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2023 Study: Role of the ECS in Depression & Anxiety

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Role of the ECS in Depression & Anxiety Study

A 2023 study entitled "Endocannabinoid System and Exogenous Cannabinoids in Depression and Anxiety: A Review" that was published in the journal Brain Sciences explored the "association between depression or anxiety and the dysregulation of the endogenous endocannabinoid system (ECS), as well as the use of phytocannabinoids and synthetic cannabinoids in the remediation of depression/anxiety symptoms."

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Does cannabis help anxiety & depression?

The research reported that cannabis has been used since "ancient times" by humans for both recreational and medical reasons. It explained that the identification of the primary psychoactive component of the plant, delta-9 THC, "led to the discovery of cannabinoid receptors and, subsequently, the identification of endogenous cannabinoids (eCBs), their synthesis, regulation, and the revelation that a complete endogenous endocannabinoid system (ECS) exists."


The scientists listed a number of conditions for which marijuana has been found to deliver efficacy, including "appetite stimulation, insomnia, pain, vomiting, nausea, and other conditions such as cancer, post-traumatic stress disorder, anxiety, and depression."


"The study noted that the herbal species cannabis (it can be categorized as an herb, vegetable, and fruit) produces a total of 565 chemical compounds, including 120 cannabinoids."

The study noted that the herbal species cannabis (it can be categorized as an herb, vegetable, and fruit) produces a total of 565 chemical compounds, including 120 cannabinoids. Among these, cannabidiol (CBD) and tetrahydrocannabinol (THC) are the "best known and most studied."


"The discovery of these components was followed by the identification of their presumed targets through the cloning of specific cannabinoid receptors. Consequently, the endogenous ligands to these receptors were found in the brain and called endocannabinoids (eCB)," reported the researchers.

A man with anxiety sits in a therapy session.
Do CBD & THC help anxiety?

Role of the ECS in Depression & Anxiety Study Results

Role of the ECS in Depression & Anxiety. The study reported that initial investigations have revealed a potential efficacy of cannabis, and, more particularly, CBD and THC, for mood disorders. However, it also noted that much more research, including clinical trials involving humans, is necessary before the medical establishment can declare marijuana to be a safe and effective treatment for the tens of millions of Americans who suffer from anxiety and depression.


The ECS & Mood Disorders

The study reported that "compelling evidence" exists regarding the role of the endocannabinoid system (ECS) in the regulation of mood and mood disorders, including anxiety and depression. It noted that ECS receptors (CB1 and CB2) are located "throughout different brain structures involved in the regulation of mood, emotion, and reward."


The research reported that ECS signaling is involved in a "plethora of physiological and behavioral effects consistent with symptoms of depression and anxiety."

The research reported that ECS signaling is involved in a "plethora of physiological and behavioral effects consistent with symptoms of depression and anxiety" and that a deficit in ECS signaling (a deficiency of endocannabinoids) may result in depression. "Perturbations affecting the levels of eCBs (endocannabinoids) seem to affect depression and anxiety symptomatology in humans and associated behaviors in animal models," explained the study.


Cannabis for Other Conditions

The study noted that the medicinal applications of cannabis extend beyond mood disorders such as anxiety and depression and that this includes "pain, nausea/vomiting, cancer, MS, PTSD, Parkinson's disease, and other illnesses."


The study's authors reported that, during the past two decades, "the potency of cannabis products has escalated together with a tendency to increase THC and decrease CBD concentrations."

A man smells a growing cannabis plant.
Cannabis may treat a range of conditions.

Role of the ECS in Depression & Anxiety Study Conclusions

Role of the ECS in Depression & Anxiety. The scientists concluded that solid science exists to suggest a functional role for the ECS in mood disorders such as anxiety and depression. "There is also immense interest regarding clinical research in cannabinoids, in part due to the fact that cannabis was declared to be an illicit drug for a long time, hindering its legitimate use in medicine if proven to have benefit," reported the study.


"The scientists concluded that solid science exists to suggest a functional role for the ECS in mood disorders such as anxiety and depression."

They noted that it is difficult to make "definitive conclusions" regarding the potential role of cannabinoids in the treatment of mood disorders such as anxiety and depression. "A common conclusion is that short-term judicious use of cannabis or derivatives lower in THC and higher in CBD may be beneficial in reducing anxiety and depression in different disorders," summarized the study, with the caveat that the long-term effects of "cannabis-based medicinal preparations" requires greater scientific investigation and "may result in the converse of the desired effect."


View the original study.

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