A growing body of clinical research shows that using CBD oil for anxiety may be as effective as prescriptions drugs. In this article we’ll look at how patients trying CBD for anxiety perceive its effectiveness, we’ll examine the science and studies behind it and talk about the different ways to use CBD oil for anxiety.
Full Disclosure: Linked products in this article point to items for sale in our shop. You’ll also find helpful product recommendations at the end of the article.
Anxiety affects us all
If you suffer from chronic anxiety, you are not alone. The World Health Organization estimates that 1 in 13 people worldwide suffer from anxiety. In the US, that number is even higher. According to the National Institutes for Health, 1 in 4 Americans will deal with an anxiety disorder over their lifetime.
For all of us afflicted with anxiety, the unpleasant symptoms of shortness of breath, a pounding heart, excessive perspiration and spiraling negative thoughts are a daily reality that impede our ability to function normally and, in some cases, so debilitating we can’t function at all.
Currently, most medical options are powerful, potentially addictive drugs that may cause withdrawal symptoms like Zoloft, Xanax, Prozac, and Klonopin—a popular benzodiazepine.
Though these prescription drugs are usually quite effective, they can also be prohibitively costly and cause side effects like insomnia, headaches, nausea, anxiety, weakness/lack of energy, impotence, depression, disorientation and more. In the case of Klonopin, the American Addiction Centers warn that users must quit Klonopin gradually as sudden cessation of the drug produces powerful withdrawal symptoms including “potentially fatal seizures or a coma.”
It’s precisely because of these kinds dangers and high costs that people have begun searching for alternatives to either replace or complement current therapies. We simply need safer, more cost-effective ways to deal with our anxiety.
With the legalization of CBD oil in Canada and many US states, progress has been made to this end. Though more scientific research needs to be done to understand how to maximize the benefits of CBD, early results are very promising and word has spread. As a result, there is a growing body of testimonials from people using CBD to treat anxiety, and what they report is very encouraging.
Anecdotal evidence is strong. People believe CBD helps them with anxiety.
In 2019 Remedy Review conducted a survey of over 1,000 people to see whether people felt CBD was effective in treating their anxiety and compared the results to treatment with pharmaceutical drugs. What they found was quite remarkable.
64% of those in the study reported CBD to be “extremely effective.” Although pharmaceutical drugs did marginally better (64.5% reported pharmaceuticals as “extremely effective”—a difference of just 0.5%), what this study tells us is that CBD is very close to being as effective as pharmaceuticals in treating anxiety. Where CBD outperforms pharmaceuticals? CBD costs less and doesn’t cause addiction or serious side effects.
As can be seen in the graphic on the right, many in the study said high costs and addiction were serious concerns when considering using pharmaceuticals to treat their anxiety.
Another sizable source of anecdotal evidence for CBD’s effectiveness in treating anxiety is the web. There’s a wealth of testimonials for CBD online. Do a google search for something like “CBD anxiety testimonial” and you find a myriad of results.
Take for example blogger Kelsey Clark, who suffers from general anxiety. She writes on My Domain,
“While normally I’d be slightly tripped up by little things like an overly crowded subway car or a full inbox at work, the CBD oil seems to have taken the edge off of my anxiety a bit. Rather than overthinking a sternly worded email or analyzing a social interaction, I found it easier to recognize the irrationality of these thoughts and actually let them go. In some ways, I feel more like myself. ”
Or blogger Nicole Richter who states,
Blogger Harling Ross put her review right in the title: “CBD Oil Has Helped My Anxiety More Than Any Other Wellness Trend.” The stories go on and on… The question is, how does CBD work?
How CBD Works to Treat Anxiety
What we know is that chronically high levels of stress hormones—cortisol in particular—can cause damage throughout the body with consequences that include:
- Heart disease
- Digestive problems
- Weakened immune system
- Weight gain
- Muscular tension
- Endocannabinoid imbalance
Stress hormones also alter both the brain’s structure and chemistry. Parts of the brain become hyperactive, while others atrophy or shrink. Neurotransmitters such as serotonin, dopamine and endocannabinoids become unbalanced, causing their neural receptors to change.
Cannabidiol (CBD) targets over 65 sites in the body, making it difficult to identify just how its therapeutic properties actually function. What the science suggests is that CBD counters anxiety by stimulating neurotransmitter systems and neural regeneration.
Seratonin, which most people associate with happiness. becomes dysfunctional when levels are abnormally high or low, and when receptors malfunction.
At least 14 different receptors respond to seratonin but CBD specifically binds to the receptor 5-HT1A, the one thought to play the strongest role in anxiety disorders. It’s the very same receptor targeted by anti-anxiety drugs like buspirone.
CBD also acts on the human endocannabinoid system—a vast and complex system which regulates everything from immunity, to digestion, to mood. Our bodies naturally produce cannabinoids (called endocannabinoids) as messengers between different parts of the endocannabinoid system to keep things functioning normally. But this system can become unbalanced and dysfunctional under chronic stress.
CBD acts to restore balance in the endocannabinoid system by preventing over-stimulation of CB1 receptors and boosting production of our own endocannabinoids. Experiments conducted on rodents showed CBD relieved OCD and other anxiety by influencing the brain’s processing of extinction learning—the process whereby our brains learn to stop feeling fear or stress in response to certain events.
Chronic stress also causes brain damage. Fortunately, numerous studies have shown that CBD promotes neural regeneration. CBD’s role in reducing anxiety in chronically-stressed mice was shown to come from CBD’s power to stimulate the growth of new neurons.
Clinical research is accumulating that CBD oil for anxiety disorders works
A double-blind study from 2019 on 37 Japanese teenagers afflicted with social anxiety disorder (SAD) demonstrated that CBD provided relief comparable to Paroxetine, a drug commonly prescribed for SAD.
There were follow-on benefits too. Of the seventeen teenagers in the study who were given 300 mg of CBD oil daily for four weeks, nine declared they’d decided to seek treatment. It’s encouraging given that teenagers with SAD are unlikely to seek help for fear they’ll be mocked for seeing a therapist, not to mention the fear of interacting with therapists themselves.
In a 2019 retrospective case study at a mental health clinic in Fort Collins, Colorado, patients reporting anxiety were given 25 mg of CBD daily in addition to treatment.
After the first month, 79.2% of patients reported an improvement in anxiety. After the second month, 78.1% reported a further improvement compared with the previous month.
Already, there’s a growing body of evidence that CBD is good for:
- Generalized anxiety disorder
- Panic disorder
- Social anxiety disorder
- Obsessive–compulsive disorder (OCD)
- Post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD)
What’s the best way to take CBD oil for anxiety?
The quick answer here is, it depends.
One of the most popular ways to get CBD into the system is through CBD edibles like CBD gummies. These are discreet, you just look like you’re eating run-of-the-mill gummy bears. Edibles also release CBD more gradually through your system than other methods. The caveat is, the liver is good at eliminating CBD before it enters the blood stream. That means not all the CBD in a CBD edible actually makes it into your endocannabinoid system. If you’re looking for stronger effects, you’ll likely have to up your dose.
Another very popular way to take CBD is by taking CBD oil orally. This involves using a dropper to put drops under your tongue. The mucous membranes under your tongue are filled with tiny capillaries that absorb CBD quickly and send it directly into the bloodstream. Using a dropper also makes it easier to measure your dose and so control exactly how much CBD you’re taking in. It’s even possible to buy flavoured tinctures that combine CBD with small amounts of THC like mango CBD/THC tinctures, or tangerine CBD/THC tinctures. Just remember not to swallow the drops immediately, leave them under your tongue for 30-90 seconds.
The benefit of combining CBD with THC is that THC also has properties as a stress and pain reliever, and it helps you sleep. Worried about getting “high?” CBD acts to inhibit the “high” effects of THC so that THC’s medicinal properties are emphasized and the feelings of being “high” reduced. Another way to combine CBD and THC is with full spectrum CBD oil (FSO). FSO is becoming more popular due to the therapeutic “entourage effect” created by the terpenes, flavonoids and cannabinoids that are filtered out in pure CBD oil.
Though vaping CBD oil was once very popular due to CBD’s high bioavailability and quickly-felt effects when vaped, there are now questions as to whether vaping is safe. For those that enjoy inhaling CBD
to feel its effects quickly, it’s possible to smoke a cannabis flower strain with a high CBD to THC ratio. You can also inhale CBD vapour by using special vaporizers made for cannabis flower.
No matter which way you decide to take CBD, the rule of thumb is “start low, go slow.” There’s no prescribed dosage for CBD, and since it acts differently on different people according to their condition, weight, body chemistry and other factors, finding the right dose usually involves a little experimentation.
It’s highly recommended that you keep a daily journal of your CBD doses and experiences. Start with a low dose and increase the dosage by around 5mg every few days. Record the effects and dosage daily. After a month or two you’ll be able to look back and find the “sweet spot” where you felt CBD was most effective.
For more information on proper dosage see our article What’s the Proper CBD Dose for Optimal Health?
Importantly, CBD, works best as part of a comprehensive anxiety treatment plan. When considering trying CBD oil for anxiety, it’s highly recommended that you talk with your doctor about it, especially if you currently take prescription medications.
Just like grapefruits, CBD can interfere with your body’s ability to metabolize drugs. A doctor or other licensed health practitioner can help make sure your anxiety treatment plan is as effective as possible.
CBD Oil Direct recommends:
For fast relief. Vaping delivers Full Spectrum CBD to your endocannabinoid more quickly through the lungs. The Delush Vape Pen uses a unique ceramic-coil to heat the oil, and heats it at less than 200°F, no carcinogens here! Durable and very stylish, it’s the carefree, aesthetically pleasing way to experience the healing effect of CBD.
For effective relief with the “entourage effect.” Honest Botanicals Full Spectrum CBD Oil is some of the highest quality CBD produced on Canada’s West Coast. This full spectrum oil offers the full complement of cannabinoids, flavonoids and terpenes naturally present in the hemp plant and is made organically without the use of any solvents. A reliable CBD oil for pain.
For slower release of CBD in your system throughout the day. Delicious sweet gummies infused with generous doses of superb quality, organic CBD sourced from Canada’s West Coast. Discreet, tasteful, easy.
For anxiety relief without THC. Honest Botanicals no-THC CBD oil is some of the purest organic CBD produced in Canada. This tincture gives you full benefits of CBD without having to worry about having any THC in your system.
Medical disclaimer: This information does not constitute medical advice and it should not be relied upon as such. Consult with your doctor before modifying your regular medical regime.