Is CBD a Depressant or Stimulant?

Illustration of how CBD acts as stimulant or does it make you feel depress
Written by Nina Julia | Last updated: June 28, 2022

CBD can make you sleepy — but it can also give you more energy and focus.

So, is CBD a depressant or stimulant?

By definition, stimulants energize the nervous system, resulting in more physical energy, faster brain activity, and increased blood pressure.

Meanwhile, depressants slow down the function of the nervous system, reducing heart rate, slowing brain activity, and decreasing production.

Which of these categories does CBD fall into?

Let’s dive into the biphasic nature of cannabidiol

Is CBD a Depressant or Stimulant? (Highlights)

  • CBD is a natural plant molecule found in cannabis (hemp and marijuana). Unlike THC, it’s non-intoxicating, so it won’t make you feel high.
  • CBD achieves its effects through the endocannabinoid system (ECS) — the master regulatory network in all mammals that promotes and helps maintain homeostasis throughout the body.
  • CBD has a biphasic nature; lower doses increase alertness and enhance focus, while higher doses lower blood pressure and may cause sedation.
  • CBD is neither a depressant nor a stimulant. You can modulate the effects depending on the dose and the time of the day.
  • CBD doesn’t have the side effects of conventional stimulants and depressants. It’s a safe and well-tolerated compound, even in high doses. It can cause mild side effects, such as dry mouth, sedation, changes in appetite, and diarrhea.

What Are Depressants?

Depressants, also known as central nervous system depressants, are drugs that decrease the activity of neurotransmitters in the brain. They slow down the functional and neuronal activity, depressing (or reducing) arousal, excitement, and stimulation in different areas of the brain. Due to these effects, they’re often referred to as “downers.” Common depressants include alcohol and sleep medications.

What Are Stimulants?

Stimulants are substances increasing the levels of physiological and neural activity in the body. They increase energy, focus, and alertness. Stimulant is an umbrella term that covers many subclasses of drugs, including caffeine, norepinephrine, cocaine, etc.

What’s CBD: A Depressant or Stimulant?

CBD oil and Alcohol

CBD is neither a depressant nor a stimulant.

Let’s compare CBD to two commonly used substances.

Alcohol is classified as a depressant. It slows down the activity of your nervous system, impairing cognitive function. It literally makes your brain slower.

Meanwhile, caffeine is a stimulant, which explains why people drink it for energy. It stimulates the nervous system, increasing our alertness and energy levels.

CBD doesn’t fit in any of these definitions because its effects are mediated through the endocannabinoid system (ECS), which is the main network involved in homeostasis — a state of physical and mental balance that can only occur when every function in your body works optimally.

CBD can make you either sleepy or awake; it all depends on how you use it (more on that in a bit).

How Does CBD Work in the Body?

The ECS corresponds with CBD through a system of receptors and enzymes that are found throughout the body. Cannabinoid receptors are literally everywhere, including the:

  • Brain
  • Blood vessels
  • Digestive tract
  • Muscles
  • Immune system
  • And every other system and organ in the body

The endocannabinoid releases its own cannabis-like molecules called endocannabinoids. They produce similar effects to CBD and THC. Once the receptors interact with cannabinoids, chemical reactions appear that allow for the self-regulation of the aforementioned biological processes.

However, the body produces only small amounts of cannabinoids, which are used by the ECS on-demand — none of them are stored in advance. That’s why a boost of plant-derived cannabinoids can provide so many health benefits.

CBD is more of a regulator than a depressant or stimulant. It indirectly acts on the cannabinoid receptors through hormones, enzymes, and other neurotransmitters to achieve its goals.

What Are the Factors That Impact the Effects of CBD

CBD oil and hemp flowers

Now you know that CBD is neither a depressant nor stimulant — but it can act like one. Depending on how it’s administered, it can produce more calming or energizing effects.

These factors affect the way you feel after taking CBD oil:

Potency

The potency level of a CBD product is expressed in milligrams. This figure refers to CBD and other cannabinoids from the hemp extract. But generally speaking, if you see a 1000 mg of CBD oil, the number of milligrams refers exclusively to CBD.

High-strength oils provide a stronger dose per serving, increasing the likelihood of reduced blood pressure and sedation.

On the other hand, low-strength CBD products work better for stimulation, focus, and clarity.

Consumption Method

CBD is available in various forms, the most popular being CBD oils, edibles, and vapes. Each consumption method delivers its own type of effects, as well as a different onset time due to absorption rate.

Overall, faster-acting products like CBD vapes can be more uplifting and energizing than calming. Oral forms, on the other hand, take longer to kick in, and their effects may be more focused on the body since the CBD makes its way to the bloodstream via the digestive system.

Here’s a list of CBD products in order on a scale of depressants–stimulants. 1 is the most likely to be a depressant, and 5 is the most likely to be a stimulant.

  1. CBD edibles
  2. CBD capsules
  3. CBD tinctures
  4. CBD sprays
  5. CBD vapes

Type of CBD

There are three main types of CBD oil:

  • Full-spectrum – comes with all compounds from hemp, meaning every dose delivers a broad range of cannabinoids (including 0.3% THC or less), terpenes, and flavonoids.
  • Broad-spectrum – this type is similar to full-spectrum CBD, but without any THC in the formula.
  • CBD Isolate – pure CBD separated from other hemp compounds

The other cannabinoids and terpenes influence the effect profile of your CBD oil. If the dominant terpenes are citrusy, and the product has a higher CBG content, the effects will be stimulating. On the other hand, floral CBD oils infused with CBN will act like depressants.

Time of the Day

Figuring out the best time of the day to take CBD has a lot to do with the type of effects. It’s natural to take CBD in the morning because it gently supports the endocannabinoid system, helps reduce stress and anxiety, and takes away physical tension.

Meanwhile, taking CBD in the evening will help your body prepare to sleep and support the body’s regenerative processes caused by deep relaxation.

Full vs. Empty Stomach

When you take CBD oil on an empty stomach, it will kick in faster, but you may not absorb it as well as if you would take it after a meal. CBD absorbs 3-5 times better when taken with fats. It will also produce longer-lasting effects as the CBD will be gradually released into the bloodstream from the liver.

Additional Supplements

If you take CBD for energy, you may want to combine it with coffee. Doing so will stabilize the energizing effects of coffee, preventing the unwanted jittery. CBD and coffee act synergistically together, like a stimulant.

But when you use CBD with, say, chamomile tea or melatonin gummies, you may feel sleepy and tired, especially with a higher dose of CBD.

The Two Main Properties of CBD

CBD oil and a dropper

Leaving the aforementioned factors aside, CBD has been studied for both stimulating and sedating effects. Let’s elaborate on both properties so you can see how the cannabinoid clockwork works.

CBD As a Depressant

Most people take CBD for pain, stress, and sleep. This is supported by a number of independent studies and literature reviews. There is, indeed, a link between CBD and cortisol levels, which explains why CBD helps you calm down. CBD oil can also reduce anxiety and physical discomfort, all of which contribute to a calmer nervous system and more restorative sleep.

CBD As a Stimulant

According to a recent study, CBD may be useful for maintaining energy homeostasis by supporting the activity of mitochondria. Not only that, but CBD may also support the body’s natural energy cycle which increases and drops throughout the day. Studies have shown that CBD may support cognitive performance, increase motivation, elevate mood, and promote alertness.

So… Is CBD a Depressant or Stimulant?

CBD is a versatile therapeutic compound that produces a calming or stimulating effect depending on the dose and the time of the day at which you take CBD oil.

However, it doesn’t act directly as a depressant or stimulant. Instead, CBD uses the endocannabinoid system to regulate an array of essential bodily functions, including sleep-wake cycles.

If you want to use CBD for either of these purposes, follow the instructions from our guide; use low doses in the morning and take higher doses in the evening. You can also choose a sleep-support or energy-enhancing formula infused with special terpene blends or supportive adaptogens.

Whichever option you decide to pursue, always make sure to buy your CBD products from a reputable source that uses organic hemp and provides batch-specific reports from an independent laboratory.

Nina created CFAH.org following the birth of her second child. She was a science and math teacher for 6 years prior to becoming a parent — teaching in schools in White Plains, New York and later in Paterson, New Jersey.

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