CBD for Anxiety: Does it help?

CBD for Anxiety: Does it help?

Just as there is no one physiological culprit for anxiety disorders, there does not appear to be just one environmental factor, either. A study published in the British Medical Journal, for example, found that significantly higher rates of anxiety symptoms correlated with increased exposure to certain forms of air pollution. Meanwhile, at least one study has found that diet and the health of one’s gut biome can play a role in many anxiety disorders — specifically, that increasing the amount of fermented vegetables one eats could ease some symptoms of anxiety disorders.


While there is a significant body of evidence showing that a healthy gut is beneficial to one’s overall health, far more research needs to be conducted before it’s safe to conclude that anxiety can be allayed by snacking on pickles and sauerkraut.

Can CBD Help With Anxiety?

Pickles may not be the only alternative medicine that can help with anxiety — medical cannabis may be able to treat it, as well.


At first glance, this may seem counterintuitive. Some of the most common negative side effects of cannabis use are paranoia and extreme levels of anxiety. Furthermore, there is no shortage of stories about the dangers of biting off more than one can chew floating around on the internet — the experience of the New York Times’ Maureen Dowd being perhaps the most infamous.

However, this one-dimensional understanding of cannabis oversimplifies things. There are hundreds of compounds found within cannabis plants. Some of these compounds are known as cannabinoids. The most prevalent cannabinoids are tetrahydrocannabinol (THC) and cannabidiol (CBD). Both have been shown to have therapeutic qualities, but only THC produces an intoxicating effect for those who consume it. On top of producing the high for which cannabis is known, strains of cannabis that are high in THC have been known to cause anxiety and paranoia.


CBD, on the other hand, is non-intoxicating and its use is not associated with a heightened sense of anxiety. In fact, studies have shown that CBD — on top of being an effective analgesic and anti-epileptic — can mitigate THC-induced anxiety and help with some anxiety disorders. A medical review on the subject from 2015 noted, “Current evidence indicates CBD has considerable potential as a treatment for multiple anxiety disorders, with need for further study of chronic and therapeutic effects in relevant clinical populations.”

Yet another review, this one from 2017, also said that CBD holds promise as a treatment for anxiety disorders. However, the supporting evidence that would come from a robust set of clinical trials is wanting.


Like so many aspects of cannabis, researchers are unwilling to make definitive claims about its efficacy because there simply isn’t enough evidence. We are only now emerging from the proverbial dark as the restrictions that have historically impeded cannabis research are starting to be lifted.

However, two clinical trials show that CBD can reduce symptoms of anxiety. In one, subjects with generalized social anxiety disorder were given either a 600 mg dose of CBD or a placebo. They were then asked to rate their anxiety using a 100-point scale. Those who took the CBD reported declines in feelings of anxiety (16.52 points), while those who took the placebo reported almost no change in their level of anxiety.


The other clinical trial, which was published in January 2019, used a significantly smaller dosage of CBD (either 25 mg or 75 mg per day for all subjects except for one who was given 175 mg per day). Subjects in this trial also reported significant improvements in anxiety levels. After one month, 79.2 percent of subjects reported that their anxiety had become less severe. After two months, the results were relatively the same: 78.1 percent of subjects reported improvements in their conditions. While the doctors who conducted the trial noted the limitations of their study and cautioned against jumping to conclusions about CBD’s potential as an anti-anxiety treatment, they concluded that, “CBD displays promise as a tool for reducing anxiety.”


Though more evidence is needed to definitively prove that CBD or other cannabis products are a medical treatment that can reduce symptoms of anxiety, anecdotal evidence and clinical trials clearly indicate that many patients have found relief by using CBD oil for anxiety. It is likely that additional evidence will continue to emerge to buttress these claims.

Before using any kind of medication, however, you should first consult with a medical professional to ensure proper dosage and to avoid any possibility of the CBD interacting poorly with other medications you may be taking.


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