The Fascinating Intersection Between CBD, Self Esteem, and the Hippocampus
Okay...tying CBD to self-esteem seems a step too far.
At some point, we're treading into "magic elixir" territory.
How on earth could CBD affect something as broad and deep-rooted as self-esteem?
It's not just a function of serotonin (see CBD and serotonin) or some simple pathway after all.
Turns out...there are strong connections between self-esteem and a particular brain area.
One that we can actually impact with CBD, exercise, and mindful meditation!
We have to look at research if we're going to back up such a sensational claim.
These are the topics we'll cover:
- A quick intro to your hippocampus
- Social rejection and the hippocampus
- The connection between self-esteem and the hippocampus
- CBD and hippocampus brain repair (neurogenesis)
Let's get started.
A quick intro to your hippocampus
Let's start here since that's where the interesting research is.
The hippocampus is a small part of your "reptilian" brain...the very old parts evolutionarily speaking.
It's about the size and shape of an almond and it's tucked way deep inside.
The hippocampus is the seat of both memory and mood.
The memory quality makes the hippocampus one of the most dynamic areas in the brain since it has to change by the second.
Just reading this (if we're keeping your attention) is rewriting some parts of the hippocampus.
This ability to change or plasticity as its called comes with some drawbacks.
It's like the old adage with a car or machine...it's the moving parts that always break down.
The hippocampus is our brain's fastest-moving part!
The downside of this malleability is that it may also be the most vulnerable to the various insults of life:
- Chronic stress
- Early exposure to infection
- Overactive immune system (possibly from the prior)
- Overactive glutamate system (see CBD and glutamate - it's our brain's gas pedal)
- Social rejection
Did you catch that last one?
How on earth would this work?
Let's introduce serotonin, please.
Serotonin and neurogenesis
Stay with us...this gets very interesting.
Serotonin is commonly called the "feel good" neurotransmitter but that's not really correct.
It's tied to every aspect of human behavior.
Serotonin guides our reactions in social situations!
This aspect is fascinating that we did a big review of tryptophan (serotonin's precursor) as a social stress buffer.
It plays into questions of fairness, risk-reward, and social rejection!
Interestingly, studies show that social hierarchy directly drives serotonin levels... as a reward for attaining higher status.
Higher rankings - more serotonin.
Our favorite study found that increasing serotonin would result in players of a particular game rejecting unfair offers more often.
Think about that...more serotonin and they would no longer tolerate unfair treatment towards them!
The study is here:
What's the connection with the hippocampus?
Serotonin has a side gig of boosting neurogenesis or brain repair/growth.
In fact, that's the real effect of SSRIs (common antidepressants) for depression and anxiety.
The real star of the show is BDNF...our brain's fertilizer.
We reviewed it at our CBD and BDNF article.
Simply put...BDNF guides repair and growth across the brain but especially in the hippocampus.
Multiple studies reflect this effect and the net effect is reduced anxiety, depression, mental health issues, addiction, and mood problems.
So...back to social rejection.
Social rejection and the hippocampus
Another substance, psilocybin, the psychoactive chemical at the heart of magic mushrooms causes an explosion in neurogenesis and BDNF.
Look at the implications of this here:
The preferential serotonin (5-HT) 2A/1A receptor agonist, psilocybin (Psi), reduces the processing of negative stimuli, but whether 5-HT2A/1A receptor stimulation modulates the processing of negative social interactions remains unclear.
Essentially, serotonin was involved in the processing of negative social interactions (such as interaction).
Check out our review on psilocybin and mental health or addiction for fascinating research.
So...let's connect the dots...it is brain science after all!
- Social rejection (and a slew of different insults) can impair serotonin function
- Reduced serotonin function drops BDNF, the brain's fertilizer
- Reduced BDNF leads to lower hippocampus volume (since it's so dependent being the brain's most dynamic brain area)
Let's finally bring it all together.
The connection between self-esteem and the hippocampus
The hippocampus is the key holder of the history of yourself.
This is the autobiography or running narrative of YOU!
All the slights and all the wins reside in that narrative.
Here's the bombshell:
Self-esteem and internal locus of control were significantly correlated with hippocampal volume in both young and elderly subjects.
Wow. What is the locus of control?
Correlated with self-esteem is an internal locus of control, the individual's perception of being in control of his or her outcomes.
It goes further beyond mental health:
Importantly, the mediation analysis showed that the gray matter volume of the hippocampus mediated the link between self-esteem and physical health, suggesting its critical role in the neural circuitry through which self-esteem is related to physical health.
The hippocampus is tied to the physical benefits of feeling great.
Again, remember that a slew of different things can actually reduce hippocampus volume:
Studies are described to show that chronic stress or prolonged exposure to glucocorticoids can compromise the hippocampus by producing dendritic retraction, a reversible form of plasticity that includes dendritic restructuring without irreversible cell death.
Finally, let's look at CBD. What on earth would CBD have to do with self-esteem?
CBD and hippocampus brain repair (neurogenesis)
So, we've established that the hippocampus is key to self-esteem as the holder of our own personal narrative (both memory and emotional coloring).
In other articles, we've covered the effects of CBD on hippocampus and neurogenesis but let's zero in here.
One study looked at CBD's protective effects against THC (which reduces hippocampus volume with prolonged use):
Associations between greater right subicular complex and total hippocampal volume and higher plasma CBD concentration were evident, particularly in heavy users.
Check out why CBD is a must to protect against high THC.
Remember how chronic stress would impair the hippocampus?
Researchers gave CBD to chronically stressed mice:
These findings support that the anxiolytic effect of chronic CBD administration in stressed mice depends on its proneurogenic action in the adult hippocampus by facilitating endocannabinoid-mediated signaling.
Research is here.
Let's break that down. Essentially, CBD had an anti-anxiety (anxiolytic) effect during chronic stress due to CBD's ability to promote neurogenesis in the hippocampus.
Interestingly, when they blocked the neurogenesis (repairing hippocampus) the anti-anxiety effect went away.
We've seen this effect so many times across multiple mental health issues:
- CBD and anxiety
- CBD and depression
- CBD and schizophrenia
- CBD and OCD
- CBD and panic attacks
- CBD and stress
The ultimate example of this is when researchers purposely create an injury in the brain and study the effect:
Recently, Mori et al. (125) demonstrated that in mice that underwent bilateral common carotid artery occlusion, CBD stimulated neurogenesis and, restores dendritic arbor and BDNF levels in the hippocampus
That's the crowning jewel of many different studies on this effect.
After starving the brain of blood flow, CBD exploded the healing process by directly stimulating regrowth in the hippocampus.
There's that BDNF again! Again, this will become the star of mental health over the next decade.
Dendritic arbor just means all the little branches off of neurons...the complexity of connections in the hippocampus.
Some practical questions.
How much CBD for self-esteem and hippocampus support
This may sound like a leap but we actually have research.
Since neurogenesis of the hippocampus is the key driver for self-esteem, we can focus on that.
Studies show that the neurogenesis effect of CBD peaks at about 300 mg per day.
Beyond that, it may have other effects that continue (anti-psychotic, anti-seizure, anti-anxiety, etc) in the short term but the long term neurogenesis effect starts to go down.
That's why we look at higher amounts for the first week in addiction (see CBD and addiction) but then 300 mg longer term.
A good starter dose is around 25-30 mg just to test your response.
The next question.
What's the best CBD for self-esteem and hippocampus support
All these studies and the 100's across our site are based on CBD isolate...not full spectrum.
Remember that THC can negatively impact hippocampus volume from the study above.
That's why we focus on CBD isolate.
The bigger issue is that 40-60% of people have histamine issues and full spectrum can have side effects there that go away with CBD isolate.
The allergy/histamine issues go up as we get older and for women!
There are basic requirements we have for CBD:
- Organically grown in the US at an FDA registered farm
- 3rd party tested
- CO2 processed
- THC free - (THC has been shown to increase pleasure of other food and addictive drugs)
- No solvents
- No heavy metals
- No pesticides
- No bacteria
- No mold
We test IndigoNaturals twice since our whole family uses it daily.
Finally, there's affordability.
If research is pointing to 300 mg for peak neurogenesis (you may be lower), then the cost per mg of CBD is the key factor.
For that reason, we price our between 2-6 cents per mg before various discounts.
It's the lowest on the market (that we can find).
Also, check out our review on psilocybin which will likely replace antidepressants and mental health meds in the next decade.
Always work with a doctor or naturopath with any supplement!
The information provided here is not intended to treat an illness or substitute for professional medical advice, diagnosis, or treatment from a qualified healthcare provider.