Anxiety disorders afflict 40 million people in the United States with 8% of them being children and teens (Anxiety and Depression Association of America [ADAA], 2018). If you are one of them, you are clearly not alone; and there are a variety of natural ways to manage it. It is worth noting that anxiety is a normal experience for most people, but having an anxiety disorder means that your stress response is abnormally high or that you are experiencing anxiousness about unsubstantiated worries. If you are not sure about what you are experiencing, here is a cool infographic from ADAA to clarify:
If you have been diagnosed with an anxiety disorder, or think you may have one, or have a loved one who suffers with anxiety, this post is for you. Here we will be reviewing one of the most effective natural therapies available–cannabidiol (CBD) oil. Rather than defining CBD oil, we will be focusing on how it helps anxiety disorders. You may want to also read What is CBD Oil?.
“We found that existing preclinical evidence strongly supports CBD as a treatment for generalized anxiety disorder, panic disorder, social anxiety disorder, obsessive–compulsive disorder, and post-traumatic stress disorder” – American Society for Experimental Neurotherapeutics (ASENT), 2015.
The most commonly prescribed medications for anxiety disorders are anti-anxiety drugs (benzodiazepines), antidepressants like selective serotonin reuptake inhibitors (SSRIs), and beta-blockers (off label use as beta blockers are normally for high blood pressure and heart problems). These have many undesirable side effects, some of which can be life-threatening adverse events. Benzodiazepines (benzos) can lead to dependence and addiction, while both antidepressants and benzos often lead to tolerance and the need to increase the dosage to achieve the desired effect. Benzos and SSRIs are known to have a negative impact on the normal sleep cycle resulting in poor quality sleep that is not restorative. Even worse is long term use of benzos can lead to cognitive dysfunction even after they are discontinued. That all sounds pretty terrifying, but for some people anxiety is so debilitating that they are willing to take the hit because they just need to function. Fortunately, CBD oil provides a viable alternative.
How does CBD oil measure up in comparison to commonly prescribed drugs?
“CBD oil is safe and well-tolerated via the oral route (up to 1,500 mg/day). Moreover, because this compound does not induce dependence, tolerance and abstinence symptoms, it can be, in the future, a good alternative as a substitute for high potency benzodiazepines and antidepressant drugs” – Campos & Soares, Current Neuropharmacology, 2017
But how does CBD work? The mechanisms are not fully known and the ones we know about are not fully understood, but here is what we know it does do (and this is not an all inclusive list):
- It is neuroprotective, which means it reduces damage to your brain and nervous system (Blessing et al., 2015).
- It stimulates neurogenesis, which means it encourages new nerve growth and development (Campos & Soares, 2017)
- It is a powerful antioxidant and free radical scavenger–even more powerful than vitamins C and E (Grotenherman & Iffland, 2017).
- It activates 5HT1A (serotonin) receptors which is believed to be a major part of why it alleviates anxiety (Blessing et al., 2015).
- It increases anandamide levels in the brain (Campos & Soares, 2017). Anandamide is an endogenous cannabinoid that our body produces on its own, and is also known as the “bliss molecule.”
And here is what we know it doesn’t do:
- It does not have any psychotropic effects (no “high”)
- It does not have any residual effect on cognitive or psychomotor functions (for example it does not cause drowsiness that makes it dangerous to drive) (Crippa et al., 2018).
- It does not interfere with the normal sleep cycle (Crippa et al., 2018)
- It does not have any known negative side effects even at doses as high as 1500 mg per day (Grotenherman & Iffland, 2017).
Most likely, there are a plethora of other ways CBD oil relieves anxiety, scientists just haven’t been able to identify them yet. Is it risky to take CBD oil when we aren’t exactly sure how it alleviates anxiety? Well, consider this: we have cannabinoid receptors which are biologically designed to bind to cannabinoids, we make our own cannabinoids even when we aren’t taking any, CBD oil has been proven safe and effective as a treatment for anxiety in many human and animal studies, and it is essentially devoid of any negative side effects.
If I were choosing between CBD oil and what pharmaceuticals had to offer for anxiety disorders, I think I’d take my chances.
If you have any questions or comments, or if you feel it is necessary to correct something that you read in my blog, feel free to do so below. I appreciate any and all of your contributions. If you think this post could help a friend, share it. You might change their life.
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Anxiety and Depression Association of America. (2018). Understanding the facts of anxiety disorders. Retrieved from https://adaa.org/understanding-anxiety
Blessing, E., Steenkamp, M., Manzanares, J., & Marmar, C. (2015). Cannabidiol as a potential treatment for anxiety disorders. Retrieved from https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC6066583/
Campos, V. & Soares, A. (2017). Evidences for the anti-panic actions of cannabidiol. Retrieved from https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC5412699/
Crippa, A., Crippa, J., Eckeli, A., Guimaraes, F., Hallack, J., Linares,… Zuardi, A. (2018). No acute effects of cannabidiol on the sleep-wake cycle of healthy subjects: A randomized, double-blind, placebo-controlled, crossover study. Retrieved from https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC5895650/
Groterherman, F. & Iffland, K. (2017) An update on safety and side effects of cannabidiol: A review of clinical data and relevant animal studies. Retrieved from https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC5569602/