Can CBD Oil Fight Anxiety?
Your heart rate quickens, you feel butterflies in your stomach, and your mind races out of your control. We’ve all felt the telltale signs of anxiety before. Anxiety itself comes from our evolutionary adaptation to avoid danger. But for some, this evolutionary response has gone awry.
For those with anxiety disorders, feelings of chronic stress and anxiety don’t just come and go with normal stressful situations. Instead, they stick around, interfering with daily life.
With current treatments for anxiety disorders lacking in safety and efficacy, many people are turning to home remedies. CBD oil for anxiety is one of the trendiest anxiety remedies today, and with the passing of the 2018 Farm Bill, its availability and popularity are likely to continue to grow.
Before we dive into the science behind CBD for anxiety, let’s first outline a bit about anxiety and CBD themselves.
Understanding Chronic Stress and Anxiety
Nearly 1 out of every 3 Americans will struggle with an anxiety disorder at some point during their lifetime. Unlike a healthy stress response that comes and goes when cued by something in the environment, anxiety disorders are conditions marked by the presence of persistent fear and anxiety.
The following disorders all share the traits of excessive anxiety or fear:
- Post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD)
- Obsessive-compulsive disorder (OCD)
- Social anxiety disorder (SAD)
- Generalized anxiety disorder (GAD)
- Panic disorder (PD)
Not only do these disorders interfere with everyday quality of life, but they are also linked to an increased risk of suicide and certain chronic health conditions. These include:
- Weight gain
- Digestive problems
- Heart disease
- Trouble focusing
- Memory impairment
With anxiety conditions linked to additional mental and physical conditions, it’s important for us to understand what causes anxiety, and what we can do to help treat it.
What Causes Anxiety Disorders?
Anxiety itself is simply a reaction to stress. When certain people experience chronic stress that arises from a traumatic event or continual exposure to small stressors, their anxiety response can become chronic, leading to an anxiety disorder.
While other roles, such as genetics and coping strategies, can play a role in whether or not chronic stress leads to an anxiety condition, a heightened response to stress is shared amongst most anxiety sufferers.
The key, then, to avoiding anxiety disorders and treating those that have them is to normalize this excessive response to stress.
Anxiety conditions are notoriously difficult to treat. With medical treatments often ineffective and accompanied by many unwanted side effects, those of us with anxiety are left turning to lifestyle changes and other natural methods for relief.
These lifestyle changes and natural methods include things like:
- Learning coping strategies: Learning positive ways to cope with stress can help to lessen feelings of anxiety. This is often most effectively done through therapy, although reading books and blogs can offer helpful insights too.
- Exercise: Getting physically active is good not only for our bodies, but also our minds. Exercise can help to relieve the feelings of stress and anxiety thanks to the release of feel-good chemicals known as neurotransmitters.
- Eating a healthy diet: What we eat can impact how we feel. By eating more whole foods, especially fruits, veggies, and healthy fats, and fewer processed and fast foods, we can support optimal mood and cognition.
- Natural supplements: Probiotics, adaptogens, CBD oil, and other supplements have shown anxiolytic (anti-anxiety) effects in human studies.
By using a combination of lifestyle changes and natural supplements like CBD oil, many people who struggle with chronic stress and anxiety disorders are finding symptomatic relief.
What is CBD?
Cannabidiol, or CBD, is a cannabinoid found in the Cannabis sativa plant. Over the last couple of decades, researchers have been discovering the vast therapeutic potential of CBD and other phytocannabinoids found in cannabis.
Unlike tetrahydrocannabinol (THC), the cannabinoid in cannabis that causes marijuana’s psychoactive properties, CBD does not elicit a “high” feeling. Instead, it appears to be partly responsible for many of the therapeutic benefits attributed to marijuana, such as its anxiolytic abilities.
Thanks to the increasing legality of the cannabis plant, cannabis extracts from hemp plants are now legal in all 50 states, so long as the THC content is less than 0.3%. This has led to rapid growth in the availability of CBD hemp oil, a cannabis extract that can benefit health without any dubious cognitive side effects.
CBD and Anxiety: The Science
If you’re familiar with marijuana, either through personal experience or through its representation in the media, you’re likely aware of its two contradictory effects. Either:
- Marijuana leads to complete calm and relaxation
- Marijuana leads to paranoia and anxiety
So, why does weed have these two different effects? While some of it may be dependent upon differences in individual biology and genetics between people, much of it is thanks to how much CBD is found in the cannabis product.
Back in the 1970s, researchers discovered that CBD can lessen, and even reverse, some of the negative side effects of THC consumption. This includes the paranoia, increased heart rate, and anxiety that can come from having a THC product.
These anxiolytic effects when taken with CBD led researchers to wonder whether CBD might have this same benefit in those who have heightened anxiety. Preliminary studies in animals were so promising that they led researchers to conclude that CBD demonstrates therapeutic promise for those with:
- Post-traumatic stress disorder
- Generalized anxiety disorder
- Social anxiety disorder
- Panic disorder
- Obsessive compulsive disorder
Human Studies on CBD and Anxiety
Early studies with humans have also found benefits of CBD for relieving stress and anxiety in both those with and without anxiety conditions.
In a 2011 study, the impact of CBD on the anxiety induced by public speaking was assessed in a small group of patients with generalized anxiety disorder (GAD). Patients who were given 400 mg of CBD 1.5 hours before the public speaking test were found to experience less anxiety, discomfort, and cognitive impairment than those who were given the placebo. When these results were compared with those from a group of healthy controls, those GAD patients who were given CBD were found to experience no significant difference in anxiety scores when compared to healthy subjects without GAD.
In a 2017 study examining the impact of CBD on the public speaking-induced anxiety in a group of healthy volunteers, researchers found similar results. 300 mg CBD (but not 100 mg or 900 mg) was found to induce anti-anxiety effects following a public speaking test.
These and other studies suggest that CBD may help those with social anxiety disorder, as a fear of public speaking is a common feature of this condition. Future studies are needed to examine the anxiolytic effects of CBD in those with other anxiety disorders.
How Does CBD Produce Anti-Anxiety Effects?
CBD is an interesting compound in that it works through a variety of pathways in the human body. We are still only beginning to understand exactly how this cannabinoid exerts its therapeutic benefits in the human body.
When it comes to anxiety, some of the anxiolytic benefits of CBD are thought to be thanks to how it interferes with neurotransmission. Neurotransmitters are tiny chemicals in our brains that play an important role in our moods, cognitive function, and energy levels.
Additional effects are likely to play a role, but more research is needed before we can fully understand how CBD may lessen feelings of anxiety and stress.
How to Use CBD Hemp Oil for Anxiety: Commonly Asked Questions
If you’re suffering from chronic stress or an anxiety disorder, you may be wondering, how should you use CBD to help lessen your symptoms? Understanding when to take CBD, how much to take, and what type of product to look for can be helpful in figuring out how to use CBD.
How Much CBD Oil Should I Take for Anxiety?
In the limited human studies available, doses of around 300-400 mg CBD appear to have anxiolytic effects. In one of these studies, smaller and larger quantities were found to have no effect, so there may be a dosage “sweet spot” when it comes to CBD and anxiety.
That said, every person is different, and human research examining the anxiolytic effects of CBD is limited. It is best to start small and work your way up until you find the benefits that you’re looking for.
Try starting at around 25 mg/day CBD and increase by 25 mg/day each week until you find the optimal dosage for you.
How Long Does It Take CBD Oil to Work for Anxiety?
Early research suggests that acute anti-anxiety benefits of CBD can be seen within 1 to 2 hours of oral supplementation. It may require prolonged administration before any effects are noticed for certain conditions.
What Is the Best CBD Oil for Anxiety?
When purchasing a CBD oil, it’s important to look for a quality product that offers third-party lab testing. This ensures that you are getting the amount of CBD that’s advertised on the label. Additionally, you will want to decide between a CBD isolate or a full spectrum CBD product. Click here to learn more about these two options.
Preliminary studies and early human research have found promise for CBD in reducing stress and anxiety. With research into this topic just beginning, the exact dosage is unknown, so you may need to experiment to find what works best for you.