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CBD and Focus and Concentration


Clear and Crisp: What the Research Says About CBD For Focus and Concentration

If you're struggling to focus, it may affect your work, relationships, and overall quality of life. Having trouble concentrating can be frustrating, but CBD may be able to help. CBD is a plant-based supplement proving popular in the wellness industry in the form of oils, edibles, and topical treatments. Research shows CBD may improve focus and concentration by addressing the underlying cause, from sleep disturbances to anxiety and physical pain symptoms. CBD reportedly works more effectively when combined with the natural terpenes in essential oils due to the entourage effect. This article explores the science behind CBD, its potential to enhance mental clarity, and the effectiveness of CBD aromatherapy for concentration.

What Is CBD and How Might it Improve Focus?

Cannabidiol, otherwise known as CBD, is a plant-based compound originating from hemp—a strain of the cannabis plant. CBD is at the heart of every modern wellness discussion, from skincare to pain relief, due to its extensive list of potential health benefits.

Expert manufacturers extract CBD from the flower, leaves, and stem of the hemp plant. However, CBD oil is not to be mistaken for hemp seed oil, which comes from the plant's seeds. Although hemp seed extract has its benefits, it differs markedly from CBD.

  • Full-spectrum CBD & Broad-spectrum CBD

This CBD extract uses the full spectrum of cannabinoids, or cannabis compounds, to create a potent product. Alongside CBD, these extracts may include other cannabinoids, such as CBG and THC. Flavonoids and terpenes are also vital to the flavor, taste, and color of CBD oil. Broad-spectrum CBD uses most of the plant; however, it contains no tetrahydrocannabinol (THC).

  • CBD Isolate

Some CBD extracts have other cannabinoids, flavonoids, and terpenes removed to create a pure substance known as CBD isolate. This type of CBD will have a weaker taste, color, and aroma.

Three people focusing on a board of post-it notes in a professional environment.

Does CBD Cause a High?

In short, no, CBD does not cause a high.

As CBD originates from cannabis, it’s often associated with marijuana, which has a high concentration of THC. If you consume too much of this compound, you may experience a “high”. Unlike THC, however, CBD is non-intoxicating and will not impair decision-making or cognitive functioning. In fact, the hemp plant is ideal for cannabidiol extraction because it has a high concentration of CBD but a low concentration of THC. This means manufacturers can easily remove most, if not all, THC from the final product.

Cannabis plants that contain a maximum of 0.3% THC are not controlled substances. Full-spectrum CBD products may contain trace amounts of THC; however, this remains under 0.3% and will not cause intoxication.

CBD and the ECS: How Does Cannabidiol Work?

Researchers aren't sure how CBD interacts with the body, but there is evidence to suggest it impacts a system called the endocannabinoid system, or ECS, for short. The ECS is a network of receptors, known as endocannabinoids, and enzymes facilitating communication between cells.

Some experts say the ECS plays a role in maintaining homeostasis—keeping the body stable. It does this by regulating various bodily functions to keep temperature, acidity, and water levels balanced.

The areas that the ECS may influence are still under research; however, some scientists believe it plays a role in regulating the following:

  • Mood
  • Appetite
  • Sleep
  • Digestion
  • Immunity
  • Fertility
  • Pain perception
  • Memory

The areas that the ECS influences may determine the potential benefits of CBD.

People with an endocannabinoid deficiency, meaning they lack the necessary endocannabinoids to maintain homeostasis, may experience several health issues. However, CBD may supplement the ECS to aid its proper functioning and boost its abilities. That said, cannabidiol products may help with the following issues:

  • Symptoms of mood disorders
  • Sleep issues
  • Pain symptoms for migraines, chronic pain, and arthritis
  • Epilepsy
  • Lack of focus and concentration
  • Symptoms of acne and other skin conditions

Man in yellow jumper sitting with his hands on his face in frustration.

What the Research Says About Using CBD for Concentration

There are many reasons you may be struggling to concentrate, including mental health, fatigue, pain, or sleep issues. Targeting the underlying cause may be the best way to improve mental clarity at work, at home, or in a social setting. CBD might improve focus by promoting wakefulness, regulating your sleep cycle, fighting off anxious thoughts and feelings, and reducing pain.

CBD May Promote Wakefulness

When you're struggling to focus, you may find yourself yawning and wanting to sleep. Fortunately, some evidence shows CBD may increase energy to fight off fatigue and keep you refreshed during the day. One 2014 research review found that CBD may promote wakefulness in some people. An additional 2008 study reported similar results as CBD enhanced wakefulness and decreased REM sleep.

CBD for Anxiety and Stress Symptoms

Anxiety and stress can make you feel overwhelmed and fatigued and cause some difficulty focusing. When anxiety symptoms cause you to lose focus, you may find it challenging to make decisions, hold a conversation, and complete work to the same standard as you previously did. In fact, many mental health and mood disorders may affect your ability to concentrate.

In a 2015 review, researchers analyzed 49 studies and the effect of CBD on various anxiety disorders. Some promising human studies used CBD doses of 300 to 600 mg, which reportedly reduced anxiety. The authors suggest that CBD has minimal sedative effects, an excellent safety profile, and doesn't increase anxious feelings. The review concluded that CBD might play a role in reducing symptoms of post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD), generalized anxiety disorder (GAD), obsessive-compulsive disorder (OCD), and social anxiety disorder (SAD).

What’s more, CBD seems to inhibit fatty acid amide hydrolase (FAAH), an enzyme that breaks down anandamide—an endocannabinoid. Nicknamed the “bliss molecule”, anandamide is responsible for pleasure, happiness, and motivation. So, by inhibiting FAAH, CBD indirectly boosts the bliss molecule, potentially boosting mood. Alongside FAAH inhibition, experts link low serotonin levels to depression. CBD may influence serotonin receptors and change how the brain responds.

By targeting stress levels and symptoms of anxiety and depression, CBD may improve mental clarity, concentration, and overall cognitive function.

CBD for Sleep Issues

A lack of sleep can lead to mood swings, decreased mental wellbeing, and trouble focusing or making decisions. There is a lot of promising research for using CBD for improving common sleep conditions, which may help you feel energized and focused. A 2019 study looked into the effect of CBD on sleep and anxiety. The results showed 79.2% of patients had lower anxiety scores, and 66.7% reported improved sleep.

Despite the promising research, the relationship between CBD and sleep is a confusing one. As we have outlined, some research suggests CBD improves sleep quality and quantity, while others suggest it promotes wakefulness. The data is contradictory, so how do you make sense of it?

As CBD interacts with the ECS to regulate the body and maintain homeostasis, some experts believe CBD helps to regulate the sleep cycle. This means you will naturally feel tired at night, allowing you to fall asleep faster; and, you’ll feel energized throughout the day. By balancing your natural body clock, CBD may contribute toward regulating your sleep patterns and energy levels. A 2017 review highlights that CBD might be promising for addressing REM sleep behavior disorder (RBD), excessive daytime sleepiness, and improving sleep for chronic pain patients.

CBD for Pain

Due to its impact on the ECS and its anti-inflammatory effects, CBD may relieve pain and improve cognitive function.

Pain from arthritis, chronic pain, or migraines can affect your ability to concentrate. CBD may alleviate some pain symptoms and allow you to focus on the task at hand. One 2018 review examined studies conducted between 1975 and 2018 and found CBD was effective in managing pain.

Using CBD may target the underlying cause of your concentration problems, whether that be sleep, pain, or anxiety.


CBD Aromatherapy

Aromatherapy is a holistic healing option that uses plant extracts to create essential oils and enhance wellbeing. Diffusing these oils stimulates smell receptors, sending messages to the nervous and limbic systems—a part of the brain that controls emotion. Many people believe aromatherapy has both physical and psychological benefits.

Some of the potential benefits include:

Are CBD and Essential Oils the Same?

Not precisely—both originate from the plant material and harbor potential wellbeing effects. However, "essential oil" is a general term for oil extracted from plants. Essential oils may come from the seeds, leaves, stems, and roots of a plant. Manufacturers cold-press the plant material or put it through a steam-distillation process. In the case of CBD, experts extract the compound from the stem, leaves, and flowers of hemp.

Both oils contain terpenes—naturally occurring compounds that give the plants flavor, color, and aroma. For example, pinene is one of over 100 terpenes found in cannabis. Research shows pinene may have an anti-anxiety effect on the body.

Terpenes are present in full-spectrum and broad-spectrum CBD, where they use most of the plant. On the other hand, CBD isolate will only contain terpenes by manually adding them in after the extraction process.

One of the primary reasons to choose full-spectrum CBD is the reported entourage effect. When you take all the cannabis compounds together, some research suggests the impact amplifies as the compounds are thought to work synergistically. Therefore, adding essential oils to the mix contributes more terpenes, potentially boosting the entourage effect and making CBD more effective.

Various products aid out on a grey surface with CBD leaves around them.

How Does CBD Aromatherapy Work?

The critical difference between CBD and essential oils is how the compounds interact with the body.

CBD communicates with endocannabinoid receptors, CB1 and CB2, which are present throughout the body. The cannabinoid enters your nose to bind with these receptors and travel to the brain. The CBD aroma may trigger physical responses such as pain relief, reduced inflammation, and increased mood.

Compared to CBD oil, when essential oils are inhaled, the information from the aroma travels to the olfactory system via mitral cells. This is where our bodies smell the scent. The mitral cells then take the information to the olfactory complex in the brain to distinguish the various aromas. However, essential oil aromas continue traveling until they reach the limbic system, which is associated with breathing, heart rate, and memory. In fact, some of these cells will even travel to the amygdala—the brain’s “threat detector”, which plays a role in mood, energy, and stress relief.

Smell plays an essential role in the human experience, and it may be the difference between feeling safe and calm or alert and anxious. For many people, the effects of essential oils will depend on past experiences. Some evidence shows scents like lavender impact the nervous system to elicit a calming response; however, it may not be the same for everyone as certain smells may trigger an emotional memory. In these instances, if you’ve had traumatic experiences where a distinctive smell was present, it may be best to avoid it.

Why Is Aromatherapy so Popular?

Holistic medicine has become widespread in the last decade, with aromatherapy, mindfulness, and yoga becoming standard to enhance mental, physical, and emotional health.

As the world moves towards more sustainable sources and natural resources, holistic medicine receives the recognition it deserves. It aims to provide healing benefits safely through natural, organic products. Many people prefer CBD over traditional health supplements because it has a favorable safety profile and minimal side effects.

A woman meditating with a laptop in front of her in a modern environment.

How to Use CBD for Focus

CBD is available in many forms, including edibles, oils, capsules, vapes, and topical treatments. Similarly, essential oils can be inhaled, applied topically, or ingested. However, not all essential oils are safe for consumption, and it’s best to research using them. Oils such as cedarwood and eucalyptus are dangerous when ingested.

To combine the potential healing benefits of CBD and essential oils, they can be inhaled using a diffuser.

The combination of essential oils and CBD helps create a relaxing atmosphere, clearing the mind and soothing the body.

Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs)

What is CBD?

Cannabidiol (CBD) is a naturally occurring compound found in a strain of cannabis called hemp. This hemp-derived compound is one of over a hundred cannabinoids in the plant, yet research shows it may contribute to a healthy lifestyle. Hemp oil can be taken orally, topically, or diffused in aromatherapy. CBD supplements may work with a cell-signaling system in the body called the endocannabinoid system (ECS) to balance the body’s natural functioning. When CBD interacts with the various components of the ECS, it may help manage mood, sleep, appetite, pain, immunity, digestion, and fertility.

Will CBD cause a “high”?

CBD will not cause a high because it is non-intoxicating. Unlike CBD, when too much THC is consumed, it interacts with the brain to create a “high”. Interestingly, the hemp variant of cannabis contains a high concentration of CBD and a low concentration of THC—making it ideal for extracting the cannabidiol.

How does aromatherapy work?

Aromatherapy works by influencing smell receptors and triggering a response. Terpenes are responsible for the flavor, color, and scent of a plant. The various aromas from essential oils travel through the nose, where the mitral cells take the information to the olfactory complex in the brain to distinguish the scent. The essential oil smell doesn’t stop until it reaches the limbic system or amygdala. These areas are associated with breathing, heart rate, memory, stress response, mood, and energy.

In comparison, CBD binds to receptors CB1 and CB2, where the CBD aroma may trigger physical responses such as pain relief, reduced inflammation, and increased mood.

What are the benefits of CBD aromatherapy?

Combining CBD with the finest essential oils is the best way to enhance the potential benefits of these plant-based oils. CBD aromatherapy may prompt the following benefits:

  • Pain management
  • Improved sleep quality and quantity
  • Reduce symptoms of stress
  • Improve cognitive function
  • Boost immunity
  • Alleviate symptoms of anxiety and depression

Can CBD improve mental clarity?

CBD may help address the cause of concentration issues. For example, poor sleep, stress, mental health conditions, pain from migraines, and chronic conditions may all contribute to a lack of focus. While some evidence points to CBD promoting wakefulness, it seems it may target some of these above areas to consequently improve mental clarity, decision making, and increase energy.

Does CBD help with ADHD?

There isn’t any evidence that examines the effect of CBD on ADHD patients specifically. However, the current CBD research highlights the potential to reduce some symptoms related to ADHD. For instance, ADHD patients may suffer from poor concentration and become distracted easily. By improving sleep, reducing pain, and lessening anxiety, CBD may improve the ability to focus and make decisions.

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