Introduction to Using CBD Oil for Anxiety
Anxiety disorders are the most common types of mental illness in the United States. Around 40 million people suffer from anxiety – that's more than 18 percent of the adult population. More worrisome is the fact that an estimated 25 percent of teenagers and kids are also afflicted by this disease. [R]
Anxiety can be debilitating. Quality of life is reduced to a never-ending cycle of panic attacks, sleepless nights, extreme phobias, and even depression.
The most common treatment method for anxiety is pharmaceuticals. There are numerous anti-anxiety drugs available on the market, including Selective Serotonin Reuptake Inhibitors (SSRIs) and tranquilizers. The most popular SSRI brands are Prozac and Zoloft while tranquilizers under the benzodiazepines class are sold as Valium or Xanax.
The problem with pharmaceutical remedies is that different people react differently to different drugs. There is no magic pill for treating all anxiety symptoms. While many patients do experience relief from antidepressants, some fail to respond favorably. There are people who do not experience any improvement at all while others cannot simply tolerate the side effects. Tranquilizers such as Valium and Xanax are known to be highly addictive – which could aggravate the symptoms and create a whole new set of problems.
Fortunately, fresh insights into the cause of anxiety may help with the development of more effective treatment options with lesser side effects.
Cannabidiol, more popularly known as CBD, is a non-psychoactive compound of the cannabis plant. The hype around CBD keeps growing by the day, with some calling it the next big thing in anxiety treatment.
Cannabidiol has generated a tremendous amount of interest not just among consumers but the scientific community as well. Animal research plus evidence from human experimental, clinical, and epidemiological studies have suggested that CBD possesses powerful anti-anxiety properties without causing the adverse effects of antidepressants. [R]
When administered correctly, CBD is well-tolerated and may be beneficial in help treating the five types of anxiety disorders:
- Generalized Anxiety Disorder (GAD)
- Obsessive Compulsive Disorder (OCD)
- Panic disorder
- Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD)
- Social phobia
Can CBD really provide a viable alternative for pharmaceutical anxiety medication? Read through the rest of the article to find out!
Anxiety: a public health crisis
We have all felt nervous before an important event such as a first date, school exam, business presentation, or birth of a child. Those are natural reactions. Anxiety disorders, however, are illnesses that cause people to feel frightened, stressed and uncomfortable even for no apparent reason. If left untreated, anxiety disorders can dramatically reduce productivity and significantly diminish quality of life.
According to the Anxiety and Depression Association of America (ADAA), anxiety disorders affect 40 million adults every year. [R] People who suffer from this disease are three to five times more likely to go to the doctor and six times more likely to be hospitalized than healthy individuals.
Anxiety disorders also affect 25.1% of teenagers in the United States. Research shows that children with anxiety disorders often perform poorly in school and in social events. They are also at a higher risk of engaging in substance abuse. Anxiety disorders in children often occur with other mental problems such as eating disorders, attention-deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD), and depression.
According to data from the National Institute of Mental Health, around 38 percent of girls and 26 percent of boys (ages 13-17) have to deal with an anxiety disorder. A 2016 national study of more than 150,000 students by the Center for Collegiate Mental Health at Pennsylvania State University also revealed that anxiety is the most common mental health concern on college campuses. [R]
Anxiety is a crippling mental disorder that affects millions of people every day. Unfortunately, many of the treatments available only make the condition worse with adverse side effects and even addictions.
Researchers may have finally found an effective treatment for anxiety from an unlikely source: the cannabis (Hemp) plant. There are chemical compounds in cannabis that show massive therapeutic potential when consumed the right way.
As more states are legalizing medical or recreational cannabis, interest in CBD is at an all time high. According to the latest data from Hemp Business Journal, the market for CBD has doubled in size over the past two years – amounting to a whopping $200 million today. In the next two years, the hemp CBD industry is projected to more than triple that number to $646 million. [R]
What is CBD?
The cannabis plant contains chemical compounds called cannabinoids. Scientists have isolated at least 113 cannabinoids from the three species of cannabis – indica, sativa, and ruderalis.
The two most popular cannabinoids are THC (tetrahydrocannabinol) and CBD (cannabidiol).
You may have also heard about these cannabinoids:
- Cannabicitran (CBT)
- Cannabigerol (CBG)
- Cannabichromene (CBC)
- Cannabigerovarin (CBGV)
CBD makes up 40% of the cannabis plant, which makes it second to THC in concentration.
While THC may have many medicinal benefits, it is primarily known for its euphoric and psychoactive effects. CBD, on the other hand, is a non-psychoactive compound with more medicinal properties than THC.
Hemp CBD vs. marijuana CBD
CBD is found in hemp and marijuana – which are both part of the cannabis plant family. The main difference between marijuana and hemp is the amount of THC in each strain.
THC is responsible for the psychoactive high that marijuana creates when people smoke or ingest weed. It is also the reason why many are hesitant to choose cannabis as a treatment option despite its therapeutic potential.
Hemp contains little to no THC, and it has lots and lots of CBD.
The legal distinction between hemp and marijuana lies in the percentage of THC in the compound. THC levels from 0.3% and above that are found in marijuana plants are considered illegal unless purchased or grown in a state that has legalized thru a state regulated program. Industrial hemp is a legal category given to cannabis plants that contain less than 0.3% THC.
CBD oil from hemp is 100% safe and 100% legal. CBD oil from marijuana is only legal where that specific plant has been approved for medicinal or recreational use in a particular state.
How is hemp CBD oil made?
For CBD to be legal in all 50 states, cannabidiol must be extracted from the hemp plant.
CBD is often produced through carbon dioxide extraction. In CO2 extraction, the plant is filtered through a series of chambers exposed to high pressure and low temperature. Stripping away other cannabinoids, terpenes, trichomes, and other chemical compounds, the system is able to isolate cannabidiol at a 90% efficiency rate.
What are the potential medical benefits Of CBD?
Studies have shown CBD to possess the following properties: [R]
Because of these characteristics, CBD might be a potential treatment option for medical conditions such as:
- Muscle spasms
- Chronic pain
- Nausea and vomiting
- Low appetite
- Nervous system degeneration
- Cancer cell growth
Research has also shown that CBD could reverse the psychological effects of THC. [R]
As scientists continue to explore the different cannabinoids in the cannabis plant – specifically CBD – more benefits are discovered every day.
This article is going to focus on how CBD could possibly help treat anxiety disorders so millions of people could overcome this debilitating disease.
CBD and the human endocannabinoid system
To understand how CBD might help treat anxiety, we must first look at how the human endocannabinoid system works. The human body naturally produces its own cannabinoids – forming a vast network of chemical compounds and receptors. This physiological system is responsible for regulating moods, immune response, pain and inflammation, neuron generation, and neuroplasticity.
Anandamide is an endocannabinoid with similar characteristics as THC. When anandamide or THC binds with the CB1 receptor in our brain, they modulate the central nervous system and create a feeling of ease and relaxation.
CBD for anxiety
Studies have found that CBD oil is a natural anxiolytic or anxiety calmer [R]. As it naturally calms anxiety without the side effects of antidepressants, CBD might be effective in treating social anxiety. [R]
One way that CBD could ease anxiety is by activating serotonin receptors. Boosting the activity of the human endocannabinoid system holds therapeutic promise in a wide range of conditions including mood and anxiety disorders. [R] [R]
CBD oil may also help slow down activity in the amygdala while activating the prefrontal cortex – two parts of the brain involved in emotional control. [R]
NF kappa B.
According to research, inflammation could play a crucial role in cognitive issues such as anxiety, depression, brain fog, ADD, and ADHD. The cytokine model of cognitive function studies how inflammation affects our brains and leads to anxiety. One study showed that people who suffered from anxiety disorders had elevated levels of NF kappa B (NFkB). The anti-inflammatory properties of CBD could help lower NFkB levels. [R]
In a 2008 study, CBD was injected into the brains of rats to investigate if the dorsolateral periaqueductal gray (dlPAG) – a midbrain structure related to anxiety – could produce anxiolytic effects if induced by the interaction of CBD with 5HT1A receptors. The conclusion confirmed this assertion. CBD did induce anxiolytic effects when it interacted with 5HT1A brain receptors. [R]
These receptors play an important role in the regulation of mood and impulse control. Neurological and psychiatric disorders such as anxiety, schizophrenia, depression, and Alzheimer’s disease have been associated with impaired function of 5-HT2A serotonin receptors in the prefrontal cortex. One behavioral report in 2012 suggested that repeated exposure to cannabinoid agonists enhanced the activity of 5-HT2A receptors in the limbic region and “may be clinically relevant to the pathophysiology of cognitive disorders.” [R]
There is also evidence that CBD is able to promote hippocampus neurogenesis and generate new neurons. [R] The hippocampus is part of the brain that regulates our emotions. In studies, CBD was able to significantly reduce stress levels. Research carried out in 2015 also showed that hippocampal neurogenesis reduces anxiety and depression. [R]
When CBD activates CB1 receptors, it creates a positive impact on GABA and glutamate levels. GABA is a neurotransmitter that helps calm you down with a sedative-like effect. By slowing down the rate at which neurons operate, GABA regulates neurons that are too excited – hence the mitigation of symptoms in anxiety disorders, Parkinson's and other similar conditions.
Mu-Opioid Receptor (MOR) and Delta-Opioid Receptor (DOR)
Although it remains a mystery how the modulation of MOR and DOR sites reduces anxiety, it has been proven to do so. A study in 2006 showed that CBD acts as an anxiolytic when it modulates MOR and DOR sites. [R]
The human endocannabinoid called anandamide is our natural bliss molecule. When anandamide binds to the cannabinoid receptor, it creates a calming effect that puts the body at ease. Unfortunately, anandamide is broken down by an enzyme called Fatty Acid Amide Hydrolase (FAAH). With CBD inhibiting the production of FAAH, the body will have more bountiful levels of anandamide for a more relaxed mood.
Why use CBD for anxiety?
The brain reabsorbs serotonin. CBD – like SSRIs such as Prozac and Zoloft – can prevent this absorption to make more serotonin available in the brain. With more serotonin in the brain, more neurons are activated.
Brain scans of individuals suffering from anxiety show a smaller hippocampus. Studies have shown that CBD helps in neuron generation in the hippocampus, thereby increasing its size.
More active neurons mean less anxiety and improved overall mood.
CBD reduces anxiety in pets
Many people are also using CBD to keep their pets calm. If your dog is suffering from social anxiety, separation anxiety, or noise anxiety (storms, lightning, city noises) CBD hemp oil might help.
Change can make a pet anxious. Did you move to a new house? Did you invite the neighborhood pups over? Did you bring home a new member of the family? These events might be the cause of stress in your dog – especially if there is a huge age gap between pets. CBD hemp oil might help them control their anxiety and allow them to explore their new surroundings in a calmer manner.
Terpenes and the "entourage effect"
In most cannabidiol studies, researchers analyze single-molecule CBD instead of the whole plant. These scientific inquiries do not take into account the more than 400 trace compounds in cannabis – including terpenes.
What are terpenes?
Terpenes are molecules that create the aromatic and flavor profile of cannabis. Because of their distinct smell, terpenes often form the basis of aromatherapy in holistic healing practices.
There are around 200+ terpenes found in the cannabis plant, including beta-caryophyllene which is also found in green, leafy vegetables. Beta-caryophyllene is a gastro-protective agent that has the potential to be a great therapeutic compound for inflammatory and auto-immune diseases when it binds directly to the CB2 receptor.
Terpenes also play an important role in reducing the anxiety caused by THC. When cannabinoids and terpenoids work together, they are able to control the psychoactive effects of THC while amplifying the health benefits of CBD.
Trace compounds in cannabis interact synergistically to create an "entourage effect" – which makes the medicinal impact of a whole plant greater than the sum of its parts.
In a 2008 study of the anti-hyperalgesic effect of a Cannabis sativa extract, researchers found that multiple cannabinoids plus non-cannabinoid fractions such as terpenes and flavonoids provided better pain relief than a single cannabinoid molecule. [R]
While CBD isolates represent the purest form of CBD, full-spectrum CBD (which includes terpenes and flavonoids of the entire cannabis plant) is more beneficial than a single CBD molecule alone.
Scientific evidence: is CBD effective in treating anxiety?
Building on the foundation of non invasive or harmful animal studies, human trials are starting to demonstrate that CBD can indeed provide relief for many anxiety-related disorders.
The National Institute on Drug Abuse found that CBD can reduce stress and anxiety in a range of animal models. Subjects showed reduced behavioral signs of anxiety. Physiological symptoms such as increased heart rate also improved. [R]
Back in 1993, a double-blind study looked at four independent groups of 10 subjects. Each group was given placebo, 300mg of CBD, 10mg of diazepam, or 5mg of ipsapirone. The effects of ipsapirone and cannabidiol on a simulated public speaking (SPS) test were compared with those of diazepam and placebo. Subjective anxiety was evaluated through the Visual Analog Mood Scale (VAMS) and the State-Trait Anxiety Inventory (STAI). The results suggest that ipsapirone and CBD reduced anxiety in human volunteers facing a stressful situation. [R]
In 2011, Brazilian researchers conducted another double-blind study of patients afflicted with social anxiety disorder (SAD). Participants were separated into two groups: the first one took a placebo and the second one took an oral dose of 400 milligrams of cannabidiol. The CBD group reported a significant decrease in anxiety after taking cannabidiol. Brain scans also confirmed the subjective reports – cerebral blood flow patterns reflected an overall reduction in anxiety levels in the CBD group. [R]
That same year, a study was conducted on 24 people who were diagnosed with Social Anxiety Disorder (SAD). They were also asked to perform a simulated public speaking test in front of a large audience after taking either a placebo or CBD. The participants were not aware if they had been given the CBD or the placebo. Researchers then compared the anxiety levels of both groups and found significantly reduced anxiety, cognitive impairment, discomfort in their speech performance, and alert in their anticipatory speech in the CBD group. The placebo group demonstrated increased anxiety, cognitive impairment, discomfort, and alert levels. The subjective findings were supported by heart rate and blood pressure tests. [R]
Another study published in 2011 in the Journal of Psychopharmacology tested 10 people suffering from SAD. Those who took CBD reported significant decrease in anxiety symptoms. Neuro-imaging confirmed how CBD affected activity in the limbic and paralimbic parts of the brain. [R]
Those who are suffering from post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) often complain of sleep disturbances such as insomnia and rapid eye movement (REM) sleep abnormality. The anti-anxiety properties of CBD can help increase REM sleep while keeping the patient calm. [R]
There have also been studies on how CBD can affect other neurological disorders. In 2016, Marc Fakhoury from the University of Montreal, Department of Neurosciences published a study on the antipsychotic benefits of CBD in schizophrenic patients. CBD products taken showed great promise in the treatment of psychosis with fewer side effects than conventional antipsychotic drugs. [R]
Psychiatrist and New York University researcher Dr. Esther Blessing confirmed that "there is good evidence to suggest that CBD could be an effective treatment of anxiety and addiction but we need clinical trials to find out."
Dr. Blessing and her team have secured funding from the National Institutes of Health for a new clinical trial on how CBD might be able to treat people with PTSD and alcohol addiction. It will involve 50 participants who will be given placebo or 400 milligrams of CBD daily. The objective of the study is to find out if CBD could lead to alcoholics drinking less and whether that provides relief for PTSD symptoms. Start date for the study is November 15, 2018 and estimated completion date is August 31, 2019. [R]
The most recent study on CBD for anxiety was published in April 2018 by the Washington State University. WSU scientists examined how self-reported levels of stress, anxiety and depression were affected by smoking different strains and quantities of cannabis at home. The research team found that one puff of cannabis high in CBD and low in THC was optimal for reducing symptoms of depression. Two puffs of any type of cannabis was sufficient to reduce symptoms of anxiety. Ten or more puffs of cannabis high in CBD and high in THC produced the largest reductions in stress. [R]
How to take CBD for anxiety
There are many different ways to consume CBD. The most common are:
CBD sublingual drops
The most common and most effective method of administering CBD is sublingual (under the tongue). CBD drops are known to produce long-lasting effects as they allow the body to metabolize the cannabidiol and deliver relief where it is needed.
CBD extracts in oil form are also the most accurate in dosing and best in quality.
To take CBD through sublingual administration, place desired dosage of drops under the tongue and hold it there for several seconds before swallowing.
For those who cannot tolerate the taste of hemp, CBD oil can be added to food (salad dressing) or beverage (orange juice, smoothies) to make it more appealing to the palate or purchase flavored alternatives such as Mint, Cinnamon, Vanilla etc. CBD oils are also commonly mixed with MCT coconut oil but this solution should NOT be vaped.
For those who are not fond of the taste of oil, pills may be easier to swallow. CBD is now available in capsule form via soft CBD gel caps.
CBD topical creams
CBD can also be applied directly to the skin. CBD topical creams and CBD gels are often mixed with other essential nutrients such as aloe, tea tree, and lavender to enhance the benefits of cannabidiol.
Smoking cannabis – even high strains of CBD – can cause irritation and inflammation in the lungs. If inhaling is your preferred method of taking CBD, then vaping is an excellent alternative for you. CBD oils that are specifically designed for vaping are now available in many vape friendly flavors.
If you feel that you are about to have a panic attack, vaping CBD is the fastest way to help stop it. The method you choose could mean the difference between a slight increase in stress and a full blown anxiety attack.
Although it is a fast and effective way to take CBD for anxiety, vaping does not have the same long-lasting effects as other methods do.
One of the most enjoyable ways of consuming CBD is by adding it to your favorite food and drinks. Mix CBD oil drops with smoothies, shakes, and other liquids. You can also add CBD isolates to baked goods such as cookies and brownies. CBD is great for cooking because it is tasteless, odorless, and highly soluble. Mix it with coconut oil, butter or honey to make pasta dishes, dips, and desserts.
The term dabbing refers to the flash vaporization of CBD concentrates when applied to a hot surface. CBD isolates (shatter) are 99% pure cannabidiol so they are very potent when inhaled. Dabbing is one of the best ways to achieve immediate and effective relief from CBD.
Some people take CBD through the most unusual of entry points – through the anus via a CBD suppository.
Before you cringe at the idea, it is best to understand first how suppositories work. The principle of bioavailability refers to the degree and rate at which a substance is absorbed into the body. The bioavailability of CBD through rectal absorption is more than double that of taking it through the mouth. When CBD is taken orally, much of it is lost as it passes through the body. The effects of a CBD suppository may take longer to set in than vaping but will last for up to eight hours in some cases.
Why is CBD oil the most ideal form of CBD for treating anxiety?
CBD oil is one of the best ways to take CBD for anxiety because it offers a discreet experience. Just squeeze a drop or two directly under your tongue or mix it with your favorite food or drink. Taking CBD oil will not attract unwanted attention like you would if you vape, smoke or dab.
How to choose the right CBD product
Not all plant-based products are good for you. While herbal supplements are generally safe for human consumption, it is important to choose the right CBD product. Here are four things to consider when buying CBD.
- How the plant is grown
Cannabis cultivation is a booming business. The biggest greenhouses in the United States are located in Colorado, California, Oregon and Arizona. The first thing to consider when choosing CBD is how the plant is grown. Make sure that the CBD product you are buying is non-GMO, pesticide free and preferably organic farming practices.
- How the oil is extracted from the plant
The two most popular – and cleanest – extraction methods for CBD oil are ethanol and carbon dioxide (CO2).
CO2 extraction uses high pressure and extremely low temperature to extract, preserve, and maintain the purity of the CBD oil. When done well, the end product is safe, potent, and chlorophyll-free.
Always check if the manufacturer is using a safe solvent like ethanol and a verified extraction method.
- THC content
While cannabidiol from industrial hemp is guaranteed to be non-psychoactive, some CBD products are extracted from plants that contain high levels of THC. If getting high is not your desired effect, make sure you choose a CBD product that is derived from hemp and not marijuana.
- Company transparency
A study published in the Journal of the American Medical Association last year found that more than two thirds of CBD products sold online contained either higher or lower concentrations of the substance than their labels indicated. Some had significant levels of THC too while quite a few did not contain any CBD at all. [R]
The best CBD oils come from companies that are fully transparent. They tell you how much cannabidiol and other cannabinoids are in their formula, they publish third party test results, and they have verified testimonials from real people. Before you decide on a product, perform due diligence on the manufacturer and find out how it runs its business.
Will CBD oil get you high?
No, CBD oil will not get you high as long as it does not contain any high amounts of THC. Hemp CBD in the USA is .3% or below, which will not get you high. Cannabidiol is non-psychoactive so it will not alter your perception.
When CBD binds itself to the cannabinoid receptors in your brain, these receptors stay off so the experience is less trippy. When THC binds itself to these cannabinoid receptors, it turns them all the way up to create a very powerful psychoactive high.
Even if you take full spectrum hemp CBD, it will not affect you in the way that THC from marijuana does. If you do not want any THC at all, then CBD isolates are the best option for you. Pure 99% CBD from hemp can provide you with all the medical benefits of cannabis without the high associated with marijuana.
Is CBD oil addictive?
No, CBD oil is not addictive. As mentioned earlier, CBD oil does not turn on the cannabinoid receptors in your brain like THC does. These cannabinoid receptors are responsible for creating the high that people get hooked on.
What are the side effects of CBD oil for anxiety?
So far, there have been no reports of serious side effects from taking CBD. Cannabidiol is generally safe for human consumption with minor although rare side effects such as:
- Dry mouth
- Change in appetite
- Upset stomach
- Low blood pressure
There is an inherent risk for lung irritation if you vape CBD oil. Symptoms include coughing, wheezing, and difficulty breathing. Your doctor might not recommend vaping CBD oil if you are suffering from asthma or any other type of lung disorder.
A note of caution for those who are taking medication for diabetes, heart problems, and other medical conditions: CBD can interfere with your liver and might negate the effects of other medications.
If you have been diagnosed with an anxiety disorder and are currently taking medication for it, do not stop without consulting your physician first. While CBD may help relieve anxiety, stopping your prescription medications without proper guidance from your doctor could result in withdrawal symptoms such as:
- Fear and paranoia
“Talk to your doctor before adding” CBD to your treatment plan.
Is CBD oil legal?
CBD is legal when it is derived from hemp. According to the 2014 Federal Farm Bill, a substance is classified as industrial hemp if it contains less than 0.3 percent of THC.
The Farm Bill allows companies to source domestic hemp products under appropriate licensing from state departments of agriculture in Colorado, Oregon and Kentucky.
According to the Appropriations Acts of 2016 and 2017, the government cannot prohibit the sale of hemp products. It is the expressed intent of Congress that hemp cultivated in compliance with the Farm Bill be intended for "transportation, processing and sale."
Will I fail a drug test if I take CBD?
Full spectrum products like CBD capsules and tinctures contain less than .3% THC. The non-psychoactive cannabinoids such as CBD, CBG, and CBN do not usually cross-react with THC in a drug screen. However, there are rare cases of false-positive results when large doses of CBD daily in the upper 1500mg to 2500mg range are taken over very long periods of time.
If you are concerned about drug screening, it is recommended that you do additional research before taking any CBD product.
How much CBD oil should you take?
The studies done on CBD oil have a wide dose range – from as low as a few milligrams to as high as 2,000 milligrams. It is best to start at around 10 milligrams and slowly increase your intake if you do not feel any effects. Some people split the dosage instead of taking the entire dose all at once. Consult your physician or healthcare provider before taking CBD.
Here is a rough estimate of how much CBD you will be getting from a particular dose.
- One full dropper is approximately 1ml
- 1000mg tincture has approximately 34mg of CBD per 1ml
- 500mg tincture has approximately 17mg of CBD per 1ml
- 250mg tincture has approximately 8.5mg of CBD per 1ml
- 1 gram of CBD isolate contains 998mg of CBD (499mg/.5g and 98mg/.1g)
Should you try CBD oil for anxiety?
If you are suffering from anxiety and pills do not work for you, or you are looking for an alternative then you may consider taking CBD oil.
Keep in mind that CBD oil is not a recreational product. If you do not have an anxiety disorder or other medical condition, you may not feel anything at all except a nice relaxing effect. Effects are related to the dosage taking and the size of the individual.
Before purchasing any CBD product, make sure that the hemp was organically grown and that the CBD formula has been tested for quality and potency by a third party.
Cannabis has been used in medicine for thousands of years. Traditional Chinese doctors prescribed cannabis leaves for gout, rheumatism, and malaria. In ancient India, hemp was known to clear phlegm, aid in digestion, improve memory, and heighten alertness. Egyptians applied medical cannabis to relieve inflammation and menstrual cramps. Now modern medicine is starting to rediscover the healing powers of this magical plant – backed by scientific evidence. N research will surface yearly at an exponential rate as we learn more about this plant and its benefits for humanity as a whole.