Could CBD Help Manage Anxiety? What We Know so Far

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( — September 16, 2019) — Anxiety can range from anywhere between a little niggle in the back of your mind that something might go wrong, to an all consuming state of mind which affects every action you take throughout the day, sending your thought process into a whirring disarray. In small doses anxiety is healthy, it helps motivate us and spur us on – be it in our personal or professional life. However, for those who suffer from anxiety-related disorders, this state can feel like quite the opposite of a healthy helping hand. When people are unable to separate the rational and the irrational of their worries, anxiety starts to seep into every corner of their life and can eventually take over if action is not taken. 

In the past decade the conversation on anxiety has opened up a tremendous amount, but there is no cure or prevention method. When it comes to treatment it seems that options will vary from person to person, as everyone responds differently to certain methods. Therapy is a widely sought-after anti-anxiety treatment as talking about one’s thoughts out loud can be greatly beneficial, particularly with a trained professional. Anti-anxiety medication has also provided great relief for many. A change in lifestyle and break in habits has also been touted, by focusing on wellness of the body, this contributes to the wellness of the mind; this may mean taking up new hobbies like running or swimming, or maybe trying to eat a wider variety of healthy foods. 

It’s not unusual for people to branch out and try new methods to calm their anxiety, and there has been a recent surge in the amount of people turning to CBD to help manage anxiety. It’s quite possible that you may know someone who uses cannabis to help with their anxiety, but in the form of marijuana. It’s a common misconception that this is the same thing as CBD, but this is not true – so what exactly is CBD?

As mentioned, CBD (cannabidiol) also comes from the cannabis plant. It is a naturally occurring compound which is known as a cannabinoid. Cannabinoids affect the human body by interacting with what is known as the endocannabinoid system, made up of CB1 and CB2 receptors in our brain and auto-immune system. Consequently this can have quite a profound effect on our day-to-day experiences. CBD based products will be extracted from industrial hemp, which has a high amount of CBD and a little-to-untraceable amount of a compound called THC (tetrahydrocannabinol). THC is generally the defining feature of marijuana, providing the psychoactive element of the plant and “high” effect which graces users. So while these plants have a fair amount in common, you can be sure that CBD products will not have a mind-altering effect.

When it comes to anti-anxiety medications and antidepressants, SSRIs (selective serotonin reuptake inhibitors) like Prozac and Cipralex are amongst the most widely used. SSRIs take effect by blocking the reabsorption of serotonin in the brain, in turn increasing the availability of serotonin in the synaptic cleft (the space between neurons at a nerve synapse across which a nerve impulse is transmitted by a neurotransmitter). Consequently brain cells can transmit more serotonin signals, boosting mood and reducing anxiety. This all begins in the receptor 5-HT1A, a receptor which CBD has been found to affect in a similar way.

In addition to serotonin activity, links have been drawn between the hippocampus, anxiety and depression, and CBD. The hippocampus is most commonly known for its role in memory formation and cognition. In studies on anxiety and depression it has been found that this area of the brain can atrophy and even shrink. In order to combat this, antidepressants work to stimulate neural regeneration in the hippocampus. In similar fashion, CBD is being examined in its success of promoting neural regeneration, and thus far the results have supported this.

While these scientific findings in the role of CBD as an anti-anxiety treatment seem promising, at this stage we must remember that the vast majority of studies are preclinical or have been carried out on animals. Nothing can be concluded until studies have been carried out on the human brain. However, since the passing of the farm bill in the US in 2018, which legalized the growth of industrial hemp and the sale of hemp-derived CBD products across all 50 US states, funded research has greatly increased. Hopefully in the near future we will all have a clearer answer on the relationship between CBD and human anxiety.

Nevertheless, those we spoke to about their use of CBD to help manage anxiety were full of praise for the products. Mark, a sales director, explained that vaping CBD was his way of combating sudden onset stress which used to get in the way of his work: “this onset of the effects of CBD is almost immediate, a really subtle wave of calmness just takes over”. Meanwhile, Katie, who works in management takes four drops each and every morning to “start [her] day with calm and order, in place of the stress, worry, and panic I used to live through everyday”.

Through its involvement with the reuptake of serotonin in the brain, it seems that CBD could be a very promising method of managing anxiety for those whose lives are run by worry. If you’re thinking of trying to manage your own anxiety with CBD, be certain to buy from a reputable company with high quality CBD products. If you are taking any other medication or have any medical conditions please speak with your doctor before taking CBD.