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About 20 percent of the population suffers from some form of anxiety. If you have anxiety, you may be looking for a new way to relax your body and mind. Many of my patient and followers on Twitter and Facebook have reached out to ask me whether CBD oil is the newest snake oil, or whether can it really help anxious symptoms, without causing side effects.
What is CBD oil?
Cannabidiol (CBD) oil is a natural plant-based oil that contains phyto (plant) chemicals called cannabinoids. Cannabinoids are “feel good” molecules naturally made by the body when we are feeling relaxed and secure or involved in something that makes us happy, like hugging someone we care about or sitting down to a meal we are looking forward to. Cannabinoids are also released when we sleep well and exercise. Cannabinoids bind to little docking stations in our bodies called cannabinoid receptors that help stimulate those feel good responses. Discovered in 1992, the main cannabinoid molecule is called anandamide, which is translated from the Sanskrit as ‘bliss molecule.’
The cannabinoid system is key to helping the body keep itself in balance. This system ensures our stomach and intestines run well, keeps inflammation down, and modulates pain while helping to maintain our mood in a good place. Research suggests the cannabinoids from CBD can stop the breakdown of anandamide. When we keep more anandamide around, there’s more bliss.
Will CBD oil make me high, like marijuana?
No, it will not. I tell my patients if you are looking to feel ‘high’ then you will be disappointed. Supplemental CBD oil comes from the hemp plant. Hemp is a cannabis plant and is a close cousin of marijuana. However, CBD from hemp has practically no tetra-hydro-cannabinoids (THC). THC is the substance in marijuana that has psychoactive effects and can give you a high. In fact, a number of studies on CBD showed that CBD itself can counter the negative effects of THC–including appetite issues, weight gain, and paranoia.
Is CBD oil legal?
CBD that comes from hemp is legal in all 50 states. As I mentioned in the last paragraph, CBD has no effective amount of THC. There is the littlest amount, but it is not enough to cause any psychoactive effects. As a result, there are no legal concerns that would follow with marijuana.
Is CBD effective for mental health challenges?
For decades, the World Health Organization’s expert committee on drug dependence has offered a long list of conditions that may benefit with its use. Research in both animal studies and humans shows that CBD may help lower feelings of isolation, help with autism symptoms, and lower the effect of post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD). It seems CBD can calm the brain and support the hippocampus, which is a brain area important for healthy emotion and memory. One study showed CBD could reduce social anxiety in a way comparable to ipsapirone and diazepam (valium). A 2012 double-blind, randomized clinical trial looked at the benefits of CBD for psychosis. In this study, 40 volunteer patients were given CBD or an antipsychotic. Both treatments helped patient symptoms equally, while the group taking CBD enjoyed much fewer side effects and no problems with movements, weight gain, or hormonal dysregulation. All three are common side effects of antipsychotic medications. A version of CBD oil was just studied for its benefits in childhood epilepsy—and will now release a drug that is simply a CBD oil.
Is CBD safe?
CBD seems to be exceedingly safe. In fact, the FDA-approved use of CBD in epilepsy was studied in kids, which suggests both kids and adults can use it safely. While CBD has effects on relaxing the body and helping with pain, CBD does not suppress the breathing centers of the brain like opioid drugs, which is why there is not the concern, even in overdose, that you would have for pain-killing drugs.
Since the 1960’s, medical research has collected research supporting the safety of CBD. Typical doses of 10mg to 100mg a day show no negative effects. Even one study where patients took 1280 mg a day did not see a problem. Even the director of the National Institute of Drug Abuse stated that CBD oil is safe, and recently the FDA approved CBD oil for use in children with epilepsy.
I have been working with CBD in my practice for about two years and have not seen a problem. Sometimes, when patients get more relaxed, it can give them a strange sensation. Understandably, that can be concerning to patients who are not used to feeling calm.
Please note because of how the liver works, CBD may affect the clearance of other drugs you are taking. As always, it’s a good idea to check with your doctor before starting any new herbal supports, especially if you are taking prescription medications.
Can CBD oil cause a positive result in a drug test?
Since CBD has practically no THC, there is, in theory, little to no chance it will create a positive drug urine test. And, the follow-up confirmatory test for marijuana is too specific to come up positive from CBD. Having said this, it is important to purchase CBD from nutraceutical companies who work and verify the lowest THC varieties of hemp.
If you are not sure, and this issue could be a problem for you, you may not want to chance it—or talk to your employers about CBD oil first before using.
How much CBD oil should I take?
I usually recommend patients start with 15mg of CBD once or twice a day. This oil is best taken with food. Instead of self-prescribing, I do strongly recommend you work with a practitioner knowledgeable in natural medicine who is experienced with CBD, especially if you are taking other medications and/or if you have mental health symptoms that could be severe.
How about CBD beverages and foods that are so popular?
Right now, many companies are trying to fill their shelves with CBD-infused products. My guess is that the vast majority of this stuff is not good quality and may have little to no CBD in it anyway. In my opinion, if you are going to use CBD oil as a supplement for mental health, ask your practitioner for a high-quality version that you take in a prescribed dosage. Don’t try to get it through other products where the amounts and quality is not well understood.
Remember: General anxiety support
In my books, I always recommend not just simply taking supplements for anxiety, but to make dietary and lifestyle changes while bringing in rituals and therapies to handle stress to truly bring full healing to your body. Also, visit with your doctor on a regular basis or when issues pop up. While CBD is a very good supplement, I find its power is best when combined with natural modifications.
For a more thorough look at the research and references, please see my academic review on CBD here.