Can CBD Oil Relieve Anxiety?

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Woman taking cannabis drops

CBD, or cannabidiol, has shown preliminary promise in relieving anxiety. CBD is one of the 80 substances called cannabinoids found in different varieties, or strains of the plant species Cannabis sativa, the source of both marijuana and hemp. The marijuana-heavy varieties contain an abundance of the cannabinoid THC, which makes you high. But hemp plant varieties must contain less than 0.3% THC to be classified as hemp rather than marijuana.

Manufacturers can use either plant to make CBD products, which come in several forms, but you can only buy CBD made from marijuana varieties in states where marijuana is legal. All other CBD products are made from hemp varieties of cannabis.

Many people use CBD oil that you drop under your tongue. If you are considering trying CBD for anxiety, here’s some useful information about it.

What Experts Know So Far About CBD for Anxiety

There have not been enough rigorous scientific studies of CBD to determine for sure whether or not it is an effective treatment for anxiety, but some of the early research supports the claim. In one study, when experts gave patients CBD, anxiety decreased in nearly 80% of the patients and remained lower for the length of the investigation. CBD appeared to have fewer side effects than commonly prescribed anxiety medications and, unlike THC, did not create anxiety even at higher doses.

What to Know About Purchasing and Trying CBD Oil

CBD products are flooding the market, and many have not undergone safety testing. The FDA (Food and Drug Administration) does not oversee the manufacture of CBD products (except for one prescription medication) so it can be difficult to judge the quality of what you are buying.

When the FDA tested several supposed CBD products, many did not contain as much CBD as they claimed. A study of 84 CBD products bought online concluded that more than a quarter of them contained less CBD than indicated. THC, the cannabidiol that makes you high, was found in 18 of the products. If you are thinking of trying CBD for anxiety, proceed with care. Here’s what to take into consideration to help you choose a safe, high-quality product:

  • Dosage: An effective CBD dosage has not been scientifically established, but the typical dose is from 300 to 600 mg. Start at the lowest possible dose and increase slowly and carefully. While it’s highly unlikely that you can take enough CBD to cause physical harm, it could make you too sleepy to function well. There are no confirmed reports of developing a tolerance to CBD.
  • Form: The fastest acting way to take CBD is as an oil, using a dropper to put it under your tongue and holding the drops in your mouth for a minute before swallowing. It’s also available in gummies, capsules and teas. Topical products claiming to contain CBD, like creams and shampoos, have not been shown to have benefit.
  • Source: Look for CBD products that have a COA (Certificate of Analysis), an initiative by the hemp industry to assure quality. (You may have to request the certificate from the company.) CBD made from hemp varieties of cannabis are less likely to contain THC than that made from marijuana varieties of cannabis. CBD products may come from CBD isolate, which contains only CBD, or from full spectrum products, which contain various substances in the plant.
  • Side effects: CBD can raise the levels of other medications in your blood. It can make you drowsy and may lower appetite. Talk to your doctor before starting any CBD product, especially if you are on blood thinners. Your doctor may also want to test your liver enzymes periodically, as there is some initial evidence that CBD may lead to liver damage.

The research on CBD oil and other CBD products for anxiety is still in initial stages. These products are not approved by FDA for the treatment of any disease. Talk to your healthcare provider before trying CBD for anxiety and choose your source carefully.

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Medical Reviewer: William C. Lloyd III, MD, FACS
Last Review Date: 2020 Sep 26
  1. Blessing EM, Steenkamp MM, Manzanares J, Marmar CR. Cannabidiol as a Potential Treatment for Anxiety Disorders. Neurotherapeutics. 2015;12(4):825-836. doi:10.1007/s13311-015-0387-1. Retrieved from https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC4604171/
  2. Shannon S, Lewis N, Lee H, Hughes S. Cannabidiol in Anxiety and Sleep: A Large Case Series. Perm J. 2019;23:18-041. doi:10.7812/TPP/18-041https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC6326553/
  3. Can CBD Help with My Anxiety and Depression? Anxiety and Depression Association of America. https://adaa.org/understanding-anxiety/cbd
  4. Mayo Clinic Q and A: Research needed into treating anxiety with CBD. Mayo Clinic. https://newsnetwork.mayoclinic.org/discussion/mayo-clinic-q-and-a-research-needed-into-treating-anxiety-with-cbd/
  5. CBD Overdose: How CBD Can Cause an Overdose. American Marijuana. https://americanmarijuana.org/cbd-overdose/
  6. The debate on Full Spectrum CBD vs CBD Isolate: What We Know. Wholistic Research and Education Foundation. https://wholistic.org/2019/01/the-debate-on-full-spectrum-cbd-vs-cbd-isolate-what-we-know/
  7. What is a CBD Certificate of Analysis (COA) (And How to Read It). Citizen Truth.https://citizentruth.org/what-is-a-cbd-certificate-of-analysis-coa-and-how-to-read-it/
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