Anxiety, something that manifests as a racing heartbeat, manic thoughts, sweaty hands, and shortened, frantic breathing, can become debilitating over time. According to the World Health Organisation (WHO), 1 in every 13 people throughout the world is living with some kind of anxiety disorder.
While there are quick-acting drugs that can offer instant relief from the symptoms of anxiety, these prescriptions are often addictive. Some medical options provide no relief. Others cause far too many negative side effects. If you struggle with anxiety, finding a solution may leave you feeling like you are trapped in the dark.
But now, there may be a solution: CBD, or cannabidiol, from hemp. CBD is a chemical compound that has caught the eye of the medical community recently and is now being considered as a complementary therapy for anxiety. Will CBD help anxiety? Should you try it?
We’re going to answer all those questions and more.
How Does CBD Work?
In order to understand how cannabidiol dampens anxiety, you need to first understand how it affects the body as a whole. Within the human body is something called the endocannabinoid system (ECS), which is full of receptors that communicate with molecules, like neurotransmitters and other chemicals.
CBD is thought to react to two kinds of receptors in the ECS, the CB1 and CB2 receptors. These are found within the central and peripheral nervous systems. CB1 is also found in some fat stores. While research has yet to figure out exactly how CB1 receptors are affected by CBD, it does—in many different ways.
One way is by altering serotonin signals. The neurotransmitter called serotonin is integral to mental health. People with low levels of serotonin usually develop depression. Others with low serotonin may get anxiety. That is why selective serotonin reuptake inhibitors (SSRIs) are often prescribed for depression and anxiety.
SSRIs target a specific serotonin receptor known as 5-HT1A and helps increase the availability of serotonin, helping boost your mood. A 2019 study looked at how CBD operates in rats and found that CBD enhanced transmission to 5-HT1A, reducing anxious behaviors. Now, researchers want to see if this is the same for humans.
Research on CBD and Anxiety
Presently, there has been little research done on CBD, but more and more attention is being given to this chemical. Furthermore, most of the evidence from research available is from laboratory experiments and animal-based studies. Few human trails have been done. It should be noted that in 2015, research was published in the Neurotherapeutics journal that analysed CBD as a way to treat conditions of panic disorder, generalised anxiety, social anxiety disorder, post-traumatic stress disorder, and obsessive-compulsive disorder. The researchers found promising results.
Before that, in 2011, there was a well-known study that gave individuals with fear of public speaking doses of CBD. Those participants reported a reduction in negative self-talk and overall anxiety. However, it is hard to tell whether this a was placebo effect.
Similarly, a 2013 study published in Current Neuropharmacology discussed a link between neurogenesis and cannabidiol in the human brain. In 2016, an animal study similar to the one from 2019 looked at how CBD produced a fast-acting anti-anxiety and antidepressant effect in the brain.
In a double-blind study from Japan in 2019, 37 teenagers with social anxiety disorder were given 300mg of CBD or a placebo daily for four weeks. The teens were given surveys to assess their symptoms. The findings were that CBD could reduce anxiety symptoms as well as the drug Paroxetine, which is commonly used to treat social anxiety disorder.
Another study from 2019 looked at outpatients from a mental health facility in Colorado. There were 47 patients who had suffered from anxiety. Over 3 months, the patients were given 25mg of CBD per day alongside other treatments. After the first month, 79.2% of the participants saw improvement in their symptoms. After the whole three months, 78.1% of the patients had improved even further.
However, there were some patients who experienced a worsening of their anxiety—about 15.3% of the them. 19.5% of the participants said that their anxiety had worsened after two months.
As noted in the previous section, CBD may also cause anxiety, so it is not an option for some individuals. Also, CBD may cause the following side effects:
• Dry mouth
• Low blood pressure
• Changes in mood
• Changes in appetite
Some studies found that CBD can increase the heart rate slightly with doses higher than 900mg. Also, if you are taking medication with a grapefruit warning, avoid CBD. It is thought to behave the same way as grapefruit and upset the metabolic enzymes that assist with digesting medications. CBD may also interact with antihistamines, calcium channel blockers, anti-epileptic drugs, and benzodiazepines.
Consuming CBD For Anxiety
Curious about trying CBD for anxiety? Then you need to know the best ways to consume CBD oil so that you can maximize the benefits. As mentioned earlier, there are plenty of methods of taking CBD. Here are the ways to consume CBD:
Oils, Tinctures, and Sprays
CBD oils, tinctures, and sprays are a quick and easy way to get quality CBD. Tinctures and sprays are CBD extracts with an alcohol base. Meanwhile, CBD oils are infused with CBD extract and contain carrier oils derived from coconut or hemp seed.
Tinctures and oils usually are taken via dropper, allowing for a precise dosage. Since these are taken sublingually (under the tongue), the CBD rapidly dissolves into the bloodstream, delivering results in as little as 10 minutes and lasting for around 3-4 hours. Sprays are similar—sprayed onto the tongue or under it.
Most tinctures and oils are available in 15mL and 30mL bottles, but the concentration can range anywhere between 100-5,000mg. This means that dosage sizes will also vary greatly.
Another popular way to consume CBD is through vaping. Unfortunately, this delivery method is under intense scrutiny. A severe lung condition known as EVALI or VAPI (E-cigarette or Vaping-Use Associated Lung Injury or Vaping Associated Pulmonary Injury) has led to the hospitalization of individuals in the US. Therefore, caution should be taken when considering vaporizing CBD oil. Discuss it with a general practitioner first.
CBD, being tasteless, can be added to almost any kind of food. It is super easy to digest, but there are a few drawbacks to edibles. The oral bioavailability of CBD dampens the effect, since it takes a long while to be digested and sent through the liver. Most edibles contain about 5-100mg per gummy or piece.
There are also topical creams, but since those have little effect against anxiety, we didn’t include them.
Dosage For Treating Anxiety With CBD
There is currently no standard dose of CBD. Even in reading studies, you will notice that the amount of CBD used varies greatly. There are factors that go into how much CBD you will need to feel the effects, such as weight, gender, and method of consumption. It is always a good idea to start low, usually around 5-10mg of CBD, first. From there, if nothing happens in a few weeks, you can start increasing your dosage until the symptoms of anxiety start to lessen.
CBD is noted to be safe, even when taken in high doses. That is why some people will find 300mg to be ideal. Some studies even had people take 1,200-1,500mg in a single day, and there were no adverse effects. Of course, you should never dose that high when first starting out.
Discuss your plans for trying CBD with a medical professional then proceed from there.
General Dosing Tips For CBD
Though we briefly hinted to how dosing can change above, here are the factors in more detail:
• Concentration: The concentration refers to the strength of a product, or the total amount of CBD present in a single serving. Concentration is usually measured in milligrams (mg). Keep in mind that concentration does not equal the dosage. You need to calculate dosage based off the concentration. For example, if you have a CBD tincture that is 30 milliliters (mL) and has a concentration of 1500mg, then that means 1 mL of the tincture contains about 50mg of CBD per serving.
• Desired Effects: Depending on what you are using CBD for, the dosage will change. If you are in pain, the dose will reflect just how much pain you are in. If you have severe anxiety, then you will need a higher dose to mitigate than symptoms compared to someone with more mild symptoms.
• Tolerance: Everyone is different. Your lifestyle and how often you take CBD or other medications will affect your tolerance. Someone who has used CBD for a longer duration will need more CBD than someone who is just beginning to use it.
• Body Weight: Your weight also plays a role in how much CBD you can tolerate. Heavier individuals need more CBD per dose, especially if you want to get the calming benefits. Lighter individuals will feel CBD more strongly, even when taking less. You can find weight charts online to give you an estimate of how much CBD to start with.
How Do I Find Quality CBD Products?
After you talk to your doctor about using CBD for anxiety and look into the kinds of products available, you are going to want to look around at various suppliers. You are going to want to look for third-party lab-results, first and foremost. Make sure the brands you are interested in are also transparent and have information available online.
The best CBD is going to be 100% pure, meaning there is little to no CO2 in the formula. The formula should have natural ingredients only. Avoid anything that may have been made with pesticides, herbicides, or synthetic fertilisers. Also, consider locally sourced hemp and cannabis.
Should you try CBD oil for anxiety? Don’t let anxiety control your life. You can find relief. If you frequently struggle with restlessness, irritability, muscle tension, overthinking and worry, and sleep disturbances, then you should discuss CBD with a medical professional. From there, you can decide if CBD can be a complementary therapy for anxiety.
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