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Home » Blog » Hemp As Medicine » CBD Oil for Anxiety: Cannabidiol’s Role in Combatting Stress

CBD Oil for Anxiety: Cannabidiol’s Role in Combatting Stress

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Anxiety is a serious problem, inflicting roughly one in five American adults, according to the National Institute of Mental Health. This has led many to seek relief in some form or another. Unfortunately, and too often, people find their relief in the form of side-effect-ridden and addiction-producing medications. According to various research, CBD oil for anxiety shows promise and should be explored as a natural remedy before resorting to prescriptions or OTC drugs.

How Does CBD Oil Alleviate Anxiety?

We know for a fact CBD has a positive effect on various ailments, many of which we have dedicated an entire post to. This includes CBD oil for pain, CBD for depression, and more. What’s exactly the role, though, of CBD oil for anxiety relief?

Numerous clinical trials – on both humans and animals – have shown CBD to have anxiolytic, or anxiety-alleviating effects. CBD appears to alter the brain chemicals the same way as common anti-anxiety drugs like Xanax and Prozac.

CBD’s effect on anxiety appears to be two-fold. First, it raises serotonin levels by preventing the brain from reabsorbing existing serotonin. It also stimulates the production of new neurons in the hippocampus.

The Scientific Explanation

Bear with us as we get a bit scientific; we’ll do our best to keep the explanation laymen-friendly.

The brain contains a subtype of serotonin receptors called 5-HT1A. When the brain reabsorbs serotonin, it decreases the total amount of serotonin in the synaptic space. This reduces the brain cells’ ability to transmit additional serotonin signals, thus creating stress, mood swings, and anxiety.

CBD behaves like serotonin reuptake inhibitors, in which it enhances 5-HT1A transmission and stops the brain from reabsorbing too much serotonin.

CBD for anxiety also takes into account the hippocampus, a part of the brain responsible for cognition and memory. Brain scans show people diagnosed with major anxiety disorder have a physically smaller hippocampus region. Upon successful treatment, new neuron formation occurs, enabling neurogenesis in the area. Repeated CBD use may promote neurogenesis.

What the Study Reveals

Okay, everything we described sounds promising, but do the studies actually support this?

According to a Brazilian study1, patients administered CBD reported a significant reduction in anxiety. Of course, self-reports are always questionable. However, researchers performed a subsequent brain scan, which shows higher blood flow consistent with happier moods.

In another human study2, subjects given CBD and later performed a public speaking stint exhibited less anxiety during their performance. Subjects exhibited physical bodily changes, including lower blood pressure and lower heart rate.

Here’s a 2010 study that showed CBD alleviated anxiety in subjects diagnosed with social anxiety disorder.

All the studies we listed include human subjects, not rats. Admittingly, most of the studies available are on animals instead of humans. For this reason, more research is in order if we are to fully understand the effects of CBD oil for anxiety. However, the presented studies do show promise of CBD as a possible alternative and side-effect-free treatment.

CBD for Anxiety-Prone Children

What about children showing signs of early anxiety and depression? Research in this area is still scarce, but what’s available yields promise.  In a 2016 study3, CBD use was successful in treating a child with post-traumatic stress disorder due to years of sexual abuse. CBD also enabled the child to sleep.

We must emphasize that this study only involves a single subject. We need to see more research with a larger size sample before we can definitively recommend CBD for anxiety-prone children. The study, however, may serve as a bridge for future and more well-funded research.

Can CBD Cause Anxiety?

It has come to our attention that some people expressed concern that CBD can have the opposite effect and actually induce anxiety. Everyone responds differently to CBD, so we can’t rule out the possibility.

However, we must emphasize that anxiety-inducing effects are often associated with weed smoking. When it comes to weed, you’re most definitely looking at cannabis with high psychoactive THC concentrations.

According to University of Nottingham neuroscientist Carl Stevenson, a higher ratio of CBD to THC is associated with anti-anxiety effects, while a higher THC to CBD ratio has the opposite.

With this in mind, you need not worry about CBD oils and tinctures causing anxiety. Since THC is outlawed in most states, 99% of CBD oils from licensed sellers are THC-free.

CBD Oil for Anxiety Shows Promise

Even with all the studies and the latest technological breakthroughs, the medical community is just beginning to understand the sheer complexity of the anxiety-brain association. We understand even less about CBD’s role in all of this. Nevertheless, the studies up to this point do show a lot of promise. Countless users have also left testimonies swearing by CBD’s effect for improving their moods.

Whether you feel stressed occasionally or it’s a constant thing, we recommend giving CBD oil a try before considering pharmaceuticals. Our Where to Buy page provides links to reputable and established sellers.

Medical References

Crippa J, Derenusson G, Ferrari T, et al. Neural basis of anxiolytic effects of cannabidiol (CBD) in generalized social anxiety disorder: a preliminary report. J Psychopharmacol. 2011;25(1):121-130. [PubMed]
Bergamaschi M, Queiroz R, Chagas M, et al. Cannabidiol Reduces the Anxiety Induced by Simulated Public Speaking in Treatment-Naïve Social Phobia Patients. Neuropsychopharmacology. 2011;36(6):1219-1226. [PMC]
Shannon S, Opila-Lehman J. Effectiveness of Cannabidiol Oil for Pediatric Anxiety and Insomnia as Part of Posttraumatic Stress Disorder: A Case Report. Perm J. 2016;20(4):108-111. [PMC]
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Christopher Walker

Christopher Walker has a degree in Neuroscience from Duke University, and is the research writer for The Universal Plant. He has dedicated his life to helping men and women around the world educate themselves and take action to improve their health with natural plant-based and nutrient therapies. Follow him on Instagram @_christopherwalker