How Cannabis Affects The Pineal Gland
The pineal gland has a profound impact on the brain. Its sensitivity has led to speculation that it is the “third eye” referred to in mythology. It is worth investigating what sort of impact cannabis has on this part of the brain.
“The third eye” appears as an iconic symbol in Ancient Egyptian art. The Hindus also symbolised a third human eye with a ceremonial red dot or “bindi” on the forehead. This is said to mark the location of the Ajna chakra, a centre of energy for the subconscious mind. It is said to be humanity’s link to the spiritual realm, with philosopher René Descartes calling it “the seat of the soul”. Wasn’t much of Descartes’ medical research roundly discredited even during his lifetime? In short, yes. However, the long answer allows for the nuance that chakras do appear to correspond to important physiological locations throughout the body.
In the case of the third eye, the pineal gland not only appears there as an important neurological organ; it is in fact a light-sensing organ structurally similar to the eye. Okay, maybe there is something going on here. The pineal gland is important to many disparate cultures for its spiritual significance. It is named for its pinecone shape, a symbol that appears throughout the art of Assyrian, Greek, and other cultures. Claims about its powers range from attuning one’s mind with God or even telepathic communication. Let’s look at what the science has to say about the powers of the pineal gland. If it does serve some important function, then it is also worth exploring how cannabis can impact this part of the brain.
THE PINEAL GLAND
The first thing to look at is this whole “third eye” thing. Is it actually that similar to the eyes we see with? Or could it be some vestige of an eye that was previously there? Or has yet to fully evolve? Slow down. Let us consider how the name “pineal” relates to the gland’s pinealocytes. These are cells that respond to light. They are connected to the hypothalamus of the brain. This is where the governance of our circadian rhythm, or sleep-wake cycle, comes from. The hypothalamus communicates the presence of darkness to the pinealocytes, forming part of human perception of day and night. So it does form an important component of human perception. In other animals, it is even directly connected to the eye.
Many vertebrates across the mammal, reptile, and fish kingdoms have evolved a pineal gland. Others have evolved not to have one. In the case of the New Zealand reptile the tuatara, the pineal gland is directly connected to a literal third eye! Technically, the parietal eye is the correct gland to call a third eye. This gland appears on the tuatara’s head with a lens, retina, and cornea of its own. This connects to the pineal gland, as do the glowing third eyes of various deep-water fish. From an evolutionary standpoint, the pineal gland is clearly important to circadian rhythm, hormonal regulation, and things like that. But what else does it do for humans? And how would it be affected if said humans enjoyed some cannabis?
THE IMPACT OF CANNABIS ON THE PINEAL GLAND
The pineal gland receives blood flow directly from the rest of the body through the posterior cerebral artery. Since the blood is not processed through the blood-brain barrier, psychoactive chemicals hit the pineal gland much quicker. This makes it very sensitive to psychoactive chemicals such as DMT or cannabinoids. The pineal gland regulates healthy sleep through the production of melatonin. This is an important function to not mess up. Overconsumption of cannabis, as the definition of “excess” suggests, could have an adverse impact on this and other aspects of your health. It’s safer to moderate your cannabis use. If you are using cannabis, what can you expect to happen to the pineal gland?
The pineal gland is connected to the endocrine system and the endocannabinoid system. So as part of the network of cannabis’ influence, it helps the flow of cannabinoids to cannabinoid receptors. Perhaps your trippy dreams are the impact of cannabinoids regulating the depth and duration of your sleep. It has been suggested THC may reduce melatonin, which would adversely affect sleep. Yet so many people use cannabis to help get to sleep. Other effects of cannabis relieve worries and physical tensions that hamper sleep. The science around the relationship between cannabis and sleep requires further study.
SCIENCE AND SPIRITUALITY
Whether or not cannabis boosts some spiritually significant function of the pineal gland is down to perspective. An altered state of consciousness can be triggered by activity of the pineal gland during meditation. Meditative and psychedelic states are also known to arise through cannabis use. Cannabis has been used as a sacrament in far-flung religious ceremonies from Hinduism to Rastafari. There can be profound feelings of personal insight or connectedness with the world when taking cannabis. Does this sense of contentment come from the underestimated power of opening our third eye and stimulating the pineal gland? Or is this just the way one thinks when high? Stoners have a range of beliefs from the spiritual to the sceptical. Therefore, each person’s experience will vary. One thing we can all agree on is our fascination with the power of cannabis.
The pineal gland is said to be the third eye of mythology, but how does it interact with psychoactive cannabis?
Opening your third eye: Cannabis and the Pineal gland
October 13, 2020
Most of the important parts of our body come in twos: eyes, hands, halves of heart, sides of brain, testis, ovaries, kidneys, lungs et al. but we only have one pineal gland which is why many cultures spanning different millennia and parts of the globe believe it represents unity of our dual spiritual and humanistic states.
It is often referred to as our ‘third eye’ and some believe that cannabis can help open it.
Is there any truth in this or is it all hokum.
A brief history of our ‘third eye’
Descartes, The father of modern western philosophy regarded the pineal gland as the “principal seat of the soul and the place in which all our thoughts are formed”.
Much of Descartes contribution to biology has long been discredited due to it being based on 16th Century knowledge however, throughout history different cultures have independently reached a similar conclusion.
For example, in religious ceremonies, Hindus place a third eye (bindi) on their forehead to channel chakra or spiritual energy. The Third Eye is also a constant theme in ancient Egyptian art and was celebrated so much it was even preserved separately during mummification.
The common theme linking all interpretations of the pineal gland or third eye is that it is the focal point of our spiritual guidance system, tuned into a higher dimension of consciousness and awareness of our unity with the wider universe.
In short, the link between our ego-driven humanity and spirituality.
What does the science say?
Disappointingly , there does not appear to be any actual modern science that demonstrates that the pineal gland possesses any mystical or spiritual properties.
However, science does support the concept that the pineal gland is our ‘third eye’. The pineal gland contains cells that react to light and subconsciously regulate our cardiac rhythms and sleep/wake cycle.
Biologists describe the pineal gland as our internal clock or calendar. There is a rhythm to a healthy pineal gland that syncs with the naturally occurring lengths of days and seasons.
Some scientists hypothesise that the pineal gland is an evolutionary relic and it may have played a larger role in our lives hundreds of thousands of years ago. It plays a bigger role in some mammals and reptiles today. In some frogs and lizards, it is actually connected to the eye and contains a lens!
Also, there is some science that suggests the pineal gland plays a role in our well being and sense of self.
One example of the importance of the pineal gland in terms of mental health is its relationship with the “Winter Blues” illness, seasonally affective disorder (often abbreviated to SAD). The fact that bright light is a common treatment for SAD suggests that the pineal gland and its associated light-sensitive hormone, melatonin is essential to maintaining a healthy, positive mental state, and is deeply concerned with emotional states in general.
Cannabis and its effect on the pineal gland.
Unlike other organs near the brain, the pineal gland is not hampered by the blood-brain barrier. As a result, it is ultra-sensitive to psychoactive chemicals and is affected almost immediately upon ingestion.
Research on rats has also shown that the pineal gland contains a functional endocannabinoid system. We know that cannabis can affect the endocannabinoid system and various other regulatory systems to control our subjective daily experience of mood, wakefulness and sleepiness.
This suggests quite strongly that the pineal gland is affected by cannabis but there is no available research to show exactly how. In any case, we know that multiple different regions of the brain are involved in the subjective experience of being high and that cannabis affects different people in different ways based on size, tolerance and DNA. The pineal gland is just one tiny link in an extremely long and complicated chain that shapes our experience when vaping.
The science around the relationship between cannabis and the pineal gland definitely, requires further study. Until then at least, I’m sticking with the spiritual and mythological theories!
Most of the important parts of our body come in twos: eyes, hands, halves of heart, sides of brain, testis, ovaries, kidneys, lungs et al… but we only have one pineal gland which is why many cultures spanning different millennia and parts of the globe believe it represents unity of our dual spiritual and humanistic s