CBD and Mindfulness: Can they work together?

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Mindfulness is the practice of maintaining a dispassionate, non-evaluative, and continuous moment-by-moment awareness of one’s thoughts, emotions, or surroundings. Whilst the most common way to practice mindfulness is through mindful breathing, walking and yoga, more recently, many individuals are beginning to incorporate cannabidiol (CBD) as part of their mindfulness routines. Mixing CBD and mindfulness provides an even greater effect on awareness both during and after practice, which creates a clear mindset and a more relaxed state.

What is Mindfulness?

To be mindful is to observe and identify one’s thoughts, feelings and body sensations in an objective manner. The aim of this mindfulness practice is to interrupt what can be an unhealthy tendency to overthink and stress out about transient contents of the mind. As a result, this provides a useful tool to counteract self-criticism or judgment whilst managing difficult emotions. Mindfulness can be trained in a variety of ways such as meditation, mindful breathing, mindful walking, yoga, thinking or simply listening. 

There is a common misconception that mindfulness and meditation are the same things. Whilst mindfulness is not limited to dedicated periods of practice, meditation is the practice of training your mind for everyday mindfulness. 

Mindfulness meditation initially shifts the brain waves from a high-frequency to a much lower frequency, which consequently activates and deactivates particular brain regions. Not only this, but mindfulness meditation has been shown to change brain shape and cortical connections – a process termed neuroplasticity. In accordance with this idea, recent neuroimaging evidence has indicated that mindfulness practice changes the cortical structure of brain areas such as the medial cortex, insula, amygdala, lateral frontal regions and basal ganglia – areas which are strongly implemented in emotional processing, fear and anxiety regulation. 

The more mindful you become, the less distracted you will be from the present, which consequently helps you return to a given moment. Try to analyse and comprehend your feelings during mindfulness practice, taking notes of any sensations you experience. As you practice this more, achieving a mindful state will become more natural and you might even notice you are practising it unintentionally.

Myths about CBD 

Before we proceed to discuss how CBD can enhance your mindfulness practices, let us go through some of the misinformation people often are exposed to on the internet. Below are some common myths and important facts about CBD, that will help to clarify any misconceptions about the cannabinoid you may have.

  1. “Will CBD make me high?” 

The largest-ever UK survey conducted on CBD has recently reported that a remarkable 59% of adults are unaware of the difference between THC and cannabis — a shocking figure considering the increasing popularity of this natural compound. This misconception is commonly derived from the confusion between CBD and Tetrahydrocannabinol (THC), another cannabinoid which comes from the Cannabis sativa plant. Since both cannabinoids come from the same plant, it is commonly assumed that they both get you high – which is not the case.

THC and CBD act differently in the body when consumed. THC is responsible for the psychoactive effects of marijuana, creating feelings of euphoria as it binds to the CB1 and CB2 cannabinoid receptors in the human brains. As a result, it stimulates the dopamine neurons within the brain’s reward circuitry – also referred to as the mesolimbic pathway – which subsequently triggers a dopamine release. Activation of this pathway is strongly associated with addictive behaviours. Given that THC increases the activity of this pathway, this consequently promotes regular use of the drug.

In contrast, CBD is a non-psychoactive cannabinoid that does not cause a high effect. Unlike THC, CBD does not bind to CB1 or CB2 cannabinoid receptors. Instead, it regulates various non-cannabinoid receptors throughout the body, including 5-HT1A serotonin receptors (responsible for the anti-anxiety effects) and TRPV1/vanilloid receptors (which promotes anti-inflammatory, analgesic and homeostatic effects). There is also no current evidence which suggests that CBD has the potential for abuse or dependence in the user. In actual fact, CBD is shown to reduce the mind-altering effects of THC.

  1. “Is CBD legal?”

Arguably the most confusing aspect of CBD is its legality. CBD is completely legal in the UK, provided that it has been derived from an industrial hemp strain that is EU-approved, which contains very little THC (0.3%). However, the legality of CBD varies between countries, so it is very important to do your research about the legal status of CBD in your country.

  1. “Will CBD show up in a drug test?”

If you are interested in taking CBD, you should be aware that the small amount of THC present in some products (<0.3%) may show up in a urinalysis. If you are someone who requires regular drug testing for work or other reasons, you can prevent THC showing up by avoiding all full-spectrum CBD products and instead opt for ‘CBD isolate’. CBD isolate is 99% pure CBD with no other cannabinoids, flavonoids, and terpenes – meaning that is THC-free! CBD-isolate is also legal in the UK, however it can only be inhaled, and not ingested as a powder or used alongside a carrier oil. 

  1. “The larger the dose, the better”

When it comes to taking CBD, the size of the dosage is important! Whilst there is a common assumption that larger doses will provide a greater relief – this has proven not to be the case. Indeed, new research has shown that taking too much may in fact lessen the effectiveness of CBD. Numerous factors influence the effectiveness of CBD, such as your genetic makeup, age, weight and health conditions, therefore you should start out with the lowest dose possible and gradually, over a period of time, increase the dosage. 

How does CBD work? 

The human body contains a complex endocannabinoid system, which mediates pain, immunity, inflammation, appetite and many other important homeostatic functions. Endogenous cannabinoids such as anandamide and 2-AG, act on the endocannabinoid system via CB1 and CB2 receptors, which are distributed throughout the body. Cannabidiol works by mimicking the effects of these naturally occurring endogenous cannabinoids, in order to regulate homeostasis in the body. Surprisingly, CBD doesn’t bind to CB1 and CB2 receptors, instead, it binds to receptors such as 5HT1A serotonin and vanilloid TRPV1 receptors in order to promote anti-anxiety and anti-hyperalgesic effects. Biochemical studies have also indicated that CBD may indirectly enhance endogenous anandamide signalling by inhibiting the degradation of this molecule by an enzyme called fatty acid amide hydrolase. 

Consequently, CBD has the ability to stabilise your emotional state, therefore providing a great base for successful mindfulness meditation. Consuming CBD alongside many types of mindfulness practices, such as meditation or yoga, ensures you a clear mind, whilst also improving your attentiveness to the present moment.

Does CBD have any side effects?

The 2017 World Health Organization report states that pure CBD extracts from hemp are well-tolerated and safe for use by humans. Furthermore, according to the National Institutes of Health (NIH), an adult human can safely take 1500mg of CBD by mouth daily for up to four weeks and not experience catastrophic side effects. 

At the same time, clinical research on CBD is still going on. Scientists are continuing to study the potential risks associated with CBD, including its effect on digestion and hormones. One should remember that all human bodies are unique, and might respond differently to the use of CBD. 

Apart from that, cannabidiol might interact unpredictably with prescription drugs. Therefore, in the case that you are currently on other drugs, it is highly recommended to consult your physician first before attempting to take any CBD infused products. 

Ways to incorporate CBD into your mindfulness routine

There are many ways to incorporate CBD into your mindfulness practice, whether this is using oils and capsules or even CBD-infused candles. The wide variety of products allows consumers to tailor their method of use to their desired needs. Below are the most common forms of CBD and how to use them: 

Oil

CBD oils are capable of boosting your mindfulness practice, by promoting a better mind-body relation. Essential CBD oils have a calming effect, especially when combined with mindfulness practice. These CBD-infused oils work on the olfactory system, which is responsible for our sense of smell. Odours are then registered in the hypothalamus brain region, which regulates the autonomic nervous system and consequently emotional reactions. As a result, the calming effects that these oils provide is useful to get in the right mindset in order to fully focus and immerse yourself in mindfulness meditation. These oils can be applied to the wrist and temples. CBD oils can also be consumed by placing it under the tongue with a dropper, where it is readily absorbed by the capillaries in the oral mucosa.

Creams and lotions

CBD creams and other CBD-infused topicals are a great way to relieve pains that occur following yoga practice . Given its anti-inflammatory properties, CBD can target the pain receptors in joints and muscles, in order to relieve and treat pain. 

Vaping products 

The fastest way to experience the calming effects of CBD is by inhaling it in its vaporized form. Once inhaled, this can be absorbed rapidly into the lungs and subsequently the bloodstream, hence producing a rapid effect. 

Edibles

Edibles including gummy sweets and CBD energy bars are one of the most common ways to take CBD. They are not only tasty but both portable and affordable. Take these 15/20 minutes before you practice mindfulness meditation in order to calm and de-stress yourself.

Candles 

CBD-infused aromatherapy candles are great to use alongside mindfulness meditation. The scent of the candles can be uplifting, motivating and relaxing – perfect when controlling stress levels. When melted, the wax can also be used as a topical salve. 

Downsides of mindfulness practice

Whilst many futurists see ‘mindful living’ as an important aspect of everyday living, recent studies have indicated that practising mindfulness can have long term impacts on behaviour – causing individuals to act ‘mindlessly’.

Indeed, higher levels of self-awareness may, in fact, distort perceptions of reality, which may increase the likelihood of forming ‘false memories’ of any given moment. Not only this but mindfulness practise may also result in a tendency to suppress and block-out difficult emotions, rather than attempting to overcome them. Recent studies have suggested mindfulness may have a lot more side effects than one may think. These include: 

  • Depersonalization and dissociation 
  • Psychosis
  • Hallucinations
  • Disorganized speech
  • Narcissism 
  • Less creativity