DOES THE THOUGHT OF CBD FOR ANXIETY MAKE YOU MORE ANXIOUS? HERE’S WHY IT SHOULDN’T.
Over 40 million adults in the US have an anxiety disorder, with more women than men being affected. Anxiety disorders can include generalized anxiety disorder panic disorder, obsessive-compulsive disorder, social anxiety disorder, phobias, and post-traumatic stress disorder (1).
Research has shown CBD helps anxiety
It’s possible to reduce anxiety with pharmaceuticals but for those who have walked away from pharmaceuticals because of their limited effectiveness, side effects, or cost, CBD provides a good option. “Preclinical studies have shown that the non-psychotropic phytocannabinoid cannabidiol (CBD) and the endocannabinoid anandamide (part of CBD) have acute anti-anxiety effects and also regulate learned fear by dampening its expression, enhancing its extinction and disrupting its reconsolidation.” (2)
How CBD affects your endocannabinoid system
The endocannabinoid system (ECS) is a communication system in the body that regulates virtually every function in the body including immune response, mood, appetite and metabolism, communication between cells, memory, etc. Amazingly, this system was only discovered in the 90s.
Research shows that CBD interacts with several endocannabinoid receptors in your body known to regulate fear and anxiety-related behaviors, including the serotonin 5-HT1A receptor, and the CB1 and CB2 receptors which are found throughout our brain and body, in our endocannabinoid system (4). CBD is able to reduce anxiety because of its ability to breakdown enzymes (FAAH and MAGL) in the synaptic gaps directly inhibiting the reuptake of our body’s natural endocannabinoids, 2-arachidonoylglycerol (2-AG) and anandamide, also known as the “bliss molecule”. Without CBD, in the synaptic gap, the FAAH enzyme can degrade anandamide and the MAGL enzyme can degrade 2-AG at a faster rate (2 & 5). With CBD use, this allows anandamide and 2-AG to hang out longer in our synaptic gaps, helping us to maintain an elevated mood, reducing our anxiety.
Since everyone’s endocannabinoid system has different concentrations of anandamide and 2-AG–our naturally occurring endocannabinoids–too little CBD can be ineffective, and too much can increase anxious feelings (2). In addition, different strains of CBD and their plant profile, affect us all differently. CBD that works for your friend’s anxiety, may not work for you.
There are a number of variables when working with CBD to improve health, and documenting the brand, strain, delivery method, dose, are all important components to assessing what works best to reduce your anxiety. It is always important to start with a low dose of CBD, noting any decrease or increase in anxiety and adjust the dose accordingly.
As always, consult with your healthcare provider when using CBD especially if you are taking other supplements or prescriptions drugs as there could be contraindications. CBD or hemp is not a “miracle drug”, it is a plant that has health benefits and as more clinical trials take place we will continue to increase our understanding of this plant and its application to support health and well-being.
Janna Champagne, RN
1. Bandelow, B., & Michaelis, S., (2015). Epidemiology of anxiety disorders in the 21st century. Dialogues in Clinical Neuroscience, 17(3), 327-335. Retrieved from
2. Papagianni, E., & Stevenson, C., (2019). Cannabinoid regulation of fear and anxiety: An update. Current Psychiatry Reports, 21(6): 38. https://doi.org/10.1007/s11920-019-1026-z
3. Blessing, E., Steenkamp, M., Manzanares, J., & Marmar, C., (2015). Cannabidiol as a potential treatment for anxiety disorders. Neurotherapeutics, 12(4), 825-836. Retrieved from https://dx.doi.org/10.1007/s13311-015-0387-1
4. Scherma, M., Masia, P., Satta, V., Fratta, W., Fadda, P., & Gianluigi, T, (2018). Brain activity of anandamide: A rewarding bliss? Acts Pharmacolgica Sinica, 40, 309-323. https://doi.org/10.1038/s41401-018-0075-x
5. Mackie, K., (2008). Cannabinoid receptors: Where they are and what they do. Journal of Neuroendocrinology, 20(1). https://doi.org/10.1111/j.1365-2826.2008.01671.x