CBD for Brain Fog: Understanding Its Potential Benefits
Brain fog is a commonly used “umbrella” term for the type of mental fatigue that can impair focus, cognition, or concentration. It can feel as if something beyond your control has short-circuited your memory or muddled your thinking. Trying to blast your way through the haze with a midday sugar binge or double espresso can make your symptoms worse once their short-term boost fades. Instead, consider adding hemp-derived CBD to your health and wellness routine.
CBD (cannabidiol) is the most abundant of more than 113 cannabinoids in the oil extracted from hemp flowers. It works by interacting with multiple molecular targets throughout your body and brain, including your endocannabinoid system (ECS) receptors (Mouslech & Valla, 2009). In this CBD guide, we’ll explore the “mechanisms” involved in focus and cognition, review some of the possible causes of brain fog, and explain how hemp-derived cannabinoids could help.
What Causes Brain Fog?
Nearly everyone experiences mental exhaustion and brain fog from time to time. There are many potential causes. Researchers believe the ability to maintain concentration and focus requires the activation of the central executive network (CEN) of the brain. Mind wandering is strongly linked to the default mode network (DMN) (Shaw et al., 2021). Experts in the field credit the salience network (SN) with mediating the switching between CEN and DMN functions by filtering information in one of two ways, top-down or bottom-up (Demetre, 2017).
Top-down filtering relies on prior knowledge and expectation to filter irrelevant, potentially distracting information. Bottom-up filtering allows your brain to zero in on “novel” input. Neuroimaging suggests sleep deprivation decreases brain activation in the salience network (Ma et al., 2014), an effect that could impair your ability to prioritize the importance of “incoming events” and filter sensory signals (Lee et al., 2020). Stress (and stress-induced anxiety) temporarily increases SN activity but impairs focus and concentration over time (Zhang et al., 2022). That’s where CBD oil fits into the brain fog equation.
How CBD Oil Could Help with Brain Fog
The cannabinoids circulating in your system after swallowing a CBD softgel, enjoying a fruit-flavored gummy, or holding a serving of a CBD oil tincture beneath your tongue interact with the ECS system receptors CB1 and CB2. Cannabis researchers believe that interaction helps support ECS function in a way that promotes homeostasis (Sallaberry & Astern, 2018). In addition to regulating nearly every crucial function in your body, everything from emotional regulation and stress responses to immune system function and muscle movement, multiple studies also link ECS signaling to numerous aspects of brain function, including salience network activity (Batalla et al., 2020).
Not only does your salience network help you focus directly on the task at hand, SN function also helps you keep sight of your long-term goals. Now that you know why sleep deprivation, poor sleep quality, and stress can leave you feeling dazed, disconnected, or unproductive, you may also find it beneficial to delve into some of the research investigating how CBD could help.
Calming The Impact of Stress or Mild, Temporary Anxiety
Most people feel stressed from time to time. It’s one of the leading causes of mild or temporary anxiety. The surge of cortisol and adrenaline can compromise your ability to focus on anything other than the cause of your distress. During a study investigating the impact of CBD on stress and anxiety, participants given CBD before a simulated public speaking event reported fewer anxiety-induced symptoms and lower levels of stress-induced cognitive impairment than test subjects receiving a placebo (Bergamaschi et al., 2011).
Promoting Restorative, Restful Sleep
Even seemingly minor changes in routine can disrupt your sleep. Once that happens, your brain is far more susceptible to a type of “network instability” that can compromise various aspects of executive function. With executive function compromised, focus, concentration, and overall efficiency are also adversely affected (Suni, 2023). Current evidence suggests CBD offers multiple sleep benefits, including positive effects on duration (Moltke & Hindocha, 2021).
Alleviating Discomfort (After Physical Activity)
The microscopic damage caused by muscle exertion alerts your immune system to send specialized white blood cells to initiate repairs (Fitzgerald, 2013). The resulting discomfort can diminish focus and disrupt your sleep. In a report published in a 2020 edition of Sports Medicine-Open, researchers evaluating the results of animal studies and human trials report several biochemical effects potentially beneficial for alleviating discomfort and supporting recovery (McCartney et al., 2020).
How to Use CBD Oil for Brain Fog
CBD oil tinctures are made with a blend of hemp extract and a carrier oil. You can use the product to add the health and wellness potential of hemp-derived cannabinoids to baked goods, candy recipes, snacks, and beverages. For fast-acting results, hold the oil beneath your tongue for 45-60 seconds before swallowing. Shake the bottle before each use and store your CBD oil tincture in a cool, dry location.
While you’ll find serving size suggestions on the label, consider starting with a partial serving when using any CBD product for the first time. If you don’t get the fog-clearing results you’re hoping for, increase the amount you’re using in small increments over time. Going “low and slow” minimizes the risk of minor side effects that can include dry mouth, fatigue, nausea, or diarrhea (Chesney et al., 2020). Ideally, you’ll want to identify the smallest serving size you need for optimal results. If you have a medical condition or take any type of medication, consult your healthcare provider before use.
Choosing the Right CBD Oil for Brain Fog
Based on decades of research investigating how CBD interacts with numerous receptors throughout the body and brain, just about any high-quality CBD oil could help with brain fog days. According to 1,900 respondents in a 2019 CBDistillery® customer survey, most CBD users (89%) tell us that CBD helps calm their minds, 88% claim benefits for mild or temporary anxiety, and 89% report better sleep. But purity, potency, and overall quality can vary by brand.
The best CBD oil is extracted from non-GMO, naturally farmed crops and third-party tested. The tincture should be labeled in a way that makes it abundantly clear how many milligrams (mg) of CBD are in the bottle. The label should also specify which of the following types of hemp extract you’re using.
A bottle of full spectrum CBD gives you all the additional cannabinoids, terpenes, amino acids, and other phytonutrients in the same ratios found in the plant, including a small amount of THC (Jenkins, 2018). The CBD to THC ratio prevents intoxication. Full spectrum CBD is considered the more potent of the three main types because of the way the cannabinoids and terpenes contribute to the benefit-maximizing potential cannabis is known for called an “entourage” effect (Nahler et al., 2019).
A bottle of broad spectrum CBD oil gives you many of the same additional cannabinoids and terpenes as a full spectrum product, but the THC is reduced to non-detectable levels during extraction and processing. Although broad spectrum CBD gives you the cannabinoids and terpenes you need for the potency-maximizing potential of an entourage effect, you may not find it quite as strong by comparison. Some CBD users believe removing the THC diminishes its impact (Wilkins, 2022).
Pure CBD Isolate
CBD isolate is pure, potent, and highly refined. All that remains after extraction, distillation, and “winterization” is a flavorless, odorless, 0% THC powder, a single cannabinoid on its own. Although CBD isolate doesn’t have the additional cannabinoids and terpenes needed for an entourage effect, you might prefer investing in an isolate-infused oil if you plan on using your CBD tincture in your favorite recipes, don’t want to alter the flavor of your snacks, or you don’t care for the distinctive aroma of cannabis.
Could CBDistillery® CBD Oil Be Your Best Bet for Brain Fog?
Brain fog can drain your energy and make it difficult to think clearly or express your thoughts. If you have reason to believe your symptoms could be linked to a health complication or medication side effects, consult your healthcare provider. When too little sleep, poor sleep quality, mild or temporary anxiety, stress, or discomfort after physical activity are compromising your clarity, consider adding CBDistillery® hemp-derived CBD oil to your daily (or nightly) routine.
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