A pulsing heart, racing mind, feelings of dread, fidgety legs … unfortunately, many of us are all too familiar with the symptoms of anxiety. This is especially true in the wake of the COVID-19 pandemic where daily routines were turned upside down, isolation became the norm, and we were bombarded with terrifying and tragic news stories daily.
The good news? If you’ve struggled with anxiety you are certainly not alone. In fact, over 40 million adults suffer from anxiety disorders in the United States alone. But, that’s not all. We have some even better news for you. CBD products are a great tool to have in your arsenal on the days where you feel like your anxiety is getting the best of you. There is no shortage of research happening today to explore the potential of cannabis to help those suffering from various mental health disorders. Let’s dive into what we know so far about CBD and anxiety.
What is CBD?
Let’s begin with the basics: what exactly is CBD? Cannabidiol (CBD) is one of many compounds found in the cannabis plant. Unlike tetrahydrocannabinol (THC), CBD does not have any psychoactive effects. This is largely due to the fact that these compounds interact with different receptors in the body. While both CBD and THC modulate receptors in something called the Endocannabinoid System (ECS) - they do so in unique ways. THC mainly activates CB1 receptors in the brain that are responsible for memory and movement coordination and can also release the neurotransmitter dopamine. CBD, on the other hand, interacts with CB2 receptors and can also block both CB1 and CB2 receptors. As a result, CBD tends to have anti-inflammatory and pain reducing effects on the body and does not create the same “high” that THC does.
Does CBD provide anxiety relief?
As scientists have discovered more about the ways in which CBD interacts with the human body, it has illuminated the potential therapeutic benefits of CBD for anxiety. While there is still a great deal of research to be done, preliminary studies are showing significant promise in a number of different scenarios. One study looked at neuroimaging results from patients with generalized social anxiety disorders. CBD was associated with decreased anxiety as a result of its effects on the limbic and paralimbic areas of the brain. Another study looked at patients with generalized social anxiety disorder as they performed a public speaking task. Those who were pretreated with CBD reported significantly reduced anxiety, cognitive impairment and discomfort while carrying out the assigned public speaking task. Similar promise has been shown with CBD and sleep quality for patients with anxiety disorders.
How can CBD impact anxiety?
The results shared above beg the question: how does CBD impact the body’s anxiety response? The ECS regulates a variety of functions in the body including sleep, mood, appetite, memory, pain, and inflammation, to name a few. This system is responsible for maintaining homeostasis in the body and produces naturally-occurring cannabinoids. These are referred to as endocannabinoids. Additionally, the ECS also affects serotonin levels which are involved in feelings of anxiety. It is believed the CBD impacts the emotions like anxiety and fear through its interaction with the ECS. In addition, CBD appears to mimic the effect of serotonin in the brain by binding to 5-HT1A receptors. There is more work to be done in order to fully understand the mechanism through which CBD interacts with the body to impact anxiety, however, what we know so far appears to show great therapeutic potential.
Is it safe to use CBD for anxiety?
The side effects associated with taking CBD appear to be both uncommon and minor. They include: fatigue, appetite changes, nausea, diarrhea, low blood pressure, and dry mouth. While these side-effects are unusual, it is always a good idea to consult with your family doctor before you begin using CBD products for anxiety. Be sure to inform your doctor of any medications you are currently taking to ensure that there are no potential harmful interactions.
So, what’s the final verdict on CBD and anxiety? Well, the truth is, the jury is still out. More research needs to be done in order to understand under what scenarios CBD is an effective tool for helping individuals who suffer from anxiety. There is also more work to be done in order to understand the underlying mechanism. However, it is clear that the research that has been done shows great promise! So, if you’re interested in seeing how CBD works for you, we recommend consulting with your family doctor and starting with a low concentration to figure out what works best for you.