Does CBD Oil Help With Anxiety?

 

Anxiety disorders are the 3rd largest mental health problem in the world today, affecting approximately 7% of the population according to the available scientific data [1]. The defining feature of anxiety is an intense fear of being judged, negatively evaluated or rejected in social and professional situations [2]. For people suffering with anxiety, a fear of speaking in public is said to be one of the cardinal manifestations of the condition [3].

Anxiety is associated with the impairment of social adjustments to daily life, increased disability, dysfunction and a loss of productivity [4][5]. Furthermore, anxiety follows a long-term and unforgiving course, and is rarely resolved without treatment [6][7].

Despite the guidelines and consensus statements issued by bodies such as the Canadian Psychiatric Association, the pharmacological treatment of anxiety remains problematic. Only around 30% of people ever achieve true recovery without remission or residual symptoms, leading them to search for alternative treatments, such as cannabis [8].

Cannabis Use in People with Anxiety is a Double Edged Sword

People suffering with anxiety disorders are more likely to use cannabis than those without such disorders, in an attempt to ‘self-medicate’ [9]. Interestingly, the relationship between cannabis and anxiety is a double-edged sword. Many cannabis users state a reduction of anxiety as one of the primary motivations for use. On the other hand, intense anxiety and panic are some of the most commonly reported undesirable effects of cannabis use [10]. Such conflicting statements arise because THC (tetrahydrocannabinol), the most famous compound found within cannabis, decreases anxiety in low doses and causes anxiety in high doses [11].

Conversely, CBD (cannabidiol), another major constituent of the cannabis plant, has displayed substantially different psychological effects to those of THC [12]. When administered orally, CBD oil has been shown to reduce, or ‘block’ the anxiety causing effects of THC [13]. The aforementioned studies, plus other studies in the area have led researchers, doctors and patients to wonder, could CBD oil be a potential treatment for anxiety disorders?

 

CBD Oil Helps with The Anxiety Brought on by Public Speaking

In 2011, researchers at the University of Sao Paulo set out to compare the effects of a simulated public speaking test on healthy control participants vs participants with anxiety who received a single oral dose of CBD.

The participants with anxiety selected for the study had received no prior treatment for their condition, neither pharmacotherapy nor psychotherapy.

Simulated public speaking tests are considered a valid way to test for and predict social anxiety, as a fear of speaking in public is a fundamental component of the disorder.

A total of 24 participants with anxiety were selected alongside 12 healthy controls. The participants with anxiety were split into 2 groups of 12 – one group to receive CBD oil prior to the simulated public speaking test and one group to receive a placebo.

After allowing the participants 15 minutes to get used to the lab environment, baseline measurements were taken followed by a single dose of either CBD oil or placebo. Following ingestion, participants were given the instructions regarding the public speaking test. Each participant had 2 minutes to prepare a 4 minute speech about ‘the public transportation system of your city’. Furthermore, participants were told that their speech would be recorded and analysed by a psychologist. Measurements were taken before participants started speaking, during the middle of the test and at several points after the test had concluded.

The results of the test showed that participants with anxiety who were pre-treated with CBD oil displayed significantly reduced anxiety, cognitive impairment and discomfort in their speech performance. The measurements taken from participants diagnosed with anxiety, but pre-treated with CBD oil, were similar to those taken from the healthy control group. [14]

CBD Oil Decreases Blood Flow to The Anxiety Processing Areas of The Brain

In a separate scientific experiment, the same research group from the University of Sao Paulo decided to test the effect of CBD oil on subjective measures of anxiety in men. However, this time the researchers also took brain scans using functional neural imaging techniques. Alongside the participants reporting improved anxiety with CBD oil use, brain scans showed that blood flow was reduced to the anxiety processing centres of the brain [15].

CBD Oil Usage Looks Positive for Anxiety Relief

Although more science is needed, the early signs are positive for CBD Oil alleviating the symptoms of anxiety. Several research groups around the globe have shown similar effects, such as a reduction in subjective feelings of anxiety and improved cognitive performance. Furthermore, audits of clinical practice are starting to indicate that CBD oil improves anxiety and overall quality of life for a large number of patients.

What Strength CBD Oil Should You Use For Anxiety?

When it comes to using CBD oil for anxiety, technically any type of CBD oil can be used, be it a full spectrum product or an isolate. Furthermore, there are various ways to take CBD - choose based on your personal preference. Studies showing improvements in anxiety using CBD oil typically use relatively large doses. Regardless of how you choose to consume your CBD, we recommend using a higher strength product such as a 10 or 15% CBD Oil.


ABOUT THE AUTHOR

Jordan Donohue is a qualified nutritionist who has spent the last 5 years working in the supplement industry. First as the nutrition and regulatory affairs manager for sports nutrition powerhouse Myprotein and second as a business development manager for whey protein producer Arla Foods Ingredients.