If you’re curious about how CBD could help with your anxiety, we’ve got you covered. Here’s how to use it, benefits, risks, and how it can help.
Cannabidiol (CBD) products have become increasingly popular. CBD is a cannabinoid — a chemical found in cannabis and hemp plants — that seems to have various health benefits.
While the properties of CBD are still being studied, many use it to manage their anxiety.
CBD is not intoxicating, which means it can’t make you feel high. It’s also not addictive. For this reason, many people are comfortable using it to soothe the symptoms of anxiety disorders.
Some people confuse CBD with cannabis and cannabis products, but there is a difference. Generally, cannabis contains a compound called THC, which is illegal at the federal level but legal in some states. Meanwhile, CBD is often derived from hemp (which contains little THC) and hemp is legal at the federal level.
If you want to learn more about what your state laws say about CBD and cannabis products, you can get that info here.
Many people claim CBD helps with anxiety — but what does the research say?
CBD’s effects have been studied on people with social anxiety disorder. A 2010 study looked at the effects of CBD on 10 people with social anxiety disorder and participants were either given 400 milligrams of CBD or a placebo. The participants who received CBD had reduced anxiety levels.
A 2018 study gave participants either CBD or a placebo before they did a public speaking test. Those who received 300 milligrams of CBD before the test had reduced anxiety. But those who received a placebo, 150 milligrams of CBD, or 600 milligrams of CBD didn’t seem to experience reduced anxiety.
It’s worth noting that this study didn’t involve people with anxiety disorders (or other mental health conditions). It was looking at anxiety as a symptom, not as a condition.
Anxiety and insomnia often go hand-in-hand. One study looked at the effects of CBD on people with anxiety and/or sleeplessness. Anxiety seemed to decrease in nearly 4 in 5 participants, and sleep improved in about 2 out of every 3 participants, suggesting that CBD might be able to help with both anxiety and sleep issues.
Lastly, a review of literature looked at multiple studies on CBD and posttraumatic stress disorder (PTSD), which can cause anxiety symptoms. It found that CBD could help with symptoms of PTSD but needs to be studied further. The review noted CBD has fewer side effects than medication that’s commonly used to treat PTSD.
So while research on CBD and anxiety is promising, it’s also sparse. The above-mentioned studies are too small to give us a definitive answer on whether CBD can actually help with anxiety.
It’s also not entirely clear why CBD seems to have an effect on mood, but serotonin might have something to do with it.
Serotonin is a hormone that our body produces. Low serotonin levels are associated with depression and anxiety. Serotonin also plays a role in our eating and sleeping patterns. It’s thought that CBD might interact with your serotonin, which is why it could have an anti-anxiety effect.
If you want to use CBD for anxiety, there are a few different options. CBD comes in the form of:
- oils and tinctures
- edibles (including gummies, chocolates, and savory snacks)
- smokable CBD hemp flower
- topicals (such as creams, lotions, and body oils)
When you use a CBD topical, little to no CBD will actually absorb into your bloodstream, which means that it’s not a suitable method for an internal issue like anxiety. CBD topicals are usually used for pain, inflammation, and skin conditions like acne.
Most of the studies mentioned above use CBD taken orally, either via CBD oil or capsules. There’s no clear evidence that suggests one method is necessarily better than the other.
It’s difficult to tell which dosage of CBD you should try if you’re trying to improve your anxiety. The dosage of CBD will likely depend on your weight, metabolism, and individual biology.
Secondly, as the nonprofit National Organization for the Reform of Marijuana Laws (NORML) points out, clinical trials on CBD use high amounts of CBD — and it can be difficult to find commercially available products with the same amount of CBD.
For example, many CBD brands give a guideline of using 20 milligrams a day, but the 2018 study mentioned earlier only found that CBD was helpful when 300 milligrams was taken. Using 300 milligrams of CBD per day would likely be costly.
The general rule with CBD (and THC) is to “start low and go slow.” This means using a small amount per day — say, 10 or 20 milligrams — and gradually increasing it until you feel some relief. That way you end up at the lowest dose (and thus lowest chance of side effects) that gives benefit.
Consider discussing dosage with a CBD-friendly doctor. It’s advisable to talk with a doctor any time you’re thinking of using a new health product, and CBD is no exception. If you’re already using anti-anxiety medication, it can be especially important to check in with your doctor first.
It’s hard to say. The evidence that CBD can help with anxiety is weak when compared to that of talk therapy and anti-anxiety medications.
Still, not nearly enough studies have compared CBD with other anxiety treatments, so at this point, we still don’t know.
There is some evidence to suggest that CBD could help with anxiety symptoms when taken as a complementary treatment. For example, this case study found that when an autistic person took CBD for anxiety symptoms, the CBD helped reduce some of those symptoms.
CBD is considered safe for human consumption. But some people might experience a few side effects, namely:
- change in weight or appetite
- nausea and vomiting
There’s no evidence to suggest that CBD could worsen anxiety or related symptoms, as the above-mentioned review emphasizes. But if you feel like your anxiety increases when you use CBD, it’s important to speak with your doctor.
It’s crucial to note that CBD can interact with certain medications, particularly those with a grapefruit warning. Grapefruit and CBD both affect the enzymes in your liver. This means that your liver will process certain medications differently, which can lead to side effects.
Some medications that carry grapefruit warnings are often prescribed for people with anxiety and related issues (like insomnia and depression). These include:
If you’re on any of the above medications and would like to try CBD, it’s key to talk with your doctor or psychiatrist first. You shouldn’t attempt to replace, supplement, or go off your medication without a doctor’s approval.
Many people claim that CBD helps them manage anxiety. And according to research, CBD might have anti-anxiety properties. Still, there’s not enough research to know for sure. We recommend talking with your doctor before using any new health product, including CBD.
Even though CBD isn’t proven to treat anxiety, there are many evidence-based treatment options out there. This includes:
- anti-anxiety medication
- self-care strategies
If you’re finding it difficult to manage anxiety, it could help to make an appointment with a therapist. This is one great first step toward getting relief from symptoms. You can ask your doctor to recommend a therapist, or find a local treatment provider using our tool.