CBD and its many therapeutic uses is fast garnering interest around the world from both inside and outside the medical profession. And yet, evidence of its efficacy remains largely anecdotal. Apart from that is for the treatment of anxiety where a number of small clinical trials have found it lessens anxiety symptoms.
That could be exciting news for the 60 million people in Europe and 20% of the population of the United States suffering from anxiety disorders.
If you suffer from anxiety your life is probably a constant stomach churning cycle ranging from panic attacks, constant worry and sleepless nights to extreme phobias and depression. But whatever form it takes, life becomes severely limited as anxiety provoking situations are avoided.
The standard medical route is to prescribe antidepressants such as SSRI (Selective Serotonin Reuptake Inhibitors) which can in some circumstances make anxiety symptoms worse. It seems strange then that there is such resistance against the use of CBD for the treatment of anxiety disorders within the medical profession, particularly as the groundswell of evidence of its effectiveness mounts.
CBD and anxiety
Cannabidiol (CBD) is one of over 100 natural compounds also known as cannabinoids in the Cannabis plant. Most people have heard of THC or Tetrahydrocannabinol – the one that gets you high – although for many people THC can actually bring on feelings of paranoia and anxiety.
However CBD is considered non-psychoactive and an increasing number of studies point towards its anti-inflammatory, neuroprotective and antiepileptic qualities.
So far, most research hasn’t made it beyond the science lab, with very few human trials taking place. However, in the case of CBD and its anxiolytic (anti-anxiety) effects, a number of trials on real, live people have been documented showing that taking CBD does in fact reduce feelings of anxiety.
In one test published in Neuropsychopharmacology (1) in 2011, 24 people diagnosed with Social Anxiety Disorder were given either CBD or a placebo after which they were asked to perform a simulation public speaking test. According to the trial ‘pretreatment with CBD significantly reduced anxiety, cognitive impairment and discomfort in their speech performance, and significantly decreased alert in their anticipatory speech. The placebo group presented higher anxiety, cognitive impairment, discomfort, and alert levels when compared with the control group’.
Another test published the same year in the Journal of Psychopharmacology, used neuroimaging on ten people also with social anxiety who had taken CBD to find out what parts of the brain are affected. Administering CBD ‘was associated with significantly decreased subjective anxiety’ and through the neuroimaging they could see that this was due to CBD’s effect on ‘activity in limbic and paralimbic brain areas’. The limbic system is largely responsible for our emotional life and formation of memories.
So far the trials have been few and carried out on a limited number of subjects, but the results are certainly promising.
Endocannabinoid system plays vital role
To understand why CBD might help anxiety, we first have to understand a bit more about how cannabis interacts with our bodies. It’s largely due to a physiological system called the Endocannabinoid System or ECS, which is a vast network of chemical compounds and receptors throughout the body. The primary function of the ECS is to regulate all the multitude of functions from inflammation and pain regulation, immune response, mood, neurogenesis and neuroplasticity.
Our body produces its own chemicals called endocannabinoids, that when fitting into receptors such as the CB1 and CB2, cause various modulating responses throughout the body. One endocannabinoid is called Anandamide and is similar to THC in cannabis. When we produce anandamide we tend to feel at ease and relaxed, just how many people feel after smoking a joint. Both Anandamide and THC fit snuggly into the CB1 receptor, found mostly in the central nervous system, thus affecting cognition and brain function.
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CBD and brain function
CBD like THC is a plant cannabinoid, but unlike THC doesn’t fit directly into any of the receptors. Instead it interacts indirectly, not only with the CB1/2 receptors but also with another related to mood and brain function, the 5HT1-A (3). The 5HT1-A is a serotonin receptor and is found throughout the brain and in high densities in the cerebral cortex, hippocampus, and amygdala – all heavily involved in the mood and anxiety disorders.
Turns out that CBD is a 5HT1-A partial agonist – which in layman’s terms means it binds to the receptor site but only stimulates the receptor partially – but scientists suggest it does so just enough to elicit an anti-anxiety effect.
Studies also suggest CBD’s ability to promote hippocampal neurogenesis (the part of the brain responsible for memory, emotion and the autonomic nervous system) could also explain why anxiety is reduced (4).
And remember the feel good endocannabinoid, anandamide? Well, taking CBD can also play its part in ensuring that we have bountiful levels in our bodies. Anandamide is broken down naturally in the body by an enzyme called FAAH (Fatty Acid Amide Hydrolase), but CBD inhibits the production of FAAH, meaning that there’s more anandamide doing its mood enhancing work. (5)
Ok, CBD sounds amazing – now what?
CBD as we know is a natural cannabinoid found in cannabis, but in most countries cannabis is illegal because it contains THC – the bit that gets you stoned. However, CBD can also be found in hemp – which is effectively the same plant, it just has next to no levels of THC and is therefore legal almost everywhere in the world.
As scientific and anecdotal evidence begin to mount, so does the interest in CBD, both from consumers and those selling the product and there are some unscrupulous companies taking advantage of the CBD gold rush. So it is vitally important to find a clean, ethically produced source of CBD oil that comes with Organic and GMP (Good Manufacturing Process) certification.
We always recommend that people do their own research looking at peer reviews on sites such as Trustpilot. Of course these only count as further anecdotal evidence, but they are a good indication of the quality of a product and the customer care involved.
A quick glance through Trustpilot also indicates the positive impact that CBD oil has had on the lives of many anxiety sufferers. Here are just a few testimonies reporting their experiences with CBD.
“Great product almost seems like an cure all. I got it for stress and anxiety. Which impedes sex with me totally relaxed after taking it. Checked my blood pressure after using your product it’s now in an good range. And the list seems to go on and on…great product”.
“I have been having issues with anxiety and mood after quitting antidepressants. Also suffered with back pain and sciatica. All are somewhat of a distant memory. My mood has leveled off. My back pains are not as severe. I use 5 drops twice a day. Great product and great company”.
“Have been using the 10 mg CBD Capsule for 6 nights now and have noticed a difference in my ability to fall asleep, less intra-ocular pressure and much less tension in my sterno-clydo-mastoid muscles. I am retired Military and a Vietnam Vet with PTSD. This seems to be lessening my hypervigilance and overall stress“.
These are personal testimonies and are not scientific proof of CBD’s efficacy for anxiety. Under EU legislation Endoca cannot make any claims about CBD’s medical uses so if you do decide to take CBD, please be sure to inform your doctor or health practitioner, especially if you are taking other medication.
However, we do believe just around the corner is an unavoidable tipping point waiting to happen, after which there will be no option but the funding of appropriate clinical studies, facilitating a long awaited, integration of CBD into mainstream treatment for anxiety.
We can all be part of that growing medical cannabis critical mass and create the momentum for change. We’d love to hear about your experiences with CBD and anxiety. Please leave your feedback on Facebook or in the comments section of this blog.
- Bergamaschi MM1, Queiroz RH, Chagas MH, de Oliveira DC, De Martinis BS, Kapczinski F, Quevedo J, Roesler R, Schröder N, Nardi AE, Martín-Santos R,Hallak JE, Zuardi AW, Crippa JA. (2011). Cannabidiol reduces the anxiety induced by simulated public speaking in treatment-naïve social phobia patients. Neuropsychopharmacology. 36(6):1219-26
- Crippa JA1, Derenusson GN, Ferrari TB, Wichert-Ana L, Duran FL, Martin-Santos R, Simões MV, Bhattacharyya S, Fusar-Poli P, Atakan Z, Santos Filho A,Freitas-Ferrari MC, McGuire PK, Zuardi AW, Busatto GF, Hallak JE.(2011) Neural basis of anxiolytic effects of cannabidiol (CBD) in generalized social anxiety disorder: a preliminary report. Journal of Psychopharmacology. 25(1):121-30
- Leonardo BM Resstel, Rodrigo F Tavares, Sabrina FS Lisboa, Sâmia RL Joca, Fernando MA Corrêa and Francisco S Guimarães. 5-HT1A receptors are involved in the cannabidiol-induced attenuation of behavioural and cardiovascular responses to acute restraint stress in rats. 2009. British Journal of Pharmacology. 156(1): 181–188
- Campos AC1, Ortega Z, Palazuelos J, Fogaça MV, Aguiar DC, Díaz-Alonso J, Ortega-Gutiérrez S, Vázquez-Villa H, Moreira FA, Guzmán M, Galve-Roperh I,Guimarães FS.Neural basis of anxiolytic effects of cannabidiol (CBD) in generalized social anxiety disorder: a preliminary report. (2013). Journal of Psychopharmacology. 16(6):1407-19.
- Bluett RJ, Gamble-George JC, Hermanson DJ, Hartley ND, Marnett LJ, Patel S. Central anandamide deficiency predicts stress-induced anxiety: behavioral reversal through endocannabinoid augmentation. (2014). Translational Psychiatry. 4:e40 10.1038/tp.2014.53.