Stress. It’s really bad for your body and mind. Stress is linked to a huge range of health issues and complications – everything from mental illness and anxiety, high blood pressure and heart disease, to reduced sleep, reduced recovery and performance and lowered immunity. Yet unfortunately in this day and age its nearly impossible to avoid and hard to reduce – our modern lives are jam packed with environmental and societal stressors we deal with day to day that make understanding and solving the stress problem critical in your life. But what truly causes stress? Why do our minds react the way they do when confronted with uncomfortable, uncontrollable or frustrating circumstances we find ourselves in? Let’s take a look at this key issue and how full spectrum hemp oil can potentially help you reduce, control and mitigate the problem.
What really causes stress in the body and mind?
The short story is its an evolutionary response that your brain automatically produces to deal with threats and issues in your environment. The brain is a complex machine with many parts. One of these parts, located in the ancient reptilian section of the brain is known as the hypothalamus. This component of the brain is responsible for helping the brain and body defend itself and survive in hostile situations. When a major threat is encountered like a lion on the savannah or approaching enemy, the brain triggers what is known as the stress response or ‘fight and flight’. When this occurs, the brain has sensed imminent danger and triggers this response to deal with it – either by running or escaping quickly, or by fighting the opponent to attempt to survive. It’s typically accompanied by an adrenal response with adrenalin release in some scenarios.
Unfortunately for us, our bodies and brains haven’t caught up with the fact we no longer run into lions anymore. In modern society there are very minimal risks to our safety or lives, and we rarely even encounter a need to escape or fight a true physical threat. However, the brain can often struggle to distinguish between a real external danger and a stressor that can be the result of simply interactions with other humans, conflicts in relationships, financial stress, emotional stress and more. Each of these issues can trigger the fight or flight response and resultingly cause a chemical known as cortisol to be released in significant quantities.
What is cortisol and why does it matter?
Cortisol is the stress hormone. It’s released by the adrenal glands near the kidneys and has the purpose in the body of causing the fight or flight response. Cortisol is certainly useful to assist in motivating the body, tackling new and tough challenges and activating the body and mind to get ready to perform in a new, unknown or tough situation it otherwise might be too relaxed and nonchalant to handle.
Regulation of this hormone is via the pituitary gland which controls whether and when it is released or not – this is important. We can actually change when the pituitary gland activates and tells the adrenal gland to release cortisol. More on this later. The key thing to know about cortisol is its completely natural and normal in small quantities, however high levels of cortisol release over a prolonged period will start to cause problems in both the body and mind. Eventually this can result in muscle weakness, weight gain, high blood pressure and lowered immunity. Its effectively the result of your body becoming completely overstressed and overwhelmed. This matters as cortisol are really the underlying cause of stress and over-stress, which can cause anxiety and many other nervous issues. Being able to reduce and control this hormone is critical to overall health – but how do we manage it?
Key methods to manage stress and cortisol
A number of techniques can be applied both mental and physical to help reduce, mitigate and prevent excessive cortisol release.
Let’s run through a few:
- Yoga and meditation – these powerful and ancient techniques to relax the mind and body have been used by centuries around the world in many cultures but originate in India and Nepal. These practices can enhance mindfulness and help to reduce the mind from reacting and triggering the stress response.
- Physical exercise – exercise has a number of beneficial properties that aid in overall health, well being and stress reduction. The movement and stressing of the body releases strong enzymes and compounds that help to reduce stress and inflammation.
- Quality sleep – sleep is critical for homeostasis and managing the glands and hormones of the body to ensure efficient and effective regulation of all the body’s key hormones including cortisol.
- Lifestyle changes – many lifestyles’ stressors can cause cortisol release or more averse issues relating to stress and resulting health challenges, such as drinking, smoking and lack of exercise which are all health risks and stress sources in the long term.
- Supplements – certain supplements can support the body’s maintenance of homeostasis and a healthy balance of hormones including cortisol – from multivitamins, ashwagandha supplements, L-glutamine and importantly, full spectrum hemp oil – we will explain why this supplement is able to help here.
How can hemp oil help with stress?
It really comes down to several key factors or reasons. The biggest of these factors is hemp’s interaction with the endocannabinoid system or ECS which is present in all mammals and has a broad reaching effect on many organs of the body as well as mind, enabling improved homeostasis, balance in the body, mood improvement and stress reduction. This system was discovered by scientific researchers in the 1980s. It operates through a network of enzyme receptors that are located in almost all of the body’s organs across the nervous system, gut, liver, spleen, brain and even skin. These are known as CB1 and CB2 receptors – triggered by the intake of phytonutrients as well as certain cannabinoid compounds that are from plant sources. When these nutrients enter the bloodstream and eventually land on and bind with these receptors, the receptors are able to activate and trigger the release of strong anti-inflammatory endogenous compounds and enzymes which have a great boon of health benefits and outcomes for the cells throughout the body.
As a result of this mechanism, the body is able to benefit from improved mood, cognition and thinking through reductions in cortisol, enhanced emotional state, better control of appetite and hunger, and potentially even better consolidation and building of memories. Phyto-cannabinoids in hemp bind with the CB2 receptors in our immune system and lymph nodes also, which could help explain its potential to assist with reduced stress. What’s interesting however is that the body actually causes all of these responses itself. In a similar process to exercise – where stressing the body and damaging it actually causes the release of potent anti-inflammatory and healthy compounds and enzymes that then stimulate repair, growth and protection for the cells throughout the body as an adaptive response. A similar response is seen with hemp oil which causes the excretion of endogenous compounds from the CB1 and CB2 receptors that are then transported via the bloodstream to the cells and tissues of the various organs throughout the body. This may enhance the powers of homeostasis and balance of the body’s hormones and internal state, assisting in calming both the body and mind which is highly beneficial.
How is the endocannabinoid system understood in science?
While only recently discovered as little as a few decades ago, the importance of the endocannabinoid system can’t be understated and is growing significantly in its profile and fame throughout the health and wellness world, in addition to attracting large amounts of new scientific research. Much research has already been done on animals like mice in relation to the effects of differing cannabinoids on the ECS, however more is needed on human subjects to fully understand and appreciate its myriad of health benefits. One new and upcoming research area is its benefits on the circulatory system – the lungs, heart and blood flow. Some studies have shown full spectrum hemp oil having positive impacts on blood pressure and cholesterol as well as metabolic syndromes relating to circulation. It may even become a new and natural plant-based remedy to help support circulation, cognition and help reduce blood pressure that can be tried before stronger pharmaceutical medicines. Some studies have compared placebo to usage of medium doses of full spectrum hemp oil which indicated a positive reduction in blood pressure in combination with healthy diet and exercise.
When it comes to stress, hemp oil also comes into its own – which also again relates back to its positive effects on blood pressure and may explain this benefit. Hemp oil is able to help calm the mind and brain, relaxing users and reducing the effect and instances of the adrenal gland triggering the stress response and releasing adrenalin and cortisol which raises blood pressure. Researchers are showing its effects on stress and anxiety are marked, being anti-anxiolytic and having the capacity to simultaneously protect the body through containing high levels of plant antioxidants like cannaflavins, flavonoids and chlorophyll. By containing these strong antioxidant properties, hemp oil is able to help protect and prevent against oxidative stress and cell damage in the body and heart, helping reduce circulatory damage and improving overall blood pressure when tested in mice.
Does hemp oil help with anxiety?
Being anti-anxiolytic and having the capacity to aid the mind in calming – similar to practices like yoga and meditation, hemp oil is able to reduce the pituitary gland’s actions in triggering flight or fight which is a major physical cause of stress and chronic anxiety – where our bodies are tricked into constant stress and believing we are in danger. A very useful property of hemp oil is its natural – it can be loaded for long periods and with frequent use with minimal or no side effects (depending on the individual) – this is in stark contrast to pharmaceutical compounds like ibuprofen which cause liver strain and damage at high doses or frequencies. Some of the known but minor side effects include nausea, dry mouth, unsettled stomach or drowsiness at very high doses. By counteracting stress and helping balance the mind, hemp oil leads to lower concentrations of cortisol – this is fundamentally the mechanism which makes it so useful for also getting a good night’s rest and sleeping well. We actually use it daily to ensure our intake of the active ingredient and full benefits of plant-based antioxidants are gained.
Aside from having almost no side effects, hemp oil contains no THC and is not psychoactive as it is derived from industrial hemp. This is great as it means there is low risk for those with mental issues and the product can’t cause an addiction, intoxication or poisoning. What’s more – it may help users manage appetite and hunger to help control weight. Many individuals are triggered to eat or find themselves in a hunger filled state as a result of stress and cortisol. Stress can lead to the body and mind tricking itself into thinking it is hungry without being so. Studies by universities in the US showed that rats when given hemp oil had activated CB2 receptors and showed slowed, reduced eating patterns which benefitted their insulin resistance and weight control. Resultingly there were also improvements in blood lipids and LDL cholesterol over several weeks of the study. This is all while being very well tolerated in the body as a natural substance and containing no artificial or synthetic chemicals.
How was full spectrum hemp oil used in ancient times?
Many cultures around the globe from the Middle East to Asia and Europe knew of hemp’s potent anti-inflammatory and anti-anxiolytic potential. The Mongols and Scythians in the Eurasian steppe thousands of years ago had knowledge of, and extensively used hemp, extracting it into oils and other final products to be used for therapeutic purposes. They would place hemp oil into special devices and vaporise the extracts using steam to create a mist or air diffused particulates which would then be absorbed by the skin and body to promote rejuvenation and calmness. The cultures and tribes of Persia through Iran and Syria knew hemp had many practical applications including rope and fibre, but also would use the oil from hemp to aid in blood pressure and to promote wellbeing. Frequently they’d use the product to assist with getting to sleep and calming the mind before going to bed, helping cortisol reduction before bedtime and assisting in moving to a deep sleep state for maximum REM sleep and better overall recovery. Records have shown hemp was first discovered around the bronze age and since this time has been encountered, cultivated and extracted by many generations of tribes and civilisations (primarily in the middle east where the plant originated and grows naturally in the high mountains).
What are the Phyto-nutrients and Phyto-cannabinoids that help with stress and inflammation?
Hemp contains a huge number of biodynamic active ingredients that support the body in a variety of ways. There are around 114 types of cannabinoids in hemp and more than 400 Phyto-nutrients and other compounds that all have differing effects (although some are inert). Not all of these are made equal in terms of their benefits in reducing stress, inflammation and anxiety. What are the top and most desirable to assist with reducing pituitary gland action and too much cortisol running through our bodies and causing havoc?
- CBC: this phytonutrient is highly anti-inflammatory and helps with the stress response by calming the nerves and mind
- CBG: understood by researchers to be one of the better compounds for arthritis, it also contains some beneficial properties to aid with stress
- CBN: seen in mice studies to be analgesic and assist with aches and pains, by reducing bodily stress and enhancing recovery, CBN helps to calm the body and rejuvenate, improving stress for the mind
- Omegas: two key omegas are plentiful in full spectrum hemp oil – these are Omega 3 and Omega 6. Both have excellent benefits and properties with regards to the cardiovascular system and to enhance, improve and support brain function and the development of myelin in neurons.
- Minerals: hemp has a complete nutrient profile that includes high amounts of phosphorous, zinc, magnesium and calcium. Several of these minerals are key to providing support for muscle cell activation, electrolytes and nervous regulation and can assist with stress reduction. Magnesium in particular is able to assist with stress and help with immune and brain function which is key to helping the body maximally recover.
- Chlorophyll and beta-carotene: these two antioxidative nutrients are great additions to any diet and contained in large amounts within dark green plant foods and high fibre plant products. They assist with overall wellbeing by assisting cell recovery, preventing oxidative stress from free radical damage and working to rejuvenate the tissue and body holistically via metabolic pathways.
Incorporating some or ideally all of these key nutrients will help provide you with a foundation to defend proactively against the stress response and minimise its damage when it does occur. We maximise our uptake of these daily to ensure their consistently present in the body and aiding our cell and metabolic health.
Let’s wrap it up – we have covered a huge number of insights in this in-depth and comprehensive review of full spectrum hemp oil’s promise and potential to reduce stress, anxiety and inflammation in both the mind and body. First, we took a look at how stress actually occurs, examined the evolutionary basis for it and why this response is problematic yet still caused due to modern lifestyle factors and our minds. We explored why this response leads to poor outcomes for our health, wellbeing and mindset in the long run, leading to unease, anxiety and higher risk of heart disease, mental illness and sleep issues. We looked at some of the key natural and ‘DIY’ methods of managing stress like yoga and meditation, but also key tools you can use like hemp oil to reduce and mitigate its effects. Finally, we took a deep dive into the endocannabinoid system, its workings on the body and mind via the CB1 and CB2 receptors and how activating this system, as well as how other important Phyto-cannabinoids, nutrients and minerals are able to further assist in supporting homeostasis and metabolic balance.