I Took CBD Oil Every Day for My Anxiety—Here's What Went Down
When I first learned about CBD oil, I'll admit I was a bit skeptical. My mind immediately turned to weed and the unnerving experiences I'd had with heightened anxiety in college. For me, a person who's already predisposed to overthinking, marijuana, no matter what the form, would typically put my mind into overdrive and result in a common yet dreaded side effect: Paranoia. But, let's back up a bit. What even is CBD?
What is CBD?
A bit of online digging led me to realize that the active ingredient in Charlotte’s Web Everyday Plus Hemp Oil, the product I’d been offered to test, was the chemical compound CBD, which stands for cannabidiol. Unlike THC, the other crucial compound in hemp and marijuana plants, CBD (when derived from the hemp plant) does not produce the psychoactive effects that make you feel “high”; instead, emerging science has hinted that CBD may actually ease anxiety, and therefore, makes you less likely to freak out.
For example, one study comparing the effects of THC and CBD found that, while THC increased anxiety by activating the neurotransmitters involved in the "fight or flight" response, CBD actually repressed autonomic arousal—or the nervous system response associated with sudden increases in heart rate or respiration. In other words, CBD may be ideal for people looking to relax and unwind.
While the science behind CBD’s effectiveness for treating anxiety, pain, and insomnia is still in its infancy, Charlotte Figi’s inspiring story sounds promising. Figi, a 6-year-old girl diagnosed with a rare and resistant form of epilepsy known as Dravet syndrome, was placed on hospice care and given a “do not resuscitate” order when her parents, desperate and frustrated with pharmaceutical medication, considered medical marijuana; specifically, a strain low in THC and high in CBD. Charlotte is now nearly seizure-free since she began supplementing with Charlotte Web’s CBD oil, which the brand named after Figi.
Legal and Safety Things To Know About CBD
The current CBD industry is like the internet’s early years. the Wild West. Legally, speaking, a Harvard Medical School blog post reads, “All 50 states have laws legalizing CBD with varying degrees of restriction, and while the federal government still considers CBD in the same class as marijuana, it doesn’t habitually enforce against it.” With heightened interest around CBD, it’s important to note that because CBD is currently unregulated, it’s difficult to know what you’re getting (whether that’s a tincture—commonly referred to as CBD oil, which is often combined with a carrier oil like coconut oil—topical products like creams and balms, sprays, or capsules), despite product labels and brand promises, the blog post further reads. It’s also important to note that people experience CBD differently. For the most part, the National Institute of Medicine says that while most people can tolerate CBD, side effects do exist. They might include dry mouth, drowsiness, and reduced appetite, among others.
That said, those interested in exploring the potential benefits of CBD should consult with their doctor (especially if you are pregnant, nursing, or currently taking medication) and be mindful of your dosage, writes Consumer Reports. And before you buy, Megan Villa, co-founder of the hemp-focused website and shop Svn Space, told Shape magazine to seek out a certificate of analysis. “Ask for a COA for the batch number of the product you have, since these products are made in batches,” she said. “You need to match the batch number to the COA that pertains to it.” Then, scan the report for potency (i.e. does the number of milligrams of CBD that the product label touts match the lab report?), contaminants and pesticides, and mold (which should live under the “Microbiological Testing” part of the report). Go a step further and note whether the testing lab is GMP (Good Manufacturing Principles) certified, and whether the lab is registered with the Food and Drug Administration (FDA). Shape magazine also suggests purchasing CBD products made from domestically-grown hemp, and reading up on the difference between full- and broad-spectrum and CBD isolate.
With that, I threw caution to the wind and asked for a sample. Here's what happened—including what it feels like—when I took one full dropper of Charlotte's Web's Everyday Plus Hemp Oil in the mint chocolate flavor every morning for seven days.
My First Impression
It was actually a bad bout of jet lag after a trip to California that inspired me to finally test out the CBD oil (I’ll admit that my weed-based reservations kept me from trying it for the first few months). Knowing that the oil had also helped people with sleep issues, I squeezed one full dropper of the Everyday Plus oil onto my tongue, per the instructions, and waited.
Thirty minutes later, I was surprised by how subtle the effect was. While I expected a hazy nodding-off effect similar to melatonin’s, the oil simply relaxed my body ever so slightly—my heart stopped pounding against my chest, my legs stopped kicking beneath my sheets, my mind stopped racing. I wasn’t sure if it was the oil or the late hour, but eventually, physical relaxation gave way to mental relaxation, and I drifted off to sleep.
Reflecting the next morning, I was most surprised by the fact that I never felt “high” in any way—there was never a moment of It’s kicking in; I can feel it now like with pain medications or even anti-anxiety drugs. Considering it takes time, consistency, and the right dosage to experience the full effect, I continued taking the oil once a day for the next six days. Here’s what went down.
It Made Me Less Anxious and Edgy
Rather than overthinking a sternly worded email or analyzing a social interaction, I found it easier to recognize the irrationality of these thoughts and actually let them go.
While normally I'd be slightly tripped up by little things like an overly crowded subway car or a full inbox at work, the CBD oil seems to have taken the edge off of my anxiety a bit. Rather than overthinking a sternly worded email or analyzing a social interaction, I found it easier to recognize the irrationality of these thoughts and actually let them go. In some ways, I feel more like myself. With that said, I've still experienced some social anxiety when meeting new groups of people—I'd be interested to see what taking the full recommended dose would do.
I’m More Focused At Work
I work well under pressure, but being extremely busy at work has almost made me less productive—I'm constantly distracted by email, Slack, and the people around me, to the point where getting my work done becomes difficult. This week, however, I've found it easier to put my blinders on, block out all distractions (especially social distractions), and focus on one task at a time. I think this is partly related to the lessened anxiety—I feel more frazzled and off task when my anxiety is running high. It almost feels like a newfound sense of clarity and calm that enables me to focus.
I’m Falling Asleep Faster
I assume this is also a side effect of feeling less anxious, but I seem to fall asleep faster; within the 20-30-minute range rather than my normal 45 minutes to one hour (or longer). Not only do I seem to be skipping or at least shortening the whole tossing-and-turning phase of my sleep cycle, but I'm able to snap out of the overthinking that often keeps me up at night. Of course, there's no telling whether a big life event would disrupt this newfound bliss, but I'd like to think it's helped on a day-to-day basis.
My Experience With CBD
Would I say that CBD oil has fundamentally changed my life? No. But per the Charlotte's Web website, this is the typical first experience. "Anyone who has ever started a new vitamin or supplement routine knows the short answer to how long it takes to kick in is—'it depends.' For many newcomers, they're not sure what to imagine, or some anticipate a huge change right away. For most of us, though, dietary supplements take time."
With that said, I’m definitely intrigued enough by the subtle effects to continue taking the oil and to possibly up the dosage to the recommended two full droppers of the 30mL bottle per day. Plus, I take comfort in knowing that it’s an all-natural product that’s responsibly grown on family farms in Colorado. Something that’s safe, legal, requires no prescription, and makes me less anxious, less scatterbrained, and more focused? I’m definitely on board.
Explore the World of CBD
Looking to learn more about CBD? These are some of my favorite products to help get you started.
For those new to CBD, Charlotte's Web recommends this hemp oil. Containing 17mg of CBD per 1mL serving, this CBD oil is also U.S. Hemp Authority Certified. Choose from four different flavors including Lemon Twist, Mint Chocolate, Orange Blossom, and Olive Oil.
Go deep on the subject of CBD with this book that includes case studies, interviews with doctors, an overview of the latest cannabis research, and how scientists are exploring cannabis for various medical uses. There is also an explainer about the difference between CBD products made from industrial hemp versus in a lab, and products made from the whole marijuana plant.
Charlotte's Web inaugural CBD oil product comes in two flavors; Olive Oil and Mint Chocolate. It's also its most potent. According to its website, its Original Formula Hemp Extract Oil comes with 50mg CBD per mL.
Gretchen Lidicker puts a lifestyle spin on the world of CBD as the author draws on the "knowledge of leaders in the health and wellness world" to explain why CBD has become a top beauty and wellness trend for top athletes and celebrities. The book also includes recipes and recommendations for how to choose a top-quality CBD product.
This travel-friendly roll-on is packed with CBD and fragrant essential oils, including lavender, bergamot, and chamomile, for an easy de-stress quick fix. The result? "That elusive feeling of wakeful calm," reads the Sagely Naturals website.
With this book, CBD is explained from A to Z and breaks down the good, bad, and ugly of a fledgling industry that is poised for rapid growth. CBD: 101 Things You Need to Know About CBD Oil covers what it is, why people take it, who it's for (and who it isn't for), its myriad forms, and more.
Lord Jones' High CBD Formula Body Oil combines CBD with organic avocado, jojoba and safflower oils for smooth, hydrated skin. Each bottle has 100mg of CBD.
Charlotte's Web's Extra Strength Capsules feature 25 mg of CBD per capsule. The website offers capsules as a convenient and precise way to take CBD—on the go, stash them in your gym bag, pocket, etc.
CBD Oil Has Helped My Anxiety More Than Any Other Wellness Trend
In the June 2015 issue of National Geographic, there is an article titled “Science Seeks to Unlock Marijuana Secrets” accompanied by a photo of a little girl sitting on the floor in a frilly pink romper, opening her mouth like a baby bird as her mother gently titrates a small drop of liquid underneath her tongue.
The liquid is cannabidiol (CBD), a non-psychoactive substance found in marijuana. The little girl is Lily Rowland, a seizure patient who suffered hundreds of episodes daily until she started taking CBD. Once she did, her seizures practically vanished.
CBD is one of the two major molecules in marijuana; the other is tetrahydrocannabinol, or THC. Unlike THC, CBD will not get you high but it does have numerous therapeutic properties. According to dozens of studies, it has been known to treat epilepsy, relieve anxiety, reduce symptoms of schizophrenia, act as an anti-inflammatory and even slow certain types of cancer.
It is, in short, a pretty miraculous substance. It also happens to be easy to obtain: CBD derived from hemp, a type of cannabis largely devoid of THC, is legal to distribute nationally, which is how I found myself in possession of a box of Lord Jones All Natural Old Fashioned High CBD Gumdrops, a bottle of Charlotte’s Web Hemp Extract Oil, a bottle of Plant Alchemy Organic Concentrated CBD Oil and an anxious conviction that I should try alleviating my anxiety by using all this stuff.
I’ve struggled with anxiety for as long as I can remember but it’s gotten noticeably worse in the past two years. There are a number of factors to which I could contribute the uptick: I’m in my mid-twenties and therefore struggling with typical quarter life crisis-related insecurities; I live in New York City, which isn’t known for coddling the mental health of its inhabitants; and I work in media, an industry that consumes and thrills in equal measure.
On top of these very plausible considerations, though, I’ve been wondering whether the increasingly prevalent — not to mention lucrative — state of the wellness-industrial complex has played an ironically negative role in the evolution of my wellbeing. Living as an anxious person in the age of Wellness with a capital “W” is unsettling. It’s unsettling to be told that reducing the discomfort of being a person in the world could be as simple as sprinkling a packet of health dust into my morning smoothie. It’s unsettling to read multiple first-hand accounts proclaiming that a gluten-free diet is the key to better skin, tighter abdominal muscles and a clearer mind. It’s unsettling to be steadily seduced by the mythology that “feeling better” by way of a quick fix is not only possible, but common. Above all, it’s unsettling to slap on one of these wellness Band-Aids with the expectation of seeing life-changing results, and still ultimately feel exactly the same.
I’ve come to approach wellness fads with a strange mixture of cynicism and hope: cynicism because I’ve personally lifted the curtain on so many trends only to discover they’ve been standing on air instead of legs; and hope because the trending power of easy relief is too magnificent to ignore. As I opened the box of Lord Jones All Natural Old Fashioned High CBD Gumdrops and placed one in my mouth one night after work, I tasted hope, cynicism and essence of raspberry.
I waited for the gumdrop to dissolve and felt… nothing. I waited a bit more and felt… nothing! Hmm. I considered what I thought taking CBD would feel like. Maybe like a more subtle version of getting high, even though I know CBD isn’t psychoactive. Maybe like drinking a sip of whiskey — a warm blanket unfolding inside my chest. Maybe like taking NyQuil — drowsiness-inducing. I felt none of these things. Eventually I gave up and went to bed.
Each Lord Jones All Natural Old Fashioned High CBD Gumdrop contains 20 mg of CBD, so the next day I did some research to try to determine the efficacy of this amount for treating anxiety. According to Dr. Nick Jikomes, a neuroscientist turned cannabis industry data scientist, finding the correct dosage really depends on the condition you’re trying to treat: “If you’re using CBD for anxiety, there may be that sweet spot, a middle dosage, that has the best effect, and it can become less effective if you increase the dose,” he told Leafly (the “world’s largest cannabis information resource“).
Overall, there is a startling dearth of information online when it comes to exact CBD dosing recommendations, but I found this POPSUGAR primer (featuring expert input from Dr. Michelle Weiner, a pain management specialist; Dr. Sunil Aggarwal, a practitioner at SageMD; and Dr. Jordan Tishler, president of both InhaleMD and the Association of Cannabis Specialists) to be one of the most helpful resources on the topic. Dr. Weiner echoes Dr. Jikomes’ assertion that there is usually a “sweet spot” dosage for each person depending on factors such as weight, biological makeup and specific symptoms. However, Dr. Tishler describes “reasonable and feasible doses” of CBD at around “10-40 milligrams per day” while also going on to cite anti-anxiety studies that indicate positive results when participants take between 800-1,200 milligrams of CBD per day.
In other words: The territory is murky and trial-and-error is not only accepted but encouraged.
Because I’m impatient, I decided to double my dose of CBD the next time I tried it, this time via a dropper full of mint chocolate-flavored Charlotte’s Web Hemp Extract Advanced (43 mg of CBD per 0.5 mL serving) administered under my tongue after a particularly stressful day. Whoosh. I definitely felt… something. Almost immediately. A bodily sensation that was pleasant but not overwhelming, like immersing myself in a hot bath. It evaporated a few seconds later but in its place there remained a faint sense of calm, so subtle I only noticed because I was looking for it, as if someone had asked the hamster that likes to run inexhaustible circles inside my head to slowwwwwww down. It was nice.
I experimented with different doses of CBD over the course of about a month, ultimately settling on 40-45 mg as my personal “sweet spot.” I also experimented with dosing at different times of day (though it doesn’t make me drowsy, I decided I prefer taking it in the evening) and in the midst of different mental states. I found that if I’m super anxious for a specific reason and my hamster wheel is already spinning out of control, CBD doesn’t help much — it’s just a drop in the bucket (pun intended) at that point. Where it does help is when I’m experiencing low-grade, general anxiety, in which case CBD relaxes me just enough to make an appreciable difference, as if I’ve treated my brain to a 10-minute nail salon massage. In terms of combating insomnia, CBD definitely doesn’t put me to sleep (like, at all), but it does lessen the churn of anxious feelings and thoughts that frequently keep me from falling asleep in the first place.
A word on price: Good CBD is expensive. I say “good” because in addition to the fact that 50 pounds of marijuana only produce one kilo of CBD, the industry is still largely unregulated, which means quality can really vary. I did a good bit of investigating, both online and by asking around, before settling on the three brands of CBD I wanted to try. All of them were kind enough to send me samples to test out for the purposes of this story, but given that the individual products clock in at $45 (for nine Lord Jones gumdrops), $149.00 (for 30 mL of Charlotte’s Web’s highest concentration hemp oil) and $150.00 (for 15 mL of The Alchemist’s Kitchen’s lowest concentration CBD oil), they qualify more as a luxury item than an affordable treatment.
That being said, oh boy have they helped. I’ve been taking CBD once a day for about five weeks now and once I officially observed its impact on my anxiety, I haven’t shut up about it. I reached peak evangelist status over the weekend when a friend came over to my apartment complaining of a stress-induced stomachache and I insisted she take two Lord Jones gumdrops on the spot. Despite the cost, I plan to continue purchasing CBD on my own once my free samples run out. I consider it an investment in my mental health.
My initial impulse to lump CBD with wellness gimmicks and transient health fads was rooted in my own lack of knowledge. Even though the “mainstreaming” of cannabis is a recent phenomenon, ancient cultures grew the plant for herbal medicine as far back as 500 BC, long before jade eggs and juice cleanses existed. Now I’m happy to ground CBD in a new, more thoughtful context that encompasses its history as well as its future.
Do you take CBD? If so, what do you take it for? Let’s discuss.
If you’re interested in reading more about the mainstreaming of cannabis, check out this piece by Otegha Uwagba, “Weed Is Trending, But For Whom.”
CBD Products We Love for Better Sleep, Managing Travel Stress, and More
By now, most of us have a CBD product or two in our dopp kit (or have been curious to give them a try). After all, these cannabis plant-derived concoctions are touted as helping with sleep, anxiety, and aches and pains—issues that frequent travelers know a thing or two about.
But CBD can be hard to navigate. Many people don't totally understand what it is, legality varies by state, and, quite frankly, it's hard to figure out which products are actually worth your money. The shortest answers to the above? It's one of many active compounds found in the cannabis plant (but not the part that gets you high, that's THC); it's legal on a federal level, which means that the TSA will let you fly with it, though states can set their own rules and restrictions on the ground; and, well, we've rounded up our favorite CBD products right here.
Read on for our favorite bedtime teas, soothing creams, ingestible oils, and more—whether you need to fight jet lag, fight travel anxiety, or soothe aches and pains on the go.
All products featured on Condé Nast Traveler are independently selected by our editors. However, when you buy something through our retail links, we may earn an affiliate commission.