CBD and Anxiety

While it is normal to experience occasional anxiety, in excess can affect our quality of life. Anxiety disorders are defined by extreme fear or worry of everyday situations and can be debilitating.  

Nearly 40 million people in the United States have an anxiety disorder and many are prescribed pharmaceuticals as treatment. While these drugs may be effective for some, others may not respond so well. For whatever reason—ineffectiveness, side effects, addictiveness—patients may be seeking an alternative to prescription medication. 

CBD Research on Anxiety

In your research into treatments for anxiety, you may have come across cannabidiol (CBD). CBD is a non-intoxicating derivative of the hemp plant and has been the focus of an increasing number of publications. Could CBD be a natural alternative for treating anxiety? The research is promising. 

Scientists are uncovering the potential therapeutic effects of CBD, including its anxiolytic (anti-anxiety) and antipsychotic properties. CBD may help to treat several anxiety-related disorders, including panic disorder, Obsessive Compulsive Disorder (OCD), social phobia, Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD), Generalized Anxiety Disorder (GAD), and mild to moderate depression. 

Most CBD studies have been conducted with rodents, however, there are several human studies with promising results. While results from animal studies don’t always translate to human models, they do provide important insight into potential human therapies. 

5-HT1A Receptors

The anxiolytic effects of CBD can be attributed to CBD’s low affinity for cannabinoid receptors and its agonist properties at 5-HT1A receptors. What exactly does this all mean? Let’s explore in further detail. 

5-HT1A Receptors: 5-HT1A is a subtype of serotonin receptor. Activation of this receptor is the action of several anxiolytic, antidepressant, and antipsychotic medications, including Buspirone. 

The role of serotonin receptors in anxiety is well-established. Drug companies have developed selective serotonin reuptake inhibitors (SSRIs), which block reabsorption of serotonin in the brain. This, in turn, increases the availability of serotonin. While the underlying process is not completely understood, increased serotonin can help to reduce anxiety and depression. 

In a 2011 study, researchers found strong evidence that CBD can activate 5-HT1A receptors in mice producing anxiolytic effects. This is one of several studies indicating the agonist properties of CBD at 5-HT1A receptors; however, more research is needed. 

Cannabinoid Receptors

Cannabinoid Receptors: Animal models have also been used to investigate the anxiolytic action of CBD and its interaction with cannabinoid receptors. 

The endocannabinoid system plays an integral role in the regulation of emotional behavior and activation of the CB1 receptor has been shown to produce anxiolytic effects. The effect of CB1 receptor activation is complex; however, CB1 receptor activation can reduce fear and prevent the activation of existing memories from the past.  

Learn more about the Endocannabinoid System here. 

CBD is an antagonist of the CB1 receptor, meaning it does not bind directly to the receptor. However, CBD inhibits the enzyme FAAH from breaking down anandamide. Anandamide is an endocannabinoid that binds to CB1 receptors. CBD increases endocannabinoid availability, assisting in producing anxiolytic effects. 

Dosing for CBD and Anxiety 

Few studies have investigated CBD dosing. Some studies suggest that lower doses of CBD may be better for treating anxiety-related disorders, but it is too soon to know for sure. If you are looking to take CBD for anxiety, the best way to find out the proper dosage is through trial and error. CBD is well-tolerated and has few reported side effects, so adjusting your dosage should not cause concern. 


“Overall, current evidence indicates CBD has considerable potential as a treatment for multiple anxiety disorders, with need for further study of chronic and therapeutic effects in relevant clinical populations.” 

The results from animal models, human studies, and anecdotal evidence support the proposition of CBD as an anxiolytic treatment. It is a non-intoxicating compound with a good safety profile and a broad potential. Future studies are needed, however, to test the possibility of CBD, especially within the different anxiety disorders. As of now, we know that CBD has worked as a treatment for anxiety for many, and we look forward to more research to support these claims. 




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