Everything you need to know about treating anxiety with CBD
We spoke with an Integrative Cannabis Physician to see how CBD can help treat anxiety.
Colorado Springs, CO – March 24: Medical marijuana is an option for epilepsy patients in Colorado. Jennifer Collins, age 14 and her mother Beth moved to Colorado Springs, CO in December, 2013 to see if medical marijuana would help Jennifers epilepsy.
A bottle of Jennifers medicine, a mixture of THCA and olive oil, that Jennifer takes three times a day for epilepsy.
(Photo by Joanna B. Pinneo/For The Washington Post via Getty Images)
Did you know thousands of people are trading prescription anxiety medications, like Xanax and Klonopin, for CBD oil? But what is CBD? And what are CBD oil benefits? We spoke with an integrative cannabis physician to see what effects CBD oil has, and how you can use CBD for anxiety.
What is CBD?
CBD, or cannabidiol, is one of 80 cannabinoid compounds found in the marijuana plant. Other cannabinoids include the famous THC or tetrahydrocannabinol, but unlike THC, CBD is non-intoxicating and so doesn’t leave people feeling “high.” It does, however, have tons of medical benefits, including calming anxiety.
Another CBD benefit, especially when treating anxiety with CBD, is that cannabidiol counteracts THC. Because THC is the most potent psychoactive component of cannabis, it can actually make some people’s anxiety worse. However, because CBD counteracts THC, it helps to bring people down and give them a more calming and relaxing experience.
CBD for Anxiety?
Anxiety affects about 20% of Americans and comes in all shapes and sizes. There are clinical anxiety disorders like social anxiety, PSTD, and OCD, as well as everyday anxieties like trouble sleeping, tight deadlines, and fear of flying.
Many Americans with anxiety disorders are prescribed benzodiazepines, like Xanax, Klonopin, and Valium, but these drugs are very addictive and make people feel lethargic and fuzzy.
“Benzos are one of the most overprescribed pharmaceuticals,” says Dr. Junella Chin, an integrative cannabis physician that’s been incorporating medical cannabis into treatment for her patients since 2001. “Anti-anxiety medications have many side effects: cognitive deficits, unusual sleep behaviors, allergic reactions, impairment of driving, decreasing blood pressure, depression, loss of coordination, and increased risk of falling in the elderly.”
Unlike benzos, CBD has few if any side effects, and yet helps sufferers with all the classic symptoms of anxiety, like racing thoughts, trouble sleeping, and difficulty being around people.
Dr. Chin tells Herb she’s helped over 15,000 people replace their benzodiazepine prescriptions with cannabis in the past ten years.
“My patients have reported medical cannabis working extremely well with ‘taking the edge off’ and ‘turning the volume down’ on their anxiety,” says Dr. Chin. “It eases their anxiety in a way that allows them to function. They find that their racing thoughts and continuous ‘fight or flight’ response is no longer there. They simply feel more comfortable in their own skin again.”
The other problem with benzodiazepines – they are dangerously addictive. In fact, benzo withdrawal is one of the only withdrawals that could potentially kill. The only other withdrawal as severe is alcohol – even opioids are less “technically” addictive.
That’s why so many people are choosing to quit the “hard stuff” and opt for something more natural, like CBD. In fact, according to the latest State of Cannabis Report by Eaze, 40% of cannabis consumers in California have completely replaced anxiety drugs with cannabis. What’s more, of the 48% of respondents that said they use or have used anxiety medication, 95% of them said cannabis has helped them reduce their use of prescription anxiety pills.
However, because of benzos’ highly addictive nature, replacing them with CBD should be done slowly and preferably, under a doctor’s supervision.
“Benzo dependence is harder to break than opioid addiction,” says Dr. Chin. “The longer someone is on benzos, the harder it is to stop because the patient’s brain chemistry becomes dependent on it.”
How CBD Works for Treating Anxiety
CBD interacts with the body’s own, natural endocannabinoid system (ECS). The ECS is present in nearly “every cell in the body” and helps to regulate many of our bodies’ functions, including:
- pain perception.
In fact, stress recovery is one of the endocannabinoid system’s main purposes.
But what’s more, Dr. Chin described to Herb how CBD also interacts with a neurotransmitter called GABA (gamma-aminobutyric acid). GABA transmits messages from one brain cell, or neuron, to another; that message is typically “slow down” or “stop firing”. GABA tells the body when it’s time to power down, and since millions of neurons in the brain respond to GABA, the effects include:
- reducing anxiety
- calming the nervous system
- helping with sleep
- relaxing the muscles.
“CBD is a GABA uptake inhibitor,” says Dr. Chin. “Meaning, it creates a surplus of GABA in the brain. That results in a quieting and calming effect. With CBD supplementation, patients don’t have the racing thoughts that paralyze them at work or even lying awake in bed at night.”
Dr. Chin isn’t the only medical professional talking about CBD for anxiety. In 2012, researchers in the UK found that CBD can decrease behavior associated with obsessive-compulsive disorder (OCD) in rats. What’s more, a 2011 study found that CBD can reduce social anxiety, especially stress associated with public speaking. Unfortunately, studies on cannabis are very difficult to perform in the U.S. with the federal “Schedule I” classification of cannabis, even though the World Health Organization (WHO) recently declared CBD to safe with no potential for abuse.
How to Use CBD for Anxiety
Over the past few years, the variety of CBD products has grown exponentially. There are high CBD strains for smoking or vaping, like ACDC, Harlequin, and Charlotte’s Web. Check out Herb’s top 10 High CBD strains list here.
A CBD vape pen is also an option, and there are a few specifically designed to relieve anxiety <link to my other article “10 Best Vapes for People with Crippling Anxiety”>, like dosist Calm, Select Oil’s CBD collection, and Aya’s Relax. Edibles high in cannabidiol are another popular choice for those wishing to use CBD for anxiety, like “Not Pot” CBD-only chocolates.
But one of the most popular ways to consume cannabidiol is still through CBD oil. Some of the best CBD oils include brands like Green Roads World and Pure CBD Vapors. They are especially good for anxiety because they contain little to no THC – so there’s no risk of getting “high.” Cannabis oil can be added to food or simply dropped straight under the tongue for sublingual absorption, which kicks in the relief fast. Not to mention, CBD oil has no lingering smell, so medicating is totally discreet.
As far as dosing goes, Dr. Chin recommends starting with 5 to 25 milligrams of CBD per day and increasing the dose slowly as needed. She said CBD side effects are rare, but still possible, so the best course of treatment is to start slow. Dr. Chin also recommends looking for CBD products that are tested by a third party and show a detailed cannabinoid profile and ingredients list on the label to ensure safety.
Products that advertise “whole plant CBD” are also good because they’ll incorporate the entourage effect. The entourage effect refers to how cannabinoids and terpenes react with one another in the body. Research suggests that these compounds work best when combined together like they are naturally found in the marijuana plant, rather than if they are isolated in a lab. Therefore, whole plant medicine CBD products will be more effective than CBD isolates.
Is CBD oil legal?
CBD exists in a legal gray area in the United States. When CBD oil is extracted from industrial hemp plants with 0.3% of THC or less, it’s “sort of” legal according to the Farm Bill passed in 2014. However, according to the Controlled Substances Act (CSA) of 1970, every bit of the Cannabis sativa plant is illegal, and the CSA has not been updated to include the Farm Bill. Another loophole many CBD oil companies are taking advantage of is, imported hemp oils are legal, and so many are growing their hemp abroad. Check out Herb’s full coverage of this issue here.
CBD for anxiety has tons of potential for helping people. Especially in America, where millions of people suffer from anxiety and are addicted to prescription medication like Xanax, CBD may be the natural alternative we’ve been waiting for.