CBD May Improve Memory

Research Trial Shows CBD Improves Verbal Memory in Young People

A new study reveals that vaping cannabidiol (CBD) may help young people in retaining verbal memory, allowing them to recall everyday details.

Calvin Chan, Ph.D. December 28, 2021

A small-scale study revealed that vaping CBD may help improve verbal episodic memory in people under 30, highlighting a potential role for CBD in treating memory deficits.

The double-blind, placebo-controlled, randomized crossover trial conducted by the University of Basel in Switzerland revealed that vaping CBD helped participants recall newly learned information after 20 minutes with no impact on their mood, motivation, or attention.

Episodic memory refers to the ability to recall everyday first-person experiences or events such as what you ate for dinner yesterday or where you celebrated your 18th birthday.

CBD for Memory in Young People

A healthy episodic memory is essential for everyday life and impairments are often seen in those with neurodegenerative conditions such as Alzheimer’s disease.


To test how CBD could improve episodic memory, the research team asked healthy participants to learn three sets of five totally unrelated German nouns in approximately 30 seconds. Successful memorization was confirmed before they were given 20 minutes to vape either 12.5 mg of CBD or a placebo.


At the end, the participants were then asked to recall and write down all 15 words, again.

Smaller Amounts of CBD Improved Episodic Memory the Best

Vaping CBD significantly improved recall ability in participants by 10 percent with no impact on relaxation, mood, motivation, or fatigue when compared to vaping the placebo.

More shockingly, the research team found that within the CBD group, participants with a higher body mass index (BMI) performed even better. Those with a BMI of about 28 on average recalled two more words than those with a BMI closer to 18.

BMI is a measure used by physicians to categorize people based on their height and weight. Those with a higher BMI typically have a larger body size.

The study authors speculate that this difference in effectiveness may have to do with the “bioavailability” of CBD, or how much CBD is actively absorbed into the body.

CBD for Verbal Memory

When it comes to improving memory, finding the right amount of CBD might be key. Those with a higher BMI may need more CBD to reach that optimal effect, whereas those with a lower BMI likely need less.

“The interaction between BMI and drug suggests that the dose for subjects with lower BMI might have been too high to increase memory,” the authors said.

CBD Improved Episodic Memory with No Negative Effects on Attention or Working Memory

To confirm that vaping CBD didn’t lead to any psychoactive effects that altered attention and short-term working memory, researchers performed additional tests.


In the attention test, participants were asked to react as quickly as possible to the occurrence of a specific target image when presented with a series of images.


To assess working memory – the ability to retain temporary information – participants had to judge whether a currently presented picture was the same as one presented two positions before it in a series.


In both cases, CBD had no negative effects on attention or working memory confirming its safety.

Effect of CBD on Episodic Memory Has Promising Treatment Potential for Disease

The research team explained that because CBD has been known to interact with the human body’s endocannabinoid system – a neural network able to modulate memory processes – it’s a drug with significant treatment potential.

“The results may have implications for the treatment of episodic memory deficits,” the study authors said. “Which are not only hallmarks of Alzheimer’s Disease, but are also prevalent in many psychiatric disorders like schizophrenia, bipolar disorders, or post-traumatic stress disorders.”

“Importantly, we are still lacking effective drugs to counter episodic memory deficits in neuropsychiatric conditions.”

While further research is needed to determine the optimal dose and how CBD might impact memory in the long term, nonetheless the study authors emphasize that their “results show that CBD can improve episodic memory, a drug effect with possible therapeutic potential.”

Calvin Chan, Ph.D.

Calvin Chan is a researcher and medical writer from Edmonton, Canada. As a big science nerd, he loves reading and writing about everything science - from cannabis to dark matter and even alien life. Calvin has a PhD from the University of Alberta.