Phytocannabinoids like cannabidiol (CBD) are derived from plants, typically hemp. In the 1800s, hemp plants were widely cultivated as a fiber source and food in the form of seed oil. Even George Washington grew hemp on his farm in Mount Vernon. Today, these same hemp plants are also the major source of commercial CBD extracts, which are being used to attenuate fear and anxiety and promote a healthy stress response. Cannabinoid receptors (CB1, CB2, TRPV1, GP55 and others) and the biochemical machinery necessary to synthesize and generate cannabinoids are present within areas of the brain known to control emotional behavior, mood, sleep, stress, irritability, fear and even the sensation of “craving.” Put simply, hemp-derived CBD administration appears to attenuate the well-known “fight or flight” phenomenon to physical and mental stress. Other studies using similar models in animals have shown that CBD administration decreases fear-avoidant and conditioned responses to pain or punishment.
Other more elegant studies have used SPECT and functional MRI to examine changes in regional blood flow and neural correlates of brain activity in response to CBD administration. Collectively, these patterns of SPECT and fMRI results are consistent with effects on alleviating anxiety, irritability, fear and stress responses from hemp-derived CBD administration. Given the ongoing, emerging human clinical data supporting the use of a hemp-derived CBD-rich extracts for modulating fear, anxiety and a healthy stress response, it looks like good old George Washington was a bona fide hemp pioneer.