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Stress Support 102: Cannabinoids and the Inflammatory Aspect of Stress

In this 3-part blog series (Stress Support 101, 102, and 103), the Quicksilver Staff addresses a multipronged approach to supporting the body under stress. Stay tuned for each essential tidbit!

Reduce Inflammation & Restore Resilience

Constant psychological, emotional or physical stress raises the level of cortisol, creating inflammation. In fact, chronic psychological stress is correlated with the body losing its ability to regulate the inflammatory response, according to scientist Sheldon Cohen of Carnegie Mellon University, who was the first to prove that people under lots of stress are more susceptible to the common cold.1 Cohen and his team also found that prolonged stress decreases tissue sensitivity to cortisol, which becomes chronically elevated, much like the body develops a resistance to chronically elevated glucose in type-2 diabetes. When immune cells become insensitive to cortisol’s regulatory effect, runaway inflammation is thought to promote the development of numerous chronic diseases.2

Thus, in order to reduce the potentially harmful impact of stress, we need to reduce inflammation. One substance that has a gentle and potent impact on inflammation is cannabidiol, or CBD oil. CBD oil is non-psychoactive and is extracted from hemp—part of the cannabis family. Cannabis contains an array of 400 unique chemicals, with approximately 70 non-psychogenic but potent bioactive cannabinoids that are currently known.3,4 We actually synthesize our own cannabinoids and have a built in endocannabinoid system, discovered in 1992, which is critical for bioregulation and homeostasis in the body.5 For that reason, it shouldn’t be surprising that the bioactive gifts in cannabis also are balancing agents.

Cannabinoids have been shown to help regulate inflammation, appetite, sleep, mood, pain, insulin sensitivity, fat and energy metabolism, and even affect neurologic and immune conditions.6 The cellular receptors to which cannabinoids bind are found in many types of cells throughout the body, and are expressed at high levels in the nervous and immune systems.7 Cannabinoids influence the activity of over a thousand different genes. They may help upregulate our cellular antioxidant defenses and at the same time, may help downregulate many pro-inflammatory mediators.8

CBD oil is a potent anti-inflammatory and antioxidant, and increases levels of the neurotransmitter serotonin as well as that of one of the endocannabinoids we secrete in our body, anandamide.9,10 Anandamide has its origins in the Sanskrit word ananda, meaning joy or bliss, and has been shown to play a role in the experience of pain and anxiety.11 CBD oil stimulates the growth of new neurons in the brain, and by doing such may support the reduction of depression.12Cannabinoids also modulate the activity of receptors which are associated with symptoms of anxiety.13 Cannabinoids stabilize the NDMA receptor, which is sensitive to glutamate, a powerful excitatory, stimulating neurotransmitter that at excessive amounts can contribute to neurodegenerative conditions such as Alzheimer’s dementia and multiple sclerosis.14 Cannabinoids seem to function as an overall tonic for the brain, protecting against chronic stress, which can decrease the growth and density of new neurons in parts of the brain. They also influence mechanisms that govern the life and death of neurons, suggesting they may be helpful for neurodegenerative conditions.15,16

Overall, CBD oil calms the body and brain, helping quiet inflammation and serving as a powerful foundation which other natural tools such as GABA and L-theanine also enhance (see Stress Support 101: GABA and L-Theanine: The Fast Acting Stress and Anxiety Antidote for further reading).


1 Cohen S, Tyrrell DA, Smith AP Psychological stress and susceptibility to the common cold: N Engl J Med. 1991 Aug 29;325(9):606-12. View Abstract
2 Cohen S, Janicki-Deverts D, Doyle WJ et al. Chronic stress, glucocorticoid receptor resistance, inflammation, and disease risk.Proc Natl Acad Sci U S A. 2012 Apr 17;109(16):5995-9. View Abstract
3 Elsohly MA, Slade D. Chemical constituents of marijuana: the complex mixture of natural cannabinoids. Life Sci 2005;78:539– 548 View Abstract
4 Mechoulam R, Peters M, Murillo-Rodriguez E, et al. Cannabidiol—recent advances. Chem Biodivers 2007;4:1678–1692 View Abstract
5 Griffing GT. Endocannabinoids. Feb 2015. [cited July 21, 2017] Available at: http://emedicine.medscape.com/article/1361971-overview
6 Witkamp R, Meijerink J. The endocannabinoid system: an emerging key player in inflammation. Curr Opin Clin Nutr Metab Care. 2014 Mar;17(2) View Abstract
7 Pertwee RG, Howlett AC, Abood ME et al. Cannabinoid receptors and their ligands: beyond CB₁ and CB₂.Pharmacol Rev. 2010 Dec;62(4):588-631 View Full Paper
8 Juknat A, Pietr M, Kozela E. et al. Differential transcriptional profiles mediated by exposure to the cannabinoids cannabidiol and Δ9-tetrahydrocannabinol in BV-2 microglial cells. Br J Pharmacol. 2012 Apr;165(8):2512-28. View Full Paper
9 Grotenhermen F, Müller-Vahl K. The Therapeutic Potential of Cannabis and Cannabinoids Dtsch Arztebl Int. 2012 Jul; 109(29-30): 495–501 View Abstract
10 Leweke FM, Piomelli D, Pahlisch F et al. Cannabidiol enhances anandamide signaling and alleviates psychotic symptoms of schizophrenia. Translational Psychiatry (2012) 2. View Full Paper
11 McPartland JM, Guy GW, Di Marzo V Care and feeding of the endocannabinoid system: a systematic review of potential clinical interventions that upregulate the endocannabinoid system. PLoS One. 2014 Mar 12;9(3):e89566. View Full Paper
12 Guimarães FS, Fogaça MV, Silveria F et al. Cannabinoids, Neurogenesis and Antidepressant Drugs: Is there a Link? Curr Neuropharmacol. 2013 May; 11(3): 263–275. View Full Paper
13 Rey AA, Purrio M, Viveros MP, et al. Biphasic Effects of Cannabinoids in Anxiety Responses: CB1 and GABAB Receptors in the Balance of GABAergic and Glutamatergic Neurotransmission. Neuropsychopharmacology. 2012 Nov; 37(12): 2624–2634 View Abstract
14 Hallak JE, Dursun SM, Bosi DC et al. The interplay of cannabinoid and NMDA glutamate receptor systems in humans: preliminary evidence of interactive effects of cannabidiol and ketamine in healthy human subjects. Prog Neuropsychopharmacol Biol Psychiatry. 2011 Jan 15;35(1):198-202. View Abstract
15 More, SV, Choi DK. Promising cannabinoid-based therapies for Parkinson’s disease: motor symptoms to neuroprotection. Mol Neurodegener. 2015. 10: 17. View Abstract
16 Campbell VA, Gowran A. Alzheimer’s disease; taking the edge off with cannabinoids? Br J Pharmacol. 2007 Nov; 152(5): 655–66 View Abstract
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