Getting anxious occasionally is a normal part of life. But when you’re anxious for most of the day, or without any apparent reason, this starts to be a problem. Left untreated, anxiety can prevent you from doing the things that you love and can make it feel like it’s taking over your life. Today, CBD offers a potential alternative to traditional treatment for generalized anxiety disorder, panic attacks and social anxiety. But is the research conclusive enough to recommend it as an anxiety “medicine?” In this article, we review the most recent studies on the topic, and what they tell us about the uses of CBD for anxiety.
What is CBD?
CBD, or cannabidiol, is a chemical compound found in the cannabis plant. It is part of a family of compounds known as phytocannabinoids, which can have powerful therapeutic properties.
Unlike another cannabinoid known as THC, CBD is not psychoactive, meaning that it doesn’t create a “high.” Its effects on the body and mind are more subtle and may take longer to be felt. But the list of its medicinal benefits is impressive. Here are just a few of them:
- Preventing seizures
- Relieving inflammatory and neuropathic pain
- Stopping nausea
- Fighting depression
- Lowering blood pressure
- Treating skin diseases like eczema, psoriasis and acne
- Acting as a neuroprotector against disorders like Alzheimer’s disease
Non-prescription CBD products are not currently approved by the FDA. However, research suggests that this molecule is effective in treating a number of conditions. We recommend consulting with a medical professional to see if prescription CBD could help your condition.
The benefits of CBD on physical disorders like arthritis or Crohn’s disease have been the subject of a lot of research. Nowadays, research on its benefits for mental health is also developing. Scientists suggest that CBD may act as an antidepressant, relieve psychotic symptoms, and even help those with PTSD.
And that’s not all. CBD could also relieve anxiety, both in extreme cases like anxiety attacks and in cases of generalized anxiety disorder. Here’s what we know about these benefits.
CBD for chronic anxiety
Over the past decade, research on the benefits of CBD for anxiety has been developing rapidly. A 2019 study sought to test findings on a larger scale, examining the effects of CBD on 103 people over the course of several months.
What they found was that taking CBD decreased anxiety scores rapidly. Over the next couple of months, patients who were taking daily doses of CBD reported consistently lower levels of anxiety. Side effects were only observed in three out of the 103 volunteers.
We don’t fully understand what causes the anti-anxiety benefits of CBD yet. It likely has something to do with its effects on the endocannabinoid system. CBD interacts with endocannabinoid receptors throughout our bodies, which have an effect on things like mood, appetite and pain management. Scientists suggest this may be why CBD has therapeutic benefits on both mental and physical health.
Can CBD make you more relaxed in a stressful situation?
One of the most conclusive studies to date examined the effects of a relatively high dose of CBD on volunteers undergoing a stressful situation. This 2019 experiment studied 57 healthy men who were given various doses of CBD oil for anxiety (150 mg, 300 mg, 600 mg, and a placebo control group). Their blood pressure and heart rate were measured, and they were asked to describe how they were feeling throughout the course of the experiment.
They were then subjected to a public speaking test, an experiment known to raise anxiety levels in almost anyone. The results were impressive: subjects who had taken 300 mg of CBD reported feeling a lot less stressed during the public speaking test, which their physiological measures confirmed.
The results of the experiment suggest that CBD oil could be taken as an anti-anxiety drug in the case of stressful situations. It may even help those with phobias, or help people with social anxiety in stressful situations like public speaking or job interviews.
Does CBD help with panic attacks?
CBD for anxiety may even be able to help with more extreme cases, like panic attacks. A 2017 review studied research findings from the past couple of years to examine the role of CBD in preventing panic attacks. Taking from both animal studies and clinical studies conducted on healthy volunteers, they found that CBD had anxiolytic properties, meaning it has the ability to reduce anxiety. Because of the action of CBD on the brain, they found that it could likely work as a treatment for panic disorders.
The review concluded that more research needs to be done on the effects of CBD. Nevertheless, they also stated that CBD seemed safer than the most common drugs used in treating panic disorders.
CBD for anxiety and sleep disorders
One of the biggest and most debilitating effects of chronic anxiety is that it can cause people to lose sleep. In fact, most people who suffer from insomnia suffer from some kind of anxiety disorder.
A 2019 study of the effects of CBD for anxiety as well as sleep found that taking CBD improved the sleeping scores of patients, alongside their chronic anxiety. While more research is still needed on the relationship between the two, we can already suggest that CBD might help with anxiety-related sleeping disorders.
CBD for anxiety in pets
One of the latest developments in the field of CBD research is on its effects on pets. In fact, you may already have seen CBD products popping up on the shelves of pet stores or next to the pet food section.
As of yet, we only have anecdotal evidence to suggest that CBD helps to reduce anxiety in cats and dogs. But many pet owners are already using CBD to help their pets relax before a car trip or before surgery and have found it to be effective.
But doesn’t CBD risk creating anxiety?
It’s a common misconception that CBD can make some people anxious. This idea stems from a confusion between CBD and THC. Marijuana, which contains both CBD and THC, is known to make some people anxious even while it relaxes others. Some people who have experienced feelings of anxiety or even paranoia when smoking marijuana think that they have to stay away from all cannabis products.
In fact, research shows that CBD only decreases anxiety. A 2017 review of studies on marijuana and mental health found that THC could decrease anxiety in low doses, but increase it when taken in larger doses. On the other hand, CBD decreased anxiety regardless of the dose.
CBD is a relatively safe product with only a few side effects, and creating anxiety doesn’t figure among them.
Is CBD for anxiety safe?
When it comes to using CBD for chronic conditions like anxiety, we don’t know quite enough about its long-term effects.
Research on the safety of CBD for anxiety or other conditions suggests that it is generally a very safe substance. It only has a few side effects, all of which are relatively mild. Those include:
- Changes in appetite
Only a small percentage of people will suffer from them, but they could be quite unpleasant. That’s why it may be better to test out a small dose of CBD oil before starting to take it on a regular basis.
Some doctors also warn that we don’t know enough about the long-term effects of taking CBD for other conditions. This is a genuine concern. Even long-term studies on CBD for anxiety only span a couple of months. As a result, there may be detrimental long-term side effects of CBD that we simply don’t know about yet.
Another concern is the purity and genuineness of CBD. Although there are many reputable CBD brands out there, there are also some that are dishonest about the quality of their products. For example, they may claim that their CBD is more concentrated and potent than it actually is.
To check the quality of CBD, it’s important to use objective measures—don’t just trust the seller’s word. CBD should come with a certificate of analysis: a third-party testing document that measures the actual levels of CBD contained in a product and the extract form and qualities.
How to use CBD for anxiety
Although there have been quite a few studies on the use of CBD for anxiety, there isn’t a consensus on the best dosage for these types of conditions.
For example, this 2019 study on the effects of CBD for stressful situations found that 300 mg of CBD was the ultimate dosage. Patients given a smaller or a larger dose didn’t report as much reduction in their levels of anxiety. With CBD oil, more isn’t always better: past a certain limit, CBD seems to stop working against anxiety.
Other studies that focused more on chronic anxiety found that doses like 25 mg per day could be effective.
While clinical research on CBD for anxiety remains in the early stages, we won’t be able to say what dose is the best. A small daily dose might work better for chronic anxiety. Meanwhile, a much larger dose could be used for occasional stressful situations.
Is CBD for anxiety effective? Recent studies on the topic suggest that it might be. With its effects on the endocannabinoid system, CBD has relaxing effects on both the mind and body. This makes it effective for dealing with anxiety disorders including chronic anxiety, social anxiety and panic attacks. And it might even work on your pets too! More studies on the subject are still needed, but the results so far are promising. And considering the safety profile of CBD, it’s certainly worth a try.
CBD for anxiety:
2019 study on the effects of CBD for stress reduction
2019 study on CBD for anxiety and sleep
CBD for panic attacks
2017 review of the effects of CBD on panic attacks and panic disorders
Effects of marijuana on anxiety
2017 review of marijuana and mental health
CBD for pets
2016 study of the effects of CBD oil on pets