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New Hope for Victims of PTSD

For those who are reading this because they are curious about what PTSD is, the following is a VERY brief description.

Post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) is no longer classified as an anxiety disorder. It has now been recategorized as a trauma and stressor-related disorder, in recognition of the specific and unique circumstances that provoke the onset of the condition. However, anxiety is still synonymous with PTSD, and it remains a pervasive experience for those who have been diagnosed with this disorder1.

Post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) is a disorder that manifests itself at different levels, through symptoms such as sleep disturbances; changes in cognition (e.g., repeated recall of the event), mood (e.g., depression, anxiety), and emotion (e.g., psychological instability); and reduced social skills1. There are currently about 12 million people in the United States living with PTSD and that is only a small portion of those who have gone through a traumatic event. The good news is some new hope is on the horizon for PTSD victims.

A Vicious Circle

PTSD can lead veterans into a vicious circle that involves divorce, joblessness, personal bankruptcy, homelessness, and even suicide. The latest report from the United States Department of Veteran Affairs revealed that in 2020, the suicide rate was 34.2 per 100,000 among White Veterans; 30.2 per 100,000 among Asian, Native Hawaiian or Pacific Islander Veterans; 29.8 per 100,000 among American Indians or Alaska Native Veterans; and 14.2 per 100,000
among Black or African American Veterans. These are clearly concerning statistics and, although many organizations have emerged in recent years, striving to advocate for the needs of veterans, PTSD is a problem that persists.

For those who already know what PTSD is or are experiencing it, the following information is an overview of how CBD works and how it may help the symptomatology (the set of symptoms characterized by a medical condition or exhibited by a patient) of PTSD.

You Already Have Cannabinoids in Your Body

eCB-system2

To best understand how CBD works, a basic understanding of the body and its biological functions is needed. Just about every living thing on earth, except insects, has something called an “Endocannabinoid System” (ECS or eCB) in their bodies.   

The ECS controls many of the body’s biological functions including eating, anxiety, learning and memory, reproduction, metabolism, growth, and development. It does this by way of something called “endocannabinoids” which are naturally produced in various organs and tissues, such as the muscle, brain, and circulating cells.

Endocannabinoids are chemical messengers in the body that send signals between nerve cells through their receptors. They help the body maintain balance (or homeostasis). You can read more about the ECS here.

The ECS controls many of the body’s biological functions including eating, anxiety, learning and memory, reproduction, metabolism, growth, and development. It does this by way of something called “endocannabinoids” which are naturally produced in various organs and tissues, such as the muscle, brain, and circulating cells.

Endocannabinoids are chemical messengers in the body that send signals between nerve cells through their receptors. They help the body maintain balance (or homeostasis). You can read more about the ECS here.

How Does CBD Work?

There are two different cannabinoids used by the body – internally created (endocannabinoid) or externally created (phytocannabinoid) CBD. CBD (cannabidiol) is a phytocannabinoid. (Phyto means relating to plants.) CBD works by interacting with a key receptor in the ECS and is said to modulate the effects of THC by preventing the breakdown of our natural endocannabinoids. One thing to note is that CBD does not have any intoxicating effects like THC has.

CBD works by interacting indirectly with the CB2, dopamine and serotonin receptors. CBD doesn’t actually increase serotonin or dopamine. It is a regulator that helps your body use chemicals that are already present more efficiently or break chemicals down more slowly. Through interaction with certain brain pleasure centers, in particular the area that stimulates anandamide, scientists believe that CBD helps with serotonin and dopamine production and regulation.

Over 144 Different Phytocannabinoids

There are over 144 different phytocannabinoids (molecules) in a hemp plant. CBD, CBC, CBG, THC, and CBN are some of what are called key cannabinoids. Their benefits are broken down in the following chart. 

Health-Benefits-of-Phytocannabinoids

THC-A and THC-V are similar to THC in molecular structure and psychoactive properties; however, neither THC-A nor THC-V will induce any intoxicating effects. Also, each of them provides a variety of pronounced and altogether different effects. For instance, THC-V is said to be an appetite suppressant and up-regulates energy metabolism, making it a clinically useful remedy for weight loss, management of obesity, and type 2 diabetic patients. THCA is an effective neuroprotectant and is thought to defend the central nervous system against injury due to both acute (e.g. trauma or stroke) and chronic neurodegenerative disorders (e.g. Dementia, and Alzheimer’s).

CBD oils, gummies, and other forms of CBD may use one or more key phytocannabinoids in their formulas. It depends on the purpose of the formulation. Which of these phytocannabinoids may help with PTSD? The full spectrum of CBD benefits is still unknown, but the medical community is conducting research to find out if it can treat other conditions too. 

Recent CBD Studies and PTSD

Recent studies have shown that CBD may alleviate chronic pain and that it can be used to manage anxiety symptoms.

Preclinical studies in different rodent behavioral models have shown that CBD can both facilitate the extinction of aversive memories and block their reconsolidation, possibly through potentialization of the eCB system. These results, combined with the currently available pharmacological treatments for PTSD being limited, necessitated testing CBD use with the same therapeutic purpose in humans as well. Indeed, as observed in rodents, recent studies have confirmed the ability of CBD to alter important aspects of aversive memories in humans and promote significant improvements in the symptomatology of PTSD. The goal of this review was to highlight the potential of CBD as a treatment for disorders related to inappropriate retention of aversive memories, by assessing evidence from preclinical to human experimental studies².

Given that eCB processes are affected by stressors and can affect anxiety and fear, it was hypothesized that eCB functioning is tied to the development of PTSD, possibly through a corticotropin-releasing hormone–mediated reduction of anandamide in several brain regions. Paralleling this view, it was maintained that pharmacological manipulations of endogenous cannabinoids could be used in the treatment of PTSD³.

A study from 2009 in the journal of CNS Neuroscience and Therapeutics looked at 47 treatment refractory PTSD patients. The study showed that 72% of the patients experienced cessation of nightmares, had significant improvement in sleep time and quality and a reduction in daytime flashbacks. 

study from January 2015 in the journal of Psychoneuroendocrinology showed that military personnel showed an improvement in 50% of the subjects treated with cannabinoids versus 11% of the placebo-treated subjects. 

study from December of 2018, in The Journal of Alternative and Complementary Medicine showed that 91% of the patients treated with CBD showed an improvement in symptoms, including a decrease in nightmares. While the sample size was only 11 people, the results are promising. 

Clearly, more research is needed to discover how many other phytocannabinoids may help with PTSD symptoms.

Functional Mushrooms, CBD, and PTSD

It has been found that functional mushrooms may be used to effectively treat depression and anxiety. Sea King CBD has created what they call CBD/functional mushroom tincture combos. Among the three different combos offered, “Lion’s Mind” has combined properties that may offer some promising solutions for PTSD. The “Lion’s Mind” features a 3000mg bottle of Full Spectrum CBD oil combined with a mushroom tincture that uses organic Lion’s Mane, Reishi, and Cordyceps mushrooms in its formula.

Lion’s Mane: Research has found that lion’s mane may protect against dementia, reduce mild symptoms of anxiety and depression, and help repair nerve damage4. It may also help protect our memory and fight against dementia. In short, Lion’s Mane supports focus, memory and mental clarity.  It can help with creativity, immunity and general neurological health. 

Reishi: Reishi mushrooms offer a range of potential health benefits. Consuming them regularly may help support the immune system, reduce inflammation, promote relaxation, improve sleep, and manage stress and anxiety. Additionally, Reishi mushrooms may promote heart health and offer antioxidant properties5.

Cordyceps: Research suggests cordyceps is one of several kinds of fungi that have anti-breast cancer activity. Cordyceps contain a bioactive component called cordycepin which may help with inflammation related to asthma, rheumatoid arthritis, Parkinson’s disease, hepatitis and more6. They also support oxygen intake, circulation, and help with endurance and athletic performance.  

Summary

PTSD has been a hard nut to crack. Past and current medications fall short of their abilities to treat it, and some have potentially harmful side effects. Recently, the VA began experimental programs using psychedelic therapies to treat PTSD. They’ve also used cannabis as a treatment. However, one idea that may provide some hope for PTSD sufferers is taking an integrated approach. The qualities of CBD combined with the qualities of functional (medicinal) mushroom tinctures and powders may offer a promising integrated approach that is worth trying.

Citations

  1. Matthew J. Friedman, MD, PhD. PTSD History and Overview. S. Department of Veteran Affairs
  2. Bitencourt RM, Takahashi RN. Cannabidiol as a Therapeutic Alternative for Post-traumatic Stress Disorder: From Bench Research to Confirmation in Human Trials. Front Neurosci. 2018 Jul 24;12:502. doi: 10.3389/fnins.2018.00502. PMID: 30087591; PMCID: PMC6066583.Post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) Mayo Clinic. July 6, 2023
  3. Abizaid A, Merali Z, Anisman H. Cannabis: A potential efficacious intervention for PTSD or simply snake oil? J Psychiatry Neurosci. 2019 Mar 1;44(2):75-78. doi: 10.1503/jpn.190021. PMID: 30810022; PMCID: PMC6397040.
  4. Medically reviewed by Alexandra Perez, PharmD, MBA, BCGP — By Erica Julson, MS, RDN, CLT — Updated on June 29, 2023. 9 Health Benefits of Lion’s Mane Mushroom (Plus Side Effects)
  5. Adam Meyer. Published on September 17, 2023. Reviewed by Dietitian Jessica Ball, M.S., RD What Happens to Your Body When You Eat Reishi Mushrooms
  6. Cleveland Clinic. March 10, 2023. Cordyceps Is a Killer Fungi With Potential Health Benefits

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