Millions of people suffer from anxiety in the UK; it's one of the most common conditions in adults around the world. Treatment usually includes medication combined with therapies, such as counselling, but increasingly people are looking for alternatives.
Many are turning to cannabidiol (CBD) for help treating their anxiety and depression, but does it work and how effective is it? In this blog, we ask - 'does CBD help with anxiety?'
How does CBD work?
CBD - or cannabidiol - is one of hundreds of organic compounds found in the cannabis plant. It's extracted and added to a carrier agent, like coconut or hemp oil, which is used to make CBD products, such as CBD capsules, CBD gummies, CBD vaping liquid, and CBD muscle rubs.
Cannabidiol works by interacting with the body's endocannabinoid system (ECS), which is responsible for regulating key functions, like sleep and mood. It does this by influencing receptors that are found in different parts of the nervous system.
- CB1 receptors are located in the brain and spinal chord
- CB2 receptors are found in the peripheral system, usually immune cells
Some experts think that CB1 receptors affect the levels of serotonin in the body, and that cannabidiol can influence this. Serotonin is a hormone that looks after your mood and general feelings of happiness.
Is CBD oil effective?
Medical marijuana is already used to treat rare forms of severe epilepsy, spasticity in multiple sclerosis patients, and some cancer-related symptoms. Its anti-inflammatory properties are well researched, but this isn't the only health benefit of CBD.
Early research and clinical trials into the effects of CBD show promising signs that cannabidiol could be used to reduce anxiety.
In 2020, a study in New Zealand looked at 397 adults who were given CBD prescriptions for a variety of problems, including:
- Non-cancer related pain
- Cancer related symptoms
- Neurological symptoms
- Mental health issues
After three weeks of treatment, all groups reported an improvement in their overall quality of life, and almost three quarters felt some level of satisfaction with CBD, ranging from good to excellent.
Some experts suggest that CBD oil may be able to help with different types of anxiety, such as generalized anxiety disorder and social anxiety disorder. In 2018, researchers found that CBD could significantly affect anxiety associated with public speaking.
Male subjects given 300 mg of CBD, 90 minutes before a simulated public speaking test, showed signs of reduced anxiety. Participants in the placebo group and those given a different amount of CBD saw little benefit.
More research needs to be done, but there can be no doubt that some people do benefit from using cannabidiol to treat various forms of anxiety.
How do you take CBD oil?
Your choice of CBD products will dictate how much you take and when. CBD oil can be taken in three different ways:
- Orally - gummies, mints, chocolate, tea, capsules, and sublingual sprays and drops
- Vaping - e-liquid and vape juice
- Topical - muscle rubs, joint gel, salves, balms, and skincare products
It can take between 30 minutes to two hours to feel the effects of CBD when it's taken orally, but each product has its own individual uses and benefits.
CBD gummies, for example, are easy to take on-the-go and they are discreet enough that no one will notice. Vaping, however, gets to work quickly for immediate results, which makes it ideal for taking as and when you need it.
If you're just starting out on your CBD journey, we recommend using a tincture - this is a concentrated form of cannabidiol that you place under your tongue with a pipette.
It's easier to control your CBD doses with a tincture, and you can build up the amount you take every few days, until you find what's right for you. This is known as micro-dosing and it's based on the principle of starting low and going slow.
We suggest starting with one droplet under your tongue in the morning and one at night. Do this for three days then increase your dose to two drops twice a day, then three, and so on, until you find your 'sweet spot' - the dose that's most effective.
Is CBD oil safe to use?
CBD oil is well tolerated by most people with few reported side effects.
Some patients prefer it to conventional medication, which can have unpleasant side effects. Particularly, selective serotonin reuptake inhibitors (SSRIs), which are often prescribed to treat anxiety and depression.
Cannabidiol doesn't contain THC (tetrahydrocannabinol) - the psychoactive chemical that creates the 'high' sensation associated with cannabis.
If you have pre-existing medical conditions then talk to your doctor before taking CBD oil. In some cases cannabidiol can interfere with the absorption of prescription medications, particularly those that carry a 'grapefruit warning' on the label.
Your doctor will be able to advise you on how to combine CBD oil with other treatments such as cognitive behavioural therapy (CBT) or counselling.
How do I buy CBD oil?
Organic compounds, including CBD, with small amounts of THC (under 0.3%) can be legally sold in the UK, and are widely available on the high street and online. In the UK the sale of cannabidiol is overseen by the Food Standards Agency (FSA).
When you're choosing a CBD oil for anxiety, check to make sure that the hemp plants used have been farmed organically and are of a high standard. Just like anything you ingest, you don't want it to contain pesticides or other chemical fertilisers.
Most reputable retailers, like Origin40, can prove the authenticity of their products.
What are the next steps?
We understand that you may still have questions about CBD, but our staff are on hand to help. Studies into the effects of CBD oil on anxiety are still underway, but we are working with the country's top neurologists to stay at the forefront of this research.
Get in touch with one of our friendly team for help choosing the right products and establishing a CBD routine that works for you. We offer free, impartial consultations in store and online via Zoom with a CBD-expert at Origin40.
- Eskie, J, Medical News Today [online] CBD for anxiety: what to know [updated 4/8/2020; cited 18/8/2020] Available from: https://bit.ly/3md01SZ
- Chemey, K, Healthline [online] Using CBD oil for anxiety: does it work? [updated 3/4/2020; cited 18/8/2020] Available from: https://bit.ly/3iXsVVl