Research on cannabidiol (CBD) is still limited and evidence that it helps to treat anxiety is largely anecdotal. However, a number of small clinical trials support the use of CBD to treat anxiety and others are currently being done. As evidence of the efficacy of CBD to treat anxiety starts to mount, this is good news for the one in 13 people globally who suffer from anxiety disorders.
For those living with anxiety, a major concern is finding a safe way to manage their symptoms. Some current medication offers quick relief for anxiety but can be addictive. Other long-term anxiety medications may help to reduce symptoms over time, but they do not work for everyone. This is where CBD may offer a welcome alternative in the treatment of anxiety disorders.
What is CBD?
CBD is one of the chemical compounds found in the cannabis plant. THC (tetrahydrocannabinol) is also found in the plant. THC is the psychoactive compound that creates the euphoric feeling or “high,” whereas CBD does not have any mind-altering effects. The CBD derived from hemp cannot contain more than 0.3% of THC to be legal in the U.S.
How CBD works
The human body has an endocannabinoid system (ECS) with receptors all over the body. It regulates various bodily functions, such as immune response, appetite, moods and pain reception. CBD is believed to work with the receptors found in the nervous system. It does not fit directly into the receptors, like THC, but interacts indirectly with them.
The exact way CBD works is not fully understood yet. It is thought to have an effect on serotonin, a neurotransmitter that helps to regulate emotions. It could possibly work in a similar way to serotonin-reuptake inhibitors (SSRIs).
These are medications used to treat anxiety and depression. SSRIs target a serotonin receptor, 5HT1-A, to increase serotonin availability in the brain. Scientists have found that CBD is able to bind partially with this receptor and create an anti-anxiety effect.
Taking CBD could also play a part in ensuring that there is a plentiful level of anandamide in the body. Anandamide, also referred to as the “joy” chemical, is broken down by a certain enzyme and CBD inhibits the production of this enzyme.
Much anecdotal evidence is available of individuals using CBD to relieve anxiety. However, so far, there have been few clinical studies mostly with a limited number of subjects. The evidence from these small studies is promising.
A well-known 2011 study found that CBD may help relieve the anxiety experienced with public speaking. Dosing participants with CBD significantly reduced their discomfort, and anxiety in their speech performance.
A 2015 review analysis of 49 existing studies found evidence to support CBD as a treatment for generalized anxiety disorder, social anxiety disorder, panic disorder, obsessive-compulsive disorder, and post-traumatic stress disorder.
The findings mostly involved acute CBD dosing in healthy subjects. Overall, the review emphasized the potential value of CBD in the treatment of anxiety disorders and the need for further studies.
A 2019 study found that CBD reduced anxiety-like behavior in rats. Another 2019 study was conducted on 37 Japanese teenagers with social anxiety disorder (SAD). One group of participants received 300mg of CBD oil every day and a control group received a placebo every day.
The study lasted for four weeks and a survey was conducted to assess symptoms before and after treatment. The CBD significantly reduced symptoms and provided relief comparable to taking Paroxetine, a drug often used to treat the condition.
The funding of appropriate clinical studies will help to facilitate the integration of CBD as a mainstream treatment for anxiety.
Check the quality of CBD products
The interest in CBD increases as both anecdotal and scientific evidence amounts about its efficacy. This means that some unscrupulous companies are trying to take advantage of uneducated consumers.
When sourcing a quality product, it is important to find out where the hemp was grown, how it was extracted and see if there are third party laboratory tests. This enables you to make sure you know exactly what you are buying and how much CBD the product contains.
Decide on a type of CBD
Full or broad-spectrum CBD products are believed to be more effective due to the fact that they contain a variety of chemical compounds in the cannabis plant which work better in combination than on their own.
How to use CBD for anxiety
Your unique body chemistry will affect how you respond to CBD. If you metabolize it quickly, you may benefit from a higher dosage. CBD has been found safe to take in high doses but it is always advisable to start low and go slow. There are no dosing guidelines so it requires some experimentation to establish your ideal dosage.
When you start low and go slow, you can pay attention to subtle changes in your body as it responds to the CBD. Optimum dosage will depend on factors like body weight, metabolism, and concentration of CBD. Some cannabis dispensaries have experts who can offer dosage recommendations and sound advice.
Consider starting with a CBD tincture because it has high bioavailability, meaning it is easily absorbed by the body. Use the dropper to place the drops under the tongue (sublingually) and allow them to stay there before swallowing, so they are absorbed into the bloodstream. Results kick in more quickly than when ingesting CBD, like using edibles.
CBD may interact with certain medications, such as blood thinners, and it is always important to consult with your doctor first before using it.
CBD side effects
CBD is generally considered safe to use and well-tolerated. Some people may experience diarrhea, fatigue, changes in appetite or weight.
A final word
CBD has great potential for treating anxiety but further studies are needed to back up anecdotal evidence. If you feel unsure about taking CBD for anxiety and you live in a state where you can converse with a medical professional about it, scheduling a consultation and discussing options can help to allay your fears.
Cannabidiol reduces the anxiety induced by simulated public speaking in treatment-naïve social phobia patients https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/21307846/
Cannabidiol as a Potential Treatment for Anxiety Disorders https://link.springer.com/article/10.1007/s13311-015-0387-1
Cannabidiol modulates serotonergic transmission and reverses both allodynia and anxiety-like behavior in a model of neuropathic pain https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC6319597/
Anxiolytic Effects of Repeated Cannabidiol Treatment in Teenagers With Social Anxiety Disorders https://www.frontiersin.org/articles/10.3389/fpsyg.2019.02466/full