Does CBD help with anxiety?

Does CBD help with anxiety?

There are several proposed benefits of taking CBD, one of which is to help reduce anxiety and stress. But does CBD actually help with anxiety?

CBD: the miracle cure. At least that’s what many companies and influencers would have you believe. 

Now, clearly from this website, I use CBD and have found it to be beneficial in my life. But I’m also very aware that many of the claims out there are based more on personal experience than hard science. 

And as my background is in nutrition research, these claims drive me crazy.

Whether it’s vitamin supplements, protein powder, or CBD, if you’re putting it in your body and expecting a certain result, it’s important to do your research on the product. 

So, I’m kicking off what will be an ongoing series of dives into research on CBD and the health claims surrounding it. 

I also want to say that I’m so open for comments and suggestions! I spend a lot of time looking at research papers, but there’s always a chance that I missed something. 

My personal experience using CBD for anxiety

Before we dive in, I wanted to start by sharing my personal experience with CBD.

And, as I mention in my disclaimer, the purpose of this is simply to inform and share. By no means am I trying to provide medical advice. 

Since I was a teenager, I’ve struggled with perfectionist and people-pleasing tendencies.

And as a teenager, this constant inner dialog of perfection ultimately manifested itself in an eating disorder and weekly anxiety attacks. 

While I’ve since (mostly) healed my relationship with food and body image, I’m still a sensitive and anxious person.

CBD is something that I was always curious about but afraid to try. And then once I did, I honestly didn’t like it.

It tasted too earthy and left an oily taste in my mouth. I was also only taking 10mg/day.

But after some convincing by my husband, I finally gave it another shot. This time using an isolate oil and adding it to food rather than taking it by itself.

Healthy vanilla mint smoothie with CBD in clear glass

In addition to those changes, I also played around with the amount and timing. Generally speaking, 35 mg first thing in the morning seems to work best for me.

Do I still get stressed and anxious? Yes, but only over the things that matter. 

Before, it felt like my mind was purposefully finding reasons to be anxious in the morning.

But by adding CBD to my breakfast, I now feel like my emotional reactions to situations are less dramatic. I don’t stay as “stuck” in that negative headspace. 

Plus, by starting my day off in a more positive mood, my overall stress levels during the day have gone down.

I’ve also found that it’s helped me feel calmer in social situations and less in my head. 

In fact, if I have a social gathering that I know will make me anxious, then I’ll wait to take my dose until about 1-2 hours before the event.

Now again, this is just my personal experience. So let’s take a look at what science has to say.

What the research currently shows: CBD and anxiety

Here’s the take-home message (in case you don’t feel like reading the rest):

Findings of CBD helping in the treatment of anxiety disorders have so-far been promising.

HOWEVER, there’s still just not enough research to be able to say what the most effective dose is, how it will affect different populations of people, or what the long term effects of chronic CBD intake might be.

We’re also not even sure of exactly how CBD works with regards to anxiety and other mood disorders. 

Okay, so with these points in mind, let’s do a quick recap of what we do know so far. 

Animal studies

Studies in animals have shown CBD exposure to have significant benefits for (1, 2, 3): 

  • Reducing symptoms of:
    • Generalized Anxiety Disorder (GAD)
    • Social Anxiety Disorder (SAD)
    • Panic Disorder (PD)
    • Obsessive-Compulsive Disorder (OCD)
    • Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD).
  • Reduced condition fear expression (fear or anxiety that’s associated with a stimulus). 
  • Helping in the process of replacing a fearful association of a place or situation with positive memories. In theory, this would help reduce anxiety and fear of a certain situation moving forward. 

What’s also interesting about these studies, is that there seems to be a bell-shaped relationship between CBD and it’s effectiveness for anxiety. 

What this means is that moderate doses, rather than low or high doses, seem to be the most effective (at least in animals). 

Human studies 

Currently, human studies with CBD are either observational or small-scale randomized controlled trials. There’s still a huge need for bigger, more robust clinical trials. Especially long-term ones to assess CBD’s effectiveness and safety with chronic use. 

Here are a summary of three randomized controlled trials and one case study (here’s a meta-analysis as well ->1): 

  • In teenagers with SAD, those given 600mg of CBD 1.5 hours before a public speaking test had significantly lower ratings of anxiety, cognitive impairment due to nerves, and discomfort in their speech performance compared to those given a placebo (4).
    • Interestingly, those given the placebo were significantly more likely to rate their performance negatively than those given CBD.
  • Another study in teens with SAD found that those given 300 mg of CBD daily for 4 weeks had significantly reduced levels of anxiety. They were also significantly more likely to seek out treatment and counseling for their anxiety after the study was completed compared to those given a placebo (5).
  • There’s also a cross-over study in adults with SAD. In this study, a dose of 400 mg of CBD was found to significantly reduce reported levels of anxiety as well as showed changes to blood flow patterns in the brain – more on this below (6)
  • Finally, a study of 72 adults at an outpatient psychiatric center found that 78% of the participants reported significant improvements in anxiety after taking 25-75 mg of CBD daily for 2 months (7). 

So how does CBD help with anxiety?

The short answer is that scientists aren’t exactly sure. However, from what they have seen, there’s likely multiple pathways in which CBD is having an effect on anxiety. 

I’m not a neuroscientist, and I won’t pretend to be. Therefore, I’m going to leave you with my extremely over-simplified understanding. I’ll also provide links so that you can read the papers for yourself. 

Essentially, what I’ve gathered from these research papers is that CBD may help with anxiety disorders two main ways:

  1. By increasing blood flow in specific areas of the brain
  2. By interacting with certain brain receptors that play a role in stress, anxiety and fear. Examples include serotonin receptors and cannabinoid receptor type 1.

Again, my expertise is nutrition, not neuroscience so I’m going to recommend you check out these links for further explanation: 1, 2, 8). 

CBD overall has been shown to be safe 

Another important takeaway from these studies is the safety of CBD. 

According to current research, orally-consumed CBD has been shown to be safe in doses up to 1,500 mg (9). 

Now, that does not mean you should take 1,500 mg. As you can see from studies so far, large doses of CBD may actually be ineffective. Plus, CBD isn’t cheap.

However, it can help with peace of mind that taking CBD has not been associated with any serious side effects.

Still, keep in mind that most studies on CBD are short-term. There’s currently a lack of data showing the potential side effects of long-term CBD usage. 

So, is CBD effective for treating anxiety? 

Limited human studies have shown dosages of 300-600 mg/day as being effective for anxiety, specifically social anxiety disorder.

However, I’ve personally found that just 35 mg/day is effective for helping control my anxiety. 

As dosing CBD is highly personal, I recommend talking to a medical professional to figure out the right starting dosage.

Not only is it safer to start slowly and gradually increase if needed, but by realizing you don’t need a huge dose you may save some money too. 

Curious which products I use? Be sure to check out my Products page! New to CBD? I also recommend checking out my Wellness page for more information on what CBD is and how to choose a high-quality product. 

Does CBD help with Anxiety?

The information contained in this website is not intended to recommend the self-management of health problems or wellness. It is not intended to endorse or recommend any particular type of medical treatment. Should any reader have any healthcare-related questions, promptly call or consult your physician or healthcare provider. No information contained in this website should be used by any reader to disregard medical and/or health-related advice or provide a basis to delay a consultation with a physician or a qualified healthcare provider. The statements on this website have not been evaluated by the Food and Drug Administration. Products discussed are not intended to diagnose, treat, cure, or prevent any disease.

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I’m Kelli MS, RD. As a foodie with a background in nutrition research, I’m a firm believer that what we eat affects nearly every aspect of our wellbeing, and that food should taste freaking delicious.

Welcome to New Mind Nutrition!

My name is Kelli McGrane, and I’m a Denver-based registered dietitian with a Master’s degree in nutrition.

As a foodie with a background in nutrition research, I’m a firm believer that what we eat affects nearly every aspect of our wellbeing, and that food should taste freaking delicious.

My goal with New Mind is to help you find balance in both your mind and body through nutrition research and whole foods-based recipes.

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