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Using CBD Oil for Anxiety: Does It Work?

Cannabidiol (CBD) is a type of cannabinoid, a chemical found naturally in cannabis (marijuana and hemp) plants. Early research is promising regarding the ability of CBD oil to help relieve anxiety.

Unlike tetrahydrocannabinol (THC), another type of cannabinoid, CBD doesn’t cause any feelings of intoxication or the “high” you may associate with cannabis.

Learn more about the potential benefits of CBD oil for anxiety, and whether it could be a treatment option for you.

The human body has many different receptors. Receptors are protein-based chemical structures that are attached to your cells. They receive signals from different stimuli.

CBD is thought to interact with CB1 and CB2 receptors. These receptors are mostly found in the central nervous system and the peripheral nervous system, respectively.

The exact way CBD affects CB1 receptors in the brain isn’t fully understood. However, it may alter serotonin signals.

Serotonin, a neurotransmitter, plays an important role in your mental health. Low serotonin levels are commonly associated with people who have depression. In some cases, not having enough serotonin may also cause anxiety.

The conventional treatment for low serotonin is a selective serotonin reuptake inhibitor (SSRI), such as sertraline (Zoloft) or fluoxetine (Prozac). SSRIs are only available by prescription.

Some people with anxiety may be able to manage their condition with CBD instead of an SSRI. However, you should talk to your doctor before making changes to your treatment plan.

Several studies point to the potential benefits of CBD for anxiety.

For generalized anxiety

For generalized anxiety disorder (GAD), the National Institute on Drug Abuse (NIDA) says that CBD has been shown to reduce stress in animals such as rats.

Study subjects were observed as having lower behavioral signs of anxiety. Their physiological symptoms of anxiety, such as increased heart rate, also improved.

More research needs to be done, specifically on humans and GAD.

For other forms of anxiety

CBD may also benefit people with other forms of anxiety, such as social anxiety disorder (SAD) and post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD). It may help treat anxiety-induced insomnia as well.

In 2011, a study researched CBD’s effects on people with SAD. Participants were given an oral dose of 400 milligrams (mg) of CBD or a placebo. Those who received CBD experienced overall reduced anxiety levels.

Multiple recent studies have shown that CBD can help with PTSD symptoms, such as having nightmares and replaying negative memories. These studies have looked at CBD as both a standalone PTSD treatment as well as a supplement to traditional treatments like medication and cognitive behavioral therapy (CBT).

For other neurological disorders

CBD has also been studied in other neurological disorders.

A 2017 literature review on CBD and psychiatric disorders concluded that there isn’t enough evidence to tout CBD as an effective treatment for depression.

The authors did find some evidence to suggest that CBD could help with anxiety disorders. However, these studies were uncontrolled. This means that the participants weren’t compared to a separate group (or “control”) that might have received a different treatment — or no treatment at all.

Based on their review, more human tests are needed to better understand how CBD works, what the ideal dosages should be, and if there are potential side effects or hazards.

A 2016 study found that CBD can have antipsychotic effects in people with schizophrenia. Moreover, CBD doesn’t cause the significant debilitating side effects associated with some antipsychotic drugs.

If you’re interested in trying CBD oil for your anxiety, talk to your doctor. They can help you figure out a starting dosage that’s right for you.

However, the nonprofit National Organization for the Reform of Marijuana Laws (NORML) does advise that very few commercially available products contain enough CBD to replicate the therapeutic effects seen in clinical trials.

In a 2018 study, male subjects received CBD before undergoing a simulated public speaking test. The researchers found that an oral dose of 300 mg, administered 90 minutes before the test, was enough to significantly reduce the speakers’ anxiety.

Members of the placebo group and study subjects who received 150 mg saw little benefit. The same was true for subjects who received 600 mg.

The study only looked at 57 subjects, so it was small. More research, including studies that look at female subjects, is needed to determine the appropriate dosage for people with anxiety.

CBD is generally considered safe. However, some people who take CBD may experience some side effects, including:

  • diarrhea
  • fatigue
  • changes in appetite
  • changes in weight

CBD may also interact with other medications or dietary supplements you’re taking. Exercise particular caution if you take medications, such as blood thinners, that come with a “grapefruit warning.” CBD and grapefruit both interact with enzymes that are important to drug metabolism.

One study on mice found that being gavaged with, or force-fed, CBD-rich cannabis extract increased their risk for liver toxicity. However, some of the study mice had been given extremely large doses of CBD.

You shouldn’t stop taking any medications you’re already using without talking to your doctor first. Using CBD oil may help your anxiety, but you could also experience withdrawal symptoms if you suddenly stop taking your prescription medications.

Symptoms of withdrawal include:

  • irritability
  • dizziness
  • nausea
  • fogginess

Is CBD Legal? Hemp-derived CBD products (with less than 0.3 percent THC) are legal on the federal level, but are still illegal under some state laws. Marijuana-derived CBD products are illegal on the federal level, but are legal under some state laws. Check your state’s laws and those of anywhere you travel. Keep in mind that nonprescription CBD products are not FDA-approved, and may be inaccurately labeled.

In some parts of the United States, CBD products are only allowed for specific medical purposes, such as the treatment of epilepsy. You may need to get a license from your doctor to be able to purchase CBD oil.

If cannabis is approved for medical use in your state, you may be able to purchase CBD oil online or in special cannabis clinics and dispensaries. Check out this guide to 10 of the best CBD oils on the market.

As research on CBD continues, more states may consider the legalization of cannabis products, leading to wider availability.

Find out what the research says about CBD oil and anxiety. Also get the facts on how it affects other disorders and its legal status.

How to Try CBD for Depression

Cannabidiol (CBD) is a type of natural compound known as a cannabinoid. Cannabinoids are found in the cannabis plant. Cannabis plants are sometimes called hemp or marijuana, depending on their level of tetrahydrocannabinol (THC), another cannabinoid.

THC is associated with a “high.” CBD, however, does not cause psychoactive effects like marijuana does.

CBD can be derived from the hemp or marijuana plant.

CBD has seen a surge in popularity in recent years, as new research explores its potential health benefits. Some research suggests that CBD oil and other CBD products may be beneficial for symptoms of depression.

If you’re looking into using CBD for therapeutic purposes, it’s important to understand that the research around CBD is limited. There have been a lot of studies in the last decade, but most of them were done using animals.

That means the possible benefits of CBD for depression in humans are mostly speculative right now.

Still, CBD does appear to have some benefits for depression, especially for dealing with:

  • anxiety
  • cognitive impairment
  • discomfort before public speaking

THC and CBD may also be helpful for conditions potentially related to depression, such as chronic pain .

Experts believe that CBD’s potential benefits for depression are related to its positive effect on serotonin receptors in the brain.

Low serotonin levels are likely connected to depression. CBD doesn’t necessarily boost serotonin levels, but it may affect how your brain’s chemical receptors respond to the serotonin that’s already in your system.

A 2014 animal study found that CBD’s effect on these receptors in the brain produced both antidepressant and anti-anxiety effects.

A more recent 2018 review of existing studies concluded that CBD has anti-stress effects, which may reduce depression related to stress.

As mentioned, this is an area that’s still being actively studied, and new research and reviews are published every year. As researchers begin to better understand CBD and its potential benefits or concerns, information about how to most effectively use the product will continue to change.

When it comes to treating depression, CBD does appear to have some benefits over antidepressant medications.

Most antidepressant medications take weeks to start working. However, a 2019 animal study found that CBD has a fast and sustained antidepressant-like effect.

CBD may also result in fewer side effects than antidepressant medication. Insomnia, sexual dysfunction, mood swings, and agitation are common side effects of antidepressants. CBD has not shown similar issues.

Caution

While CBD may offer some benefits over antidepressant medications, it isn’t a replacement. Never stop taking prescribed medication, especially antidepressants, without talking to your healthcare provider first.

Abruptly stopping medication that’s been prescribed to you can cause serious side effects. If you want to stop taking medication, work with your healthcare provider to come up with a plan for gradually decreasing your dosage.

Depression and anxiety commonly occur together, and people with one are more likely to have the other. CBD does appear to help with both.

One study found that people who took 600 milligrams (mg) of CBD experienced significantly less social anxiety than people who took a placebo. Another study used a smaller dose of 300 mg, which still reduced levels of anxiety.

Anxiety may also have a link to low serotonin, so CBD’s effect on serotonin receptors might partly explain these beneficial effects.

So far, CBD doesn’t appear to cause many side effects. But some people may be more sensitive to it and experience:

  • diarrhea
  • fatigue
  • changes in weight or appetite

One study found that receiving doses of CBD-rich cannabis extracts can cause liver toxicity in mice. However, some of the mice in that study did receive unusually high doses of CBD.

It’s hard to know if CBD causes any long-term side effects due to a lack of research. So far, experts haven’t identified any major long-term risks.

Keep in mind that this doesn’t mean there aren’t any. It simply means that researchers haven’t encountered any yet.

In a 2017 review , the World Health Organization concluded that CBD is generally safe. They noted that adverse effects may be caused by interactions between CBD and medications.

To minimize your risk of side effects, make sure to talk to your healthcare provider before trying CBD.

This is important if you take over-the-counter medications, herbal supplements, and prescription medications (especially those that come with a “grapefruit warning“). Both CBD and grapefruit have an effect on cytochromes P450 (CYPs), a family of enzymes important to drug metabolism.

CBD is available in four formulations:

  • Oral. This includes tinctures, capsules, sprays, and oils. These mixes can be taken as they are, or they may be used in other preparations, such as smoothies or a coffee.
  • Edible. Drinks and foods, such as CBD-infused gummies, are now widely available.
  • Vaping. Vaping with CBD oil is one way to quickly ingest the compounds. However, there’s some debate over the long-term safety of this method. In addition, it can also cause coughing and throat irritation.
  • Topical. CBD-infused beauty products, lotions, and creams are a big business right now. These products incorporate CBD into things you apply directly to your skin. However, this formulation is likely best for pain, not mental health uses.

If you want to try CBD, you’ll need to find a reputable seller. Hemp-derived CBD is widely available in many areas. You may even find it in some health food stores. Marijuana-derived CBD is only sold in dispensaries in states where marijuana is legal for medicinal or recreational use.

If you’re interested in buying CBD, look for brands that are reputable and trustworthy. You can usually determine if a brand is reputable by checking if they conduct third-party lab testing of their products.

You can find many gummies, lotions, and oils for sale online.

CBD is becoming an increasingly popular remedy for a range of health issues, including depression. If you’re interested in trying CBD, talk with your healthcare provider.

While studies show the compound is generally safe, it may interact with medications. It’s a good idea to review medications and other supplements you’re taking before you begin using CBD.

Is CBD Legal? Hemp-derived CBD products (with less than 0.3 percent THC) are legal on the federal level, but are still illegal under some state laws. Marijuana-derived CBD products are illegal on the federal level, but are legal under some state laws. Check your state’s laws and those of anywhere you travel. Keep in mind that nonprescription CBD products are not FDA-approved, and may be inaccurately labeled.

CBD shows some promise against depression symptoms. Learn more about what the research says and everything you need to know to try it for yourself.