More and more people are turning to CBD to help them manage anxiety symptoms and attain a greater sense of calm. CBD possesses anxiolytic properties, which means it can reduce stress, alleviate anxiety symptoms and improve mood. Being sourced from the hemp plant, it is an entirely natural compound that is easily absorbed, well-tolerated, and non-addictive when compared to traditional anxiety medications. It helps people with anxious feelings to sleep better, regain confidence, and experience a better quality of life. In Australia, millions of people are already experiencing anxiety and are seeking natural alternatives to pharmaceuticals that may cause side effects. You can discover the natural benefits of CBD for anxiety, including how it works, why it helps in lowering anxiousness, and how to use it for your symptoms.
- 1 What is CBD?
- 2 Does CBD Help With Anxiety?
- 3 Understanding Anxiety
- 4 What evidence is there for CBD’s anxiety benefits?
- 5 How CBD Works for Anxiety
- 6 How to Use CBD for Anxiety
- 7 FAQs
- 8 Conclusion
What is CBD?
CBD is an extract from the cannabis sativa plant, also known as hemp. This plant contains many natural compounds known as cannabinoids, with cannabidiol (CBD) being the most important and having several therapeutic effects. CBD can be used alone or in combination with other cannabinoids such as CBG, CBN, or CBDA. CBD is usually extracted into an oil containing many phytonutrients like flavonoids, antioxidants, and hemp-derived terpenes. CBD is analgesic, anti-inflammatory, and anxiolytic, which makes it helpful in treating several health issues like anxiety, depression, and chronic pain. Other cannabinoids and terpenes found in hemp, such as Linalool, also provide calming and anxiety-reducing effects. They function on similar brain receptors as CBD to help regulate the stress response and promote a better mood.
Does CBD Help With Anxiety?
While CBD may not work for everyone, it has been shown to reduce anxiety symptoms in most users effectively. Additionally, it can also help with other conditions associated with anxiety, such as depression, mood disorders, neurodegeneration, and stress response problems. Let’s explore the specific ways CBD aids in reducing anxious feelings.
After using CBD, most people will note they feel significantly calmer, at ease and more resilient to stress. CBD downregulates the stress response in these users via the brain’s hypothalamic-pituitary-adrenal (HPA) axis. The stress response is responsible for underlying problems associated with chronic stress and anxiety. When it becomes overactive and the brain becomes ‘stuck’ in a parasympathetic or nervous state, it leads to anxiety. Through the CB1 receptors located in this brain region, CBD helps to lower stress sensitivity. It aids users in building resilience against stressors to obtain a more balanced mental state. Over time, this also results in lower cortisol in users, which helps benefit other health areas like blood pressure and immunity.
It’s well known that cannabinoids like CBD can help with mood and better emotional states each day. Primarily, this is due to their interactions with neurotransmitters like GABA and serotonin. Serotonin, in particular, is hugely important as the central brain chemical responsible for mood, memory, learning and more. CBD can help the brain manage serotonin better, normalising its production and reabsorption via the serotonin receptors. Again, this is mainly done via the CB1 cannabinoid receptor channels in the brain, activated before serotonergic activity occurs. Over time, CBD can help users naturally improve their mood, stabilising their emotions and helping to prevent anxiety.
Mitigating Chronic Stress and PTSD
Because of its potent capacities in managing stress and normalising the stress response, CBD can mitigate symptoms of chronic stress, plus even PTSD in some instances. Both of these conditions can relate to or be triggered by anxiety, which makes them co-morbidities. CBD’s demonstrated abilities in mitigating excessive stress and counteracting stress triggers make it powerful in minimising the impact of these co-morbidities. It can correspondingly minimise anxious feelings and help users maintain normal stress levels.
A fundamental problem faced by those with anxiety is its damaging impact on sleep health. Feelings of anxiousness and racing thoughts at night can impair the ability to sleep. It can also reduce the length and quality of sleep. Insomnia and sleep problems are closely linked. Greater than 50% of those with generalised anxiety disorders also suffer from some form of sleep disruption. In counteracting these anxiety symptoms at bedtime, plus helping to stimulate calmness, CBD helps many with anxiety get better sleep. This can help mitigate anxiety by boosting mood and mental energy during the day. Sleep is critical for mental health and anxiety prevention, meaning CBD can play a decisive role in enabling better neurological health for many.
Before we look at how CBD works in combatting anxiety, it’s important to understand anxiety and its causes.
What is Anxiety?
Anxiety is an umbrella term for a range of different conditions that all involve or trigger excessive worrying, racing thoughts, feelings of stress or fear, plus physiological reactions like cortisol (stress hormone) release. These conditions can be categorised based on triggers such as social anxiety, which is caused by social stress or be more general underlying conditions like generalised anxiety disorder. Anxiety issues can impact the quality of life for those affected, reducing their confidence, damaging relationships, ruining sleep, causing weight gain and even depression. For many users, pharmaceuticals like benzodiazepines or Xanax are used to help treat bouts of anxiety. But these drugs are often addictive, side-effect prone and can have several detrimental health consequences.
What causes it?
Like most mental illnesses and neurological disorders, anxiety can be caused by many factors. These factors frequently interplay, making the real underlying cause or problem challenging to pinpoint. It can be caused or exacerbated by many factors like genetics, brain neurochemistry, past trauma, lifestyle stress, social factors, alcohol or drug problems and medication use. Every individual is different and neurologically unique, meaning the cause of their anxiety will be individual to them. Triggers of anxiety symptoms can also be unique and personal to each individual. Finding solutions or mitigation approaches that work for a person must be tailored to them and their mind.
What evidence is there for CBD’s anxiety benefits?
Over the past few decades, there have been many studies examining the effectiveness of CBD in lowering anxiety symptoms.
A 2011 study tested the efficacy of CBD in treating patients with social anxiety. In a double-blind study, 24 subjects not treated before were given either CBD or a placebo. Both groups were given CBD dosages 1.5 hours before the test. Subjective ratings from each individual in anxiety tests and physiological measures such as blood pressure, heart rate and sweating were calculated during and after the test. Users given CBD showed far lower anxiety symptoms, better cognitive performance and less fatigue. Considerable improvements in social anxiety symptoms were displayed among test subjects versus the placebo group. The treatment was concluded to be a significant success in demonstrating CBD’s anxiety-lowering effects.
Another study explored the anxiolytic effects of CBD in 39 young adults with social anxiety disorders. Each was given a high dose of 300mg of CBD daily during a public speaking test phase, compared with a placebo. Ratings on the Liebowitz Social Anxiety scale were reduced by 12 points amongst those given CBD, compared to 3 3-point reduction in the placebo group. It demonstrated the potent anxiolytic properties of the cannabinoid.
A similar study from New Zealand examined 400 patients who were the first in the country to be prescribed CBD. Each was given 300mg of CBD per day. On average, the subjects had their anxiety and depression scores decrease from 4 to 2 out of 5 on a standardised mental distress rating model. In other words, CBD effectively halved their symptoms of anxiousness and mental distress on average. This was a promising outcome and signals how potent the cannabinoid is for helping with mental health.
In the US, an extensive case study was performed on 103 adults who had sleep and anxiety problems. Low doses of 25mg CBD were given to patients in capsule form daily over several weeks. In subjects given CBD, reduced anxiety was seen in 79% of the group. Sleep length or quality improvements were also reported in 66% of subjects. The researchers noted the cannabinoid was very well tolerated. Only three subjects reported any minor side effects. The researchers concluded that CBD displayed substantial potential in aiding sleep as well as anxiety symptoms.
In addition to other clinical studies in both human subjects and rodent models, the evidence for CBD’s anxiolytic effects is already robust.
How CBD Works for Anxiety
Let’s understand how CBD works to prevent anxiety through its endocannabinoid and neurological activity.
Endocannabinoid System and CB1 Receptors
The most powerful health benefits of cannabinoids aren’t provided by these compounds standalone but rather by the endocannabinoids produced from them. Endocannabinoids such as anandamide are made naturally by the body in response to CBD or other cannabinoids binding to cannabinoid receptors in the body. Cannabinoid receptors in the brain are vital for anxiety. These are known as type 1 receptors, which are the main pathways by which CBD can modulate neurological activity and help with anxiety or mood. These receptors are importantly also present in the nervous system, making them effective at downregulating sympathetic nervous system activity from excessive stress.
Other endocannabinoids like 2-AG can also modulate the fear response through CB1 receptor activity in the prefrontal cortex and amygdala. These are brain regions that regulate anxiety plus phobias. 2-AG helps bring these areas back to homeostasis and normalises their activity to lower anxiousness.
Serotonin and GABA Receptor Activity
Serotonin and GABA are both neurotransmitters that CBD can influence the regulation of. Serotonin affects mood and anxiety directly. GABA, on the other hand, is an inhibitory neurotransmitter. It is responsible for suppressing other neurotransmitters, helping prevent anxiety, irritability, sleep issues and even depression. In trials, CBD and other cannabinoids have been shown to modulate and bind to both serotonin and GABA receptors. In doing so, they may support both the production and reabsorption of each, in turn supporting anxiety suppression.
CBD can act specifically on the serotonin 1A receptor, which has anxiety-regulating properties. By raising the signalling of this receptor, CBD can support better mood and resilience against anxiety. GABA interactions occur differently. CB1 receptor agonism triggers endocannabinoids like 2-AG to be released. These endocannabinoids then act on the GABA receptors, producing effects similar to benzodiazepine and antidepressants. They evoke feelings of calmness and greater mental energy. Inhibiting FAAH and modulating GABA are areas researchers are focussing on to find natural antidepressant solutions as alternatives to SSRIs or pharmaceuticals.
Inhibiting Fatty Acid Amide Hydrolase (FAAH)
Endocannabinoids like anandamide are broken down by enzymes in the body called FAAH. By reducing FAAH levels, the benefits of endocannabinoids, like anxiety reduction, can be boosted. Some cannabinoids, like CBD, can inhibit FAAH breakdown. As a result, they enable more anandamide to reach the brain’s cannabinoid, serotonin and GABA receptors, enhancing its anxiolytic effects. More research is now being targeted at developing medications that can inhibit FAAH by scientists due to this.
A lesser-known property of cannabinoids like CBD is their ability to shield neurons from damage and degradation. They can help slow the brain’s natural decline and aid with inflammation in the brain cells. What underlies this is the anti-inflammatory and antioxidative properties of endocannabinoids such as anandamide. These properties are already used via concentrated CBD medications to treat epilepsy that results from neuron damage or disorders. Endocannabinoids can act on the brain’s microglia. Microglia regulate brain activity and are responsible for neuron repair. Modulating these cells is critical to CBD’s ability to lower brain inflammation. It helps neurons from misfiring, reducing excitatory activity that can contribute to anxiety. Lowering inflammation and supporting neuron health is essential in preventing chronic stress and anxiety before it occurs.
How to Use CBD for Anxiety
When it comes to using CBD products for anxiety, you’ll need to experiment to find out the best approach for your particular symptoms and condition. Each person will have different ways they experience anxiety, the severity of symptoms, unique neurochemistry and differing responses to CBD. However, we can offer some tips to keep in mind when using it for your symptoms.
Dosage for Anxiety
There is no best or ‘one size fits all’ dosage of CBD that can be recommended to all users for anxiety. Every individual has their own unique physiology, metabolism and anxiety symptom severity. Finding a personalised dosage is up to your testing and judgment. In most cases, between 300mg and 600mg is used per day, split over several doses to reap the best effects for anxiety. Initially, you should use a lower dose of 150mg to 200mg daily and ramp up your preferred dose over time if needed. Stay at a low dose for several weeks to ensure you tolerate CBD initially. Only increase amounts if you aren’t getting the results you need. It’s safe to use CBD at high dosages daily for most people, and the compound doesn’t pose a risk of addiction. Side effect risk increases with dose but is generally low in most people.
CBD comes in many products, such as oil, capsules, drops, teas, vaporisers, and sublingual strips. Each of these can be viably used to help with lowering anxiety. Your selection of ingestion method comes down to your taste. Some people prefer CBD strips or capsules to avoid the taste of oil. Always ensure you purchase high-quality, pure products that are free from additives. Cost shouldn’t be your primary concern, as many cheap products will be ineffective, fake or contaminated. We recommend seeking CBD extracted via supercritical CO2 gas treatment. This will have the highest strength and purity levels. By leveraging CO2 gas, these extracts also avoid the risk of solvent contamination with ethanol extraction.
Terpenes for Anxiety
Cannabinoids found in extracts from hemp aren’t the only compounds from the plant that help in lowering stress and anxiety. Full and broad-spectrum CBD oil contains terpenes, which are natural scent chemicals produced by cannabis. Terpenes improve the anxiolytic effects of CBD and other cannabinoids, plus have anxiety-reducing properties themselves. For example, the terpene Linalool can modulate CB1 receptors and inhibit FAAH breakdown to help downregulate anxiety. Most terpenes are synergistic with cannabinoids and amplify their anxiety-lowering, mood-improving effects when taken together. For this reason, we recommend using full-spectrum CBD oil over isolates to maximise effectiveness for anxiety.
Consistency and Planning
CBD’s best results when using it for anxiety are obtained when planning and consistency are prioritised. Symptom improvements take time. Not using the proper doses from the start or sticking to your dose schedule will mean delayed or non-existent results. Most new CBD users won’t see effects for several weeks for their anxiety. It takes time to build up in the body and activate the endocannabinoid system. The best outcomes are also seen when reduced stress and lifestyle adjustments accompany these doses. CBD can help mitigate your anxiety symptoms but won’t solve the condition. You should combine it with other treatments, better exercise, therapy and avoiding stress to prevent symptoms from recurring.
Avoid products that contain THC. THC is the psychoactive cannabinoid from hemp and can cause or contribute to mental disorders. In contrast to CBD, it can worsen anxiety and trigger depression. You should avoid it if possible to prevent any worsening of anxiety symptoms. Stick to pure CBD products and avoid low-quality CBD oil that is often mislabelled or contains higher than expected THC quantities.
CBD shouldn’t be used as a standalone ‘treatment’ for anxiety and won’t replace psychiatrist-prescribed medications. It may offer some support and supplementary benefits in helping to combat symptoms of anxiousness, stress and sleep issues that anxiety causes, however. The cannabinoid can help to normalise the stress response, build resilience against mental distress, plus aid with mood each day. It does this via the brain’s cannabinoid receptors and endocannabinoids. Studies have already indicated the efficacy of CBD in suppressing social anxiety, chronic stress, plus broader anxiety disorders. Using it should be done in conjunction with your physician or psychiatrist.
In the brain, CBD acts on cannabinoid type 1 receptors to produce endocannabinoids like 2-AG and anandamide. These chemicals can subsequently modulate serotonin, GABA and other receptors that regulate mood plus stress. Endocannabinoids help prevent excitatory neurological issues and excessive stress reactions by altering the production and reabsorption of these neurotransmitters. At the same time, they can assist in stabilising mood plus aiding with calmness. As an outcome, users of CBD for anxiety tend to feel calmer, less anxious and at ease.
First-time users won’t yet know their sensitivity or tolerance to cannabinoids like CBD. Trying it for the first time can reveal these factors, potentially indicating whether an individual will require little CBD if they respond well or have intolerances or allergies. For most, CBD’s minimal or undetectable effects are usually observed from a single dose. It takes time and consistency for CBD to accumulate in the body and modulate endocannabinoid activity. Effects and strength can vary significantly based on each person’s unique physiology. A first-timer taking CBD for anxiety is unlikely to see much benefit straight away, but using it for several days or weeks should provide ample benefit.
A ‘spacey’ or euphoric mental feeling is not usually associated with CBD’s subjective effects. This is more commonly reported amongst users of the psychoactive cannabinoid THC, which can cause a ‘high’ via strongly acting on the brain’s cannabinoid receptors. In contrast, CBD weakly acts on these receptors and has no intoxicating properties. It helps users to counteract stress and anxiousness without causing euphoria.
CBD can’t synthesise or cause the production of serotonin in the brain. It instead helps the brain regulate and reabsorb serotonin through endocannabinoid activity. These effects enable it to stabilise serotonin levels indirectly and promote better mood. It can’t replace SSRIs or similar serotonin medications designed to raise levels of serotonin.
The stress response is suppressed by CBD, helping the brain to avoid unnecessary overactive stress states and achieve relaxation. This is done via several paths, but an important one is through GABA modulation. GABA is the inhibitory neurotransmitter that can help to downregulate stress signalling and avoid reactions to stress that trigger anxiety. CBD also helps with mood and sleep through serotonergic activity, aiding users in staying calm, avoiding mental distress, plus counteracting mood problems.
It depends on your CBD tolerance, physiology, ingestion method, and dosage. Each factor can influence how long it takes for CBD to take effect in your body. For example, topical CBD or capsules take much longer to absorb but will enable a slower release and prolonged duration. Most people feel CBD within 1-3 hours of taking it, meaning it should be used up to several hours before bed if you take it for sleep.
Using CBD with anxiety medications like benzodiazepines shouldn’t be done without consulting a doctor or psychiatrist. There could be unintended or detrimental medication interactions that occur. For instance, many drugs affect liver enzymes and are processed via this organ. CBD is similarly passed via the liver to break down before being used in the body’s cannabinoid receptors. Taking CBD in combination with other medications can potentially cause adverse reactions or liver toxicity, which should be avoided. Checking with your psychiatrist on risks, plus when and how CBD might be used for your anxiety symptoms, is the best option if you’re taking other medications already.
CBD is helpful for many people who suffer from anxiety, as well as related problems like depression or insomnia. It promotes calmness and mood stability, counteracting overactive stress responses while protecting the brain’s neurons from misfiring. There is already a significant amount of research supporting these effects, which have been reproduced in human and animal studies in many countries. It is even being discovered that CBD has direct neurotransmitter interactions and can help regulate sleep, building further resilience against mental disorders. To use CBD for anxiety, it is recommended to start with low doses to test your sensitivity to it. Gradually increase the dosage to find a daily dose that works for you. It is crucial to ensure that you buy pure, high-quality products that are preferably CO2 extracted, contain terpenes and are free from THC.