How Does CBD Affect Our Memory?

Cannabidiol (CBD) is certainly one of the hottest items in the cannabis community – and it doesn’t stop there. Beyond cannabis consumers, CBD now piques the interest of everyone from parents to athletes to the elderly and numerous others as well. With such a sharp rise in interest and consumption, a healthy level of skepticism has reared its head into the conversation. Like THC, CBD finds itself in a hazy area where its legal status holds back its ability to provide clear answers regarding its efficacy and safety.

While CBD appears to have no negative effects on our memory, it still receives the same concern posed by THC. And while it may appear that CBD does not impact our memories, a limited amount of findings currently leave us without a definitive yes or no. To help provide some insight into the matter, let’s take a closer look into the ways CBD affects the human mind.

CBD is known to have several medicinal properties, but because the field of marijuana studies is fairly young, more research is needed to explore the properties of marijuana’s compounds. Here are some of the possible medical benefits of CBD. More research is needed to determine whether CBD can effectively be used to treat all these conditions.

With the CBD market expected to grow 700% by 2020, the need for further research into CBD, its efficacy and any potential side effects remains high. While anecdotal evidence suggests CBD works and is safe, uncertainty remains despite years of debates already underway. As such, a number of studies into CBD’s effect on the brain and the rest of the body have left us with some clarity.


CBD produces effects through various molecular pathways. Although CBD does not really bind with two of the cannabinoid receptors, CB1 and CB2, it acts through several different receptor-independent channels. CBD enhances and inhibits the binding action of certain protein-coupled receptors.

Listed below are some of the receptor systems and their relationship with CBD.

Serotonin System

CBD targets a specific serotonin receptor, the serotonin 1A receptor. Its affinity with this receptor is associated with a lot of CBD’s therapeutic properties.

Take note that serotonin receptors regulate the release of hormones like cortisol, which is responsible for metabolism and reactions to stress, and oxytocin, which affects social behavior. Serotonin receptors also affect a person’s mood, cognition, and appetite.

Enhancing the activation of serotonin 1A receptors supports the theory of how CBD impedes certain problems and disorders such as neuropathic pain, anxiety, depression, schizophrenia, and nausea from chemotherapy.

Vanilloid Receptors

CBD binds to TRPV1 receptors, which are also called vanilloid receptors, to achieve a therapeutic effect. As an ion channel, TRPV1 plays a role in thermoregulation (temperature regulation), inflammation, and the perception of pain.

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Orphan Receptors

GPR55 is called the orphan receptor because researchers are still not sure if it belongs to a larger receptor family tree. It is involved in the process of modulating blood pressure, bone reabsorption, and bone density.

When it is overactive, GPR55 may cause osteoporosis. GPR55 also contributes to the multiplication and migration of cancer cells. CBD blocks GPR55 signaling. This could affect the likelihood of cancer cells proliferating under the right conditions.

Nuclear Receptors

Peroxisome proliferator activated receptors (PPARs), also known as “nuclear receptors,” are activated by CBDs to produce an anticancer effect. They are found on the surface of the cell’s nucleus. When activating a receptor known as PPAR-gamma, an antiproliferative effect begins. Its activation also causes tumors to regress in lung cancer cell lines.


A study on cannabis’ effects on memory confirmed that long-term THC use could actually impact memories, but the consumption of higher levels of CBD may prevent memory impairment and protect some aspects of memory function. On the other hand, a study indicates that even at a ratio of 2:1 CBD:THC, CBD does not attenuate the psychotic and memory-impairing effects of THC in heavy cannabis users.

Recent research shows evidence that CBD exerts some kind of direct action on mammals’ ability to remember and elaborate. A study on rats by the Society for the Study of Addiction found that CBD may attenuate the rewarding effects of addictive drugs in animal models by weakening contextual memories and consequently reducing the craving for psychoactive drugs.

With humans, it’s a bit more complicated. A study titled “The effects of cannabidiol on impulsivity and memory during abstinence in cigarette dependent smokers” found that CBD doesn’t seem to be able to reverse the cognitive impairments associated with nicotine abstinence in heavy cigarette smokers. A few studies, on the other hand, found that CBD can somehow help in diminishing the addiction habits of opioids, cocaine, and other stimulants, tobacco, and even THC-rich cannabis. Addiction is something intrinsically related to memories; namely pleasant memories.

But CBD is able to affect unpleasant memories as well. Several clinical and preclinical reports have widely confirmed that CBD can reduce anxiety and symptoms associated with emotional stress and memory disorders, such as PTSD, also facilitating the removal of traumatic or fearful memories.

Now what about cognitive decline, which is basically memory loss? This is one of the major mental threats for people getting older. Well, there is a small but growing amount of scientific evidence proving that CBD can help the brain and improve memory. CBD was found to promote neurogenesis, thus reducing the damage to cognitive functions caused by age, disease, and trauma. This effect might help people who suffer from degenerative memory disorders; thus, the potential therapeutic properties of CBD for Alzheimer’s disease are currently under intense analysis.


Current research has made it clear that investigating the effects of CBD on memory is no easy task. And once again, we are in an early stage of both research and personal experimentation. While some studies and many users have suggested that CBD may even improve overall cognition, there is very little evidence for CBD as a memory-enhancer in a healthy brain (assuming a “healthy brain” actually does exist).

That notwithstanding, it is still important that we begin to recognise that cannabis is not simply the memory-impairing drug it’s been labelled as in the past. Conversely, the plant contains compounds that display significant medical potential for brain-related conditions.

Since THC and CBD are being increasingly paired together in different formulations, a greater understanding of their interactions will eventually come to light. At present, it is unclear whether at specific concentrations CBD might counteract the effects of THC on memory and cognition.

Unfortunately, the acute impairments induced by THC on verbal and working memory are proven (or fortunately, because these “impairments” are actually a secondary ingredient in the mix that makes up the recreational user’s desired effect), yet it is unclear whether the impairment persists in the long-term. Regular and heavy use of THC can possibly affect memory somehow, but recent advanced neuroimaging techniques have started to show that heavy cannabis use actually “reconfigures” neural connections, instead of just disrupting them. Is this good? Is it an effect of CBD, or the combination of diverse cannabinoids? One day, science will tell.

More Results Needed for a Definitive Answer

Plenty of the studies and results published to date suggest for additional research to be conducted on CBD’s efficacy. While its impact on our memory appears to be between positive and inconsequential, scant findings present a counter to the argument. That said, even if the entirety of the tests on CBD and memory proved one way or another, additional research would likely be required for a definitive statement to be determined. In time, this result should come to fruition, though it likely will take years to reach a scientifically conclusive finding.

Until then, consumers will need to rely on minimal hard data available and the large amounts of anecdotal evidence others provide. Unlike THC, though, CBD is heading towards a path of certainty and assurance that THC has not been allowed. Only time will tell when or if any conclusive findings can be made for either, though most of us already have a hunch about its answer.

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