Could CBD help soothe your anxiety?

Feeling constantly worried is an increasingly common problem worldwide, but can CBD help with your anxiety? Many users – including some famous faces – believe so.

We’re in the middle of an anxiety epidemic. With our work/life balances increasingly pushed, and an expectation that we stay constantly switched on, it’s no wonder that a 2017 report by the world health organisation suggested that roughly 264 million of us worldwide suffer from anxiety. That’s a lot of sleepless nights and chewed nails.

What are the signs of anxiety?

As with many mental health issues, anxiety is a pretty broad church. It can encompass specific disorders including social anxiety, panic disorder and ptsd. symptoms of Generalised Anxiety Disorder can include:

  • Trouble sleeping
  • Weight loss or gain
  • Moodiness
  • Restlessness
  • Inability to concentrate

Put simply, it’s a feeling of restlessness and excessive worry – if you have these symptoms, you should consult your GP.

Cut back on alcohol

Cutting out booze – or at least having some free days each week – should improve your sleep as well as helping your mind feel clearer.

It’s easy to get into a catch 22 cycle with alcohol. You feel stressed so you drink. Alcohol (and hangovers) make you ultimately feel more stressed, by raising the levels of stress hormone cortisol, so you drink more. Plus if you’ve ever experienced ‘hang-xiety’ you’ll know that the morning after can leave you worrying about what you did or said while under the influence. cutting out booze – or at least having some free days each week – should improve your sleep as well as helping your mind feel clearer.

Get out into nature

The natural world is a medicine in its own right. When you consider how indoor-focused modern life has become, it’s no wonder we often crave wide open spaces, dramatic mountains or dappled woodland. Switching off from technology and getting outdoors will help you refocus and slow down your thoughts. A study published earlier this year revealed it takes just 20 minutes in nature to significantly reduce the stress hormone cortisol, so put your lunch break to good use.

Talk to a friend

As grandma used to say ‘a problem shared is a problem halved’, and she knew what was what! talking to a friend, family member or even a therapist can help put your problems in perspective, and you might even find solutions together. Just getting your worries out in the air can often feel like a weight has been lifted, not to mention the feeling of having someone on your side to check in on you.

Try yoga

While you might consider a yoga session as being good for your body, it’s also working wonders with your mind. Getting into a flow state, where you concentrate on one thing at a time (eg a sequence of moves) is a fantastic tool to calm a busy mind. Learning to breathe deeply and steadily while you move is also a useful skill if you’re prone to panic attacks (a common symptom of anxiety).

Get an early night

It’s well documented that getting (ideally) eight hours’ sleep per night can help you stay calm and focused throughout the day – and nothing puts problems in perspective quite like a good night’s sleep. The problem with anxiety is it can often keep you awake into the small hours feeling fretful. Try to create a calming bedtime routine, with no screen use an hour before hitting the sack, and having a pre-bed warm bath or hot drink to soothe mind and body.

Give meditation a go

Ever seen a stressed buddhist monk? We didn’t think so. While day-long meditation sessions are probably unrealistic, downloading an app which delivers daily 10-minute guided sessions could be a great way to lower your stress hormone levels for a little while. It’s a bit like a muscle, so don’t worry if it feels ridiculously hard at first – just keep practising.

Try some CBD

One of many cannabinoids (organic compounds) found in hemp plants, which are a type of cannabis, CBD or, to give it its full name, cannabidiol has hit the headlines in recent years as being a potential anxiety-fighting tool. In a society that’s increasingly interested in wellness people are more open to novel solutions – especially when they’re natural – so it makes sense that CBD is gaining popularity as potential stress-relievers. Cannabis is truly the world’s greatest superplant!

How can CBD help anxiety?

Numerous a-listers have turned to CBD to calm their frazzled minds, including Jennifer Aniston and Victoria’s Secret model Alessandra Ambrosio, who used CBD oil the night before big shows to help her feel calm. In fact, anxiety was cited as the number one reason for using CBD in a survey of HelloMD users in 2017.

After all, it’s not exactly ‘news’ – people have been using cannabis for thousands of years to relax mind and body. But the differences now are: an increase in scientific research to understand how CBD and cannabis can affect our brains – and the perfect doses for specific problems. Easier availability of products from around the world, which can be tailored to suit your individual needs.

CBD and cannabis have been not only linked to helping with specific anxiety-based disorders but have also proven to help with side effects of anxiety, including trouble sleeping and low moods. Read on to discover which methods could work best for you and help to find your centre.

CBD and anxiety

As with most science around CBD, it’s early days in terms of research, but so far the results look more than promising.

CBD has been proven to have anti-anxiety (as well as anti-depressant) properties. One specific area of the brain associated with feelings of dread and distress is the nucleus the dorsal periaqueductal gray, and here microdoses of CBD have been injected and shown to produce anxiolytic (anti-anxiety) effects during stress-inducing tests. More on the science behind the endocannabinoid system works can be found here.

In fact, CBD has been linked to improvements across a huge range of anxiety-based issues, including Generalised Anxiety Disorder, panic disorder, Obsessive Compulsive Disorder and Post Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD). There are many pharmaceutical trials in progress with positive early indications, but no pharmaceutical products have yet been released.

Higher doses of CBD are currently being investigated as a promising treatment for panic attacks too – although these are pharmaceutical doses and would need to be available on prescription as they contain very high doses.

Currently, CBD is available as a food supplement (less than 70mg dose per day) rather than a medicine. That said, many people have reported significant benefits to their wellbeing from the relatively low doses. Clinical trials remain limited owing to the cost of the trials and the fact that with a simple organic compound, there is no patent available. So anyone who invests in the clinical trials will not be able to recover the cost of their investment.

The best thing about it is how easy it is to adapt to your own needs – whether it’s something you take orally each morning, an occasional addition to a coffee, or a helping hand for when you’re feeling overwhelmed. There’s such a wide range of products and strengths available, so it’s easy to experiment until you reach your bespoke level.

Hate public speaking?

We completely understand. If just the thought of standing in front of an audience gives you sweaty palms, a small dose of CBD could work wonders. A small study from 2011 revealed that CBD reduced the anxiety brought on by having to speak in public (a common side effect of generalised social anxiety disorder). Just one dose before a nerve-inducing event was enough to reduce anxiety and discomfort and, interestingly, also improve cognitive function. 

Sleepless nights

it’s logical that feeling excessively worried about life could lead to some issues getting to sleep at night – or even full-blown insomnia. there’s nothing like hitting the pillow to bring your day’s worries to the forefront of your mind.

The connection between CBD and a good night’s shut-eye is really a whole article in itself. But, in short, there’s plenty of evidence to suggest that as well as stimulating the ‘feel-good’ parts of your brain and tackling anxiety at its root, they can also help improve your sleep quality and the speed at which you nod off. Getting a decent night’s sleep is, in turn, a great way to feel calmer the following morning, as well as reducing your reliance on jitter-inducing coffee, and so CBD can often be the start of a life-improving positive spiral and help to still your mind.

Anxiety as a side effect

When you think of anxiety, it’s likely you imagine it as an individual problem, but it can, of course, be a side effect of other issues. For example, often people experiencing chronic pain can have raised levels of anxiety, as do those trying to tackle an addiction to drugs. A number of studies have suggested that the side effects of an addiction to opioids – which can include anxiety, cravings and pain – can be reduced with CBD use, and many scientists believe medical cannabis could also help.

Can cannabis help anxiety?

OK, here’s a quick explanation of the difference between different varieties of cannabis. Hemp and marijuana are both in the cannabis family, and can be broken down into various compounds. Hemp is high in CBD (cannabidiol) and has little or no THC (the psychoactive compound that gives a distinctive ‘high’) while marijuana has more THC (hence its illegality in most places) and some CBD.

So what about cannabis and anxiety? Does adding THC to the mix make any difference? The answer is yes – potentially with added benefits – with some caveats about the blend of THC and CBD.

A large study from Washington State University last year looked at self-reported levels of stress, anxiety and depression when smoking different amounts and mixtures of cannabis at home – with interesting results.

People’s reported data revealed that, no matter what the strength of the cannabis smoked, two puffs was enough to reduce anxiety symptoms, while it took 10 puffs of a high THC and high CBD blend to take down participants’ stress levels.

CBD within cannabis is a key for beating anxiety

People suffering from a social anxiety disorder are more likely to use cannabis (as well as turning to alcohol) according to research, but it’s worth exercising caution if you’re using it to curb anxiety.

Cannabis with high THC and low CBD has the potential to worsen anxiety as well as other mental health issues, so it might be an idea to spend some time finding a blend that has high levels of CBD as well as THC.

But why is this the case?

study from the University of Western Ontario has shown how CBD can block the side effects of THC on an area of the brain called the extracellular-signal regulated kinase. This is the area that can be over-stimulated by THC, so basically taking CBD alongside THC can stop that from happening. discover more about how works by reading about the ‘entourage effect’ here.

However you look at it, anxiety is a common side effect of hectic modern lives and it benefits us all to come up with solutions. There are currently lots of scientific studies being undertaken to explore CBD as a potential anxiety and stress aid, and many people do report that it’s helped them. we’re all different, and what works for one of us may not work for the next, but if you’re constantly feeling overwhelmed it might be worth giving it a try.

Taleesa Warrior

Taleesa Warrior

e-Commerce Manager, South London dweller, leopard print lover. Advocate of cats and espresso martinis.