Considering recent world events, many of us can use some extra help when it comes to managing stress. By this time, almost everybody has heard that CBD can help ease anxiety and promote relaxation. You’ll find plenty of testimonials and anecdotal evidence online, and you may even have a relative or friend that has found anxiety relief through CBD. But what does the research say? Can products like CBD flower really help with anxiety? Let’s take a look.
What is CBD, and How Does it Work?
Cannabidiol (CBD) is a non-intoxicating compound found in cannabis plants, including hemp. CBD and other cannabinoids interact with a network of receptors that comprise our body’s endocannabinoid system (ECS). The ECS acts as a kind of master regulator that plays an integral role in keeping other vital systems in balance.
According to one of the researchers who discovered the ECS, Dr. Raphael Mechoulam, “The endocannabinoid system is very important. Almost all illnesses we have are linked to it in one way or another.” The ECS plays a crucial role in regulating a host of bodily functions, such as:
- Sleep cycles
- Body temperature
- Pain response
How Does CBD Help with Anxiety?
In addition to interacting with CB1 receptors in the brain and CB2 receptors in the peripheral nervous system, CBD may help reduce anxiety through several distinct mechanisms, including boosting neurotransmitter levels, supporting natural endocannabinoids, and calming fear responses.
CBD Boosts Serotonin Levels
CBD interacts with the 5-HT1a receptor, which influences levels of the neurotransmitter serotonin. Insufficient serotonin in the brain can cause depression and anxiety, and doctors often prescribe Selective Serotonin Reuptake Inhibitors (SSRIs) for these conditions.
CBD Elevates Endocannabinoid Levels
CBD helps to preserve levels of our body’s natural endocannabinoids, including anandamide. Named after the Hindu word for “bliss,” anandamide produces euphoric feelings like the runner’s high athletes experience after vigorous exercise. CBD helps us maintain anandamide levels by inhibiting FAAH, the enzyme responsible for breaking down the endocannabinoid.
CBD Calms the Amygdala
Another way CBD may ease anxiety is by exerting a calming effect on the amygdala. The amygdala is a part of the brain that regulates our fight-or-flight response to perceived threats. An overactive amygdala causes our body to produce elevated amounts of cortisol, which can create perpetual anxiety, fearful states, and muscular tension.
Anxiety Disorders that CBD May Help
According to the World Health Organization (WHO), a whopping 264 million people struggle with some form of anxiety disorder each year. Although research is still in the preliminary stage, the findings show promise for CBD’s role in future treatments for anxiety disorders. Let’s examine a few of the studies.
A 2012 study found that CBD produces its anxiolytic effects through multiple mechanisms and may be particularly helpful in treating generalized anxiety. A more recent 2019 research review concluded that CBD possesses potent antidepressant, anxiolytic, and pro-cognitive effects and may be promising as a therapeutic agent for psychiatric conditions like generalized anxiety disorder.
A 2011 clinical study found that administering 400 milligrams of CBD significantly reduced the subjective symptoms of social anxiety disorder. The findings were supported by brain imaging, and researchers suspect that CBD’s anxiolytic effect is related to the compound’s interaction with the limbic and paralimbic areas of the brain.
Another study, published in the Brazilian Journal of Psychiatry, administered CBD or a placebo to 57 adult male subjects before they executed a public speaking task. The researchers found that a 300-milligram dose of CBD significantly reduced participants’ anxiety during their speeches.
Both animal studies and clinical trials have shown promise for CBD as a potential treatment for Post Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD). PTSD is a potentially lifelong condition that develops in some people after experiencing a traumatic event. Patients with PTSD typically have lower than average serotonin production and elevated cortisol levels, which makes CBD a particularly fascinating compound for scientists researching the disorder.
A 2016 study published in the peer-reviewed journal Pharmacological Research concluded that CBD might reduce PTSD symptoms after a memory extinction procedure. Another literature review provided evidence that CBD may regulate several contextual fear memory processes and may help to reduce the learned fear produced by traumatic events. One study even suggests that taking CBD immediately after a traumatic event may inhibit the brain from forming PTSD-related memories in the first place.
Our fast-paced modern societies have made anxiety-induced insomnia a worldwide epidemic. Both scientific and anecdotal evidence abounds supporting CBD’s usefulness in combatting anxiety-related insomnia. A study involving 60 students from Coventry University found that participants taking CBD reported significantly better sleep quality than non-users. A large case series examining CBD, anxiety, and sleep found that 79.2% of the participants reported lower anxiety levels, and nearly 70% also reported improved sleep cycles.
Terpenes and Anxiety
Hemp flower has more to offer than just CBD. Terpenes, the compounds that endow hemp flowers with their characteristic aromas, have their own therapeutic properties.
Myrcene, one of the most abundant terpenes in hemp plants, produces profound physical relaxation and may help ease stress and muscle tension. Found in both cannabis and lavender plants, linalool is famous for its calming nature. The hemp terpene alpha-bisabolol is also abundant in chamomile flowers, which are renowned for their relaxing properties. Furthermore, terpenes work together with other hemp compounds like cannabinoids and flavonoids to create the beneficial entourage effect.
CBD flowers offer one of the best ways to take advantage of the entourage effect because they contain all of hemp’s rich compounds in their natural proportions. Vaping dry herb or smoking CBD pre-rolls can provide a quick break from everyday stress. You can get longer-lasting effects by making your own CBD edibles and tinctures with hemp flower.
Should You Use CBD Flower for Anxiety?
CBD flowers may make a useful adjunct to your doctor-prescribed anxiety treatment plan. We suggest that you enlist the help of a licensed physician before you start including CBD in your healthcare routine. This article is meant for informational purposes only and is not intended to substitute for professional medical advice.
While your doctor may suggest adding CBD to your treatment plan, we highly recommend finding the root causes of your anxiety, whether they be physical or psychological. Techniques like therapy, exercise, and meditation are crucial aspects of managing anxiety issues. A physician’s advice is critical as CBD may interact with medications some prescription pharmaceuticals, especially those with a grapefruit warning. CBD may also produce mild side effects, such as fatigue, appetite changes, diarrhea, and dry mouth.