CBD, aka cannabidiol, is often praised as a cure for many common ailments. From insomnia to pain management, there exists a wide world of symptoms that this cannabinoid’s adherents will claim can be helped by a dollop of CBD oil, and anxiety is high upon that list.
In today’s article we’ll be talking about CBD, looking at medically reviewed studies discussing it’s effects on anxiety-related disorders, and discuss potential dosages designed to best help with anxiety management. Let’s get started.
What is CBD?
Similar to THC, CBD (or “cannabidiol”) is a cannabinoid compound found inside the cannabis plant. Unlike THC, however, CBD lacks any psychoactive components – Simply put, CBD cannot and will not get you high (1). And though CBD may not get you buzzed, this can be a good thing when exploring cannabidiol and it’s numerous potential health benefits.
Both CBD and THC are being researched for their medicinal benefits, but for those living outside of areas where cannabis consumption has been legalized CBD can offer some of the same medical relief as THC without any of the legality issues.
Some studies do point to the combination of THC and CBD having greater effects when used in conjunction than either compound has when used separately, but this doesn’t make CBD without it’s benefits, and for many living with anxiety and other neurological disorders CBD treatment has been effective, safe, and legally available.
Can CBD Be Used to Treat Anxiety?
Though general studies on the effects of CBD are still somewhat rare, using CBD as a treatment for neurological issues and anxiety disorders is one area where research seems to be fairly commonplace. Research shows that taking CBD may help with a wide variety of anxiety-related issues, including post traumatic stress disorder, depression, and even insomnia derived from anxiety.
How Does CBD Effect Anxiety?
Cannabinoids effect the human body’s endocannabinoid system, primarily by interacting with our CB1 and CB2 receptors. THC typically antagonizes our CB1 receptors, located in the brain, while CBD is more often shown as interacting with the CB2 receptors stationed at various points within our body (2).
When we take CBD one of the major influences it has is the release of serotonin; when interacting with CBD, our CB2 receptors trigger the body to release more serotonin, which in turn can act as a mood booster. Typically low serotonin is treated by prescription drugs known as SSRIs, such as Prozac or Paxil, but research shows that use of CBD oil can have similar benefits.
What Types of Anxiety Can CBD Help Treat?
Anxiety can come in many forms. For generalized anxiety disorder, medically reviewed clinical trials and animal studies have shown CBD as able to help reduce day-to-day stress. In an early example of research on CBD, a 1990 paper from the University of São Paulo, Brazil showed marked improvement in the stress levels of rats subjected to a testing maze (3); though not the same as running human trials this early research demonstrated a much lower stress level in its animal participants.
A more recent study from Brazil, completed in 2010, also demonstrated a lessening of behaviorally-conditioned stress responses in laboratory rats (4), with a 10mg/kg dosage ratio greatly reducing freeze-response tendencies and heart rate in subjects repeatedly exposed to a stressful condition (in this case an electrified flooring).
CBD and Social Anxiety Disorder
In human-based studies, again from the University of São Paulo, Brazil, researchers showed a direct correlation between CBD usage and the lessening of generalized social anxiety disorder (sometimes shortened to the acronym, and this is not a joke, “SAD”). In this trial a grouping of 24 patients, who had been diagnosed with generalized social anxiety disorder but not treated, were given a simulated public speaking test, measuring their anxiety when put in front of a crowd and directed to give a speech. (5)
Out of those tested, patients receiving CBD treatment showed “significantly reduced anxiety, cognitive impairment and discomfort in their speech performance, and significantly decreased alert in their anticipatory speech” over those who were untreated or treated with placebo medications.
Treating Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD) With CBD
Conditions such as post traumatic stress disorder have also shown promising results from being treated with CBD. A joint 2019 research paper from several Colorado universities undertook an eight week study on eleven adult patients who had been diagnosed with PTSD (6). Of the 11 patients, 10 showed significant decreases in their associated symptoms, including a sharp reduction in nightmares that are commonly associated with PTSD. This is consistent with the findings of a 2016 review, which showed evidence that cannabinoids may help reduce symptoms gained after PTSD develops (7).
Part of this may be due to how cannabinoids effect our brain’s memory centers. A 2018 paper postulated that taking cannabidiol directly after a traumatic event may help prevent the brain from creating memories related to that trauma (8), thus lessening the impact and potentially preventing the development of PTSD-like symptoms. This same study posits that this may be due to CBD’s interaction with the amygdala and hippocampus regions of the brain, as those with PTSD can show signs of hyperactivity in the amygdala, which is decreased by CBD’s interaction with the hippocampus.
How Much CBD Should I Dose For Anxiety?
Unfortunately, determining how much CBD one should dose is a topic with few easy answers. In the studies listed above dosage ranges fluctuated between only a few mg of CBD per day to over 400 milligrams. In general, dosages of CBD for anxiety range between 300 to 600 mg per day, but this can depend highly on your own body weight, physicality, metabolic system and even the method of intake you choose (smoking, vaping, eating, and so on).
First and most important is to understand just how much CBD your chosen CBD product contains. Make sure to check the label or other packaging your CBD comes in to see how much of the compound is contained within. Maintaining consistent dosing can be easier with something like an edible gummy over an oil-filled eyedropper, so make sure to keep an eye on exactly how much you’re taking at any given time to help nail down the right dosage amount for you.
Consider Stepwise Dosing
When first starting to use CBD for anxiety treatment it may be wise to consider what is known as the “stepwise dosing” methodology (9). This is where the patient starts with low, baseline doses of CBD and moves their way toward high doses as they “dial in” the dosage amount that works best for them. Though this methodology can be dangerous with many medications, the average CBD dose is unlikely to cause any health concerns unless combined with other prescription drugs.
Does CBD Have Any Side Effects?
As always, when using CBD oil or any other CBD products it’s important to remember that side effects may occur. Though rare, CBD may have unfavorable interactions with medications such as blood pressure regulators or certain antihistamines. In general, if your medication comes with what is known as a “grapefruit warning” (IE: a warning against consuming grapefruit and other specific varieties of citrus fruit (10)) on the label, steering clear of CBD treatment might be for the best.
Overall, CBD comes with very few concerns in regards to safety, and side effects of cannabidiol seem to be few and far between. Outside of sedated sensations and potential nausea, human studies have shown little in the way of CBD presenting negative effects on the human body. This doesn’t mean that that you shouldn’t talk to your doctor before attempting to treat yourself with CBD, and we recommend specifically speaking to a specialist at your local mental health clinic if suffering from generalized anxiety, PTSD, depression, or any other mental health issue.
How Do I Take CBD For Anxiety?
CBD products come in a wide array of forms, from CBD oil to CBD vape liquid to tinctures and topical creams. CBD oil is likely one of the most commonly available, and can be taken in several different forms; it can be ingested outright, added to a vaporizer or made into e-liquid, and can be turned into a tincture or cream with the right know-how.
Though smoking and vaporizing can make it hard to nail down your precise CBD dosage they’re also one of the most efficient and fastest ways of feeling CBD’s effects, entering the bloodstream swiftly and often reaching the body’s CB2 cannabinoid receptors in a matter of minutes.
CBD Edibles: Accurate, But Inefficient?
Conversely, eating or otherwise ingesting CBD can be both slow and highly inefficient. The metabolic system takes its time processing the chemicals we intake, and in the case of CBD can even turn it into a waste product before it reaches our central nervous system. To help mitigate this, researchers suggest eating CBD alongside foods high in fat (11), essentially helping to “shield” the compound from attack as it passes through the digestive system.
CBD Tinctures & Topical Creams
Also available are CBD tinctures and topical creams. Tinctures, typically a mixture of CBD oil and alcohol, are meant to be held in the mouth against the gum line or underneath the tongue, where a variety of blood vessels lay directly underneath the surface of the skin; the CBD is then absorbed through the thin skin membrane and into the blood stream directly, bypassing the need to swallow. This gives tinctures a rapid onset time beaten only by smoking/vaporizing.
Topical salves and creams are usually applied externally, though in the same fashion as tinctures – Spread over a part of the skin that is usually thin and has blood vessels directly under the surface (wrists, neck, etc) the cannabinoids are absorbed into the blood stream from there. Though topical ointments are excellent for those who need localized pain or nerve relief, we recommend looking into other methods of dosing if taking CBD for anxiety relief.
With medical use of cannabis steadily on the rise keeping up-to-date on the latest health information and news can be tricky, and particularly given the lack of solid, medically reviewed evidence on the subject determining if you should be using CBD to treat your anxiety (or even what dosage of CBD to take) can be tricky.
Again, we strongly recommend checking with your physician before taking CBD for any purposes, particularly if already taking prescription medication. Though using CBD oil and other CBD products can come with numerous benefits it’s better not to take unnecessary risks, and though generally seen as safe there’s a reason the US Food and Drug Administration has yet to approve cannabidiol/CBD for most treatments; we simply don’t know enough about it to claim that it’s fully safe.
That said, anecdotal evidence shouldn’t be wholly discounted, particularly when shared by a community as large and devout as CBD’s followers tend to be. And though more clinical trials and further medically reviewed study is needed before cannabidiol can be signed off on as a treatment for anxiety, the early data on CBD certainly shows promising signs.
We hope our look into using CBD oil and other CBD dosages has been informative. Anxiety is a terrible, crippling disorder, and as scientists complete more trials and studies we’ll hopefully learn more about how this interesting and unique compound can help. Happy smoking!
(4) https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/19800921/ – Involvement of the prelimbic prefrontal cortex on cannabidiol-induced attenuation of contextual conditioned fear in rats
(6) https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/30543451/ – Cannabidiol in the Treatment of Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder: A Case Series
(7) https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/27456243/ – The endocannabinoid system and Post Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD): From preclinical findings to innovative therapeutic approaches in clinical settings
(8) https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/30087591/ – Cannabidiol as a Therapeutic Alternative for Post-traumatic Stress Disorder: From Bench Research to Confirmation in Human Trials
(9) https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/32150162/ – Stepwise Dosing Protocol for Increased Throughput in Label-Free Impedance-Based GPCR Assays