Anxiety is a common emotion experienced by many at some point in their lives. Although a small amount of anxiety could be considered a good thing to have (so that we stay vigilant and thus be more capable of protecting ourselves from potentially harmful threats), having too much anxiety is actually counterproductive and may have serious health implications. In particular, anxiety-related medication conditions have been on the rise lately. Thus, many are beginning to turn to natural remedy options for anxiety. On that note, a particular type of cannabinoid known as CBD, or cannabidiol, has become a recent hype within the anti-anxiety treatment space.
Therefore, this article seeks to explore the potential medical applications of CBD for the treatment of anxiety.
With increasing numbers of people attempting to consume CBD products as potential ‘anti-anxiety’ supplements, the question still remains – does CBD help with anxiety attacks?
In this article, we’ll be exploring the potential answers to these questions and also will be presenting some of the impressive possible benefits of CBD oil for anxiety symptoms. Let’s take a deep breath and get started.
When was the last time you felt anxious? Was it while you were watching the news? Perhaps, it could have been during an exam or job interview or maybe while you were waiting for a friend or loved one who was running late. Few of us are immune to these feelings of anticipation and worry. Since simplifying things can be a useful stress-management strategy, let’s start by breaking CBD and anxiety down into some simple terms.
A Stress-Free Introduction to CBD and Anxiety
A breakout substance within the field of cannabis research, CBD (cannabidiol) has attracted a tremendous amount of attention in recent years. This interest is partly due to some significant changes in legislation, but on a broader basis, it may also reflect the scientific intrigue surrounding cannabis plants in general. New reports that explore the nature of CBD emerge regularly. Some current evidence suggests that CBD may potentially have a positive impact on symptoms of pain, insomnia, inflammation and anxiety – as we will go on to explore. Are you interested to learn more? Keep reading.
What is Anxiety?
According to the American Psychological Association (APA), anxiety is an emotion. Like any other emotion, we are likely to encounter it at some point or another. It might make our stomachs churn, our palms sweat and our minds race, but ideally anxiety should be a short-term experience rather than a long-term struggle. However, more and more people today are battling with chronic anxiety that has the potential to wreak havoc on their minds and bodies. In this case, fear may no longer be a mere emotion, and it may potentially become a severe problem that requires intervention to overcome.
Stress Versus Anxiety
Sometimes we use the words ‘stress’ and ‘anxiety’ interchangeably, but this is not technically correct. They may be universal and overlapping experiences, but they are different. While anxiety refers to an emotional state, stress is both a mental and a physical reaction to the situations we may face in life.
During emergencies, stress is a survival mechanism that can help to protect us from harm. It may manifest in physical symptoms such as muscle tension, appetite changes and hormone surges. However, if it persists in everyday life, stress can become an issue just like anxiety can. Stress is often associated with literal situations, while anxiety is about how we perceive ‘real’ or imagined circumstances.
Common Symptoms of Anxiety
According to the National Health Service (NHS), chronic forms of anxiety can affect the mind and the body. As we know, the mind and body do not exist in isolation from each other. Instead, they are closely connected, and issues which originate in one area tend to affect our whole being.
Some of the most commonly reported symptoms of anxiety may include:
- A sense of fear and impending doom
- Emotional restlessness
- Muscle tension
- Impaired concentration skills
What Causes Anxiety Disorders?
While all of us are liable to experience temporary feelings of anxiety, some may be more susceptible to developing a disorder. Typically, people diagnosed with anxiety disorders experience anxiety symptoms that feel excessive, uncontrollable and may interfere with their quality of life.
The World Health Organisation (WHO) recently estimated that over 3.6% of the world’s population suffers from an anxiety disorder, equivalent to over 250 million people. The fact that excessive anxiety is an increasingly prevalent issue in today’s world motivates many researchers to contemplate its origins. There is no way of knowing for sure, but let’s briefly consider some of the potential risk factors in light of some fundamental studies.
Psychological trauma can arise due to a profoundly troubling or stressful life experience. Derived from the Greek word ‘traʊmə’ which means ‘wound’, trauma is often an overwhelming and painful experience. An observational study recently conducted in the Czech Republic suggests that individuals who experience trauma in childhood might potentially be at greater risk of developing an anxiety disorder as adults.
Can we ‘inherit’ anxiety from our relatives? A study involving twins indicates that some people may be genetically predisposed to anxiety depending on their family background. While genetics is certainly not a guarantee of any particular mental health outcome, it may possibly be a contributing factor.
Underlying Health Issues
Underlying health issues ranging from chronic pain to substance abuse can cause our bodies to experience prolonged stress. This stress may have the potential to escalate into anxiety. Additionally, some research shows that people who suffer from depression might possibly be more likely to struggle with an anxiety disorder.
Funnily enough, our personalities may have a part to play regarding our chances of developing anxiety. According to a study involving stroke patients, people with neurotic or pessimistic tendencies may potentially be more vulnerable to some forms of anxiety.
Different Types of Anxiety Disorders
Anxiety disorders can come in various forms and, in some, cases occur alongside other mental health struggles. Let’s explore three of the most common variations. Please keep in mind that the summaries below are written for educational purposes and are by no means intended to assist with diagnosing anxiety disorders. If you have any personal mental health concerns, please seek assistance from a qualified professional.
Generalised Anxiety Disorder (GAD)
Daily life can be particularly challenging for those struggling with GAD – an anxiety disorder that causes sufferers to feel extremely worried and anxious about ‘normal’ situations. Often, GAD involves the constant inflation of pessimistic thoughts and the fear of future events.
Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD)
You’ve probably heard of PTSD before concerning homecoming soldiers or refugees escaping war zones. As a psychological response to life-threatening events, PTSD can cause a person to continually battle with negative thoughts and troubling flashbacks associated with the past. Up to 3% of the English population may experience PTSD at some point in their lives.
Obsessive-Compulsive Disorder (OCD)
In recent years, people have started to use the abbreviation OCD to casually describe their desire to organise objects or avoid messy rooms. But did you know that OCD is an anxiety disorder? People suffering from OCD may feel trapped in a ‘loop’ of repetitive behaviours and intrusive thought patterns that seem uncontainable.
How Can Anxiety Affect Your Body?
Have you ever heard of the ‘fight-or-flight’ theory? Here’s a summary to refresh your memory. First proposed in 1915 by Walter Bradford Cannon, the ‘fight-or-flight’ theory attempts to rationalise the changes in an animal’s behaviour and body language in response to environmental pressures. Other scholars later elaborated this theory and loosely applied it to humans. When we’re in the grips of chronic anxiety, we may perceive danger more urgently and intensely than necessary. As a result, several reactions can occur, impacting our physiology.
Anxiety and the Nervous System
When we’re experiencing anxiety, various stress responses may suddenly occur in coordination with different parts of our nervous system – including the sympathetic and parasympathetic sub-divisions. According to the APA, these responses may potentially involve:
- The rapid glandular release of adrenaline and cortisol (the “stress hormone”)
- An acceleration of the heartbeat and the dilation of blood vessels
- Raised blood sugar levels
Anxiety and the Heart
Have you ever felt like your heart was beating faster in a moment of pressure or excitement? Chances are, you didn’t imagine it. According to Harvard Medical School, our long-term emotional state may have a powerful impact on our hearts. Some studies suggest that anxiety disorders may potentially interfere with optimal functioning by:
Anxiety and the Immune System
The immune system is an integrated complex of cells that defend your body’s integrity and protect it from invading microorganisms that could cause infection. A healthy immune system functions to preserve our physical well-being, while a weakened immune system could potentially leave us more vulnerable. Current data suggest that anxiety may potentially:
- Interfere with the immune-supporting microbes in our digestive system
- Impact the body regulations in our endocannabinoid system (ECS)
- Manifest mentally as hypochondria – the constant fear and paranoia of getting sick
Other Physical Effects of Anxiety
As we’re beginning to establish, experts have linked anxiety with a worrying variety of potential health complaints. Beyond the challenges we have mentioned so far, it may also impact our integral functions such as breathing, sleeping, eating and digesting. These correlations may be one reason why psychotherapists often ask about their clients’ physical wellbeing.
An Anxious Mind
Hopefully, by now, we can appreciate that anxiety is not only a matter of the mind. However, it is relevant to consider how chronic anxiety may affect one of our most vital and elaborate organs: the brain. As we know, our brains control all of our bodily processes. They are also responsible for interpreting our environments and (arguably) the deeper ‘essence’ of who we are. Chronic anxiety may have the potential to compromise some of these functions.
How Anxiety Affects the Brain
Have you ever experienced racing thoughts, unstable emotions and forgetfulness in periods of anxiety? There may be a scientific explanation. Some neurobiologists have used brain imaging technology to help identify some of the possible effects of chronic stress on the brain’s structure and chemistry. Research suggests that the “limbic system” is the primary part of the brain that processes emotions. This arrangement’s key components include the hippocampus (processing memories, learning and feelings) and the amygdala (handling emotional behaviours – especially fear).
Chronic anxiety may potentially affect our brains by:
- Impairing the functioning of the hippocampus and causing memory loss
- Obscuring our decision-making skills by damaging the prefrontal cortex
- Changing activity in the amygdala – making it easier for us to feel overwhelmed
- Potentially leading to further health issues such as insomnia and depression
Anxiety, Panic Attacks and Depression
Within the world of psychotherapy, panic attacks and depression are often part of broader conversations about anxiety. To help prevent confusion, let’s clarify what is meant by this. If you’re looking for a more personal and in-depth discussion about mental health, you must speak with a qualified doctor.
What are Panic Attacks?
A common complaint among those suffering from a type of chronic anxiety called ‘panic disorder’, panic attacks are sudden episodes of fear marked by intense worrying, thoughts of crisis and symptoms such as trembling and heart acceleration. Sometimes, these episodes may arise in response to an outside stressor, while other times they appear to happen entirely at random.
Anxiety Versus Depression
Sometimes, people struggle to determine where the symptoms of anxiety end and the symptoms of depression begin. While these are both different conditions that can occur in isolation, it is also reasonably common for a coupled effect to emerge.
Clinical depression is a mental illness characterised by persistent feelings of hopelessness, tiredness and emotional lows that may escalate into a life-or-death struggle. People battling clinical depression may, in some cases, experience anxiety. On the other hand, those already diagnosed with an anxiety disorder may develop symptoms of depression. However, the ‘good news’ (so to speak) is that similar strategies may help treat both problems.
Coping With Anxiety
So far, we’ve learned that anxiety can be tough to endure when it is a persistent issue. It may even contribute to a real or perceived decline in health in some cases. Uncontrollable anxiety can potentially affect our family dynamics, social lives and the opportunities we choose to pursue in life.
However, despite how intimidating things may seem, it is possible to recover from an anxiety disorder. Sometimes, forms of intervention, such as talking therapy or cognitive behavioural therapy (CBT), may be required. Many people use anxiety management techniques such as mindfulness and self-care to more freely process day-to-day moments.
Can CBD Oil “Cure” Anxiety?
This is a widely-asked question, but unfortunately, it is a little misinformed. There are no quick ‘cures’ for anxiety – neither is it reasonable to claim that the act of consuming CBD oil (or any other substance) can make your stress disappear forever. Here are some more valid questions which we will explore in the rest of this article: How does CBD oil work? Can using CBD oil help us manage some of the symptoms of anxiety? We’re sure you’ll be surprised by the answers.
What is CBD (Cannabidiol)?
We briefly introduced CBD at the beginning of this article. However, there is plenty more to say about this fascinating substance. Extracted from a variety of cannabis known as industrial hemp (or technically, cannabis Sativa), CBD is an oily compound or ‘cannabinoid’. Over 100 different cannabinoids are present in the cannabis plant family, but emerging evidence suggests that CBD may offer some unique potential benefits. These may possibly apply to symptoms of inflammation and anxiety as well as self-perceived mood improvements.
CBD and the Law
Cannabis and the law have quite a complicated history. In the UK and many other countries, cannabis is classified as a restricted substance and is illegal to buy, sell, use or possess in most cases. As we know, cannabis can have a mood-altering and potentially addictive effect when consumed; this is mainly due to its THC (tetrahydrocannabinol) content. While researchers are continually exploring the potential wellness benefits of THC, many authorities currently categorised as a dangerous substance subject to strict regulations. So, is CBD oil legal?
Thankfully, the World Health Organisation has deemed regulation-compliant CBD a safe and non-intoxicating substance. Developers source CBD from industrial hemp – a plant that is naturally low in THC and high in CBD. Furthermore, it is possible to extract CBD in a way that excludes all THC molecules. According to present British laws, CBD is legal substance as long as it contains minimal amounts of THC (0.2% or less) per product. Since the laws surrounding CBD vary from place to place, you should refer to the specific regulations upheld where you live before proceeding.
How Does CBD Work?
To get an accurate picture of how CBD may take action within your body, it helps to have a basic understanding of the Endocannabinoid System (ECS). As its name suggests, the ECS relates to cannabinoids and, as we’ve learned, CBD is a cannabinoid. Many aspects of the ECS are currently a mystery, but researchers do have a general idea of how it functions.
What is the Endocannabinoid System?
The ECS is a crucial cell-signalling network that helps to maintain ‘homeostasis’ – the regulation of our core temperature, water balance, breathing, hormone levels, and many other processes. The ECS utilises the endocannabinoids, CB1/CB2 receptors, and enzymes naturally produced by your body to support its functioning. The emerging process may look something like this:
- Endocannabinoids are released and begin to travel towards receptors in the targeted area (for example, an injured body part).
- Endocannabinoids ‘bind’ with receptors to pass on a signal (such as a pain signal).
- Once the signalling is complete, enzymes rapidly break down endocannabinoids.
CBD and the ECS
While our bodies can generate endocannabinoids independently, we may experience endocannabinoid shortages for various reasons. Research indicates that being deficient in endocannabinoids may potentially inhibit the optimal functioning of the ECS. Can CBD contribute to the ECS?
Current evidence suggests that CBD may possibly help by:
- Interacting with some of the signals and symptoms associated with pain
- Delaying the breakdown of other endocannabinoids in your system
Potential Benefits of CBD
CBD is extremely popular among growing audiences – particularly those who suffer from chronic anxiety and related issues. An impressive range of anecdotal reports have emerged over the past few years, as people have shared their stories and associated their personal use of CBD with the perceived improvement of anxiety. But what do the facts say?
CBD and Sleep
Many scholars have argued that we can’t maintain good health in the long term if we cannot sleep properly. Disrupted sleep patterns can contribute to conditions of stress within the body. As we’ve covered, stress may be a contributing factor to anxiety. Furthermore, insomnia can be an uncomfortable symptom of anxiety.
Current research suggests that CBD may potentially influence our sleep patterns by:
- Reducing symptoms of insomnia
- Potentially reducing some sleep-related symptoms of PTSD – such as nightmares
- Impacting the quality of sleep experienced by some anxiety-sufferers
CBD and Muscle Tension
The adrenaline released during bouts of anxiety can cause our muscles to contract uncomfortably – making us feel physically tense and “on edge”. With chronic anxiety, muscle tension can be an ongoing issue that may potentially contribute to more comprehensive side-effects of fatigue and stress. Some research suggests it may be possible for CBD to impact symptoms of muscle tension by:
- Potentially addressing some muscle-specific symptoms of inflammation
- Affecting certain kinds of muscle-spasms
- Potentially influencing muscle mobility (according to a study involving mice)
- Triggering self-perceived improvements in body tension and tension headaches
CBD and Broader Anxiety Symptoms
Some researchers have speculated that CBD deserves further investigation for its potential therapeutic uses. At present, the evidence needed to support this is limited, but scientists remain devoted to the task of exposing CBD’s possible mental health benefits.
Regarding broader anxiety symptoms, some studies suggest that CBD may potentially cause:
- A decrease in some behavioural symptoms of anxiety (in an animal study)
- More bodily responsiveness to serotonin (the ‘happy’ hormone)
- The potential reduction of some symptoms of social anxiety
- A change in the ways our brains process symptoms of fear-based memory
CBD has a possible ‘advantage’ as a naturally-derived and low-risk substance in addition to these potential benefits. While it may cause some mild side-effects, it is for the most part considered safe for consumption. For those who are easily triggered by hypothetical ‘what-ifs’, CBD’s clean reputation may be something of a relief.
A Brief Guide to Popular CBD Products
A 2019 report issued by the Centre for Medical Cannabis (CMC) predicts that the UK CBD market will be worth £1 billion by 2025. Impressive, right? Unfortunately, there have been some fraud and online spamming incidents within the global marketplace. The pharmacy shelves are not necessarily reliable either – since the CMC also suggests that some so-called CBD products in high-street stores contain toxic ingredients and as little as 0% CBD! So, how do you avoid all this unnecessary stress? Below, we’ll offer you some helpful tips.
Choosing a Reputable CBD Brand
Here at Alphagreen, we know a thing or two about reputable CBD brands. We’ve devoted our entire platform to showcasing some of the best in the business and providing educational resources to help you make confident decisions.
The following factors are often associated with high-value CBD brands:
- A Certificate of Analysis (COA) from a third-party laboratory
- An official quality pledge
- Positive customer reviews
- Premium blends (e.g. free from gluten, heavy metals, toxins, etc.)
- Organic or vegan status
- An environmentally-friendly ethos
Popular CBD Products
In the remainder of this article, we will be drawing particular attention to CBD oil. However, it is worth mentioning some of the other relatively direct methods. While CBD creams and other topicals are a delightful category, we’ve refrained from mentioning them in the context of anxiety because they require extra time to absorb. Depending on your needs, lifestyle and personal preferences, you may wish to experiment with different CBD products to determine which method suits you best.
Gummies and Other Edibles
CBD edibles are easy to ingest, reasonably gentle to absorb and can come in a wide variety of pleasant flavours. Since eating is an activity that we all do daily, consuming CBD via food and drink can be convenient and comforting. CBD gummies are botanical sweets that come in pre-measured doses. You can also consume CBD through infused chocolates, coffee blends and other drinks.
CBD vape products may potentially help you to handle symptoms of situational anxiety in a timely fashion. By using a CBD-infused vape pen, you can absorb CBD via your airways within approximately 15 minutes. These products often come with various aromas and flavours – possibly incorporating some pleasant aromatherapy principles.
CBD Tablets and Capsules
Like edibles, CBD tablets and capsules are taken orally and absorbed via your digestive system. They come in set doses and may require up to an hour to take effect. As a result, they may be more suitable for daily supplements than in-the-moment ones. If anxiety gives you a dry mouth and the sensation of a lump in our throat, you may find capsules challenging to swallow.
What is CBD Oil?
Without further ado, let’s discuss CBD in its most crowd-pleasing form. CBD oil is a combination of CBD extract (which is naturally oily) and any plant-derived carrier oil (such as hemp seed oil, coconut or olive). Typically, developers package it in a tinted glass bottle to prevent any sunlight-related damage. Using either a dropper or a spray nozzle, users apply CBD oil under their tongues – where it is absorbed quite quickly.
Different Types of CBD Oil
You should find a detailed breakdown of your chosen CBD oil clearly stated on the product label. Excluding the different types of carrier oils available, the following factors can influence the properties of any given CBD oil:
- CBD extract composition or ‘spectrum’ (for example, it could be Full Spectrum, Broad Spectrum or CBD Isolate)
- CBD oil concentration (the percentage of CBD extract present per product)
Possible Side-Effects of CBD Oil
In most cases, people can consume CBD oil safely without experiencing any adverse side-effects. However, it is essential to exercise caution if you are on medication, since CBD oil may potentially impact certain medicines. For peace of mind, speak with your doctor first.
Some mild side-effects which may possibly be triggered by CBD consumption may include:
- Stomach upsets and appetite changes
- Dry mouth
How to Take CBD Oil
You can find an in-depth guide to CBD dosage elsewhere on the Alphagreen Academy – it’s a must-read topic. When it comes to consuming CBD oil, it is vital to keep in mind that your body will most likely need to adjust. We recommend starting slowly by taking 5-10 drops of CBD oil sublingually (under the tongue) and observing the results over time. You may be willing to experiment to identify the CBD dosage that is best for you. However, it is also wise to speak with your doctor for more precise advice on incorporating CBD oil as part of your routine.
You may also wish to pay special attention to your CBD dosage in light of:
- Your age
- Your BMI (body mass index)
- Your general physical health
- Your desired effects
- The concentration of CBD you are using
For your convenience, please refer to the dosing information below. Do keep in mind that higher concentrations of CBD oil may be the most cost-effective option.
|CBD Oil Concentration||Dosage of CBD per Drop|
|2.5% CBD Oil||1.25 mg of CBD|
|4% CBD Oil||2 mg of CBD|
|5% CBD Oil||2.5 mg of CBD|
|10% CBD Oil||5 mg of CBD|
|20% CBD Oil||10 mg of CBD|
Step One: Amount of CBD (in mg) ÷ Volume of CBD Oil (in ml) = Amount of CBD per ml
Step Two: Amount of CBD per ml ÷ 20 = Approximate amount of CBD per drop
E.g: 1,000 mg of CBD in 30 ml of CBD oil contains 33.3 mg of CBD per ml (1.67 mg per drop)
The Bottom Line
In this article, we’ve learned that anxiety is at best an uncomfortable emotion, and at worst, a debilitating issue that may require special effort to overcome. CBD is a substance that has attracted significant attention due to its potential promise in clinical and therapeutic environments. As one of the most popular and stress-free ways to consume this cannabis compound, CBD oil may possibly offer us new self-care avenues. But, can CBD oil “treat” anxiety? Currently, we don’t have enough scientific evidence to confirm this. Can CBD oil potentially influence how we experience symptoms of anxiety? Anecdotal reports and CBD oil reviews posted by Alphagreen customers illustrate some incredible self-perceived success stories. So far, research implies that some side-effects of anxiety may possibly be alleviated by the use of cannabis-inspired wellness products.
With our official stress and anxiety CBD collection, you’ll have the perfect opportunity to judge these potential benefits for yourself!
Verified by a health professional
Anastasiia Myronenko is a Medical Physicist actively practicing in one of the leading cancer centers in Kyiv, Ukraine. She received her master’s degree in Medical Physics at Karazin Kharkiv National University and completed Biological Physics internship at GSI Helmholtz Centre for Heavy Ion Research, Germany. Anastasiia Myronenko specializes in radiation therapy and is a fellow of Ukrainian Association of Medical Physicists.