How CBD Oil Can Help Relieve Anxiety
Our modern world is demanding. We live lives where we are constantly rushing around, being bombarded with stimuli from all sides, and between work, family, and friends downtime is rare. For most people this rush can be helpful, even exhilarating. But if not managed properly, our instinctual fight-or-flight responses can go into overdrive resulting in severe stress responses and even anxiety disorders.
Anxiety-related disorders are becoming increasingly common, with 1 in 6 people in the United Kingdom alone, reporting symptoms of anxiety and/or depression each week. The usual course of treatment often includes heavy duty antidepressants (e.g. duloxetine, venlafaxine and desvenlafaxine), selective serotonin reuptake inhibitors (SSRIs) (e.g. citalopram, fluoxetine, and paroxetine) as well as tranquilizers (the most popular of these being benzodiazepines).
CBD for Anxiety
Although these medicines can be helpful for some, other people may experience serious side effects that can include things relatively minor things such as headaches, dry mouth and an upset stomach, to more serious issues such as sexual problems, weight gain and insomnia. Ironically, antidepressants can also lead to further feelings of anxiety, and even suicidal ideation or suicide itself.
No wonder then that there is an increasing number of people who are looking for effective, yet milder, more natural treatments. One of these that have been gaining momentum is cannabidiol (CBD). The reason for this is that there is mounting evidence showing that CBD has powerful anti-anxiety (anxiolytic) effects. From a review of several experimental, clinical and epidemiological studies on both animals and humans, the evidence suggests that, when CBD is administered as needed, it appears to be effective, safe, and well-tolerated. More importantly, it does not come with the side-effects and the risk of addiction that many other pharmaceutical treatments come with.
How CBD works as Anxiolytic
The endocannabinoid systems (ECS) plays several roles within the body (read more about it here), including the mediation and modulation of brain activity and neurotransmitter release. CBD can influence and modulate several processes within the ECS, while at the same time exerting a variety of actions in the brain itself.
CBD boosts Serotonin Signalling
As the name suggest, SSRI’s target the serotonin system by blocking the reabsorption of serotonin in the brain while helping to stimulate neural plasticity (the latter of which is thought to play a role in suicidal behaviours). And although the exact mechanism or biological basis is not fully understood, the theory is that by SSRI’s blocking serotonin reuptake, in doing so, it increases the availability of serotonin in the synaptic space. This helps the brain cells to transmit more serotonin signals, and in turn can boost mood, and relieve feelings of anxiety and depression.
Similar to SSRIs, CBD may boost signalling through serotonin receptors. 5-HT1A is a subtype of the serotonin receptor, which is one of the targets of SSRI’s and one particular Spanish study found that CBD enhances 5-HT1A transmission, affecting serotonin faster than SSRIs.
This fast onset of the combined anti-anxiety and anti-depressant actions of CBD holds the potential to solve some major limitations of current pharmaceutical therapies, making it an ideal alternative treatment of anxiety and depression.
CBD stimulates Hippocampal Neurogenesis
The hippocampus plays a critical role in a variety of brain functions. Most notably the hippocampus is involved with the regulation of the formation of memories, and cognitive functioning, but recently, has also been found to be involved with emotional regulation.
Researchers found that the brain scans of patients suffering from mood disorders such as anxiety and depression often present with smaller hippocampi, and that a potential treatment of clinical mood disorders may be to target neurogenesis (the production of new neural cells) in the hippocampus. In addition, there is also evidence that impaired neural plasticity may play a role in suicidal behaviour.
Interestingly, a recent animal study showed that the repeated administration of CBD my do just that - help the regeneration of neural cells by neural stem cells in the hippocampi of mice. Moreover, CBD, just like SSRI’s also promote neurogenesis, pointing to the possibility that both of these substances function in a similar way, while also explaining why CBD is so effective.
Although “mice are not men”, and there are limitations to generalisability of animal trials to humans, it could explain why CBD is such an effective anxiolytic - but without the side effects of pharmaceutical treatments.
CBD for Anxiety Disorders
Despite numerous CBD for anxiety studies focused on animal trials, it does not mean that evidence from human trials is limited.
In fact, a double-blind study of patients diagnosed with Generalised Anxiety Disorder (GAD) found that, after CBD administration, the participants reported a significant improvement in their symptomology and a decrease in feelings of anxiety. Brain scans revealed that cerebral blood flow patterns were consistent with what the researchers would expect to see with an anxiolytic effect, thus lending clinical support for the effects the participants reported.
Similarly, a Social Anxiety Disorder (SAD) study showed similar results. The study consisted of 24 never-before-treated patients who were instructed to perform a simulated public speaking test. Results indicated that both subjective participant reports, as well as objective physiological indicators of anxiety (e.g. heart rate and blood pressure) were significantly reduced after consuming a single 600 mg dose of CBD. The researchers concluded that, in comparison to the placebo group, participants which were given CBD, experienced a significant reduction in anxiety, cognitive impairment, and discomfort during the performance of their public speaking test.
In addition to general anxiety some other anxiety disorders that CBD has been found to be an effective treatment for include:
- Panic Disorder (PD)
- Obsessive Compulsive Disorder (OCD)
- Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD)
- Mild to moderate Depression
Increasingly, research and clinical evidence is starting to demonstrate conclusively that CBD is highly effective in reducing a wide variety of symptoms associated with anxiety disorders which include disorders such as PTSD, OCD, GAD, SAD and PD. In addition, both animal and human trials show that the anxiolytic effects of CBD not only aids in reducing anxiety behaviours, but that it also does this without the usual side-effects (e.g. sedation) that is normally associated with pharmaceutical interventions. As such, CBD is an effective and safe alternative to medications such as SSRI’s and sedatives.