Does Full Spectrum CBD Oil Help For Anxiety? Top 3 Findings.

Today stress and anxiety have become synonymous with modern life. Anxiety is a psychological condition that can lead to a number of negative effects for the mind and body including depression, irritability, restlessness, mood issues and fatigue which can be exhausting. Many purport CBD oil as an effective method for assisting in relieving anxiety due to its anxiolytic (or anxiety reducing) effects. Close to 1 in 5 Australians or around 15% are expected to experience anxiety each year, as well as around 40 million Americans – about 18% of the US population. This is a growing problem and one of the most common mental illnesses seen today. 

For those affected by anxiety full spectrum CBD oil may help relieve symptoms, improve sleep and allow users to lead more full lives. It’s become an all-natural alternative to many pharmaceuticals that’s non addictive and is already helping millions around the world deal with their stress, anxiety and sleep issues, all while providing improved levels of nutrition through increased mineral, vitamin and plant antioxidant intake. Supposedly it can assist with a range of other health issues too due to its anti-inflammatory effects. Through its metabolic interactions with the endocannabinoid system in our bodies it helps to calm both the body and mind. So how does it work and why even consider it? Let’s find out.

What is CBD oil?

CBD oil is an extract from the cannabis sativa plant (also known as hemp). It contains a number of naturally occurring beneficial compounds, the most important of which is cannabidiol or CBD. Alongside this it may contain other minor cannabinoids like CBG, CBN and CBA, as well as phytonutrients like flavonoids, antioxidants, and other nutrients. A ‘full spectrum’ hemp oil denotes that it has been extracted from the ‘whole plant’ of hemp, using the leaves, stems, buds and seeds for maximum nutritional value and terpenes which improves cannabinoid absorption. Hemp extract oil has some surprising and incredibly useful properties due to being anti-analgesic and anxiolytic, meaning it can help treat a variety of health issues such as anxiety, depression, and chronic pain. 

Another chemical that is also found in cannabis (but not hemp) is Tetrahydrocannabinol (THC), known for the ‘high’ associated with cannabis. However this compound is stripped out of CBD oil in the extraction process – it contains 0% THC. You might also see this product called hemp extract oil in places like Australia where it’s available legally over the counter in pharmacies. Most hemp farming and harvesting approaches are specifically tailored towards the industrial hemp types that contain less than 0.2% THC. Many growers use targeted, scientifically designed selective breeding methods to maximize the full spectrum cannabinoid content of the final product. This ensures the best anxiolytic effects through providing more of the 400 minor cannabinoids that are present in hemp as well as terpenes. Terpenes are naturally occurring scent chemicals in hemp that improve the absorption of CBD. This improves its anxiety and stress reducing effects. 

How is it used?

CBD can be taken in many different forms – for example oils, tinctures and sublingual strips – there are a wide variety of product options to suit your preferences. We recommend using an oil extracted via CO2 which is typically the highest strength as well as typically retaining the best purity levels and avoiding contamination. Hemp oil can also be produced using alcohol extraction as  a solvent although this can create contamination of the final product due to remaining alcohol residue which is toxic. 

Does CBD work for anxiety?

It’s becoming more clear that CBD certainly has anxiety relieving properties. It’s able to eliminate stress which is the main cause of this mental illness. In conjunction with other therapies, lifestyle changes and treatments, hemp extract works to heal the mind and body. Anxiety can be a difficult issue to tackle and lead to worsening of other related issues like depression or nausea. CBD may help to mitigate across each of these interrelated mental problems, helping to bring relief to users. When combined with therapy it can help affected individuals relax more, stay calm and sleep better which all in-turn leads to better quality of life. We don’t recommend combining it with any strong medications however like SSRI’s (anti-depressants). Always speak to your physician before using it. 

There is a lot of research suggesting that it helps in reducing inflammation and stress responses as a result of cortisol production, indicating there may be a link towards anxiety reduction for many users and potentially depression. Some recent research by the US National Institute on Drug Abuse showed in 2016 that hemp extract oil  may work to decrease anxiety by affecting the serotonin levels in the brain. Serotonin is a chemical in the human body that has an active role in controlling our mood, sleep, digestion, and behaviour – it’s a key neurological ‘regulator’ similar to dopamine and affects many brain functions. Altering serotonin levels may be the key to helping with anxiety and depression as well as issues like mood regulation.

How does it work?

Hemp oil works on the CB1 and CB2 receptors that are present in the brain and limbic system. Similar to glutamate and serotonin, it helps to refresh and restore the mind, improve mood, day to day energy and aid with focus. In combination with daily practices like exercise, meditation and mindfulness it can be a great support tool for healthy mental balance and avoiding stress that leads to anxious thoughts. The receptors of the endocannabinoid system are responsible for producing the anti-anxiety enzymes and response within the brain. The body produces these itself and CBD is merely a trigger to initiate their release.

Anecdotes from Australians in Melbourne to Sydney and beyond confirm the relaxing and therapeutic effects and mental state that hemp extract can bring. This is due to the cannabinoids like CBG and CBN it contains – as well as the vitamins, minerals, flavonoids, GLA, ALA and unsaturated fatty acids. Many of the cannabinoids contained in hemp oil act on the body via the endocannabinoid system. This system releases endocannabinoids which supports against chronic inflammation and enhances immunity. It may also help in supporting metabolic function and cell regeneration, while protecting against oxidative stress and free radical damage. 

What is the evidence?

Over the past couple of decades there have been a number of studies done examining the effectiveness of CBD in reducing anxiety. A 2011 study looked at patients with social anxiety. Hemp extract was provided to subjects in a test group before a public speaking task and compared against a placebo group. The study was aimed at comparing the effects of a simulated public speaking test on healthy control patients, comparing treatment against affected patients who were given a single high dose. Some 24 patients who were never treated before were given either CBD or a placebo in a double-blind randomized design – both were given 1.5 hours before the test. Subjective ratings in anxiety tests and physiological measures (blood pressure, heart rate, and skin conductance) were calculated during and after the test.  The conclusions were clear – the hemp extract oil reduced anxiety significantly, cognitive impairment and fatigue in their speech performance. The shoot-up in anxiety produced by the test on patients with anxiety disorders was decreased by using the oil. In short, the researchers concluded that full spectrum hemp oil could help with problems like anxiety. A marked improvement in stress markers and anxious thought was seen across the test subjects, indicating the treatment had high efficacy in supporting reduced social anxiousness. 

Further studies in 2016 and 2021 in Australia have reinforced these findings more broadly across hundreds of test subjects. Versus placebo the majority of subjects reported improved mood, reduced stress and better sleep. Around 30% reported their anxiety had largely been eliminated while up to 70% cited improved confidence and life quality. An update in a 2019 study by the US National Library of Medicine found that hemp extract did not appear to change consciousness, have psychoactive effects or cause a “high.” However, an increase in scientific publications found preclinical and clinical evidence documenting the benefits of the oil in some neuropsychiatric disorders, including epilepsy, anxiety, and schizophrenia. It pointed towards the calming effects of it in the central nervous system and limbic system.

Researchers in Australia have used hemp extract to treat people with sleep and anxiety disorders. Interestingly, it was found effective for the 80% of patients that had anxiety disorders, and it was also effective for around 70% of the patients that had sleeping problems but notably didn’t work for all individuals. One study that was carried out in 2017 and was published in the SAGE Journals didn’t find any evidence that could show the effectiveness of the product in helping with anxiety-related problems. An unusual finding of the research was that in some people treatment even increased anxiety.  

Best dosage for anxiety

There is no specific ‘one size fits all’ dose that can be recommended to all users. However, in most cases, 300mg to 600mg is used per dose several times a day to reap the best outcome for anxiety. CBD comes in many types of products such as oil, capsules, drops, teas, vaporizers, and sublingual strips. 

Is it safe?

Hemp extract is taken from industrial hemp which doesn’t contain THC. When extracted the THC is completely filtered meaning it can’t get you high. Both CBD and THC work on the same brain receptors, however, only THC is psychoactive which can cause psychoactive effects. The World Health Organization found that hemp oil was not habit-forming and had no sign of any dependence found with drugs of abuse. They also cleared it for any potential risk with side effects – only minimal nuisances can occur like dry mouth or mild stomach irritation. The key risk is potential liver toxicity if combined with pharmaceuticals which must always be avoided. However, on a large scale and in general use, very few people reported such conditions which means that it has side effects on some people while it has no side effects on others.

Can it assist with addiction?

Many people are smokers or addicts and want to deal with their addiction. As is usually the case with addiction this is very difficult due to the deep dopamine pathways and resulting habits they have formed. Some studies have indicated that hemp oil may have an effect against nicotine addiction as well as other forms of addictive behaviours through similar mechanisms as its anti-anxiety functions. In studies for addiction, two groups were tested for placebo vs the test subject group which had daily access to CBD vaporizers (all participants were nicotine addicts). The test group received three daily dosages. After two weeks their consumption of actual nicotine reduced by 60%. This suggests that applications extend beyond just anxiety. Using hemp extract made complete cessation of the addiction possible.

Final thoughts

There are a number of reasons to consider hemp oil for its potent anxiolytic properties and ability to help with issues like stress and anxiety through the endocannabinoid system. This product is becoming more and more available globally and you’re sure to see it near you – for example in Australia it became legal in pharmacies for over the counter purchasing in 2020. We covered how CBD, CBN and CBG are some of the many naturally occurring plant compounds found in Cannabis Sativa or hemp. It is useful in treating several health issues such anxiety, stress and relaxing the limbic system to assist with sleep. While much of the research on this up-and-coming medication is still fairly new it’s clear from the multiple corroborated findings that there is a significant anxiolytic response that occurs from consumption of broad-spectrum CBD oil.