Did You Ever Wonder Why CBD is Both Stimulating AND Sedating?


You have probably read or received advice that CBD is used for focus, alertness and reduction of anxiety. And, you've probably heard CBD is sedating and useful for sleep as well. How can it do both?


CBD is Biphasic

It’s because CBD has Biphasic effects on us. Lots of substances are biphasic. Biphasic means something has two different effects, characteristics or properties.

Alcohol is a common biphasic chemical we’re familiar with. The term “One too many” is used when a person out drinking transitions from light, funny and engaging to stumbling, slurring speech or belligerent behavior. This is because of the biphasic effect alcohol has on us. At low doses, people become slightly less inhibited and engaging. At higher doses, people cross the line to become “drunk”.


THC is similar in that small amounts typically are relaxing but result in enhanced socialization abilities whereas high amounts can lead to paranoia along with nausea, anxiety, palpitations and other unpleasant side effects.


Understanding Dosage

One of the first scientists to mention the biphasic effect was Paracelsus (1493‐1541), a German who is recognized for his comments regarding the importance of the dosing chemicals to determine whether they are therapeutic or toxic. He stated: “All things are poison and nothing is without poison, only the dose allows something not to be poison.” From this statement, the perception of the beneficial or harmful effects of chemical compounds has changed. His work led to understanding therapeutic windows. This means the dose where a drug produces it’s desired effects. Too little doesn’t work and too much results in toxicities.


Low Amounts vs. High Amounts

CBD has biphasic effects on us. In low amounts it helps people to focus, concentrate and reduces anxiety. High amounts of CBD are more sedating. A student with test anxiety would discover micro dosing CBD helps them perform better on an exam while larger amounts at bedtime can help them get a restful night’s sleep. Studies support this. When combating both generalized and THC induced anxiety, more CBD is not better. Large amounts of CBD tend to be less effective for treating anxiety compared with smaller amounts.


Doses Vary by People and Routes of Administration

Keep in mind we all have our unique biologic pathway, so no two people experience identical results from CBD- or any compound. It is also important to consider routes of administration, ie., nasal CBD vs. oral delayed release capsules when determining amounts to take. I’ll address this in a future blog.


Start with a Low Dosage

The take home prescription is this: CBD exerts a biphasic effect on us. Lower amounts are likely to be more effective for stress and anxiety within a therapeutic window. Taking more is not likely to help and some studies suggest higher amounts are less effective while increasing other side effects. You have a unique biologic pathway so if you want to try CBD, start low and slowly increase to find your personal sweet spot.

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