where to apply cbd oil for anxiety

How to Take CBD Oil for Anxiety

This article was co-authored by Liana Georgoulis, PsyD and by wikiHow staff writer, Megaera Lorenz, PhD. Dr. Liana Georgoulis is a Licensed Clinical Psychologist with over 10 years of experience, and is now the Clinical Director at Coast Psychological Services in Los Angeles, California. She received her Doctor of Psychology from Pepperdine University in 2009. Her practice provides cognitive behavioral therapy and other evidence-based therapies for adolescents, adults, and couples.

There are 13 references cited in this article, which can be found at the bottom of the page.

This article has been viewed 6,323 times.

Cannabidiol, or CBD oil, is a natural oil found in marijuana and a related plant called hemp. Unlike THC, another oil found in the marijuana plant, CBD won’t make you high. However, there’s some evidence that it may help relieve anxiety. Research on CBD as a treatment for anxiety is still in its early stages, so talk to your doctor about the possible risks and benefits of using it. [1] X Research source Since most CBD products aren’t regulated by the FDA, make sure to buy a product that’s been third party tested for purity and safety. To get the most out of your CBD oil, try using it in combination with other anxiety treatments, like psychotherapy and stress-relieving exercises.

  • Do a search using terms like “licensed CBD dispensary near me.”

Warning: Don’t buy from a dispensary that refuses to share information about how their products were tested. [3] X Trustworthy Source Consumer Reports Nonprofit organization dedicated to consumer advocacy and product testing Go to source

  • You can find information about accredited third-party testing labs by visiting the ANSI National Accreditation Board’s search database and searching for “cannabidiol” or “CBD”: http://search.anab.org/.
  • When purchasing a product, ask to see its certificate of analysis (COA). The COA will provide information about test results, including how much CBD and THC (if any) the product contains and whether there are any contaminants present. [5] X Trustworthy Source Consumer Reports Nonprofit organization dedicated to consumer advocacy and product testing Go to source
  • Use caution with products that specify the quantity of “cannabinoids” they contain rather than CBD specifically. These products might also include other compounds, such as THC.
  • For example, you could do a search using terms like “Is CBD oil legal in Illinois?”
  • Tell your doctor about any other medications or supplements you’re currently taking, since they may interact with CBD oil. For example, CBD oil can interfere with the effectiveness of some blood thinners.
  • Talk to your doctor before trying CBD oil if you are pregnant or breastfeeding. The possible effects of CBD oil on the developing fetus and baby are still poorly understood. [11] X Trustworthy Source Consumer Reports Nonprofit organization dedicated to consumer advocacy and product testing Go to source

Did you know? Currently, the only FDA-approved medication that contains CBD oil is Epidiolex, which is used to treat some forms of epilepsy. [9] X Research source While the FDA does not approve Epidiolex for any other uses, your doctor may be able to prescribe it off-label for other conditions, like anxiety. [10] X Research source

How to Use CBD Oil for Anxiety: What Science Can Tell us About Effects and Dosages

Today, you’re going to learn everything about using CBD oil for anxiety.

We reviewed over 50 scientific articles that looked at:

  • The potential benefits and effects of CBD, including for anxiety;
  • The mechanisms of action that give CBD its anti-anxiety properties, and;
  • What doses of CBD were found effective in different studies for anxiety relief.

The results we found are a MUST-read for anyone interested to explore the potential benefits of CBD oil for anxiety relief.

You’re going to learn exactly what type of CBD oil has the most potential to have beneficial effects on anxiety.

What you need to do to maximize CBD oil’s potential for anxiety relief.

If you’re looking for a CBD oil to test if it will promote feelings of peace and calmness, check out our list of best CBD oils for anxiety relief.

Summary of Main Points
  • Although CBD oil may reduce anxiety, it’s not a cure for anxiety;
  • CBD may reduce anxiety through interacting with serotonin receptors;
  • CBD may reduce anxiety by interfering with fear-related memories;
  • CBD has been shown to reduce anxiety in public speaking tests ;
  • CBD has been shown to reduce anxiety in people suffering from social anxiety disorder (SAD);
  • Multiple studies found a CBD dosage of 300mg to be effective for reducing anxiety;
  • Various studies indicate that the best way to use CBD for anxiety is by using it in the form of a full-spectrum hemp-extract;
  • When using a full-spectrum CBD oil, you might need a much lower dosage to experience CBD’s anxiety-reducing effects;

How Might CBD Reduce Anxiety? (Review of Studies)

CBD stands for cannabidiol. CBD is part of a group of compounds called cannabinoids. Cannabinoids are a specific type of compound that can only be found in the cannabis Sativa plant species (both in hemp and marijuana varieties).

In the past decades, research has shown that several cannabinoids can have powerful pharmacological effects on the human brain and nervous system.

One of these cannabinoids that have been researched extensively in the past decades is cannabidiol or ‘CBD’.

CBD is associated with various health benefits, among them a benefit pertaining to anxiety relief.

Below we will review different studies that looked at the effects of CBD on anxiety and an explanation of the different mechanisms at play that could explain why CBD is associated with anti-anxiety effects.

Receptors in the brain

CBD Reduces Anxiety through Acting on Serotonin Receptors

CBD has been shown to act as an agonist of the 5-HT1a receptor (a serotonin-subtype receptor) (1). In pharmacology, the term ‘agonist’ means ‘activator’. What this means is that CBD activates the 5-HT1a receptor.

There’s scientific research showing that activation of the 5-HT1a receptor can have positive effects on mental and physical health:

  • Anxiolytic (anxiety decreasing) effects (2);
  • Prosocial effects (3);
  • Decreased aggression (4);
  • Decreased impulsivity (5);
  • Analgesic (painkilling) effects (6).

By activating 5-HT1a receptor-levels, CBD can increase the activity and presence of serotonin neurotransmitters in the brain, which in turn, is associated with the positive effects mentioned above.

Traditional anti-anxiety medication, SSRIs like Prozac and Zoloft increase extracellular 5-HT levels over time (7) and have been shown effective in treating depression and anxiety (8). But they come with countless (9, 10, 11).

CBD, on the other hand, has a much better side-effect profile than SSRIs like Prozac and Zoloft (12). Even at high doses used chronically, side effects of CBD are relatively mild.

Further studies should show whether CBD can indeed be as effective as SSRIs.

CBD Might Interfere with Fear-Based Response and Adaptations

Cannabis is gaining ground in the psychiatric community towards the treatment of Post Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD), partially because of CBD (13).

When you introduce CBD into the nervous system, it’s shown to alter the human “normal fear-extinction” response.

CBD interrupts signals in the amygdala-hippocampal-cortico-striatal circuit (14), which is the primary brain function that coordinates fear-related memories and brings one’s body to respond to fear-related behaviors.

By interrupting these signals CBD could help alter conditioned and ingrained fear-responses in your brain, body and nervous system. Further research should point out whether this really is the case.

CBD Might Regenerate Anxiety-Caused Loss of Brain Cells Through Neuro-genesis

CBD may provide the brain with what it needs to repair itself literally. Preliminary studies in mice looked at hippocampal neuroregeneration, which is a production and repair of the brain cells of the hippocampus.

One study published the International Journal of Neuropsychopharmacology showed that CBD “promotes progenitor proliferation and cell cycle progression and mimics the proliferative effect of CB1 and CB2 cannabinoid receptor activation” (15), meaning that cells in the hippocampus begin to repair themselves.

How does this relate to anxiety?

Researchers agree that mental disorders like depression and anxiety cause measurable changes in critical areas of the brain like the hippocampus (associated with memory) (16).

While mental disorders have the potential to interfere with healthy growth and maturation of your brain cells, CBD has the potential to regenerate brain cells. Further research should point out to what extent anxiety destroys brain cells and to what extent CBD can re-generate those exact brain cells.

Review of Studies That Found Anti-Anxiety Effects Associated with CBD

Scientific studies looking specifically at the effects of CBD on anxiety in human anxiety patients are rare.

But there are a few.

Study 1: CBD Reduces Anxiety in Public Speaking Tests

Ever felt afraid of going out of your home into social situations?

Different studies that looked at the effects of CBD on social anxiety found positive effects related to CBD-use.

A 2011 study looked at the effects of CBD on anxiety related to public speaking situations (17). One group received CBD, with another group receiving a placebo. The group that was given CBD demonstrated:

  • Reduced anxiety;
  • Reduced cognitive impairment;
  • Reduced discomfort in their speech performance, and;
  • Significantly decreased alertness in their anticipatory speech.

While those who received a placebo:

presented higher anxiety, cognitive impairment, discomfort, and alert levels when compared with the control group.

But there are more studies.

Study 2: CBD Reduces Anxiety In Social Anxiety Disorder Patients Through Activity in Limbic and Paralimbic Brain Areas

Another 2011 study compared 2 groups of Social Anxiety Disorder patients on anxiety levels (18). The first group was given an oral dose of CBD, while the second group was given a placebo. The researchers found that the group that was given CBD experienced a significant decrease in anxiety levels.

See also  can a dr fire you for using cbd oil

The researchers note different mechanisms that might make CBD a useful agent for social anxiety relief:

  1. The first mechanism is related to CBD’s potential to activate 5-HT1a receptors and increase serotonin neurotransmitters (activity) in the brain;
  2. The second mechanism is thought to be related to CBD’s potential to disrupt forward intrinsic connectivity between the amygdala and the anterior cingulate.

This means researchers currently think that CBD targets different biochemical nervous/receptor systems that are related to anxiety, which might be part of the reason why the few studies that are done on the topic, found good results with it.

The bottom line?

We can see that science supports CBD as a possible tool for anxiety relief (among countless other benefits), and is slowly starting to understand the exact mechanisms at play for this beneficial effect.

What’s the Best CBD Oil for Anxiety Relief?

The best CBD oil to explore CBD’s potential for anxiety relief is any CBD oil that contains a full spectrum of:

  • Cannabinoids, and;
  • Terpenes…

AND contains a full spectrum of cannabinoids and terpenes in more than just trace amounts .

Cannabinoids like CBD and terpenes are associated with countless health benefits. Plus, some researchers suggest that CBD works best in combination with other hemp-derived compounds like other cannabinoids and terpenes, through a process they call ‘the entourage effect’ (19).

A full spectrum or full-plant extract CBD oil makes the best case for the entourage effect.

For a current list of CBD oils that we recommend for exploring the potential benefits of CBD for anxiety relief, click the link below:

How to Use CBD Oil for Your Anxiety

There are many different CBD products that come with different potencies and ingredients.

There are also different ways you can ingest CBD.

But if you’re looking to reduce your anxiety, it’s crucial that you consume therapeutic amounts of CBD.

And there are only 3 ways to do precisely that:

  • Take CBD oil orally/sublingually;
  • Vape CBD vape oil, or;
  • Smoke/vape high-CBD strains;
Taking CBD Oil Orally/Sublingually

This is the easiest and most straightforward way to consume therapeutic amounts of CBD for your anxiety.

It’s also the most effective way because only among edible CBD oils will you ever find ‘full-spectrum CBD oils.’

Why does this matter?

As explained before:

Various studies suggest that CBD is more effective when taken together with THC and also when taken together with all other cannabinoids and terpenes found in hemp plants (20). Cannabinoids and terpenoids found in Hemp plants influence each other’s pharmacological effects (21).

In addition to CBD, full-spectrum CBD oils contain all the other beneficial compounds found in the Hemp plant (like THC and different terpenoids).

If you take CBD oil orally/sublingually, your oil will take some time before it starts to produce effects (can take 30 minutes). And it will take at least 2-hours before orally consumed CBD reaches its maximum effect. Between these 30 minutes and 2 hours, you can still experience anxiety-relieving effects, but keep in mind that it will take at least 2 hours before you experience the full anxiety-relieving effects of orally consumed CBD.

The effects of orally consumed CBD will last longer compared to smoking or vaping CBD products (2-5 hours for oral consumption vs 1-2 hours for vaping).

It’s essential when you take CBD orally, that you keep the drops of CBD oil under your tongue for at least 60 seconds and THEN swallow it. This way, a part of the CBD inside the oil will get directly absorbed into your bloodstream through the mucous membrane under your tongue. Otherwise, all of the CBD would first have to go through the gastrointestinal tract where it risks getting degraded. This method of consumption is called sublingual consumption.

Pro tip: Take your CBD oil after a meal with at least some fats, and together with a different edible oil like olive oil. Recent research has shown that CBD has a higher bio-availability when taken together with other dietary lipids (22), and is better absorbed by your body when taken on a full stomach than in a fasted state (23).

When using edible CBD oil, NEVER try to vape it. Edible CBD oils are not suited for vaping! Edible oils vaped over a longer period of time can cause lipid pneumonia (24).

Look here for the highest-quality CBD oils:

If you’re ready to use CBD oil for anxiety with the oral/sublingual method of consumption, go straight to my step-by-step recommendation.

Although the oral method is very effective, pulling out a tube and dropping drops of CBD oil under your tongue isn’t the most discreet method to consume CBD.

If you’re looking for a more discreet method, next up we have…

Vaping CBD Vape-Oil

When using CBD oil through a vaporizer, you will want to ensure that you use a CBD oil that is designated for vaping.

Again: edible CBD oils should NEVER be vaped!

How you recognize CBD vape oils is by making sure that the manufacturer clearly states that it is vape oil.

CBD vape oils usually contain:

  • Vegetable Glycerin (VG), and/or;
  • Propylene Glycol (PG).

Vaping CBD oil will have immediate effects, but the effects won’t last as long as when you would consume it orally/sublingually.

If you want to be discreet, this is the most discreet method to consume therapeutic amounts of CBD.

Vaping has become so widespread, and such a widely and socially accepted behavior, that anyone seeing you with a vaporizer should never associate it with CBD-use.

CBD vape oil also has no specific smell that makes it easy for anyone to recognize.

If you’re looking for a vaporizer to vape CBD vape oils, check out this article:

And if you’re looking for a high-quality CBD vape oil, check out this article:

  • The Best CBD Vape Oils

Dosing CBD Oil for Anxiety

First, understand that CBD oil is not a medicine and won’t cure your anxiety, all it can do is provide a sense of peace and calm.

There’s no strong scientific foundation to recommend a general effective CBD dose for anxiety. The effectiveness of a particular dose of CBD is dependent on a lot of factors like:

  • Method of consumption > different methods lead to a different bioavailability of CBD. Vaping CBD, for example, results in a higher bio-availability than oral consumption;
  • Type of CBD product > CBD is more potent when taken together with all the different compounds found in the Hemp plant, including all cannabinoids and terpenes. Therefore a full-spectrum CBD oil is more potent than CBD isolate for example.
  • Physical and biological characteristics of the individual like weight and metabolism.

There are however studies that found positive effects with the following doses:

  • A 10-year old girl with PTSD and childhood anxiety disorder found a positive effect with minimal side-effects with a dose of 12 mg to 25 mg of CBD oil and CBD spray through sublingual and oral administration daily (25);
  • A 2018 study that looked at the effects of CBD on anxiety levels of 57 healthy male subjects that did a public speaking test (26), found that 300mg of CBD isolate packed inside gelatin capsules significantly reduced anxiety levels. Important to note here is that the researchers found that 150mg of CBD and 600mg of CBD had no effect on experienced anxiety-levels.

As you can see, an effective dose of CBD found effective for reducing anxiety can range from 12mg to 300mg, depending on:

  • The method of consumption;
  • Type of CBD product, and
  • Individual differences in physical and biological characteristics like weight and metabolism.

Important here is that you experiment.

Here’s my recommended step-by-step-guide to using edible CBD oil for anxiety:
  1. Get a high-quality full-spectrum CBD oil (we highly recommend Receptra Naturals);
  2. Take your CBD oil within 2-hours after a meal that contains at least some healthy fats like olive oil;
  3. Drop a dose that equals 25mg of CBD under your tongue;
  4. Keep this dose under your tongue for 60 seconds;
  5. Swallow the dose of oil;
  6. Take a second dose at least 8-hours after you took your first dose. Taking CBD orally takes 2-4 hours before it reaches its maximum effect and then slowly the effects diminish;
  7. In case of no effects, slowly work your way up in 10mg increments until a maximum dose of 300mg of CBD.

Although realize that taking 300mg of CBD in the form of full-spectrum oil is going to cost you an arm and a leg. Luckily, there have been studies that showed full-plant extract CBD oil can be up to 4-times more potent than CBD isolate (which means you’ll need 4-times less CBD), for epilepsy patients. Further research should point out whether the same holds true for anxiety, but it could.

If you want our unofficial guideline on CBD oil dosages for other conditions as well, check out the article below:

  • CBD Oil Dosage Guidelines

What’s Next…

If you want to dive deeper into the science of CBD, we have several articles which explain in layman’s terms, the potential benefits of CBD in treating symptoms of conditions like:

  • Depression
  • Pain, or
  • Sleep disorders

You can find these benefits (backed by scientific research), here:

  • Potential Benefits of CBD Oil

If you’re looking for a CBD oil for your anxiety, it’s CRUCIAL that you get a CBD oil that’s 100% free of contaminants and contains therapeutic amounts of CBD. Check the article below to find the best CBD oils:

  • The Best CBD Oils

If you want our unofficial guideline on CBD oil dosages, check out the article below:

  • CBD Oil Dosage Guidelines
See also  cbd oil for muscle strain

If you’re interested in vaping CBD, check out our list of:

  • Best CBD Vape Oils

If you’re interested in a more convenient (but less potent) way to use CBD, check out our list of:

  • Best CBD Gummies

If you have pain issues and want to understand the biology and science behind using CBD oil for pain, the following article is for you:

  • CBD Oil for Pain

Lastly, if you want to share this CBD knowledge, click the links below OR if you want to connect with us, click the links below that to go to our Facebook or Instagram pages.

Scientific References:

Linge, R., Jiménez-Sánchez, L., Campa, L., Pilar-Cuéllar, F., Vidal, R., Pazos, A., . . . Díaz, L. (2016). Cannabidiol induces rapid-acting antidepressant-like effects and enhances cortical 5-HT/glutamate neurotransmission: role of 5-HT1A receptors. Neuropharmacology, 103, 16–26. https://doi.org/10.1016/j.neuropharm.2015.12.017

Dunn, R. W., Corbett, R., & Fielding, S. (1989). Effects of 5-HT1A receptor agonists and NMDA receptor antagonists in the social interaction test and the elevated plus maze. European Journal of Pharmacology, 169(1), 1–10. https://doi.org/10.1016/0014-2999(89)90811-x

Thompson, M., Callaghan, P., Hunt, G., Cornish, J., & McGregor, I. (2007). A role for oxytocin and 5-HT1A receptors in the prosocial effects of 3,4 methylenedioxymethamphetamine (“ecstasy”). Neuroscience, 146(2), 509–514. https://doi.org/10.1016/j.neuroscience.2007.02.032

de Boer, S. F., & Koolhaas, J. M. (2005). 5-HT1A and 5-HT1B receptor agonists and aggression: A pharmacological challenge of the serotonin deficiency hypothesis. European Journal of Pharmacology, 526(1–3), 125–139. https://doi.org/10.1016/j.ejphar.2005.09.065

Winstanley, C. A., Theobald, D. E. H., Dalley, J. W., & Robbins, T. W. (2005). Interactions between Serotonin and Dopamine in the Control of Impulsive Choice in Rats: Therapeutic Implications for Impulse Control Disorders. Neuropsychopharmacology, 30(4), 669–682. https://doi.org/10.1038/sj.npp.1300610

Bardin, L., Tarayre, J., Malfetes, N., Koek, W., & Colpaert, F. (2003). Profound, Non-Opioid Analgesia Produced by the High-Efficacy 5-HT1A Agonist F 13640 in the Formalin Model of Tonic Nociceptive Pain. Pharmacology, 67(4), 182–194. https://doi.org/10.1159/000068404

Smoller, J. W. (2009). Antidepressant Use and Risk of Incident Cardiovascular Morbidity and Mortality Among Postmenopausal Women in the Women’s Health Initiative Study. Archives of Internal Medicine, 169(22), 2128. https://doi.org/10.1001/archinternmed.2009.436

Gibbons, R. D., Brown, C. H., Hur, K., Marcus, S. M., Bhaumik, D. K., & Mann, J. J. (2007). Relationship Between Antidepressants and Suicide Attempts: An Analysis of the Veterans Health Administration Data Sets. American Journal of Psychiatry, 164(7), 1044–1049. https://doi.org/10.1176/ajp.2007.164.7.1044

Iffland, K., & Grotenhermen, F. (2017). An Update on Safety and Side Effects of Cannabidiol: A Review of Clinical Data and Relevant Animal Studies. Cannabis and Cannabinoid Research, 2(1), 139–154. https://doi.org/10.1089/can.2016.0034

Greer, G. R., Grob, C. S., & Halberstadt, A. L. (2014). PTSD Symptom Reports of Patients Evaluated for the New Mexico Medical Cannabis Program. Journal of Psychoactive Drugs, 46(1), 73–77. https://doi.org/10.1080/02791072.2013.873843

Neumeister, A. (2012). THE ENDOCANNABINOID SYSTEM PROVIDES AN AVENUE FOR EVIDENCE-BASED TREATMENT DEVELOPMENT FOR PTSD. Depression and Anxiety, 30(2), 93–96. https://doi.org/10.1002/da.22031

Campos, A. C., Ortega, Z., Palazuelos, J., Fogaça, M. V., Aguiar, D. C., Díaz-Alonso, J., . . . Guimarães, F. S. (2013). The anxiolytic effect of cannabidiol on chronically stressed mice depends on hippocampal neurogenesis: involvement of the endocannabinoid system. International Journal of Neuropsychopharmacology, 16(6), 1407–1419. https://doi.org/10.1017/s1461145712001502

Bergamaschi, M. M., Queiroz, R. H. C., Chagas, M. H. N., de Oliveira, D. C. G., de Martinis, B. S., Kapczinski, F., . . . Crippa, J. A. S. (2011). Cannabidiol Reduces the Anxiety Induced by Simulated Public Speaking in Treatment-Naïve Social Phobia Patients. Neuropsychopharmacology, 36(6), 1219–1226. https://doi.org/10.1038/npp.2011.6

Crippa, J. A. S., Derenusson, G. N., Ferrari, T. B., Wichert-Ana, L., Duran, F. L., Martin-Santos, R., . . . Hallak, J. E. C. (2010). Neural basis of anxiolytic effects of cannabidiol (CBD) in generalized social anxiety disorder: a preliminary report. Journal of Psychopharmacology, 25(1), 121–130. https://doi.org/10.1177/0269881110379283

McPartland, J. M., & Russo, E. B. (2001). Cannabis and Cannabis Extracts. Journal of Cannabis Therapeutics, 1(3–4), 103–132. https://doi.org/10.1300/j175v01n03_08

Russo, E., & Guy, G. W. (2006). A tale of two cannabinoids: The therapeutic rationale for combining tetrahydrocannabinol and cannabidiol. Medical Hypotheses, 66(2), 234–246. https://doi.org/10.1016/j.mehy.2005.08.026

Wilkinson, J. D., Whalley, B. J., Baker, D., Pryce, G., Constanti, A., Gibbons, S., & Williamson, E. M. (2003). Medicinal cannabis: is Δ9–tetrahydrocannabinol necessary for all its effects? Journal of Pharmacy and Pharmacology, 55(12), 1687–1694. https://doi.org/10.1211/0022357022304

Stott, C. G., White, L., Wright, S., Wilbraham, D., & Guy, G. W. (2012). A phase I study to assess the effect of food on the single dose bioavailability of the THC/CBD oromucosal spray. European Journal of Clinical Pharmacology, 69(4), 825–834. https://doi.org/10.1007/s00228-012-1393-4

Marchiori, E., Zanetti, G., Mano, C. M., & Hochhegger, B. (2011). Exogenous lipoid pneumonia. Clinical and radiological manifestations. Respiratory Medicine, 105(5), 659–666. https://doi.org/10.1016/j.rmed.2010.12.001

Shannon, S. (2016). Effectiveness of Cannabidiol Oil for Pediatric Anxiety and Insomnia as Part of Posttraumatic Stress Disorder: A Case Report. The Permanente Journal, 20(4). https://doi.org/10.7812/tpp/16-005

Linares, I. M., Zuardi, A. W., Pereira, L. C., Queiroz, R. H., Mechoulam, R., Guimarães, F. S., & Crippa, J. A. (2019). Cannabidiol presents an inverted U-shaped dose-response curve in a simulated public speaking test. Brazilian Journal of Psychiatry, 41(1), 9–14. https://doi.org/10.1590/1516-4446-2017-0015

Post last updated on: October 31, 2021

Winston Peki

Reviewing vaporizers, growing supplies, CBD products and scientific articles about cannabis, cannabinoids, and vaping since 2012. Read more about Winston here. LinkedIn

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Inside this article, you can find references to peer-reviewed scientific studies. The numbers in the parentheses (1, 2, …) are clickable links to these peer-reviewed scientific studies. In some cases, the link will give you direct access to the study, while in other cases if you want to read the full study, you either have to pay the publisher a fee or find a free version of the study elsewhere.

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Linge, R., Jiménez-Sánchez, L., Campa, L., Pilar-Cuéllar, F., Vidal, R., Pazos, A., . . . Díaz, L. (2016). Cannabidiol induces rapid-acting antidepressant-like effects and enhances cortical 5-HT/glutamate neurotransmission: role of 5-HT1A receptors. Neuropharmacology, 103, 16–26. https://doi.org/10.1016/j.neuropharm.2015.12.017

Dunn, R. W., Corbett, R., & Fielding, S. (1989). Effects of 5-HT1A receptor agonists and NMDA receptor antagonists in the social interaction test and the elevated plus maze. European Journal of Pharmacology, 169(1), 1–10. https://doi.org/10.1016/0014-2999(89)90811-x

Thompson, M., Callaghan, P., Hunt, G., Cornish, J., & McGregor, I. (2007). A role for oxytocin and 5-HT1A receptors in the prosocial effects of 3,4 methylenedioxymethamphetamine (“ecstasy”). Neuroscience, 146(2), 509–514. https://doi.org/10.1016/j.neuroscience.2007.02.032

de Boer, S. F., & Koolhaas, J. M. (2005). 5-HT1A and 5-HT1B receptor agonists and aggression: A pharmacological challenge of the serotonin deficiency hypothesis. European Journal of Pharmacology, 526(1–3), 125–139. https://doi.org/10.1016/j.ejphar.2005.09.065

Winstanley, C. A., Theobald, D. E. H., Dalley, J. W., & Robbins, T. W. (2005). Interactions between Serotonin and Dopamine in the Control of Impulsive Choice in Rats: Therapeutic Implications for Impulse Control Disorders. Neuropsychopharmacology, 30(4), 669–682. https://doi.org/10.1038/sj.npp.1300610

Bardin, L., Tarayre, J., Malfetes, N., Koek, W., & Colpaert, F. (2003). Profound, Non-Opioid Analgesia Produced by the High-Efficacy 5-HT1A Agonist F 13640 in the Formalin Model of Tonic Nociceptive Pain. Pharmacology, 67(4), 182–194. https://doi.org/10.1159/000068404

Celada, P., Puig, M., Amargós-Bosch, M., Adell, A., & Artigas, F. (2004). The therapeutic role of 5-HT1A and 5-HT2A receptors in depression. Journal of psychiatry & neuroscience : JPN , 29 (4), 252–265. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC446220/

InformedHealth.org [Internet]. Cologne, Germany: Institute for Quality and Efficiency in Health Care (IQWiG); 2006-. Depression: How effective are antidepressants? [Updated 2020 Jun 18]. Available from: https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/books/NBK361016/

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Smoller, J. W. (2009). Antidepressant Use and Risk of Incident Cardiovascular Morbidity and Mortality Among Postmenopausal Women in the Women’s Health Initiative Study. Archives of Internal Medicine, 169(22), 2128. https://doi.org/10.1001/archinternmed.2009.436

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How To Use CBD To Help Alleviate Anxiety

While delta-9-tetrahydrocannabinol (THC) can have a bad rap for being intoxicating and anxiety-inducing, cannabidiol (CBD) can actually be used to relieve anxiety. Research supports this benefit, with several studies reinforcing the positive effects CBD can have on various anxiety conditions.

CBD isn’t yet legally cleared as an anxiolytic, or anxiety relief medication. Therefore, it’s up to you—and, ideally, a doctor who specializes in cannabis administration—to determine whether CBD is a safe treatment for your anxiety.

Here’s what the science says regarding CBD’s anxiolytic properties, along with experts’ dosage guidelines and advice on how to take CBD safely.

CBD for Anxiety

The Food and Drug Administration (FDA) has yet to approve any CBD-based medications for anxiety. However, many studies indicate the substance can be an effective anxiolytic.

CBD for Generalized Anxiety

In 2011, a small trial-tested CBD on participants with generalized social anxiety disorder (SAD) and healthy control patients undergoing a simulated public speaking test (SPST), which is a common anxiety testing method [1] Bergamaschi MM, Queiroz RH, Chagas MH, et al. Cannabidiol reduces the anxiety induced by simulated public speaking in treatment-naïve social phobia patients. Neuropsychopharmacology. 2011;36(6):1219-1226. . Compared to a placebo, CBD significantly reduced anxiety and discomfort in the participants with SAD. In fact, their reduced anxiety levels were comparable to those of the control participants.

Eight years later, a 2019 test compared the efficacy of three CBD doses (150 milligrams, 300 milligrams and 600 milligrams) and a placebo in men taking an SPST [2] Linares IM, Zuardi AW, Pereira LC, et al. Cannabidiol presents an inverted U-shaped dose-response curve in a simulated public speaking test. Revista brasileira de psiquiatria (Sao Paulo, Brazil : 1999). 2019;41(1):9-14. . Compared to a placebo, 300 milligrams of CBD significantly reduced participants’ anxiety during the speech, but the 150-milligram and 600-milligram doses did not. These results highlight how dosage can be highly variable and that more CBD isn’t necessarily more effective.

Meanwhile, another 2019 study tested CBD in much lower doses than most other clinical studies—some participants consumed 25 milligrams a day while others consumed 50 milligrams or 75 milligrams a day [3] Shannon S, Lewis N, Lee H, Hughes S. Cannabidiol in Anxiety and Sleep: A Large Case Series. Perm J. 2019;23:18-041. . Researchers thought higher doses might be too expensive for participants to maintain in their normal lives and that low doses would still prove effective. Indeed, anxiety decreased within the first month for most participants and remained low. Sleep quality also improved, although it fluctuated more than anxiety. Only three patients reported side effects.

CBD for Anxiety and Depression

In 2020, researchers tested the effects of CBD oil at varying doses across 397 patients with a variety of ailments [4] Gulbransen G, Xu W, Arroll B. Cannabidiol prescription in clinical practice: an audit on the first 400 patients in New Zealand. BJGP Open. 2020;4(1):bjgpopen20X101010. . Participants with non-cancer pain or mental health-related symptoms experienced significant improvement in anxiety and depression, as well as in their abilities to complete their usual activities. The use of CBD oil suggested significant pain relief in these groups as well.

CBD for PTSD and Phobia Therapy

A small 2019 study of 11 patients found that, when consumed orally and administered alongside routine psychiatric care, CBD decreased patients’ posttraumatic stress disorder (PTSD) symptom severity [5] Elms L, Shannon S, Hughes S, Lewis N. Cannabidiol in the Treatment of Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder: A Case Series. J Altern Complement Med. 2019;25(4):392-397. .

Other studies suggest CBD can reduce PTSD symptoms when consumed with THC [6] Bitencourt RM, Takahashi RN. Cannabidiol as a Therapeutic Alternative for Post-traumatic Stress Disorder: From Bench Research to Confirmation in Human Trials. Front Neurosci. 2018;12:502. . When taken together, the two compounds create what’s known as the “entourage effect,” where THC enhances the effects of CBD as CBD tempers the effects of THC, resulting in a more well-rounded experience [7] Ferber SG, Namdar D, Hen-Shoval D, et al. The “Entourage Effect”. Terpenes Coupled with Cannabinoids for the Treatment of Mood Disorders and Anxiety Disorders. Curr Neuropharmacol. 2020;18(2):87-96. .

Some studies also suggest CBD can enhance the effects of exposure therapy—which assists patients in dissociating certain cues with a fear response—and cognitive behavioral therapy [8] Das RK, Kamboj SK, Ramadas M, et al. Cannabidiol enhances consolidation of explicit fear extinction in humans. Psychopharmacology (Berl). 2013;226(4):781-792. [9] Blessing EM, Steenkamp MM, Manzanares J, Marmar CR. Cannabidiol as a Potential Treatment for Anxiety Disorders. Neurotherapeutics. 2015;12(4):825-836. .

How to Use CBD for Anxiety

Without clear FDA guidance, optimal CBD use for anxiety varies from person to person. You may find one method works better for you over another. You can consume CBD in the following forms:

  • Oils and tinctures, which come in dropper bottles and are consumed by mouth
  • Gummies, which are chewable, sweet and often fruit-flavored
  • Sprays, which come in bottles with a nozzle to be sprayed in the mouth
  • Capsules, softgels or tablets, which are taken individually by mouth like a pill
  • Vapes, which heat CBD oil without igniting it, resulting in an inhalable vapor
  • Flowers, which are dried hemp plants that are typically ignited and smoked
  • Creams and gels, which introduce CBD topically (through the skin) as a more localized treatment

You may have to try different forms to determine what works best in addressing your anxiety. For instance, when it comes to the absorption of CBD in your bloodstream, vaping and smoking are more effective than edibles like gummies.

CBD Dosage for Anxiety

You also have to find the right CBD dosage for your anxiety. Experts suggest starting small and working your way up depending on how your body reacts.

Many clinical trials jump right to testing high doses. Successful doses evaluated for anxiety relief specifically include:

  • 600 milligrams in patients with SAD in a speech simulation [10] Bergamaschi MM, Queiroz RH, Chagas MH, et al. Cannabidiol reduces the anxiety induced by simulated public speaking in treatment-naïve social phobia patients. Neuropsychopharmacology. 2011;36(6):1219-1226.
  • 300 milligrams in male patients in a speech simulation [11] Linares IM, Zuardi AW, Pereira LC, et al. Cannabidiol presents an inverted U-shaped dose-response curve in a simulated public speaking test. Revista brasileira de psiquiatria (Sao Paulo, Brazil : 1999). 2019;41(1):9-14.

However, other trials suggest much lower doses are also quite effective in treating anxiety.

  • 25 to 75 milligrams for generalized anxiety and/or sleep problems [12] Shannon S, Lewis N, Lee H, Hughes S. Cannabidiol in Anxiety and Sleep: A Large Case Series. Perm J. 2019;23:18-041.
  • 33 to 49 milligrams a day for PTSD, in addition to routine psychiatric treatment [13] Elms L, Shannon S, Hughes S, Lewis N. Cannabidiol in the Treatment of Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder: A Case Series. J Altern Complement Med. 2019;25(4):392-397.

Another study involving hundreds of patients noted success with doses from 40 milligrams to 300 milligrams a day, further supporting the idea that CBD dosage varies significantly, depending on a person’s symptoms and physiology.

Potential Risks and Side Effects

The World Health Organization deems CBD a safe and generally well-tolerated substance. Studies report very few adverse effects, if any.

However, taking CBD while on other medications may pose a risk, as these substances may interact and cause unwanted effects, such as weight gain, drowsiness, upset stomach and change in appetite.