Cannabidiol (CBD) is a cannabinoid — a naturally occurring compound in the cannabis plant. Both marijuana and hemp are types of cannabis plants. The primary difference between marijuana and hemp is the level of another cannabinoid, tetrahydrocannabinol (THC), another cannabinoid. Marijuana has a far higher level of THC than hemp does.
THC is linked with the high that marijuana smokers experience. While THC comsumption results in psychoactive effects, CBD does not. CBD, which can be derived from both marijuana and hemp plants, provides several medicinal effects to people, without any of the psychoactive effects associated with THC. This is the basis for the popularity of CBD.
CBD has experienced a strong growth in popularity recently, as new research uncovers its potential health and wellness aspects. Recent research and studies indicate that CBD oil can be helpful and effective for treating a variety of health issues, from pain management to alleviating cancer-related symptoms to treating neurological disorders including multiple sclerosis and epilepsy (see CBD Oil: What It Is, How It Works, and Its Many Uses). In particular, CBD oil has also been demonstrated to be a useful tool for reducing anxiety and depression — as discussed in this post.
What is Anxiety and Depression?
Anxiety and depression are two different medical disorders, however their causes, symptoms, and treatments very often overlap. People with anxiety often also then develop depression, and vice versa.
Anxiety and depression are two of the most common medical disorders in the world. Though they are considered different disorders, they do have much in common. As discussed ahead, CBD oil has been found to be beneficial in treating both conditions.
Anxiety is one of the most widespread behavioral and emotional issues that society deals with. A 2017 World Health Organization report determined that close to 265 million people worldwide live with anxiety.
Anxiety is a condition primarily characterized by an abnormal amount of worry, and excessive restlessness. People dealing with anxiety typically have a difficult time handling criticism, speaking in public, socializing or making decisions. Anxiety doesn’t affect all sufferers the same way, and doesn’t have the same root causes for each individual. As such, anxiety is categorized in different ways, from post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) to agoraphobia to panic disorder and social anxiety.
Similar to anxiety, depression, also referred to as major depressive disorder, is a prevalent and significant medical condition that adversely affects how a person feels, thinks and acts. Depression results in a loss of interest in once-enjoyed activities, listlessness, and feelings of sadness or emotional numbness. Depression often leads to a range of physical and emotional difficulties, which in turn can greatly reduce a person’s capability to adequately function at home and at work.
The symptoms of depression can range from mild to intense. An incomplete list of these symptoms includes the following:
- Difficulties with concentrating and decision-making
- Excessive thinking about suicide or death
- Feelings of guilt or worthlessness
- Changes in appetite — gaining or losing weight not related to dieting
- Increased fatigue or lack of energy
- Sleep issues: sleeping too much or sleeping too little
- Loss of desire to participate in once-enjoyed activities
- General feeling of sadness — having a depressed mood
- Engaging in purposeless activities such as pacing
How CBD Affects Neurochemistry
The human body produces cannabinoids, so it comes as no surprise that the human body has a system designed specifically for cannabinoids — the endocannabinoid system, or ECS. The ECS performs an essential role in homeostasis — the body’s capability to sustain a proper and healthy inner balance. Because CBD is a cannabinoid, the ECS can use and process CBD in the same way that it uses and processes cannabinoids the body manufactures. This means CBD oil supplements can play a role in the body’s regulation of appetite, pain, sleep, mood, and consequently, the level of anxiety or depression a person may be experiencing at a given time.
Cannabinoids, including CBD, have a significant effect on the brain receptors involved in the body’s reaction to anxiety. The body has numerous different types of receptors. A receptor is a protein-based chemical structure that is attached to a cell. Receptors receive signals from various stimuli. CBD interacts with two particular receptors: the CB1 and CB2 receptors. These two types of receptors are primarily located in the central nervous system (CB1) and the peripheral nervous system (CB2). Exactly how CBD influences CB1 receptors within the brain is not completely understood, but it seems there is a positive effect on serotonin signals.
Serotonin is a neurotransmitter that performs a crucial function in mental health. A person with depression commonly has low serotonin levels. Additionally, in some cases low serotonin has also been found to cause anxiety.
Conventional medicine typically treats low serotonin with a selective serotonin reuptake inhibitor (SSRI). This group of psychiatric medications are designed specifically for treating anxiety and depression. Examples of SSRIs are Zoloft (sertraline) and Prozac (fluoxetine). SSRIs are drugs that have been helpful in treating anxiety and depression in many people. They are, however, available only by prescription and often are associated with several negative side effects. CBD oil supplements require no prescription, and few people experience any side effects — even when taking high doses.
By contributing to normalizing serotonin levels, CBD oil has the potential to greatly reduce the symptoms of anxiety.
The Research on CBD
Anxiety and depression are typically treated with pharmaceutical medications. It’s widely recognized that these types of medications often produce a wide range of side effects, including drowsiness, insomnia, sexual dysfunction, constipation, headaches, dizziness, and skin rashes. Several prescription drugs can be addictive and may cause substance abuse.
For anyone coping with an psychological issue such as anxiety who finds it challenging to put up with the uncomfortable side effects of psychiatric drugs, CBD might be a good alternate choice. While research into CBD’s role in health and wellness is nowhere near complete, there have been several studies that seem to show CBD can be of help for those enduring the many problems associated with anxiety, depression, or both.
A 2010 paper published in the Journal of Psychopharmacology states that both animal and human studies have demonstrated that for many people cannabidiol can work as a feasible treatment for anxiety.
CBD oil can be helpful even for people coping with specific kinds of anxiety. As an example, a 2011 study published in the scientific journal Neuropsychopharmacology reveals that CBD can decrease social anxiety (which is a very common kind of anxiety disorder).
A 2010 study also found that CBD could reduce symptoms of social anxiety. This study took brain scans of participants both before and after administrating cannabidiol. The results showed changes in blood flow to brain regions associated with feelings of anxiety. This change in blood flow corresponded to a lessening of feeling of anxiety in the study’s participants.
A 2015 analysis of several previous studies came to the conclusion that CBD oil is a treatment with promise for several types of anxiety, including panic disorder, post-traumatic stress disorder, social anxiety disorder, generalized anxiety disorder, and obsessive-compulsive disorder. The report noted, though, that when it comes to long-term use of CBD oil the data is limited. Research clearly illustrates that the role of CBD in treating short-term anxiety is promising, but so far not enough is known about CBDs long-term effects or how it can best be used for extended treatment.
While the majority of research describing how CBD works for the treatment of anxiety and depression is either pre-clinical or dependent on animal studies, there are thousands of testimonies from people who have gained relief from CBD oil after having limited or no success using the conventional treatment of powerful prescription medications. While anecdotal evidence is certainly not as strong as evidence resulting from numerous large-scale research studies, it certainly provides a good indication that CBD has its merits in helping people cope with anxiety, depression, and a host of other health issues.