Using CBD Oil for Treating Anxiety

Many Americans are turning to cannabidiol (CBD) oil as a remedy for anxiety. Some people take CBD oil to soothe their everyday worries. Others use it to treat more serious conditions, like generalized anxiety disorder.

A container of cbd oil on a table
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Cannabidiol is a compound found in the cannabis plant. Its availability is soaring as cannabis is being legalized in more states across the country.

Cannabidiol is unlike tetrahydrocannabinol (THC). This other cannabis compound produces a "high." CBD oil typically doesn't contain THC, so it doesn't have this effect.

A growing number of companies have begun selling supplements, salves, and other products containing CBD oil. They often tout these items as natural remedies for issues like anxiety and pain.

This article will explain why people take CBD oil and some of the side effects they could expect. It also provides an update about some of the fascinating research that has been done on the subject so far.

Uses

Anxiety disorders affect more than 18% of American adults ages 18 and older, the Anxiety & Depression Association of America (ADAA) says. These disorders are "highly treatable," the ADAA says, but only about 37% of adults seek professional treatment.

Treatment options can include psychotherapy, medication, or a combination of the two. Yet many people forgo these traditional approaches and choose to self-treat with CBD oil.

Their goal is clear, according to a survey published in Cannabis and Cannabinoid Research: Almost 62% of cannabidiol users say they use CBD to treat pain, anxiety, and depression.

In doing so, they are taking a leap of faith. Scientists say more research is needed to learn how CBD oil might help treat conditions like anxiety.

Why People Take CBD Oil

For people dealing with pain, anxiety, or depression, taking CBD oil may seem like a quick and simple fix.

Anxiety Disorders That CBD May Help Treat
Verywell / Tim Liedtke

Research Studies

So far, most of the evidence linked to CBD’s effects on anxiety comes from animal studies and laboratory experiments. But it does show some promise.

For example, scientists reported in Neurotherapeutics that CBD oil might ease some disorders, including generalized anxiety, panic, social anxiety, obsessive-compulsive, and post-traumatic stress disorders.

Social Anxiety Study

A small study published in Neuropsychopharmacology determined that CBD may help reduce social anxiety. The ADAA defines this disorder as "intense anxiety or fear of being judged, negatively evaluated, or rejected in a social or performance situation."

Social anxiety affects about 7% of all adults. And it is as common among men as women.

In the study, 24 people with social anxiety disorder received either 600 milligrams (mg) of CBD or a placebo 90 minutes before a simulated public speaking test.

Twelve other people with social anxiety disorder performed the same test with no CBD treatment.

Results showed that pre-treatment with CBD significantly reduced anxiety, cognitive impairment, and discomfort while participants gave their speech.

Dose-Response Study

The ability of CBD to reduce anxiety may follow what scientists call a "dose-response curve." Simply put, the curve shows the relationship between the size of a dose and the response to it. And the shape of the curve resembles a bell.

A study published in Frontiers in Pharmacology suggested that the greater the dose of CBD, the better its ability to lower anxiety.

Researchers gave different dosages of CBD to participants before a public speaking test. They found that subjective anxiety measures dropped with a 300 mg dose of CBD. This drop did not occur with either the 100 or 900 mg CBD dosages.

If you were to plot this result on graph paper, it would form a bell, with 100 and 900 on the ends. Hence, the name of this pharmacology concept literally takes shape.

Paranoid Trait Study

CBD does not appear to ease paranoia, however. A study published in the Journal of Psychopharmacology tested the effects of CBD in people with high paranoid traits.

This study found that CBD had no effect on anxiety, heart rate, or cortisol levels. Cortisol is known as a "fight or flight" hormone.

Similarly, CBD showed no effect on systolic blood pressure (the top number in a blood pressure reading) or persecutory ideation. This is a fear that someone is harming you or will in the future.

Anxiety in Healthy Participants Study

Cannabidiol may not reduce anxiety in healthy adults, according to a study published in Cannabis and Cannabinoid Research.

Researchers concluded this after testing participants' responses to negative images or words and threatening faces after they took oral CBD.

Is CBD Legal?


Harvard Medical School notes that all 50 states have laws on the books that legalize CBD "with varying degrees of restriction."

Safety

Using CBD oil may cause a number of side effects. Ironically, one of these side effects can be anxiety. Others may include:

Cannabidiol has been found to slightly increase heart rate at a dose of 900 mg. In addition, there is some evidence that using CBD oil may lead to increased levels of liver enzymes. This is a marker of liver damage.

CBD oil may interact with several medications, including benzodiazepines, calcium channel blockers, antihistamines, and some types of anti-epileptic drugs. If you take any of these medications, consult your healthcare provider before using CBD oil.

Labeling Inaccuracy

Consumers should know that CBD oil may be labeled incorrectly because it is mostly unregulated. In fact, a study published in the Journal of the American Medical Association found that nearly 70% of all CBD products sold online are mislabeled.

At the same time, not only do some products contain THC, a number of them had enough THC to cause symptoms like an increased heart rate. In this way, some CBD products can actually make anxiety worse.

Summary

Many people are taking CBD oil to treat anxiety. Research shows it may be helpful for some types of anxiety disorders but not others. And the potential for wide-ranging side effects is very real.

The uncertainty explains why it makes good sense to consult your healthcare provider before taking CBD oil. If your physician cannot recommend a brand, then he or she may be able to warn you off an irreputable brand.

A Word From Verywell

If you’re experiencing symptoms like frequent restlessness, difficulty concentrating, irritability, muscle tension, fatigue, lack of control over feelings of worry, and sleep problems, talk to your healthcare provider immediately. You can find the right anxiety treatment plan by working together.

Left untreated, an anxiety disorder can diminish your quality of life. It can also lead to health issues, such as digestive problems.

Rather than self-treat, ask your healthcare provider about whether CBD oil can help you manage your anxiety. A physician is also in the best position to recommend a dosage that will be right for you.

Frequently Asked Questions

  • What are the benefits of CBD oil?

    Proponents of cannabidiol (CBD) oil claim that it can help treat many conditions. These include: acne, anorexia, anxiety, chronic pain, depression, drug addiction and withdrawal, epilepsy, glaucoma, high blood pressure, insomnia, muscle spasms, and Parkinson's disease. In addition, CBD may help treat anxiety disorders like panic disorder, social anxiety disorder, post-traumatic stress disorder, obsessive-compulsive disorder, and generalized anxiety. There is little research to support many of these uses, however.

  • How does CBD oil help with anxiety?

    Exactly how CBD oil can help with anxiety isn't fully understood. It's believed that CBD affects opioid receptors in the brain that manage pain, as well as receptors that regulate the neurotransmitter serotonin (which helps nerve cells "communicate"). Some people feel a calming effect when CBD interacts with these receptors.

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10 Sources
Verywell Health uses only high-quality sources, including peer-reviewed studies, to support the facts within our articles. Read our editorial process to learn more about how we fact-check and keep our content accurate, reliable, and trustworthy.
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