Artists, musicians, writers, and others in the creative professions have been looking for ways to boost their creativity for centuries. In modern times, some have begun to explore natural enhancers such as herbs and essential oils to bring fresh inspiration.
Marijuana: The Artist’s Best Friend?
One of the natural substances that is thought to encourage creativity is cannabis—and specifically, marijuana. This historic plant is thought to relax the user and heighten sensory perception. However, its effect on creativity per se is hard to measure objectively.
One study conducted by a group from the Leiden University Institute of Psychology analyzed the effect of inhaled cannabis on habitual users’ divergent thinking ability when compared to a placebo. Divergent thinking is an important aspect of creativity as it enables one to “think outside the box” and generate multiple ideas based on a problem or stimulus.
Interestingly, this study found that low doses of vaporized cannabis had no observable impact on creativity when compared to the placebo, and high doses actually impaired divergent thinking skills.
Semantic Memory Function
Another study measured the effect of cannabis on creativity by assessing semantic memory function and hyper-priming (the ability to connect seemingly unrelated concepts). The results of this study were a little more promising with recreational cannabis users displaying increased automatic semantic priming while under the influence of the substance. The same users showed greater evidence of hyper-priming when they hadn’t recently taken cannabis, compared to the control group.
Cannabis and CBD
So, how does this apply to CBD?
CBD or cannabidiol is one of the approximately 200 active compounds found in the cannabis plant and—along with THC (tetrahydrocannabinol)—is thought to offer psychological and/or physical benefits to the user. In contrast to THC, CBD in isolation does not get you “high.” As a result, CBD in the form of CBD oil is legal in most parts of the United States and around the world.
How CBD Oil is Made
To make CBD oil, a CO2 supercritical liquid or solvent such as ethanol is used to extract the oils from the flowers and stems of the hemp plant. The CBD is then isolated, and the isolate is mixed with a carrier oil. Hemp is the industrial form of marijuana with 0.3% THC or less and is the most common source of CBD oil—although CBD oil can also be extracted from the marijuana plant (with a higher presence of THC). As CBD is not approved or regulated by the FDA, products vary in quality and purity and it’s important to choose a brand with clear labeling and laboratory testing.
Is CBD Linked to Creativity?
Owing at least in part to the link in popular culture between cannabis and creativity, people are starting to wonder whether CBD oil could offer a legal boost in creativity or memory. Unfortunately, research on CBD in general is limited. The research that has been done has focused mostly on the potential of CBD as an anti-seizure, anxiolytic, sleep aid, and analgesic. To date, no studies have examined the effect of CBD on creativity—specifically, the user’s ability to use divergent and convergent thinking, generate ideas, and display evidence of open- mindedness.
Indirect Benefits of CBD for Creativity
If we can’t say that CBD is linked directly to creativity, could it still offer benefits to artists, writers, musicians, and others looking to get motivated and start creating?
One of the ways in which CBD oil could help with creative thinking is by supporting healthy sleep cycles. One study from the University of California has examined the role of REM sleep in pattern recognition (an important aspect of creativity) and found that participants who entered REM sleep (as opposed to napping without REM) were better able to generalize words seen in the morning test to a different test taken in the afternoon.
The role of CBD in promoting better sleep is still somewhat unclear with studies producing mixed results. However, a large case series and literature review indicate that CBD could help to modulate serotonin-mediated apnea and REM sleep—both of which could enhance the quality of sleep.
A second way that CBD could potentially help to encourage creativity is by reducing feelings of anxiety. However, the relationship between anxiety and creativity is—in itself—controversial, with at least one study indicating that creative thinking in itself may help to reduce feelings of anxiety.
The Bottom Line
With a few potential links and also some non-links between CBD and creativity, the bottom line is that more research is needed. However, until multiple studies come out showing that CBD boosts divergent thinking, semantic memory, or open-mindedness, it could be a good idea to look for inspiration elsewhere to help you write that essay or compose that song.
If you do choose to try CBD, be assured that it is generally considered non-toxic and is unlikely to do any damage. As with any medication or health supplement, it’s always best to discuss your needs with a holistic health practitioner for guidance on dosages and possible interactions. Happy creating!