Anxiety is a common disorder that causes excessive mental stimulation and feelings of fear and worry. It can be debilitating when it interferes with daily activities. CBD products offer several benefits for anxiety; here, we discuss how it works.
Stress is a natural process designed to keep us safe and give us the best chance of survival in a dangerous scenario. In many people, this natural stress response becomes hyperactive and interferes with our ability to perform daily living activities.
Anxiety belongs to a spectrum of different medical disorders that involve a dysfunctional stress response. The stress reaction can be excessive, too frequent, or last too long.
In recent years, CBD (one of the active and non-psychoactive compounds in the cannabis plant) has been shown to offer widespread benefits to anxiety symptoms. It is used to manage common side effects such as insomnia and muscle tension, and it even provides benefits for the underlying causes of anxiety itself.
Here, we’ll discuss why CBD is gaining popularity as a natural anxiety treatment option and how you can start using it yourself to ease your most troubling symptoms.
What is anxiety?
Anxiety is normal (even healthy) emotion, but it can get out of control and harm our health.
“Healthy” anxiety is designed to protect the body from danger. We can feel anxious standing on top of a cliff. Nervousness and discomfort are intended to keep us attentive so as not to slip and fall. We may experience anxiety when we come face to face with a hungry animal – anxiety helps us fight or flee.
However, disproportionately high levels of anxiety can start to cause serious problems for some people.
As a medical disorder, anxiety is characterized by feelings of excessive nervousness, fear, and worry. Physical symptoms such as heart palpitations, high blood pressure, rapid heart rate, muscle contractions, and shallow breathing are also common during anxiety “attacks.”
Deleterious anxiety forms an overreaction to normal stress in our environment. Things like going to public events, impending deadlines, or financial instability are common causes of clinical anxiety. Our normal stress response is amplified, leading to widespread negative side effects that do nothing to help the situation.
A key element in treating anxiety is improving the way our brain reacts and responds to stress.
Types of anxiety disorders
- Generalized anxiety disorder (GAD)
- Panic disorder
- Specific phobias
- Social anxiety disorder (SAD)
- Selective mutism
- Separation anxiety disorder
Basic information on the stress response
Stress is a key element of anxiety. When something threatens us, a special region in the brain is known as the hypothalamus kicks in. The goal of the hypothalamus is to react appropriately to stress so that we can handle the situation.
The hypothalamus controls the intensity of stress by stimulating the release of hormones such as cortisol and norepinephrine, which cause physical changes in the body. The hypothalamus is responsible for controlling the intensity of the stress response to best match the level of danger we face.
Physiological changes of stress include:
- A higher level of consciousness
- Elevated levels of sugar in the blood (to supply more energy to the muscles)
- Decreased digestive and immune function (to conserve energy for the brain and muscles)
- Decreased sensation of pain
For minor concerns (such as getting stuck in vehicular traffic), only a small amount of stress would be the appropriate response. We don’t need to turn off our immune system and digestive function to handle this, for example.
For larger concerns (like being held at gunpoint), the appropriate response is much more intense. In this case, it would be beneficial for us to maximize our chances of getting out alive by supplying the muscles with more energy (increased blood sugar) and increasing our consciousness level by releasing stimulating compounds in the brain such as orexin, histamine, and norepinephrine.
In many people who suffer from anxiety, the hypothalamus overreacts to the situation. Minor stress (for example, attending a public event) results in a large-scale stress response, producing what we characterize as anxiety.
The stages of anxiety
Anxiety can be variable from person to person, but it tends to follow the following general stages.
Stage 1: stress trigger
The first stage of anxiety is the trigger. It’s the event or thought that causes the stress response. There are many different triggers, and they all have unique triggers.
Common anxiety triggers:
- Financial concerns
- Upcoming social events
- Loss of a loved one
- Side effects of medication
- Imminent work deadlines
Irrational fears, called phobias, trigger some people’s anxiety. There are several causes why someone might have these fears, but the most common is a past traumatic event involving the specific trigger.
Examples of common phobias:
- Acrophobia: fear of heights
- Arachnophobia: fear of spiders
- Ophidiophobia: fear of snakes
- Agoraphobia: fear of having a panic attack in public
- Misophobia: fear of germs
- Algophobia: fear of pain
The first step in treating anxiety is identifying the trigger. It helps keep track of when your anxiety appears and what events or thoughts may have led to this reaction.
Stage 2: the hypothalamus response
No matter what the anxiety trigger is, the next stage involves responding to the brain’s hypothalamus.
The hypothalamus can be seen as the “master controller.” It reacts to stress by delegating other organs to act.
When it senses stress, the hypothalamus sends hormones to the adrenal glands to release the primary stress hormones: cortisol, epinephrine, and norepinephrine. These hormones tell the nervous system how to respond (stage 3).
How CBD Can Help
In many people with anxiety, the source of the problem arises in the hypothalamus itself. Respond to small stress as if the problem is big and life-threatening. CBD is beneficial in this case because it acts directly on the hypothalamus, making it less sensitive to minor stresses (more on how this works below).
Stage 3: activation of the sympathetic nervous system (SNS)
The nervous system has two sides: the sympathetic nervous system and the parasympathetic nervous system.
The sympathetic nervous system (SNS) is the part of the nervous system responsible for what we experience as stress; it is activated by cortisol and norepinephrine.
The parasympathetic nervous system (PNS) is the opposite; it is responsible for inducing relaxation and recovery once the stress has ended.
These two sides of the nervous system work opposite each other, like yin and yang. When one side is active, the other is suppressed.
During a stress response or anxiety attack, the SNS is activated, resulting in most of the changes experienced during a stress reaction, including:
- Release of stimulating neurotransmitters in the brain to increase awareness.
- Inhibition of the immune system.
- Inhibition of the digestive system.
- Increase of cardiac frequency.
- Dilation of the bronchial tubes that lead to the lungs to let more air through.
- The liver dumps glucose into the bloodstream to provide an increase in energy levels.
How CBD Can Help
In some people, SNS activation is exaggerated, causing significant changes in the body with only a small change in the SNS / SNP balance. CBD can be of help through its ability to increase the SNP directly (via GABA and related neurotransmitters).
Stage 4: Recovery
Once the stress is over, the body needs to recover. It’s when the hypothalamus stops secreting hormones, and the liver metabolizes cortisol.
As this happens, the change in the balance between the SNS and the SNP begins to shift.
We relax, brain activity slows, digestive and immune systems are stimulated, and blood glucose levels begin to drop to normal levels.
It’s called the “rest and digest” response.
How CBD Can Help
People with anxiety often have trouble with this stage: they cannot fully relax. Clinically, these people have “SNS dominance” because the sympathetic nervous system is active more often than not.
CBD can give the SNP a boost, causing a shift in the balance between the SNS and the SNP.
|Physiological process||During an anxiety attack||Effect of CBD|
|Blood glucose levels||↑↑↑||↓↓↓|
Symptoms of anxiety disorders
- Fast heart rate
- High blood pressure
- Tinnitus (ringing in the ears)
- Changes in mood
- Poor concentration
- Digestive disorders (constipation, diarrhea)
- Frequent cold / cold
Causes of anxiety
- Alcohol consumption
- Heart disease
- Inability to effectively manage stress
- Nutritional deficiencies
- Recreational drug use
- Side effects of some medications
- Sleep deprivation
- Traumatic history
Guide on using CBD for anxiety
Let’s go over exactly how CBD can be used to relieve anxiety symptoms, how it works, and what dosage to take.
Research conducted in the early 1980s highlighted the difference in effects between the prominent psychoactive cannabinoid, THC, and the main non-psychoactive cannabinoid, CBD. The researchers in this study reported that CBD could resist the anxiety-causing effects of THC.
A double-blind clinical trial involving four separate groups of 10 people forced to speak publicly in front of a group of people was measured on the effects of three anti-anxiety drugs. Subjects received 300 mg of CBD, 10 mg of diazepam, 5 mg of ipsapirone, or a placebo before the event. This research found that the CBD and ipsapirone group showed the most significant benefit in anxiety symptoms before and immediately after public speaking.
Another study used functional neuroimaging to investigate how CBD affects anxiety in the brain. The study found that CBD effectively controlled anxiety symptoms in the treatment group. Neurological images showed decreased blood flow in the parahippocampal and hippocampal regions; Both areas are known to be heavily involved with anxiety attacks. The researchers in this study suggested that CBD’s action mechanism was upregulation of the brain’s endocannabinoid system.
CBD increases GABA activity in the brain. It’s the primary neurotransmitter associated with reversing the stress and anxiety response. Many of the primary drugs used to treat anxiety also use this mechanism, including benzodiazepines and barbiturates like Xanax and Diazepam.
Step 1: finding the best CBD oil for anxiety
There are so many companies in the CBD market that it can be challenging to know which ones to buy. To make matters worse, many of the companies currently on the market are of low quality. With the recent surge in public interest in CBD supplements, it is no wonder so many companies are making substandard products in an attempt to get their piece of the cake without going through the rigorous quality control processes. Necessary to ensure that the product is safe and effective.
We’ve taken the liberty of doing these reviews for you, scanning hundreds of CBD vape oils, capsules, tinctures, edibles, and oils to “separate the wheat from the chaff.”
When it comes to anxiety, it’s essential to make sure that the products you use are of the highest quality possible, free of heavy metals, pesticides, or microbial contaminants. It’s because any of these pollutants can cause anxiety. It’s not something you want from a product that alleviates anxiety symptoms.
The only way to confirm that none of these contaminants found their way into the final product is to look at the company’s third-party test reports.
If the company you are researching cannot provide this, move on to the next one.
Without first confirming that the products are safe, you must assume that they are not. There are too many tainted CBD products to bet on.
Step 2: assess the optimal starting dose.
The dosage of the CBD can be a challenge for first -time users. To make this as simple as possible, we have included a basic dosage chart. Considering your weight and desired strength, you can get a rough estimate of CBD’s amount needed to get the results you are looking for.
Recommended strength for anxiety: medium-high
Daily doses of CBD by weight and strength (in mg)
|Weight (kg)||Low force||Medium strength||High force|
|50 kg||10 mg||30 mg||60 mg|
|60 kg||13 mg||38 mg||75 mg|
|70 kg||15 mg||45 mg||90 mg|
|80 kg||17 mg||52 mg||105 mg|
|90 kg||20 mg||60 mg||120 mg|
|100 kg||22 mg||67 mg||135 mg|
|110 kg||25 mg||75 mg||150 mg|
After a month of solid use, come back and answer these questions again. Is there any improvement? Is there anything worse?
Some CBD supplementation benefits can be noticed right away, especially concerning insomnia and the severity of anxiety attacks. You can expect the broader benefits of taking longer – about a month or two. These broader effects may involve a reduction in the frequency of your anxiety attacks and improvements in associated conditions such as depression or fatigue.
When to avoid CBD for anxiety
CBD has to offer many benefits for people suffering from anxiety. But there are also some situations where CBD may not be appropriate.
Some examples include:
- If you take antipsychotic medicines
- If you take blood thinners
- THC can make anxiety symptoms worse, so avoid anything with more than 0.3% THC by weight.
- In combination with bipolar disorder or mania, unless directed by a doctor.