It’s no secret that anxiety has become a major problem in the United States today.
According to the Anxiety and Depression Association of America, anxiety affects more than 40 million Americans age 18 and older.
A 2018 poll from the American Psychiatric Association found that Americans feel more anxious today than previous years, with nearly two-thirds of Americans experiencing mild to severe anxiety related to their health, safety and living situation.
As the prevalence of anxiety continues to grow, health professionals respond by prescribing anti-anxiety medications like Xanax, Paxil, and Zoloft.
Cumulatively, prescription rates for anti-anxiety medication increased by more than 65% from 2002 to 2015, which has contributed to a 400% increase in deaths caused by overdosing on benzodiazepines(the group of medications used to treat anxiety, insomnia, depression, and phobias).
While doctors seem to think increasing prescriptions is the answer to this problem, CBD has exploded as an effective and non-addictive alternative for managing anxiety.
What is CBD?
Classified as a phytocannabinoid, Cannabidiol (CBD) is a natural compound produced in the sticky resin of the Cannabis plant.
CBD can be extracted from Cannabis and used in a variety of products such as oil tinctures, edibles, e-liquids, and topicals.
Unlike other phytocannabinoids like Tetrahydrocannabinol (THC), CBD is completely non-intoxicating. This allows CBD to deliver the therapeutic properties of the Cannabis plant, without inducing the mind-altering effects associated with “getting high.”
When extracted from Hemp (a classification of Cannabis that contains a very low amount of THC and is grown primarily for industrial purposes), CBD is legal to use in the United States, under the 2018 Farm Bill.
How CBD Oil Works for Anxiety
Within the body of all humans and nearly every animal, there is a physiological system known as the Endocannabinoid System (ECS).
The ECS contains a series of cannabinoid receptors, known as CB1 and CB2 receptors, that can be stimulated by cannabinoids like CBD and spreads throughout the body, in the: brain, organs, connective tissues, glands, and immune cells.
Collectively, the receptors in the ECS form an internal communication system that serves as an integral health function and helps regulate the body’s homeostasis (the balance and stability of the body’s internal environment, within and across numerous biological systems).
While anxiety can be caused from a variety of triggers, it will either be caused by an imbalance in the body or it will cause an imbalance in the body, both of which the ECS is designed biologically to moderate.
To give you a better understanding of how CBD oil works for anxiety, consider this example: You’re in a situation that you determine to be uncomfortable and obviously undesirable. In response, your brain activity adjusts accordingly. Depending on the intensity of your emotions towards this situation, your body releases an amount of cortisol — the hormone related to stress and fear.
Being in an undesirable situation, you naturally anticipate the situation to end. If your anticipation and discomfort are excessive or intense, you begin to feel anxious about the situation, as your body releases another boost of cortisol.
Unregulated, this can become a vicious cycle that quickly leads to severe mental disorders.
By interacting with the Endocannabinoid System, CBD can help regulate anxiety with the following mechanisms:
- CBD can directly activate the 5-HT1A serotonin receptor, a protein receptor involved in a range of biological and neurological processes, such as anxiety, addiction, appetite, sleep, pain perception, nausea, and vomiting. When activated the 5-HT1a receptor can activate other 5-HT receptors, leading to a cascading effect that directly moderates anxiety
- CBD moderates the stress signals by dampening the neural activity in stress circuits throughout the brain
- CBD can regulate the HPA axis, which governs the secretion of glucocorticoids, an important group of hormones responsible for moderating stress response.
The Benefits of CBD Oil for Anxiety
While the example above describes a broad example, anxiety can come in many forms. Fortunately, CBD may be able to help.
Based on the findings from numerous research studies, CBD has shown the potential to alleviate a variety of anxiety-related disorders, including:
- General anxiety disorder (GAD), a condition in which an individual regularly experiences symptoms of anxiety such as nervousness, stress, worry, and an increased heart rate. By influencing the 5-HT1A serotonin receptor, CBD has exhibited anti-anxiolytic properties and can help alleviate GAD and other mental disorders.
- Panic disorder (PD), a disabling psychiatric condition, in which an individual experiences a level of anxiety where they can become immobilized. CBD helps to combat PD in two ways: (1) CBD can alleviate symptoms of panic disorder by influencing the 5-HT1A serotonin receptor and (2) CBD can mitigate and prevent anxiety by modulating how the brain responds to stress.
- Social Anxiety Disorder is a type of anxiety triggered by social interactions and can have a negative impact on an individuals ability to socialize. While the trigger for SAD differs from other types of anxiety, CBD alleviates this form of anxiety similarily to other forms of anxiety — by influencing the serotonin receptor and moderating stress response. Findings from a 2011 study found symptoms of SAD were reduced with the use of CBD.
- Anxiety can also be caused by discomfort from health conditions, such as pain and inflammation. CBD is a powerful anti-inflammatory and antioxidative agent that has shown to help alleviate numerous types of pain, including neuropathic pain, muscular pain, and inflammatory pain. In addition, CBD help individuals manage pain by binding to the TRPV1 receptor, which moderates pain perception.
- Post Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD) is a condition that affects individuals who experienced a traumatizing event or situation, such as witnessing an act of violence.
Individuals suffering from PTSD can experience flashbacks, stress, anxiety, fear, mood swings, and other negative symptoms when triggered by an event that they associate with the traumatic experience.
Research has shown that CBD can help manage PTSD by alleviating the symptoms associated with PTSD and modulating how the brain responds to stressful situations that trigger the symptoms of PTSD.