Millions of people suffer from traumatizing feelings of anxiety.
While we don’t normally think of anxiety as desirable, it’s actually a critical adaptive response that can help us cope with threats to our (or a loved one’s) safety and welfare. These responses help us recognize and avert potential threats; they can also help motivate us to take action to better our situation (work harder, pay bills, improve relationships, etc.). However, when we don’t manage these natural responses effectively, they can become maladaptive and impact our work and relationships. This can lead to clinically diagnosable anxiety-related disorders. We’ve all heard the saying, “stress kills.” It’s true!
Anxiety-related disorders affect a huge segment of our population—40 million adults (18%) in the United States age 18 and older. In response, Big Pharma has developed numerous drugs to treat anxiety-related disorders, from selective serotonin reuptake inhibitors (SSRIs) like Prozac and Zoloft to tranquilizers (the most popular class being benzodiazepines such as Valium and Xanax).
While these drugs can be effective for many patients, some don’t respond favorably. Certain patients don’t see much improvement, or they can’t tolerate the side effects. Moreover, tranquilizers like Valium and Xanax can be highly addictive. Clearly, alternative treatments are warranted. Could cannabidiol (CBD), the most prominent non-intoxicating constituent in cannabis, provide a viable alternative for currently available anxiety medications? Quite possibly!
However, with new research, CBD for anxiety is being explored as a treatment for patients who are severely struggling.
In fact, many people have experienced some sort of anxiety type of feeling in their life. Whether or not you recognized it as anxiety, the feeling can be overwhelming. Nevertheless, cannabis has been used as an anxiety relief.
In recent years, CBD has generated a tremendous amount of interest among consumers, clinicians, and scientists. Why? Not only does evidence suggest CBD counteracts many of THC’s adverse effects, but numerous animal studies and accumulating evidence from human experimental, clinical, and epidemiological studies suggest CBD has powerful anti-anxiety properties.
However, THC has the potential to cause more problems for those suffering from anxious clinic disorders. So interestingly, in recent studies, using CBD for anxiety has been one of the best treatments for medical patients. It is found to be beneficial to treat a number of anxiety-related disorders, including:
- Panic disorder
- Obsessive Compulsive Disorder (OCD)
- Social phobia
- Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD)
- Generalized Anxiety Disorder (GAD)
- Mild to moderate depression
So we asked Mindful Mary to provide some answers to some common questions.
CBD for Anxiety – the Stress Fighter!
What is “CBD”?
Mindful Mary: CBD, or cannabidiol, is one of many cannabinoids found within the marijuana plant. CBD is non-psychoactive meaning it won’t make you feel high. However, CBD has many medical benefits including calming anxiety.
In fact, CBD is an anxiolytic meaning it can fight against anxiety.
Another benefit is that CBD working against the effects of THC, which can be overly psychoactive for people and increase their anxiety. Furthermore, CBD counteracts THC, it helps to bring people down and give them a more calming and relaxing experience.
Hippocampal neurogenesis: The hippocampus is a major brain area, and plays a critical role in a variety of brain functions. It’s most famous for its role in memory formation and cognition. Brain scans of patients suffering from depression or anxiety often show a smaller hippocampus, and successful treatment of depression is associated with the birth of new neurons (neurogenesis) in the hippocampus.
An animal study using mice found repeated administration of CBD may help the hippocampus regenerate neurons, which could be useful for treating anxiety or depression. Research shows both SSRIs and CBD may promote neurogenesis. This is significant because evidence suggests that severely impaired neuronal plasticity may influence suicidal behavior. Future research comparing CBD and SSRIs effect on neurogenesis could open up promising new avenues in how we understand depression and how to most effectively treat it.
How does CBD work to fight anxiety?
Mindful Mary: CBD and Anxiety interact with the body’s endocannabinoid system (ECS). The ECS helps to regulate many of our bodies’ functions, including:
- pain perception.
In fact, CBD also interacts with a neurotransmitter called GABA (gamma-aminobutyric acid). GABA transmits messages from one brain cell, or neuron, to another. Its job is to tell the body to slow down and responds to many effects such as:
- reducing anxiety
- calming the nervous system
- helping with sleep
- relaxing the muscles.
Therefore, CBD is a GABA uptake inhibitor meaning, it creates a surplus of GABA in the brain resulting in quieting and calming effects.
While there are many different pathways driving the positive health benefits of CBD, the center of its awesome abilities seems to be that CBD is a very effective natural anti-inflammatory. Chronic inflammation is really the commonality between most (and by most, I mean basically all) chronic health problems that we face today as a modern society. Cancer, heart disease, diabetes, autoimmune conditions, digestive issues, and hormonal problems are all inflammatory in nature. As a natural anti-inflammatory, CBD can help quell the flame and fight chronic inflammation.
Most people do not associate cognitive health issues like anxiety, depression, brain fog, ADD, ADHD, and autism with inflammation, but it turns out that is exactly what the research is finding. There is actually a whole field of research known as the cytokine model of cognitive function studying how inflammation messes with our brains and may cause anxiety disorders. One finding is that elevated levels of NF kappa B (NFkB), an inflammatory bad guy, is associated with anxiety while people with lower levels of NFkB often have lower rates of anxiety.
Anxiety disorders are the most common mental health concern in the United States. An estimated 30 percent of adults in the United States(that’s 66 million people) and an estimated 25 percent of teenagers and preteens are affected by anxiety. As a functional medicine practitioner, I see many people who struggle with anxiety and panic attacks, and from these statistics, it should be no surprise. But just because something is common doesn’t make it normal. Fortunately, new insights into the cause of anxiety may help with the development of more effective treatment options.
How do you use CBD?
Mindful Mary: CBD can be used in many ways and whatever way you choose that is best for you to make sure to find low dosages of THC.
- Smoking – While this is best for immediate relief, it can be hard to find full CBD strains. If you do, this will have effective and long-lasting results.
- Vaping – A CBD vape pen is also an option, and there are a few specifically designed to relieve anxiety. This eliminates the danger of the lungs from smoking.
- Pills – CBD tablets are easy discreet and very common. Filled with CBD oil, they can be taken with water or a CBD absorber such as green tea or oregano oil.
- Oils – The best way of using CBD is through oils, they enter the glands, process through the liver and work to combat anxiety.
Are there any studies that back this concept on CBD?
Mindful Mary: The fact is that while marijuana continues to be federally illegal, tests are hard to conduct. However, small studies have been completed. In one study, Brazilian researchers conducted a small test on patients afflicted with generalized social anxiety. After consuming CBD, participants reported a significant decrease in anxiety. Researchers found a more cerebral blood flow patterns consistent with an anti-anxiety effect.
In another small study, researchers had patients suffering from Anxiety Disorder perform a simulated public speaking test. Participants reported significantly less anxiety and lower levels of stress. Lastly, a 2011 study found that CBD can reduce social anxiety, especially stress associated with public speaking.
CBD for Anxiety, what strains can I use?
Mindful Mary: Popularity in products and new strains have really grown in the last few years with the change of legalization. But if you are looking to smoke for you, here are the best ones for anxiety:
- ACDC: ACDC does not produce a psychoactive high at all making it perfect for anxiety. Instead, it provides feelings of alertness, focus, and serene mental clarity.
- Harlequin: Harlequin provides a nicely energized and focused experience. In addition. it will help lift moods with the strains anxiolytic properties.
- CBD MediHaze: this strain helps with attention to detail and is excellent for nerve-wracking events like public speaking In fact, it make help with social anxiety.
CBD for anxiety: How much should you take?
The studies done on CBD for anxiety have a pretty wide dose range (anywhere from a few milligrams to hundreds of milligrams). I suggest starting at the lower end (around 10 milligrams) and slowly increasing over a few weeks or months to see what works for you. Some people also do well with splitting the dosage throughout the day instead of taking the dose all at once. As with everything, it is always a good idea to talk with your prescribing doctor if you are on any medications. CBD is generally very safe, but there are some pharmaceutical medications CBD oil could potentially interact with an increase or decrease the pharmaceutical drugs’ effectiveness.
Evidence from animal studies have begun to characterize the details of how CBD acts in the brain, and human studies of patients with and without anxiety disorders are starting to validate CBD’s efficacy as an anti-anxiety treatment. Given the huge social and financial costs of anxiety disorders worldwide, CBD has the potential to play a significant role in treating a myriad of anxiety-related disorders.
While more research, including large randomized-control trials (RCTs), is clearly warranted to examine the long-term effects and potential for CBD, its demonstrated efficacy and highly favorable safety profile (particularly when compared to currently available drugs) make it a viable alternative or adjunct to currently available pharmaceuticals.