CBD for anxiety: All you need to know about CBD & mental wellness

The world has been facing a mental health crisis for some time. Perhaps unsurprisingly, the past year has seen an unprecedented rise in people suffering from anxiety so much so that a new term, ‘corona anxiety’, has been coined to describe the experience of those who have found that the Covid-19 pandemic has taken a toll on their mental wellbeing.

According to a 2017 survey performed by the World Health Organisation, 264 million adults (and likely many more now) have anxiety, which might explain why the most common reason people say they use CBD oil is to address this particular concern. But what does the science say? Is it worth taking CBD for anxiety?


Does CBD help Anxiety?

We’ve all had anxious thoughts in our lives, but for many anxiety goes much further than that. Feelings of unease and fear can become debilitating, preventing you from living the life you want to lead. While there are of course many reasons for anxiety, and it’s generally recommended that you seek some sort of therapy to get to the root cause or worries that rise up time and again, there are ways you can support your body to try and gain some control over the physiological ‘cascade’ which triggers the stress response. Sometimes completely unnecessarily.

Lots of people use CBD for anxiety, and our understanding of how it can help the mind and body to maintain equilibrium is actually fairly deep now.

CBD is a pleiotropic (meaning it has multiple mechanisms via various molecular pathways), so this hemp-derived supplement offers a multi-pronged approach for keeping anxiety at bay.

 The first we’re going to look at is how the CBD molecule interacts with our Endocannabinoid System (ECS) – the body’s in-built ‘homeostatic regulator’ that keeps all bodily functions (stress response included) in balance.

The ECS is comprised of receptors (CB1 and CB2) and endocannabinoids – neurotransmitters synthesised and released on demand to activate the ECS and keep everything in check. These are called Anandamide (named after the Sanskrit word for bliss, because of the euphoric feeling it produces) and 2-AG. When you use CBD for anxiety, cannabinoids support this system, encouraging the release of endocannabinoids and lengthening their time in the body, enabling them to travel further and potentially be more effective.


CBD Studies for Anxiety: Regulate the stress response

Anandamide is extremely important when it comes to anxiety, as this neurotransmitter acts a bit like a gatekeeper for stress in the brain. If enough Anandamide is present in the brain, it helps relay information that keeps the fight or flight response reserved for times of real urgency. When there isn’t enough Anandamide (which can occur as a result of lack of sleep, chronic stress, poor diet, and so on) the fight or flight response has nothing holding it back. As a result, the slightest hint of stress (perhaps something as insignificant as the phone ringing) could trigger a full emergency response.

Multiple studies have found that higher levels of Anandamide are associated with reduced anxiety-like behaviours. And lower levels are generally present in those experiencing anxiety. It is very commonly known in the scientific community that CBD increases Anandamide levels, and ‘reduced anxiety’ is frequently noted in research papers as an effect of taking CBD making this a potential strategy for regulating fear and anxiety.


Does CBD alter mood? A natural serotonin boost

Another reason you may choose to use CBD for anxiety is similar to why you might want to try SSRIs (Selective serotonin reuptake inhibitors) – a type of antidepressant prescribed to treat lots of mental health conditions, including Generalised Anxiety Disorder. SSRIs work by increasing serotonin levels, which CBD has also been shown to do, but without the side effects.

As well as interacting with the endocannabinoid system, CBD directly activates serotonin receptors, triggering the release of this vital neurotransmitter that’s needed in healthy levels for mood regulation, digestion, sexual function, bone density, and much more besides.

Types of CBD for Anxiety

As serotonin is most famously known for its mood-lifting qualities, many people believe it’s produced in the brain – but it’s not! Serotonin is actually synthesised in the gut, which is why it’s widely believed that what we eat has such a dramatic impact on our disposition. Because of this, it’s well worth considering CBD edibles, like CBD gummies, CBD chocolate, or CBD drinks, to make the receptors in your gut the first port of call. 

However, edibles take longer to take effect so you might want to keep a CBD vape or CBD oil handy to top up through the day, as these two forms of CBD are much faster acting.

But remember, CBD works best when you take it regularly and consistently, allowing your body to rebalance to the point where your anxiety doesn’t take hold in the first place. A great routine is to eat a gummy/capsule/edible or two and then microdose (just 2-3 drops of oil or a puff on your vape pen) at regular intervals throughout the day. 

CBD and Mental Health: A Perfect Match!

Of course, there are many things you can do to help alleviate anxiety, from mindfulness activities to exercise or simply talking about what’s on your mind. But for a large proportion of CBD users, this cannabis-derived supplement seems to be a very welcome addition to the anti-anxiety arsenal available. And much of the science appears to back up their experience of it. So, alongside emotionally healthy practices, a good diet, and a willingness to work towards positive change in your life, taking CBD for anxiety may be exactly what you need to support you on your way to mental wellness.