biohack

A guide to CBD oil for mental and physical health

 
CBD mental physical health benefits guide biofit biofilico biophilia

When you think of cannabis, motivation and mental acuity probably aren’t the first things that come to mind but in recent years, the scientific community has successfully challenged this stereotype specifically in regards to cannabidiol (CBD), a natural compound in the plant with a multitude of health-giving properties.

Medical cannabis

The tide really began to turn with Charlotte’s Web, a strain of medical cannabis that had near-miraculous effects in children with severe, treatment-resistant epilepsy.[1] Since then, a deluge of potential health benefits have come to light.  

As legalisation spreads across the western world, professionals increasingly look to products like CBD oil as a natural way to upgrade mental and physical performance.

What is CBD oil?

CBD stands for cannabidiol, one of around 400 natural compounds in the plant Cannabis Sativa.  It is legal and safe to consume. It is not however to be confused with THC, another chemical compound in cannabis that has psychoactive properties, i.e. it gets you high, CBD does not.

CBD in natural, biophilic lifestyle

Talk about living in harmony with nature: the human body has an entire system designed to interact with cannabinoids.  This system has branches in the brain, thyroid, immune system, digestive tract, and almost every organ in the body.  Nerve cells produce signalling molecules called endocannabinoids, which are like those in Cannabis sativa.

CBD vs THC

Unlike cannabis strains used for recreational use, CBD oil does not contain THC (tetrahydrocannabinol).  CBD has no mind-altering properties, and actually counteracts the intoxicating effects of THC.

CBD as part of a natural lifestyle

Modern life can be stressful, with anxiety and sleep disruption a painful reality for many, especially those living highly tech-driven, urban lives. Reduced sleep over the course of a few days however has a severe impact on our cognitive and physical performance.

Biohacking for rest and stress

Biohackers are those who attempt to improve their physical and mental performance by manipulating their environment, nutrition, lifestyle and so on; in this case, many of them are going green in the search for new ways to rest and recharge.

Plants as medicine - ain’t nothin’ new!

Plants were, lest it needs stating, the very first medicines in human evolutionary history- nature held the remedy and relief to countless diseases thousands of years before the pharmaceutical industry began to commercialise the space.

So, while CBD may, like so many other plant-based treatments, be an old remedy, modern medicine hasn’t quite caught up, partly due to taboo and confusion over its place within the marijuana industry /drug trade.

This is an exciting time for new scientific studies being published as legislation frees up the industry; data is still in its relative infancy but the signs are positive.  

CBD for pain and inflammation

Experts believe that CBD could help with pain relief. The body’s cannabinoid system has a role in pain signalling and CBD could block these signals.[2] [3]  Some research also indicates that CBD could be useful in inflammatory conditions like Crohn’s disease [4]

CBD for anxiety and improved mood

Scientists are interested in the role of endocannabinoids in the fight-or-flight response.  CBD could be a potential treatment for anxiety and panic disorders, as well as PTSD.5] One study also showed that CBD had an antidepressant effect in mice.[6]

Improved sleep

If CBD can calm the mind, it follows that it could improve sleep quality. This is supported by rodent studies, which put forward CBD as a future treatment for insomnia.[7] [8]

Addiction treatments

One proven way to improve future wellness is to quit smoking, and CBD may be of benefit in this area too. Endocannabinoids act in parts of the brain that control psychological reward. If CBD can block signals that trigger addiction, it could be useful for drug, alcohol and nicotine dependence.[9]

Neuroprotection

It hasn’t been tested in humans yet, but pre-clinical trials suggest that CBD could protect brain cells. This is relevant to conditions like Alzheimer's, Parkinson's, stroke and multiple sclerosis.[10]

Nootropics

For our thoughts on other biohacking supplements in the ‘nootropics’ category, see here and here.

References

[1] https://onlinelibrary.wiley.com/doi/full/10.1111/epi.12610

[2] https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/21426373

[3] https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/28934780

[4] https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/22815234

[5] https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC6066583

[6] https://www.who.int/medicines/access/controlled-substances/5.2_CBD.pdf

[7] https://www.sciencedirect.com/science/article/pii/S0028390811003467

[8] https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/28349316

[9] https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC4444130/

[10] https://www.researchgate.net/publication/314080489

 

nootropics and biophilic living - part 2

We recently published an introduction to the subject of nootropics, here we dig deeper into the subject with a look at the more commonly available organic nootropics ingredients. Why should this be of interest to you?   Firstly, these all natural ingredients are small bio-hacks to help you live a healthier life and therefore represent a way to integrate nature back into our lives, creating a biophilic lifestyle (earth-friendly, connected to nature, with a focus on improved mental and physical health).   Secondly, anyone with a family history of degenerative brain diseases such as Alzheimer’s and Parkinsons may find some inspiration in the concept of bolstering their brain power early on in life. It certainly won’t do any harm.   So read on for an explanation of the main nootropics, their history and traditions, as well as the scientific evidence backing up their claims to enhanced mental and/or physical performance.

We recently published an introduction to the subject of nootropics, here we dig deeper into the subject with a look at the more commonly available organic nootropics ingredients. Why should this be of interest to you? 

Firstly, these all natural ingredients are small bio-hacks to help you live a healthier life and therefore represent a way to integrate nature back into our lives, creating a biophilic lifestyle (earth-friendly, connected to nature, with a focus on improved mental and physical health).


Secondly, anyone with a family history of degenerative brain diseases such as Alzheimer’s and Parkinsons may find some inspiration in the concept of bolstering their brain power early on in life. It certainly won’t do any harm.


So read on for an explanation of the main nootropics, their history and traditions, as well as the scientific evidence backing up their claims to enhanced mental and/or physical performance. 

all-in-one nootropics

Before we dive into our list of the leading nootropics contenders, a short note on how to get started. Various options exist today for easily accessible, online purchases that give you a generalist, quick win nootropic. These all-in-one supplements cover, to a greater or lesser extent, most bases and are in our opinion a great starting position. Examples includes products by the likes of Form for example, or GoPrimal to name but two.

build your own nootropics ‘stack’

For newbies to the subject, a simple all-in-one may be enough to get you started. It requires minimal time and even less thinking. As you start to dig deeper into the subject however, you may wish to go big on certain doses, doubling down on some ingredients and that will require buying individual, high-dose and premium quality nootropics. Place several of these together and you have your first ‘stack’, a term borrowed it seems from the tech community, as in a ‘full stack developer’.

nootropics-biohack_Bacopa_monnieri.jpg

bacopa flower

Bacopa monnieri is a perennial herb native to India with a long history in Ayurvedic medicine linked to cognitive abilities. Ayurveda never set out to be a scientific tradition but we would be amiss to discount this philosophy entirely. Studies have shown that this herb has both antioxidant and cell-protective qualities as well as stimulating long-term increased hippocampus activity, which could equate to overall learning abilities.

l-theanine

L-theanine is an amino acid found most commonly in green tea leaves (Camellia Sinensis) and in small amounts in Bay Bolete mushrooms. Reassuringly, it is readily available in both pill and tablet form in your average health food stores.

Research indicates that L-theanine promotes relaxation without drowsiness, reducing stress and taking the edge off the famous caffeine jitters.

In a 2018 double-blind, randomised, placebo-controlled trial of 46 participants diagnosed with Generalized Anxiety Disorder (GAD), results showed significant improvements in self-reported sleep satisfaction as a result of daily 450-900mg doses of L-theanine over a 10-week period.

Improvements to brain serotonin, dopamine and GABA levels (neutrotransmitters associated with pleasure and concentration) have only been shown in animal neurochemistry trials to date, as far as we can see, which is primarily where L-theanine’s reputation for cognitive enhancement comes from. 

organic_ashwagandha_root01-1.jpg

ashwaganda

Another big gun in the Ayurvedic tradition, also known as Indian Ginseng, Ashwaganda is said to have similar properties to Bacopa monnieri. In one double-blind, placebo controlled study, 50 adults with mild cognitive impairment were treated with 300mg twice daily or a placebo for eight weeks with significant improvements in both immediate recall and general memory in those treated with the root.

Choline

Essential for the proper functioning of the brain, Choline is thought to improve cognition and is associated with higher memory performance. Studies have shown that ingesting Choline during gestation and early postnatal development in mice helps to protect the brain fro neuropathological changes associated with Alzheimer’s Disease.

Gingko Biloba

Gingko leafs are an ancient and isolated species, making them something of an anomaly in modern day biology. One double-blind, placebo controlled study showed 24 participants with improved executive functioning in females especially. Another study on patients with dementia or cognitive impairment showed that a dose of over 200mg per day over a period of at least 22 weeks had potential benefits on cognitive performance.

lions-mane-mushrooms.jpg

Lion’s Mane Mushroom 

Hericum Erinaceus is an edible mushroom with medicinal qualities that belongs to the tooth fungus group. Studies have shown that it can have significant improvements on novelty-seeking behaviors, general locomotor functions and enhanced recognition memory. The exact mechanism through which it achieves this however, is not yet fully understood.

Nootropics - natural performance enhancers - part 1

Nootropics - natural performance enhancers - gingko biloba

what are natural nootropics, a.k.a. ‘smart drugs’?

In short, cognition enhancers originally intended to help improve cognitive function in aging individuals and/or those with age-related neurodegenerative diseases such as Alzheimer’s and Parkinson’s. 

Also, crucially, used by bio-hackers, entrepreneurs and other early-adopters looking for natural ways to boost physical and mental performance in everyday life. And this is the part we are focused on in this article…

you’re still healthy though, so are nootropics for you? 

To place this trend in perspective, it is the ability of nootropics to improve the prognosis (expected development of a disease) in patients that led to the hypothesis that they could also improve levels of attention/cognition in those who do not have a cognitive disease., or have not yet been diagnosed with one.

how do nootropics affect productivity?

Anyone who is out to change the culture in some way by making a contribution, be it small or large, to the world around them has got to be interested in productivity, especially those working in highly strategic, mentally engaging professions, be it start-ups, tech, legal, medicine or finance.

Making an impact on the world is not going to happen all by itself, especially as a solo entrepreneur. Instead it will almost invariably require blood, sweat, tears, moments of existential self-doubt and a break-up or two. There will likely be caffeine too, lots of caffeine…

the smart drug solution

Enter smart drugs, stage left. Nootropics claim to offer a cognitive edge; even a 5% boost in productivity and concentration can make a big difference over the course of a work day, especially when the number of work hours are limited by another job, relationships, fitness commitments and so on.

a list of common nootropics

Here is a list of nootropics that we will investigate in a series of forthcoming articles to address their affects as part of a functional health and mental performance program based on natural ingredients only:

  1. L-theanine 

  2. Bacopa Monnieri

  3. Ashwagandha

  4. Choline

  5. Gingko Biloba

  6. Lion’s Mane Mushroom

  7. Rhodiola Rosea

In the meantime, if you are looking for a one-stop shop to get into them, rather than trying to build your own bespoke ‘stack’ of smart supplements, check out Earthly Biotics for an innovative, all-in-one solution we have had our eye on for a few months now.

aromatherapy as part of a biophilic natural lifestyle

Aromatherapy as part of a biophilic natural lifestyle

Aromatherapy is a common medicinal technique that deploys aromatic plant oils, including essential oils, either inhaled or applied to the skin through massage, to positively influence our mood, mindset, pain sensitivity and sleep. 

Sadly, it has become all too easy to label something, be it a diffuser, soap or shower gel, as ‘relaxing’, ‘energizing’ or ‘refreshing’; such adjectives are so loosely thrown around nowadays that they have become near vacuous terms. 

biophilic bio-hacking

The inquisitive bio-hacker intent on living a more Biophilic lifestyle that brings them closer to nature  can and should demand more from the products he or she purchases, and aromatherapy still has a role to play in that process.

Ancient Chinese, Indian, Roman and Greek populations all appear to have made ready use of essential oils, both in religious or ritual practices and more practical applications such as cosmetics and perfumes. 

More recently, scientific studies have provided considerable evidence to back up aromatherapy’s claims to aid with reducing anxiety, improving sleep and enhancing cognitive performance; here we will address each in turn.

essential oils and anxiety reduction

642x361_What_is_Sandalwood.jpgAromatherapy as part of a biophilic natural lifestyle

One study focused on women undergoing an image-guided breast biopsy, exploring the use of aromatherapy scents compared to a placebo in a randomized, controlled study.

Anxiety was self-reported before and after the biopsy by 87 women using the Spielberger State Anxiety Inventory Scale. A statistically significant reduction in anxiety was shown through the use of lavender-sandalwood aromatherapy compared with the placebo group. 

aromatherapy for improved sleep

A meta-analysis of 12 studies using a random-effects model revealed that the use of aromatherapy was effective in improving sleep quality in 95% of cases with inhalation proving more effective as an application than massage therapy.

The study concluded that readily available aromatherapy treatments do indeed appear to be effective and promote sleep. More research may need to be done to develop specific guidelines for how to use aromatherapy to achieve the desired effect.

a natural solution to enhanced mental performance 

a natural solution to enhanced mental performance 

A sample of 42 administrative university workers performed a computer task in a university classroom while assigned into an aromatherapy group and a control group. Oil diffusers were is use during the session, one with petitgrain essential oil (orange tree leaf extract) and one with almost oil as the control.

Before and after the intervention, participants completed anxiety and mood state questionnaires (the Stait-Trait Anxiety Inventory and the Profile of Mood States). Heart-rate variability (HRV) was also measured before, during (20-25 min), and after the intervention to analyze autonomic nervous system regulation. 

The aromatherapy group performed the task 2.28 min faster than the control group suggesting that inhaling petitgrain essential oil specifically and aromatherapy more generally can help to improve cognitive performance in the workplace by reducing stress levels and increasing attentiveness and alertness. 

if you would like to know how I could advise on creating a wellness space, recharge room or simply a more biophilic way of living, simply reach out via my contact page.