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CBD and Anxiety

According to the Anxiety and Depression Association of America, anxiety disorders affect about 18% of the population, and they are the most common form of mental health disorder. Numerous animal studies and mounting patient evidence supports that CBD has powerful anti-anxiety properties. CBD may be beneficial to treat a number of anxiety-related disorders,1 such as:

  • Panic disorder
  • Obsessive-compulsive disorder (OCD)
  • Social phobia
  • Post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD)
  • Generalized anxiety disorder (GAD)
  • Mild to moderate depression

What is Cannabidiol?, CBD works with the 5-HT1A serotonin receptor and acts in a similar way to prescription serotonin reuptake inhibitors (also referred to as selective serotonin reuptake inhibitors or SSRIs) like Prozac and Zoloft to increase the availability of serotonin in the brain, which can reduce anxiety and boost your mood. In one animal study, Spanish researchers found that CBD may affect serotonin levels in the brain faster than SSRIs.2

Another animal study found consistent use of CBD may help the hippocampus regenerate neurons.3 In fact, research shows that both SSRIs and CBD may promote neurogenesis. This is important, because evidence suggests that severely impaired neurogenesis may influence suicidal behavior. Future research comparing CBD and SSRIs could really open up our understanding of depression and how to treat it.

In one clinical study, Brazilian researchers did a small double-blind study of patients suffering from generalized social anxiety.4 After consuming CBD, the participants reported a significant decrease in anxiety. Researchers validated the patient reports by doing brain scans, and the scans showed cerebral blood flow patterns consistent with an anti-anxiety effect.

In another small study, researchers had patients suffering from social anxiety disorder perform a simulated public speaking test after a treatment of 300 milligrams of CBD.5 Participants reported significantly less anxiety, and these findings were supported by anxiety indicators like heart rate and blood pressure. CBD has also been shown to be very effective for stress-related anxiety and anxiety produced by a stressful event.6

Researchers have also investigated the role of several common terpenes in cannabis for treating anxiety. Limonene is known for its anxiolytic properties by increasing the levels of both dopamine (in the hippocampus) and serotonin (in the prefrontal cortex) via the 5-HT1A receptor.7 Linalool has been shown to have antidepressant and calming effects.8

The potent anti-anxiety effects of CBD are also useful for helping with a variety of other conditions and illnesses where anxiety might be a symptom (like PTSD, Parkinson’s, fibromyalgia, or multiple sclerosis).

This story is from Eileen, who helped Becky, age 18, navigate treatment for anxiety, depression, and insomnia:

“Becky is an 18-year-old female with complaints of anxiety, depression, and insomnia. She had used 10-milligram CBD pills purchased online from a hemp producer when we met. She was educated about medical cannabis, THC, and the various delivery methods available, as well as the medical cannabis program in her state.

Becky qualified for medical cannabis card and then had access to not only high CBD pills, vaporized oils and tinctures, but also other varying ratios of THC:CBD medicines.

It was recommended that Becky use high CBD medicines to start, along with a trial of a low dose of THC to help with sleep at night. Success was found using just 1 milligram of THC at night an hour before bed, but the CBD tincture taken during the day did nothing for Becky’s anxiety or depression. Upon further collaboration, we agreed that vaporized CBD at the initial onset of anxiety might provide the help she needed. The vaporized high CBD oil did help calm Becky’s anxiety, often being relieved with just one inhalation.

Although cannabis wasn’t helpful to Becky’s depression, she is currently in therapy and has provided insight and education to her current medical practitioners about the benefits and minimal side effects of cannabis medicines.”

  1. Esther M. Blessing et al., “Cannabidiol as a Potential Treatment for Anxiety Disorders,” Neurotherapeutics 12, no. 4 (2015): 825–36, doi:10.1007/s13311-015-0387-1.
  2. Raquel Linge et al., “Cannabidiol Induces Rapid-Acting Antidepressant-like Effects and Enhances Cortical 5-HT/Glutamate Neurotransmission: Role of 5-HT1A Receptors,” Neuropharmacology 103, (December 2015): 16–26, doi:10.1016/j. neuropharm.2015.12.017.
  3. Alline C. Campos et al., “The Anxiolytic Effect of Cannabidiol on Chronically Stressed Mice Depends on Hippocampal Neurogenesis: Involvement of the Endocannabinoid System,” The International Journal of Neuropsychopharmacology 16, no. 6 (2013): 1407–19, doi:10.1017/s1461145712001502.
  4. José Alexandre S. Crippa et al., “Neural Basis of Anxiolytic Effects of Cannabidiol (CBD) in Generalized Social Anxiety Disorder: a Preliminary Report,” Journal of Psychopharmacology 25, no. 1 (2010): 121–30, doi:10.1177/0269881110379283.
  5. Mateus M. Bergamaschi et al., “Cannabidiol Reduces the Anxiety Induced by Simulated Public Speaking in Treatment-Naïve Social Phobia Patients,” Neuropsychopharmacology 36, no. 6 (2011): 1219–26.
  6. Leonardo B. M. Resstel et al., “5-HT1A Receptors Are Involved in the Cannabidiol-Induced Attenuation of Behavioural and Cardiovascular Responses to Acute Restraint Stress in Rats,” British Journal of Pharmacology 156, no. 1 (2009): 181–88, doi:10.1111/j.1476-5381.2008.00046.x.
  7. Mark A. Lewis, Ethan B. Russo, and Kevin M. Smith, “Pharmacological Foundations of Cannabis Chemovars,” Planta Medica 84, no. 4 (2017): 225–33, doi:10.1055/s-0043-122240.
  8. Ethan B. Russo, “Taming THC: Potential Cannabis Synergy and Phytocannabinoid-Terpenoid Entourage Effects,” British Journal of Pharmacology 163, no. 7 (2011): 1344–64, doi:10.1111/j.1476-5381.2011.01238.x.