If you struggle with chronic stress or anxiety, you may be considering using CBD oil or CBD vape pens. There is already good evidence of CBD’s usefulness for treating generalized anxiety disorder, panic disorder, social anxiety disorder, obsessive–compulsive disorder (OCD), post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD). Are you looking for a way to naturally relieve your stress? If so, read on to learn why you should use CBD for stress.
CBD for Stress & Anxiety
We all know what it feels like to “stress out” before an exam or important event. But sometimes a challenging job, family demands, or just surviving the unexpected events of life can feel like a continual test. If that impending sense of disaster is never-ending it’s a sign of chronic anxiety, and you might need an intervention to reset your baseline stress-response.
Unfortunately, the medical system’s solution to anxiety falls short for many people. If you struggle with chronic stress or anxiety, you may be considering supplementing your treatment with CBD oil, CBD vape pens, or CBD gummies. But what’s the evidence that CBD works?
The growing popularity of CBD products as anti-anxiety supplements is backed with plenty of convincing research, though there’s still a long way to go. Several clinical trials with humans are currently underway, but there is already good evidence of CBD’s usefulness for:
- Generalized anxiety disorder
- Panic disorder
- Social anxiety disorder
- Obsessive–compulsive disorder (OCD)
- Post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD)
To understand how CBD works, let’s dive into the science of how stress affect your body & brain. (If you’re already up on this topic, feel free to skip ahead to the CBD sections. )
Anxiety: How It Becomes Chronic
One in four Americans will suffer from an anxiety disorder during their lifetime — where feelings of dread, unpreparedness, and imminent danger recur more and more often, leading to racing thoughts and physical reactions. Where do these feelings come from?
A major contributor is our genetics. Small differences in our hormones or neurotransmitters (like serotonin and norepinephrine) can massively impact how we respond to stress. Another piece of the puzzle includes environmental & lifestyle toxins that affect our neurochemistry.
But probably the biggest source of anxiety is stress. Chronic stress trains your brain to feel anxious — it wants you to “remember” so you can anticipate (and hopefully avoid) more stress in the future.
If we were still running free in nature — avoiding bears and quicksand — this stress response would be useful. But we’re required to walk into stressful situations over and over and over again — and each time we have to bring our best selves without “remembering” that we’d be better off running away to a tropical beach.
Chronic Stress & Anxiety Damage Your Body
Small bursts of stress hormones tell your body to prepare for a “fight or flight” situation. Unfortunately, our bodies weren’t designed to handle a perpetual state of panic. Chronically high levels of stress hormones — particularly cortisol — wreak havoc everywhere, with consequences that include:
- Heart disease
- Digestive problems
- Weakened immune system
- Weight gain
- Muscular tension
The good news? If you’re constantly stressed and also suffer from any of these problems, treatment could help your symptoms improve.
Stress Messes with Your Brain Chemistry
In addition to damaging your body, chronic stress also rewires your brain. Stress hormones tell the brain to: “Focus, feel less and get ready.” Unfortunately, when this message is never turned off, your brain will make changes to tune out the message.
Scientists are still discovering the many layers of changes that take place in response to chronic stress — but they include both the brain’s structure and chemistry . Certain regions of the brain become hyperactive, while others atrophy and even shrink, and levels of neurotransmitters (like serotonin, dopamine and endocannabinoids ) and their receptors also change.
Even if you manage to de-stress your life, these changes could persist — along with their negative impacts on the rest of your body. When this happens, you may need support restoring balance to your brain.
Weed’s Secret Anti-Anxiety Ingredient
If you’ve experimented with cannabis products, you’re probably familiar with the spectrum of reactions people can have when they get “high.” In movies where a character smokes weed, one of two scenarios plays out — either they sit back, relax and enjoy themselves. or they turn into a paranoid, twitchy mess.
It turns out that this unpredictability comes mainly from variations in the quantities and ratios of phytocannabinoids and synergistic terpenes. Too much THC can overstimulate the body’s CB1 receptors, while THC’s non-intoxicating sister molecule, cannabidiol (CBD), can directly and indirectly counteract the anxiety people experience from too much THC . Different cannabis strains have different concentrations of these two molecules — which is one reason for vastly different anxiety responses.
Thanks in part to medical marijuana and legalization efforts, humanity is experiencing a renaissance in cannabis research and production techniques — making it much easier to produce whole-plant CBD without any THC, creating products with the healing properties of cannabis without the cultural stigma or unpleasant side-effects traditionally associated with cannabis.
Evidence that CBD Soothes Stress & Anxiety
Beyond the glowing testimonials of individuals who successfully treat their anxiety with CBD oil, there is also a growing body of scientific evidence that CBD works. Most research has been done in rodents. A recent review discusses 32 different rodent studies that tested CBD’s effects on anxiety — and only one didn’t see useful results.
Human experiments are costly and legally complicated — which makes it no surprise that human studies are fewer and less conclusive. But overall, two exciting uses for CBD in anxiety have emerged for both rodents and humans:
- Less anxiety in response to stress. These experiments put test subjects in a stressful situation and measure their anxiety levels:
- Rodent evidence: In one example, mice were placed in a cage with a boa constrictor. Mice given low doses of CBD (equivalent to a 20 mg dosage for a 150-pound person) spent more time scanning their environment and choosing the most strategic location to run instead of panicking.
- Human evidence: Public speaking is the human equivalent of a boa constrictor. CBD improves performance anxiety both for people without anxiety disorders and also for people with social anxiety disorder .
- Extinction learning: One way we get over anxiety is through “extinction learning,” or learning to let go of triggers when there’s nothing left to fear. These experiments often train test subjects to associate something harmless with something painful, and then measure how long it takes to stop fearing the harmless trigger after they stop delivering pain. This is particularly relevant for people suffering from PTSD:
- Rodent evidence: Rodents freeze in fear when they are conditioned to expect an electric shock. However, if scientists give them CBD during the extinction learning process , they are less likely to freeze up in expectation — even after the CBD has worn off .
- Human evidence: People have also been conditioned to expect an electric shock when they see a visual cue. Those who inhaled a 32 mg dosage of CBD during extinction training (without shocks) were less expectant of receiving a shock when tested two days later — long after the CBD had worn off.
How CBD Combats Anxiety
Cannabidiol has more than 65 targets throughout the body , which makes it difficult to pinpoint the sources of its many different therapeutic properties. Studies currently suggest that CBD counters anxiety by stimulating neurotransmitter systems and neural regeneration. Here’s the evidence:
- Serotonin: Most people associate serotonin with happiness. H owever, the role of this neurotransmitter is very complex, and its effects depend on where it is and what it binds to. (Contrary to popular belief, more serotonin is not necessarily better — dysfunction can stem from low or high levels of serotonin, as well as from malfunctions with their receptors.) Serotonin has at least 14 different receptors, but CBD specifically binds to 5-HT 1A which is thought to have the strongest role in anxiety disorders . The anti-anxiety drug buspirone also binds to this particular receptor, which explains the anti-anxiety effects of CBD on rats exposed to stressful situations.
- Endocannabinoids : Your body naturally produces cannabinoids, which are used throughout your body and brain in the endocannabinoid system . This system can become dysregulated under chronic stress . However, CBD could help restore balance to the endocannabinoid system by preventing overstimulation of your CB1 receptors and by boosting your body’s production of endocannabinoids. Rodent experiments show that CBD relieves OCD and other anxious behaviours by acting on the endocannabinoid system, which is involved in processing and forgetting our fears — vital for extinction learning.
- Neural regeneration: Although chronic stress can damage neurons and even shrink brains , certain areas of the brain are still capable of regeneration. Throughout our lives we continue to form new neurons, make new connections, and grow our brains — and CBD apparently boosts this process. This means that CBD could help to counterbalance the brain damage caused by chronic stress. Numerous studies have proved that CBD encourages neural regeneration , particularly in the hippocampus. In fact, its ability to reduce anxiety in chronically-stressed mice comes from CBD’s power to stimulate the growth of new neurons . ( For more on CBD’s role in neuroplasticity and neural regeneration, see our upcoming article on depression .)
Integrative Treatments for Stress & Anxiety
With so many constant sources of stress, people often need a more holistic approach to heal from anxiety. Even medical doctors have begun suggesting that people combine traditional psychotherapy & pharmaceutical treatments with relaxation techniques like yoga & meditation.
If chronic stress and anxiety have rewired your brain, it will take work & time to undo the damage. Eventually, you can change your habitual mind patterns, but you might get there even faster if you actively help your brain neurons grow and rebuild. (For more on this topic, see our upcoming article on natural ways to increase neural regeneration .)
If you choose to supplement with CBD, it will work best as part of a comprehensive anxiety treatment plan. We encourage you to speak first with a trusted medical professional about your plans, especially if you currently take prescription medications . Similar to grapefruits, CBD could interfere with your body’s ability to metabolize drugs . A doctor or integrative practitioner can also help you rule out any contributing deficiencies and other worrisome health issues.
We wish you success on your journey and deep healing for your brain and your body.
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Feeling Stressed Out?: How CBD Can Help With Stress
8 of 10 Americans are affected by stress. To put this into perspective, that’s 79% of 327.16 million people.
Chances are, you’re one of those people. Whether it be an unthankful boss or an angry mother in law, stress affects us all in different ways.
Chronic stress can affect more than just your mental stability, it causes symptoms from headaches and high blood pressure to chest pain and heart palpitations. Sure, you can take anti-anxiety medications like Xanax or Prozac. But, why not try to relieve your symptoms with natural remedies?
CBD is still in infancy, but research suggests that CBD oils can vastly reduce stress when taken on a regular basis.
Read on to learn more about using CBD for stress relief.
What is CBD?
In short, CBD is an oil that comes from the cannabis plant.
Officially known as cannabidiol, CBD is considered a cannabinoid. It is one of over 100 different cannabinoids found in the cannabis plant.
Cannabinoids are found in leaves and flowers of the cannabis plant. They are then extracted and separated.
Once extracted, CBD is a colorless, crystalline structure at room temperature in its purest form. CBD can be derived from either the marijuana plant or the hemp plant. Both are strains of the cannabis plant, however, CBD that is derived from the marijuana plant tends to be more potent and more effective than that of the hemp plant.
CBD is known to have benefits on pain relief, stress, anxiety, seizure disorders, and more.
Does CBD Produce a High?
One of the most well-known cannabinoids is called Tetrahydrocannabinol, otherwise known as THC. THC is the chemical in the cannabis plant that offers the mind-altering high feeling, as opposed to CBD, which is 100% non-psychoactive.
Both CBD and THC bind with special receptors in your brain, however, CBD binds directly with those receptors, where THC does not. This is why you feel no fuzziness or mental slowness.
Because of the way that CBD binds with your receptors, it may take a bit longer for you to notice the effects.
When you do begin to notice the CBD, you’ll feel a wave of relaxation through your body.
Can You Use CBD for Stress?
Being subjected to stress on a daily basis can threaten your social life, mental and physical health. CBD oil is a natural way to reduce the daily stress that is keeping you from living your best life.
But don’t take our word for it, check out these studies performed over the last few years.
A study performed in 2010 showed that CBD helps to reduce anxiety in people with social anxiety disorder, or SAD. This study found that CBD not only helped reduce current anxiety, but it also changed the initial brain reaction to said anxiety. Brain scans showed changes in blood flow patterns in regions of the brain associated with stress and anxiety.
Similarly, a 2011 study found that CBD reduced social anxiety specifically induced by public speaking.
A 2014 research study found that appropriately dosed CBD oil had antidepressant-like and anxiolytic-like effects. This study was performed on animal models with a variety of experiments, such as the forced swimming test (FST), elevated plus maze (EPM), and Vogel conflict test (VCT).
In 2015, an analysis showed that CBD continued to reduce stress and social anxiety. The study referred to CBD as, “a potential treatment for anxiety disorders.” These disorders might include SAD, post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD), panic disorder, obsessive-compulsive disorder (OCD), and generalized anxiety disorder.
And finally, this 2016 research studied the effectiveness of CBD specifically on PTSD and insomnia. What they found was that CBD significantly reduced PTSD induced anxiety and aided in a healthy sleep pattern.
Is It Stress or Anxiety?
Before you decide which medication is right for you, it’s important to understand exactly what your body is going through.
You’ve likely heard the terms stress and anxiety used interchangeably, however, these are two very different things. Stress and anxiety share many of the same physical and emotional symptoms. Both can take a heavy toll on the body.
It can be difficult to spot the differences between the two, however, it’s pertinent that you understand and can identify which you are struggling with.
Stress is what your body does in response to a threatening situation. Anxiety is a reaction to that stress.
Once you’ve determined which disorder, if not both, is clouding over you, you can properly begin treatment. CBD oil works well to treat both stress and anxiety, however, some anxiety disorders may require additional medications or therapy.
Are There Risks?
Research on the long term health effects of CBD is limited due to the fact that CBD research is overall a new concept.
Some researchers do caution that CBD can have a negative health effect when smoked.
Research specifically on CBD oil has found no negative side effect thus far, unlike medications such as Xanax, which produce a multitude of negative side effects, not limited to dizziness, memory problems, slurred speech, vomiting, blurred vision, loss of sex drive, weight changes, and more.
Because CBD is not highly regulated, it can be difficult to determine the correct dosage or frequency in which it should be taken. Dosages may differ based on which product is taken, such as gummies, tablets, or oils.
Be mindful of this, and carefully follow each set of individual directions.
Let Go of Stress Today
Stress ruins the lives of many on a daily basis. No matter how you choose to remedy the situation, don’t let stress take control of your life.
If you’re interested in giving CBD a chance, check out our online selection or stop by for a complete consultation. We offer useful selections of tablets, gummies, and oils with CBD for stress and other medical conditions including inflammation.
If you’ve tried other treatments and had little to no relief, it might be time to give CBD a try. It just might let you go back to being you again.