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The conclusion of an Italian study on cannabis essential oil and the human nervous system indicates subjects were “more energetic, relaxed, and calm, when exposed to small amounts,”  which suggests the oil could help with the reduction of stress, depression, and anxiety.

The study, titled “Cannabis Essential Oil: A Preliminary Study for the Evaluation of the Brain Effects,” was published in Evidence-Based Complementary and Alternative Medicine.

The study was conducted on a small sample size of five participants -- two females and three males --  to explore the potential of cannabis essential oil to ease stress or mitigate symptoms of depression.

The goal was to focus on human brain wave activity and the autonomic nervous system.

“These results indicate that cannabis essential oil inhalation increases the level of relaxation and general well-being as assessed through our test subjects' self-evaluation,” the Italian researchers reported. “This relaxing and anxiolytic effect on ANS could be explained by the abundance of limonene, myrcene, and beta-caryophyllene.”

Limonene, myrcene, and beta-caryophyllene are terpenes commonly found in cannabis. The study results suggest that cannabinoids are not the only beneficial compounds in marijuana.

To conduct the study, researchers monitored the brain wave activity of five healthy participants between the ages of 30 and 57. Factors such as blood pressure, respiratory rate, skin temperature, heart rate, and mood were also tracked.

The researchers attributed the changes in heart rate, skin temperature, and blood pressure to the terpenes alpha-pinene and limonene, specifically pointing to limonene's effects on the sympathetic nervous system through increases in the chemicals serotonin and dopamine, which affect mood functions. The sympathetic nervous system is responsible for an individual's fight or flight mechanism.

“... limonene increases serotonin in the prefrontal cortex, and dopamine (DA) in hippocampus mediated via 5-HT1A. This determines the direct activation of the sympathetic system,” the study read.

In short, researchers observed that the presence of limonene contributed to increases in both serotonin and dopamine by directly activating production of the chemicals in the sympathetic nervous system.

The study concluded that the terpenes present in cannabis essential oil cause changes in the body by activating the nervous system to produce mood-altering chemicals that reduce stress, depression and anxiety.