stressful situation such as an emotional crisis, physical threat, or even highly intense exercise—it exerts a number of negative effects: High blood pressure, increased abdominal fat, even contributing to certain cancers and mental health disorders.
Initial research suggests that CBD may impact our cortisol levels by inhibiting secretion of the hormone. One clinical study showed that blood cortisol levels were reduced in participants taking CBD, which may provide a clue as to how this compound is able to offer its mood boosting and soothing effects.
CBD Stress Relief: The Effects of High Intensity Workouts
High intensity workouts (working at 80-90% of your maximum heart rate) have been trending in fitness circles for years, and while they can be a great addition to your workout routine, many experts agree that they should be done in moderation. Because while pushing our bodies hard can feel satisfying—even exhilarating—the excess cortisol this produces might actually diminish the usefulness of your workout.
That’s because it is cortisol’s job to spur the body into producing more energy in moments of crisis; and when we intentionally push the body to produce more energy it can break down muscle tissue to extract more usable energy in the form of sugar. Chronically elevated cortisol levels might actually work against our muscle-building and weight-loss goals. And due to the demands of day-to-day life, intense exercise is just one of many ways our cortisol levels can become chronically elevated.
Seeing that leveraging cannabis for wellness is one of Papa & Barkley’s guiding principles, we want you to get the very most out of both CBD and your workout routine. Be aware that you can push your body too far and too fast, so consider instead engaging in more moderate and measured forms of exercise. On those occasions when you may go the extra mile, consider a gentle and sustainable aid to muscle recovery.
CBD for Health and Wellness: In Conclusion
We’re passionate about our customers’ health and wellness and the potential of this all-natural plant medicine. If you have other questions about how to use CBD to support your health and wellness, reach out. We’re always here to help!