CBD and Anxiety: What does science say?

Anxiety is a normal response to a stressful or a dangerous situation and is experienced by all of us at some point. Although the it’s not perceived as desirable, it can be incredibly useful in times of danger, warning us to take mitigative action(s).

However, problems can arise if anxiety takes control, where there is no rational reason to feel down and out. In the UK alone, there were over 8.2 million cases of reported anxiety in 2013, and in England, women are twice as likely to be diagnosed with an anxiety disorder than men. Current treatments vary from cognitive behavioural therapy (CBT) to a whole host of drugs. Including selective serotonin reuptake inhibitors (SSRIs), such as citalopram or fluoxetine, and tranquilisers such as diazepam.

These drugs are successful in helping the majority of individuals, but there is a burgeoning populous looking for alternative solutions and seeking remedies which avoid the side effects of SSRIs and the addictive nature of some of the status quo remedies available.

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CBD Science

Cannabidiol is a compound found abundantly in hemp, the species of cannabis which is naturally low in THC, the compound which makes users of traditional cannabis ‘high’.

CBD is making waves in anecdotal reports on use for anxiety but what does the science say? While most of the studies related to CBD and anxiety are pre-clinical and based on animals, the early evidence is promising.

Rodent derived research indicates CBD works in conjunction with serotonin, a hormone and neurotransmitter, which helps process emotional response. The process is thought to be similar to how SSRIs boost serotonin synapse responses. SSRIs target a receptor called 5-F1TA and CBD is thought to improve activity around this receptor. In particular, the study suggests CBD activates the 5-F1TA receptor improving serotonin signalling, potentially at a faster pace than SSRIs, and without the associated side effects. Aligning with a literature review of 49 existing studies published in 2015, documenting that “current evidence indicates CBD has considerable potential as a treatment for multiple anxiety disorders.”

To date, a couple of trials have used human test subjects, which mirror pre-clinical successes; albeit with small sample sets and extremely high doses.

One test focused on social anxiety disorder (SAD), using a sample of a couple of dozen people performing a public speaking test. Individuals were either given 600mg CBD or a placebo. According to the study, people given CBD felt a significantly reduced level of anxiety and stress from the activity, whereas the placebo group presented higher levels of anxiety vs the control group.

Another study on human patients administered 400mg CBD or placebo and used neuroimaging to assess brain activity and the perceived impact on SAD. Concluding CBD had anti-anxiety effects which were mirrored in the part of the brain associated with emotional response, the limbic system.

The Bottom line

To date, the results for a couple of tests on humans are positive, but it’s clear more human-based research is required. The few experiments on humans have between at either a 400mg or 600mg dose, which is more than a whole bottle of medium strength CBD. Including preclinical studies, research has either focused on low or extremely high doses, with no go-between; there is some work to do to fill the gap.

Few studies have explicitly focused on chronic CBD use in line with anxiety. The evidence related to acute use is positive, but it’s critical to examine the longer-term impact associated with its use. Researchers are also not sure what a suitable dosage is nor at what frequency. Without a larger bank of high-quality evidence in human-based research on the efficacy of CBD, we are in-between a rock and a hard place.

If you are interested in learning more about CBD and how it works we highly recommend you check out the rest of our blog posts.

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Disclaimer: Views expressed here do not necessarily reflect those of Nature & Bloom and its staff. This article is not intended to provide medical advice, diagnosis, treatment, cure or prevention for any disease. Nature & Bloom products have not been evaluated by the MHRA.