Scientists at São Paulo State have shown that a non-psychoactive component of cannabis called cannabidiol (CBD) can reduce symptoms of depression over a sustained period. In fact, the ingredient is so powerful that just one dose was enough to see benefits lasting a full week – at least in mice. The results of the study were published in the journal Molecular Biology earlier this year.
You may have heard quite a bit about CBD over the past year. In June, the FDA approved a cannabidiol oral solution for the treatment of two rare and debilitating forms of epilepsy. In November, cannabis-based medicinal products were made available on the NHS. Again, primarily for the treatment of epilepsy. But studies also have linked CBD to various other conditions, including chronic pain, nausea associated with chemotherapy, and even psychosis.
Unlike tetrahydrocannabinol (THC), the cannabis compound primarily responsible for getting you high, CBD can actually suppress some of the psychoactive properties of the plant. That means that while CBD supplements may offer you certain health benefits, it probably won't get you high.
To test its effect on depression, the researchers adopted an animal model, using rats and mice bred to develop depressive symptoms. The rodents (367 in total) were given a 7, 10 or 30 milligram/kilogram dose of cannabidiol before being submitted to tests designed to monitor their reaction to stress, for example, the forced swimming test.
The results suggest that the cannabidiol was both fast-acting and sustained – a single dose offered not just immediate relief, but persistent relief for seven days (something that cannot be said for conventional antidepressants). This effect was supported by the increase in synaptic proteins in the prefrontal cortex, which is strongly associated with depression in humans, one week after treatment.