Significant limitations with the currently available antidepressant treatment strategies have inspired research on finding new and more efficient drugs to treat depression. Cannabidiol (CBD) is a non-psychotomimetic component of Cannabis sativa, and emerges in this regard as a promising compound. In 2010, we were the first laboratory to demonstrate that CBD is effective in animal models of predictive of antidepressant effect, a finding now confirmed by several other groups. Recent evidence suggests that CBD promotes both a rapid and a sustained antidepressant effect in animal models.
CBD has a complex pharmacology, with the ability to interact with multiple neurotransmitter systems involved in depression, including the serotonergic, glutamatergic, and endocannabinoid systems. Moreover, CBD induces cellular and molecular changes in brain regions related to depression neurobiology, such as increased Brain Derived Neurotrophic Factor (BDNF) levels and synaptogenesis in the medial prefrontal cortex, as well as it increases neurogenesis in the hippocampus. This review presents a comprehensive critical overview of the current literature related to the antidepressant effects of CBD, with focus at the possible mechanisms. Finally, challenges and perspectives for future research are discussed.