CBD for Anxiety: Definitive Guide to Usage, Side Effects & More
CBD and Anxiety – Does It Help?
As the numbers for those suffering from anxiety and stress keep taking a toll, people are desperately turning to alternative medicine. This trend also has to do with the side effects associated with conventional medicine. The rise of anxiety-related disorders in the US can be ascertained from the fact that according to a study, around 31% of the total US population suffers from them. Anxiety is the most prevalent of all mental health disorders in the US and it is on the rise.
One of the most relied upon alternate medicines to treat anxiety, which has certainly gained a lot of attention is CBD. One of the reasons behind it is that it doesn’t have serious side effects associated with it.
As CBD continues to be the biggest craze of the day, one of the most popular areas where it is gaining ground rapidly is using CBD for anxiety. When someone talks about CBD, the first thing that comes to mind is its use for anxiety, depression, and related neurological disorders. However, is it just a craze that will fade away with time, or is it backed by strong scientific evidence? To get an answer to this question, let’s take a deep dive into what CBD is, how to use CBD for anxiety, and how far it is effective.
What is CBD?
The short form of cannabidiol, CBD is a naturally occurring compound in the cannabis plants. Cannabidiol belongs to the cannabinoid group of compounds. There are above hundred such compounds found in cannabis plants and these are being studied lately by researchers for their potential benefits for the human body. The other commonly known cannabinoid besides CBD is THC or tetrahydrocannabinol.
THC has a notorious reputation for being capable of creating a high. It is intoxicating and has a mind-altering capability. Since both CBD and THC are derived from cannabis plants, CBD is sometimes considered to be a drug, capable of creating a high. However, that is not the case. Pure CBD, without traces of THC, cannot create a high no matter which plant it is derived from.
THC is abundantly found in the marijuana plant which may belong to either the Cannabis Sativa species of cannabis genre or to cannabis Indica. Marijuana contains both CBD and THC along with other cannabinoids and terpenes. Whereas, besides marijuana, CBD is also found in the hemp plant. Hemp, however, doesn’t contain THC. The THC in hemp plant extracts does not exceed 0.3%.
Therefore, when CBD is extracted from hemp, it does not create a high because it doesn’t have enough THC with it. Hence, the common source of CBD today is hemp instead of marijuana those who want to get the health benefits associated with CBD without getting psychologically high to prefer CBD derived from hemp instead of marijuana. Moreover, marijuana is federally banned in the US and in most other parts of the world. This is because of its high THC content. THC, like CBD, does have considerable health benefits for the human body, but its intoxicating nature makes it a drug capable of being abused.
CBD, on the other hand, has shown some positive results for human health including the use of CBD oil for anxiety and it does so without any intoxicating properties. In order to know more in-depth about what CBD is and what are its scientifically backed benefits for the human body, refer to this detailed resource.
Is CBD the Same as Hemp Seed Oil?
CBD and hemp seed oil are often used as an alternative term. However, they aren’t the same at all, and using one for the other can be seriously misleading. This is especially true when you are specifically looking for a CBD based product because hemp seed oil has nothing to do with CBD.
CBD oil is extracted from the leaves, flowers, and stalks of the hemp plant. Hemp seed oil on the other hand is extracted from the seeds of the hemp plant. It does not contain CBD. Although, the hemp seed oil is rich in very useful nutrients like fatty acids, and other useful compounds, it doesn’t have CBD. If you are looking specifically for CBD to treat anxiety, the hemp seed oil is not your pick. Instead look for the products with CBD isolate, CBD broad spectrum oil, or CBD full spectrum oil mentioned on the label.
Similarly, CBD, marijuana, and cannabis may not be the same. Marijuana extract refers to the derivative obtained from the marijuana plant and may contain above 0.3% THC content. Look for the ‘hemp-derived CBD’ instead if you want to avoid the psychoactive effect of THC. Similarly, cannabis may refer t both marijuana and hemp-derived products and may not always mean the legal hemp-derived CBD. So, the labels might be misleading and you need to pay attention.
How CBD Works?
You cannot understand the claimed benefits of CBD for anxiety unless you get a hold of how it actually works for the human body. In order to fully understand the mechanism behind CBD’s effect on our bodily functions, especially in relation to anxiety, we need to have a thorough understanding of three major phenomena;
- Body’s endocannabinoid system (ECS)
- How CBD interacts with ECS
- Role of CBD in Serotonin mechanism
- Body’s ECS System
The human body has an endocannabinoid system. This system comprises of a number of receptors in the central nervous system and peripheral nervous system those are central nervous system are referred to as CB1 receptors and the ones attached to the cell of the peripheral nervous system are called CB2 receptors these receptors are responsible for a huge number of functions within the body they are the ones which collectively maintain our body’s internal homeostasis. They receive external stimuli and depending upon those stimuli, they regulate important bodily functions through the release of endocannabidiols i.e. body’s own cannabinoid compounds.
- How CBD Interacts with ECS
What the phytocannabinoids (i.e. cannabinoids derived from plants do to our endocannabinoid system is not actually thoroughly understood yet. However, some basic research done so far suggests that they act upon CB1 receptors in the central nervous system. Where the other phytocannabinoids like THC may affect the receptors directly, CBD is thought to affect the production and life span of the endocannabinoids produced by these receptors. CBD is thought to increase the production and longevity of endocannabinoids, thus preventing them from dying too soon and allowing them to work longer in maintaining homeostasis.
- Role of CBD in Serotonin Mechanism
Moreover, CBD according to research is thought to affect the serotonin signals in the CB1 receptors in the central nervous system. More precisely, it interacts with 5-HT1A receptor. This receptor is the serotonin receptor in layman’s language.it controls the release of serotonin in the body.
Serotonin is a widely researched neurotransmitter that is known for its impact on anxiety, depression, and moods. It is generally believed that the lack of enough serotonin leads to depression, anxiety, and stress.
This lack of serotonin is treated by conventional medicine through Selective Serotonin Reuptake Inhibitor or SSRI. A couple of popular examples of such conventional medications as Zoloft and Prozac. These drugs can be obtained by a doctor’s prescription.
However, they have their own set of side effects associated with them. For example, most of such conventional medicines are addictive. However, people are increasingly referring to other alternative medication, partly because of the side effects associated with conventional medication. One such alternative medication becoming increasingly popular is CBD. A huge number of people are turning towards CBD oils, CBD topicals, and CBD gummies for anxiety.
These are available over the counter without requiring a prescription. These can be obtained online or from the stores dedicated to hemp and CBD. Where it can be a plus for many people who are benefitting from CBD, at the same, it is a negative point because there isn’t any regulatory body authenticating these anti-anxiety supplements.
Scientific Evidence on How CBD Acts Against Anxiety
Since the cultivation of both marijuana and hemp was banned in the US and other parts of the world for a long period of time, there is a significant lack of research on the benefits of CBD. It was only until the last year that hemp cultivation and commercial use of its derivatives was legalized federally.
Some initial research has been carried out on how CBD may affect the level of anxiety, stress, fear, and depression in humans. However, there I still a huge room for more research. Especially, the research conducted on humans is lesser in volume than that done on animals like rats. However, the small volume of the initial research does speak abound about the promising results. Here are a few research results carried out in the recent past;
- As mentioned earlier, the main gateway through which CBD affects the level of anxiety, stress, fear, and depression in our body is through 5-HT1A Receptor. This has been shown through a 2015 research. The same study shows positive effects of CBD against 5 different types of anxiety disorders;
- Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD)
- Generalized Anxiety Disorder (GAD)
- Obsessive-Compulsive Disorder (OCD)
- Panic Disorder (PD)
- Social Anxiety Disorder (SAD)
- Another research was carried out in New Zealand in 2020. In this study, 400 adult humans were given CBD or a range of medical conditions. These included mental health-related symptoms, neurological problems, cancerous symptoms, and non-cancerous pain.
After regular use of CBD, the subjects reported a considerable improvement in their life quality. Along with others, the patients who were prescribed CBD for anxiety, depression, and related symptoms also reported an improvement in their ability to be productive in day to day life and perform their duties in a better manner.
A compelling 70% of the subjects were satisfied with the results. 10% reported experiencing some minor side effects.
- Another case study carried out in 2019 evaluated the effects of cannabidiol on anxiety and sleep. The researchers studied 72 adult humans in this regard. This research was significantly useful in studying how varying doses of CBD can produce varying results.
The subjects were given different doses of CBD in the form of capsules. Most of them were prescribed 25 mg capsule once daily. Some were given 50mg to 75mg once daily, whereas an individual with schizoaffective disorder and a history of trauma was prescribed 175mg daily.
After 2 months of regular use, up to 792% of subjects experienced an improvement in anxiety-related symptoms. However, around 19.5% of the adults reported that their symptoms have worsened
- In an article published in 2020, the researchers presented a review of eight studies centered around the use of CBD for anxiety disorders. They supported their points evidence and were convinced that CBD (alone or in combination with other therapies) can help treat various anxiety-related disorders e.g. Generalized Anxiety Disorder, Social Anxiety Disorder, and Post Traumatic Stress Disorder.
However, the study was very unclear about the dosage of CBD. The dosage of CBD used in the studies ranged from as low as just 6mg to as high as 400mg. hence there needs to be more thorough research, especially when it comes to setting standards for the appropriate range of CBD dosage
Role of CBD Against Other Neurological Disorders
Besides anxiety, CBD has also undergone some research for its efficacy against other neurological disorders like depression and schizophrenia. A 2017 research conducted on 201 subjects was unable to provide enough supporting evidence about CBD being effective against depression. However, according to the researchers, there is some supporting evidence that CBD can be effective against anxiety disorders.
The study however was uncontrolled. i.e. the participants of this study were not compared with other people who might not have received CBD treatment or any treatment at all for similar disorders.
Another study conducted in 2016 concluded that CBD can help people suffering from schizophrenia. Moreover, the researchers pointed out that CBD does not have as adverse side effects as associated with conventional anti-anxiety medicines.
How to Administer CBD?
Once you have decided to take a plunge into the CBD health regimen, the next important concern is to decide how to take CBD for anxiety. There are numerous ways in which CBD can be administered and which method is best for you depends upon a number of factors. Where some methods may give long-lasting effects, others might be suitable for short term stress relief and would be taken only when needed.
Moreover, some methods of taking CBD might give immediate effect while others are preferred for long term health benefits. Read here to know more in-depth about how to use CBD oil for anxiety and which method is suitable or what kind of symptoms.
Here are some of the methods in which you can use CBD for stress and anxiety;
- CBD sublingual sprays for anxiety
- CBD oil for anxiety
- CBD edibles and CBD gummies for anxiety
- CBD capsules for anxiety
- Vaporized oil or hemp flower for anxiety
Some of the CBD stress release products are best to be used before a stressful event like delivering a public speech or taking a crucial exam. While others can be used to relieve anxiety throughout the day and are should be taken in the morning with food.
What is the Appropriate Dosage for CBD?
When it comes to deciding what would be the best CBD dosage for you, this area still needs in-depth research. The studies regarding the appropriate dosage of CBD for anxiety are just insufficient. It is mostly based on trial and error. However, there are a few initial studies targeted towards establishing the standardized dosage for CBD against stress and anxiety.
A study carried out in 2019 measured appropriate dosage in adult humans in relation to reducing anxiety symptoms. The researchers found that around 300 to 600mg CBD was helpful in reducing symptoms of anxiety in the subjects.
However, while starting your CBD health regimen, it is highly recommended that you consult a doctor to figure out the exact dosage in your particular case.
Side Effects of CBD
Although no long-term adverse effects have been reported by the majority of CBD users so far, it may result in oversensitivity in some people. Especially in the beginning, some people may undergo side effects like;
- Low blood pressure
- Weight loss
Moreover, if you are already taking certain medication, special caution needs to be exercised. This is especially true when you are taking blood thinners or the medication with grapefruit warning. Just like grapefruit, CBD can interfere with the enzymes controlling drug metabolism. This can create adverse side effects.
Hence, for those already on medication, you must not start taking CBD until you’ve consulted your physician.
Is CBD Legal?
The legality of CBD products is another important factor to look into. For a long period of time, CBD had been banned completely throughout the US. It was only at the end of the last year that its legal status was changed. When the Farm Bill was approved last year, the CBD derived from hemp was declared legal federally. Note that the state law recognizes a cannabis plant with 0.3% or lower THC content as hemp. Anything above 0.3% THC is not hemp rather it is marijuana and that is still federally banned.
However, federal law is not the only thing that you need to have knowledge of. Although hemp-derived CBD products are legal federally, individual states have different laws regarding the cultivation of hemp and deriving CBD from it for commercial use.
Where some states totally legalize hemp and CBD, others might still consider it illegal. There are still other states which allow CBD in one form and consider it illegal in another form.
Knowing the legal status of CBD in your state and other states is especially important when you are planning to travel with CBD. In order to know in-depth about whether CBD is legal in your state and in what form it can be kept, refer to this detailed table for the legal status of CBD in all 50 states of the US.
Are CBD Products Regulated by the FDA?
One of the biggest problems facing the CBD market today is that these products are not regulated by the FDA. Hence, their authenticity is questionable. Medicinal use of CBD was approved by FDA in 2018 only for two rare forms of epilepsy. After thorough research, it was approved to be used as an anticonvulsant against Lennox-Gastaut and Dravet Syndrome, the two forms of epilepsy, through a drug called Epidiolex.
Unfortunately, the use of CBD in all other forms and brands is not approved by the FDA. So, there are chances that the contents and percentages mentioned on their labels might be misleading. Moreover, The National Organization for the Reform of Marijuana Laws (NORM) indicates that the concentration of CBD in most of the commercial CBD products is far less than what had been used in clinical trials.
How to Choose Appropriate CBD Product for Anxiety
Since there is a lot of confusion surrounding as to which brand might be the most suitable when it comes to authenticity, choosing the appropriate product can be very tricky. This is especially true when none of these are regulated by the FDA. However, performing a few simple checks can help you make sure you make the best possible purchase. Here are a few things to consider while purchasing CBD oils for anxiety;
- There are three types of CBD supplements available in the market. The full-spectrum CBD oil products contain CBD along with THC up to 0.3% and other terpenes. The broad-spectrum CBD products exclude THC and contain CBD and other compounds. Whereas, the CBD isolate is the pure CBD excluding everything else. Some people might be sensitive to even the low concentrations of THC. So, in order to avoid the psychoactive effect, it is recommended that you go for the broad spectrum or CBD isolate products.
- Since there is a risk that the labels might be misleading because they aren’t checked and regulated, the safest practice here would be to go for the products which say that they are lab tested. Such brands will provide a lab certificate with their product. This ensures that they contain what they claim for.
- Instead of buying CBD products online, the safer way would be to purchase them from a pharmacy. This is because the pharmacies have comparatively strict quality checks than the other stores and online sellers.
Although the number of people relying on CBD for anxiety is on the rise and people are rapidly turning to it as a safer medication, the scientific evidence to support its efficacy against stress and anxiety is still insufficient. There is a compelling need for more thorough research in this particular area. Most o the research work is done so far about the therapeutic effects of CBD against anxiety was based on animals. There is a need to conduct large-scale studies on humans.
Besides, deciding the appropriate dosage for CBD supplements in individual cases is another problem. There isn’t any standardized dose recommendation. In most cases, it is set by the user himself through trials until he reaches a suitable dose.
Moreover, the capability of CBD to interact with other medications is a health risk on its own. To avoid this risk, it is highly recommended that you consult a doctor before starting CBD in combination with other medications. He will also be in a better position to recommend appropriate dosage and method of administration.
Before you decide to embark upon the CBD health journey, perform thorough research on whether it is legal to possess CBD products in your state.