What is GABA? How Does it Relate to Cannabinoids?

Posted on February 15th, 2023 to Education by

When most people are asked about neurotransmitters in the brain, certain ones like dopamine and serotonin will come up first. However, there is one other highly important neurotransmitter that keeps synapses signaling and firing on an even keel: GABA. GABA has a big job to do, and researchers are now learning more about how certain cannabinoids may offer GABA support. Here’s a closer look at GABA and how it relates to cannabinoids.

What is GABA and what does it do?

GABA is an abbreviation for gamma-aminobutyric acid, which is an inhibitory neurotransmitter found in both the spinal cord and brain. GABA signaling acts almost like a regulation system for excitability in the brain.

Excitability is not always a good thing. In fact, if your neuronal synapses were firing all the time, it could lead to debilitating conditions like strokes and brain injury. This is due to what is referred to medically as excitotoxicity. This happens when there is not enough GABA and too much glutamate, which is an excitatory neurotransmitter.

To better understand how GABA works, you only have to look at an anxious brain and how the condition is targeted with certain medications. A major theory is that anxiety is associated with an insufficient level of excitatory inhibition in the brain. Therefore, one of the primary types of medications (benzodiazepines) effectively controls this excitability by boosting GABA reception.

The Link Between GABA and the Endocannabinoid System

The endocannabinoid system (ECS) is a vast system of receptors found throughout the body. However, the bulk of these receptors (CB1s) are actually found in interneurons that produce GABA. These interneurons are like gatekeepers that strive to keep the brain stable. Therefore, a lot of the work the ECS carries out when exposed to cannabinoids and endocannabinoids is directly related to GABA.

While there is still a lot to learn about GABA and cannabinoids, there is a lot of speculation that cannabinoids could affect neural-level processes. For example, certain cannabinoids like CBD (cannabidiol) may be effective for anxiety because they enhance GABA receptivity and function. A large Canadian study found that about half of patients with access to medical cannabis actually stopped taking benzodiazepines, which seems to support the theory.

Some researchers even suggest that cannabinoids may help to restore GABA transmissions, which could be a crucial development for the treatment of neurological diseases.

A Greater Understanding of GABA and the ECS Could Be Beneficial

With the latest information about GABA and the ECS surfacing, it’s easy to assume that cannabis could be beneficial for a range of human ailments and diseases. And, there have been a handful of animal and human studies to establish some level of credence already. At Southern Sky, we’re proud to be at the cusp of the cannabis revolution, offering all the latest news and developments along the way. Be sure to keep an eye on the Southern Sky blog for more insightful information.

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