One of the most common applications of cannabidiol today is CBD oil for anxiety. Through its interactions with the body’s endocannabinoid system, the hemp compound cannabidiol can produce meaningful day-to-day benefits for reducing anxiety, as well as provide a potential solution in diagnosed cases. Here’s what we know about the non-psychoactive compound.

CBD Oil for Anxiety Is Increasingly Common

According to a Consumer Reports survey, 37% of people who use CBD do it to reduce stress. Out of that 37%, 63% rate the compound as a very effective solution. Rates of success were especially high among people who suffer from some form of anxiety.

Another survey published in journal Cannabis and Cannabinoid Research found that 62% of responders used cannabidiol for specific medical applications. The leading three reasons are anxiety, pain, and depression.

Unlike chronic pain or epilepsy, for which cannabidiol is typically used in a specific form, CBD oil for anxiety is not the only way that people take it. CBD vape oil and topicals can also produce a calming effect, with unique advantages.

Why Would CBD Oil for Anxiety Help?

Unlike THC, or Tetrahydrocannabinol, which can produce anxiety in some cases, research shows that non-psychoactive cannabidiol has the opposite effect: CBD oil can reduce anxiety and depression. To understand why cannabidiol could work as a therapeutic treatment for anxiety, it’s key to understand a little about the condition first.

The Science Behind Anxiety and Depression

Anxiety is a prevalent condition that affects millions in America and hundreds of millions around the world:

  • Forty million Americans experience some form of anxiety every year, according to the ADAA (Anxiety and Depression Association of America).
  • Globally, one in 13 people suffers from anxiety.
  • One in three people experiencing symptoms will receive any form of treatment in the United States.

Different Types of Anxiety

Though most people will experience angst in some form over the course of their lives, anxiety disorders can be divided into several main classifications, according to the Mayo Clinic:

  • Generalized
  • Panic
  • Agoraphobia
  • Separation
  • Social
  • Phobias
  • Substance-Induced

What Causes Anxiety?

Understanding the root physiological causes of such disorders is complex. However, mood disorders are typically thought to originate from an imbalance in the brain’s emotional centers, not the higher cognitive ones, according to research published by the Psychiatric Clinics of North America.

As put forth in the peer-reviewed medical journal:

“Mood and anxiety disorders are characterized by a variety of neuroendocrine, neurotransmitter, and neuroanatomical disruptions. Identifying the most functionally relevant differences is complicated by the high degree of interconnectivity between neurotransmitter- and neuropeptide-containing circuits in limbic, brain stem, and higher cortical brain area.”

Courtesy of “The Neurobiology of Anxiety Disorders: Brain Imaging, Genetics, and Psychoneuroendocrinology”

How Most Anti-Anxiety and Depression Medications Work

Most FDA-approved mood disorder medications specifically target the monoaminergic systems, which includes neurotransmitters dopamine, norepinephrine, and serotonin. Specifically, most anti-depressant and anti-anxiety medications are serotonin reuptake inhibitors (SSRIs).

Though these medications have been popular since the 1980s and are some of the most prescribed in the world, they do not come without side-effects. Per Harvard Health Publishing, SSRIs can:

  • Interfere with blood clotting thus increasing the risk for internal bleeding
  • Produce insomnia, joint pain, headaches and nausea in the first weeks
  • Diminish sexual desire
  • Become ineffective with use over time

The Mayo Clinic also adds that there is potential for an increase in depressive thoughts, especially in the first weeks of treatment.

In other words, current treatment options for anxiety and depression are not without their complications, cost and health risks. For that reason, people looking to reduce unease are turning to CBD as well as other medicinal alternatives.

The Research Behind CBD and Anxiety

What’s the science behind using CBD oil for anxiety? Though studies have been restricted to animal models, both human and animal studies strongly suggest cannabidiol’s potential as an anxiolytic, meaning a medication that reduces anxiety.

Specifically, one study published in the journal Neurotherapeutics notes:

“We found that existing preclinical evidence strongly supports CBD as a treatment for generalized anxiety disorder, panic disorder, social anxiety disorder, obsessive–compulsive disorder, and post-traumatic stress disorder when administered acutely.”

Courtesy of “Cannabidiol as a Potential Treatment for Anxiety Disorders”

The most significant issue about using cannabidiol for pain management and other serious conditions includes finding the correct dosage.

Another study published in The Permanente Journal uncovered that cannabidiol reduced anxiety in over 79% of participants, and assisted the majority suffering from sleep and mood disorders with their insomnia.

The Nitty-Gritty of How CBD Oil for Anxiety Works

Specifically, some research shows that cannabidiol can interact with serotonin 5-HT1A t and GABAA receptors (see this study published in Pharmacological Research.

In contemporary research, these neurotransmitters and receptors, respectively, are two of the most frequently linked in discussions of happiness and anxiety. Most anti-depressant medications on the market today increase serotonin production in the brain to combat anxiety and depression.

Some research shows that cannabidiol increases serotonin production just like an SSRI medication would. The study, published in Progress in Neuro-Psychopharmacology & Biological Psychiatry posits:

“Our results suggest that the antidepressant-like effect induced by CBD in the FST is dependent on serotonin levels in the central nervous system (CNS).”

Courtesy of “Antidepressant-like effect induced by Cannabidiol is dependent on brain serotonin levels.”

CBD oil for anxiety is already providing relief to the people who use it day-to-day. However, it impacts on brain serotonin levels and GABAA receptors could have impacts going beyond anxiety and depression: post-traumatic stress disorder and drug abuse are also frequently linked to the same pathways.

The Discussion Around CBD for Anxiety Reaches the Mainstream

Due to the problem of dosage, a lack of research and lack of medical access, CBD oil for anxiety remains a medicinal, rather than medical, solution. However, scientific research on cannabidiol’s effects on the brain’s receptors and neurotransmitters suggests that it may possess many of the same properties as conventional, FDA approved medications–without the long list of side-effects.

The following does not serve as medical advice. Before making any changes concerning medication, speak with a qualified medical professional.