We take cannabidiol (CBD) to potentially help with a number of things such as stress, sleep, pain, and even minor stomach troubles. There is another use, however, for CBD that’s becoming increasingly popular, and it’s cognitive function – primarily, focus and concentration. And, those are two things that many of us could use a little help with, especially as most of us find ourselves feeling stressed and tired as a result of all of our daily responsibilities.
But, why would the same plant compounds that potentially help people fall asleep at night be able to also make a person possibly feel more alert and focused? Well, the answer is the endocannabinoid system (ECS), which we will be getting into shortly. As you’ll see, this phenomenal bodily system holds the key to widespread regulation of bodily processes, which is why CBD seems to have a never-ending use of uses.
Focus, Concentration, and Your Brain
So, what determines how able we are to concentrate, or how skilled we are when it comes to focusing a particular task? Well, it’s our cognition. Cognitive function refers to a range of mental abilities that include the capacity to reason, remember, learn, plan, and adapt. These functions are essential for carrying out any task, from the most basic to the most complex. Cognitive functions are often categorized into specific domains, including but not limited to:
- Memory: The ability to store and recall information. This includes working memory (short-term), long-term memory, and the processes of encoding, storing, and retrieving information.
- Attention: The ability to focus on specific stimuli or tasks, sustain that focus, and shift it when necessary. Attention is crucial for learning, performing tasks efficiently, and navigating through the environment.
- Executive Function: A set of cognitive processes that include flexibility in thinking, planning, problem-solving, working memory, and inhibition control. These processes allow individuals to manage their thoughts and actions in goal-directed behavior.
- Language: The capacity to understand and produce language, including vocabulary, grammar, and communication skills. Language is fundamental for expressing thoughts, understanding others, and social interaction.
- Visuospatial Function: The ability to understand and process visual information about where objects are in space. This includes the capacity to perceive, analyze, and mentally manipulate objects.
- Motor Skills: Though often considered separate from cognitive function, motor skills involve the cognitive processes required to plan and execute physical movements.
- Social Cognition: The ability to process, store, and apply information about other people and social situations. This includes understanding others' perspectives, emotions, and intentions.
Because all of these functions are controlled by the same area of the brain, if one is underperforming, it’s likely that all will suffer as a result. Hence, understanding and assessing cognitive function is crucial in many contexts, from educational settings to clinical diagnosis and treatment of cognitive impairments.
Reasons Why Focus and Concentration Can Be Compromised
Understanding the underlying cause of compromised focus and concentration is crucial for determining the best way to address it, whether that means lifestyle adjustments, seeking professional help, or a combination of approaches. In fact, there are several key factors that can have an impact in these two areas.
Factor #1: Age
As we age, our cognition has the potential to decrease dramatically. This is, to an extent, natural – as we get older, our brain slowly stops producing new brain cells at the rate that it once did, and as a result, we can find that our memory, mental stamina, concentration and other cognitive functions can decline little by little.
Factor #2: Stress & Anxiety
Yes, stress and anxiety are a huge cause of decreased concentration and focus. That’s because when our brains are managing stress and anxiety, they put less energy into other functions like cognition. This is why when we are feeling overwhelmed, we can have a harder time actually focusing on that which is overwhelming us.
Factor #3: Poor Nutrition
A diet lacking essential nutrients can affect brain function. For instance, insufficient intake of omega-3 fatty acids, vitamins, and minerals can lead to decreased focus. Even mild dehydration can lead to difficulty in concentration and cognitive functions.
Factor #4: Underlying Conditions
There are several underlying conditions that can have an impact on cognition. Dementia and epilepsy are some of the more known ones, but many people don’t realize that certain autoimmune and digestive conditions can also impact our ability to focus and concentrate, largely due to the high level of inflammation in the body that steals resources from the brain.
Factor #5: Bering Overworked
Those who work incredibly long hours may find that they have a hard time concentrating and focusing, because their minds are simply depleted of the ability to concentrate due to overuse. If we don’t give our minds breaks every now and again, they can burn themselves out.
Factor #6: Lack of Sleep and Fatigue
Inadequate sleep can significantly impair cognitive functions, including attention, problem-solving, and memory. Of course, it’s hard to concentrate when you’re tired. If you’re feeling especially fatigued lately, your cognition may be compromised temporarily.
Factor #7: Lack of Exercise
A lack of exercise can negatively affect concentration and cognitive function through various mechanisms, including reduced blood flow to the brain, decreased release of neurotransmitters, poor sleep quality, increased stress levels, cognitive decline, and a sedentary lifestyle. Incorporating regular physical activity into your routine can help improve overall brain health and enhance your ability to concentrate and focus.
Could CBD Boost Focus and Concentration?
So, what about CBD? Is there something about the compounds in hemp that are able to help the brain regain these crucial functions? Well, in order to understand this, we need to look at the body’s endocannabinoid system. The ECS is essentially a bodily system that regulates every other bodily system. It does this by sending cannabinoids like CBD to cannabinoid receptors (CB receptors) found throughout these bodily systems, with each one correlating to a specific bodily process, whether it be mood, sleep, pain or something else.
There are cannabinoid receptors, as it turns out, that influence cognitive processes like focus and concentration. When these receptors receive cannabinoids, regulatory actions can occur that force these processes to function more efficiently. In fact, there have been a number of studies showing unique effects that CBD has on cognition, including focus and concentration.
Also, if you’re wondering, very few reported side effects from using CBD have occurred. However, some individuals may experience mild side effects such as dry mouth, dizziness, or even changes in appetite. Hence, it's important to start with a low dose and gradually increase it if needed while monitoring for any adverse effects.
What Should You Know About Taking CBD for Focus and Concentration?
If you’re interested in taking CBD for this purpose, let’s break down some key things that you need to know first. The way to ensure that you reach your CBD goals is to understand what to buy, how to take it, and when to take it.
Step #1: Go For Quality and Purity
Of course, the quality and purity of CBD products can vary. So, it is crucial then, to choose CBD-infused products from reputable manufacturers that provide third-party lab testing results to ensure you are getting a safe and accurately labeled product.
Step #2: Select the Appropriate Delivery Method That Meets Your Needs, Preferences, and Goals
There are several CBD delivery methods you can opt for when it comes to increasing focus and concentration:
- CBD Edibles: Great choice, as they can provide hours of effects. But, know that compared to other methods, edibles take long to take effect, and tend to be more subtle.
- CBD Tinctures/Oils: An excellent way to go because they can take effect in as little as 15 minutes; lasting for a couple of hours, and they can be felt relatively potently.
- CBD Vapes: Best for those who need a quick boost, because while they do take effect quickly and act quite potently, they tend to wear off in less than an hour or two.
Step #3: Going with a Full Spectrum, Broad Spectrum, or CBD Isolate Product
CBD products come in three main hemp extract forms:
- Full Spectrum CBD: Contains a variety of cannabinoids and compounds found in the cannabis plant, including a trace amount of THC (usually less than 0.3%).
- Broad Spectrum CBD: Pretty much the same as full spectrum, minus the THC.
- CBD Isolate: Consists of only pure CBD.
Some people prefer full-spectrum products for a potential "entourage effect”, where multiple cannabinoids work together, but others may opt for isolate products to avoid any trace of THC.
Step #4: Use the Right Milligram Strength
Determining the right CBD milligram strength for your needs depends on various factors, including your body weight, the severity of your condition, your individual sensitivity to CBD, and the desired effects. So, choose a milligram strength that works with your needs, while keeping in mind that higher milligram strengths are more potent. If you’re new to CBD, it's advisable to start with a lower milligram (mg) strength and gradually increase it until you achieve the desired effects. This allows you to gauge how your body responds to CBD without overdoing it. Remember, finding the right CBD milligram strength may require some trial and error.
Step #5: Time Your CBD Usage if Needed
Timing your CBD usage can be important for optimizing its effects and ensuring that it fits into your daily routine. The ideal timing may vary from person to person, depending on their goals and individual responses to CBD. If you’re trying to gain focus and concentration at a specific time, then make sure that you consume your CBD dosage in a way that allows it to peak when you will most need it.
CBD: A More Holistic Approach to Potentially Improving Focus and Concentration
If you’re looking for a natural way to increase your focus and concentration levels, CBD is definitely worth trying. But, before you do anything, make sure that you consult with your doctor/physician first. Especially if:
- You might have a certain condition like ADHD, depression, or even something as common as a cold, which can hinder cognitive functions.
- You’re taking certain medications, including those for anxiety, depression, and high blood pressure, as these can affect concentration as a side effect.
If your doctor allows you to go that route, then from there, try to start a CBD regimen that meets your daily needs.Keep in mind, too, that CBD often works best when used consistently. Establish a regular schedule for taking CBD, whether it's daily or multiple times a day, to maintain steady levels in your system.