CBD for anxiety: does it help?

CBD for anxiety: does it help?

Feeling anxious and stressed is all too common in today’s world. Living in a long-term state of stress can be very harming to your health leaving you more vulnerable to other diseases or disorders. Worrying and fear can impact your life whether it be your studies, job or relationships. Recent statistics show that more than 1 in 10 people are likely to have a ‘disabling anxiety disorder’ and only 25 percent of these are being treated.  Finding a natural way to keep your emotions balanced especially during really stressful times can be very challenging but new studies are now indicating that CBD has the ability to support the body’s ability to stay calm and relaxed without side effects.

What is anxiety?

Anxiety is a normal emotion we all feel time to time, on the lead up to an important meeting or during exams for example. It is part of our body’s natural defence, it is part of what is known as our ‘flight or fight’ response. This system gives us a boost of adrenaline and the ‘butterflies in the stomach’ symptom is an example of this mechanism kicking into action. However, these feelings can easily overrun and affect our everyday lives and cause us to feel stressed, anxious and unhappy every day. A World Health Organisation survey concluded that 40% of disability worldwide is due to depression and anxiety and this number is only set to increase.

What evidence is there?

CBD has been found to have anxiolytic effects (anxiety reducing) in both humans and animals. CBD was first found to have anxiolytic properties in humans by its ability to reduce the anxiogenic effects of THC. 1 Following this initial report many studies have reported on the anxiolytic effects of CBD in regard to general anxiety.

CBD has been found to have anxiolytic effects in animal models and was shown to decrease defensive behaviour evoked by predator exposure. 2 It was also shown that CBD can reduce anxiety in healthy volunteers during a neuroimaging study and after a simulated public speaking procedure (Want to read the article? Click Here).3 While further studies are required to investigate the potential of CBD and its long-term effects, its demonstrated efficacy and safety profile could make CBD a viable treatment of anxiety disorders.

How Does CBD do this?

Mechanism of action

When administered into the body, CBD interacts predominantly with what is known as the endocannabinoid system, this is responsible for regulating many physiological functions in the body and in addition, is vital for the regulation of emotional behaviour. CBD has an extensive pharmacological profile in accordance to anxiety and has three main proposed routes of action. CB1 through the endocannabinoid system, 5-HT1A through serotonin-related mechanisms and TPRV1 receptor through the Vanilloid system.

Endocannabinoid related mechanisms

CBD has been suggested to enhance a process known as adult hippocampal neurogenesis which is controlled by the endocannabinoid system. This is the process by which neurons are generated from stem cells in the brain. Impaired neurogenesis has been implicated in psychiatric disorders including anxiety. 4 It has been proposed that CBD increases CB1 receptor activation by inhibiting FAAH, the enzyme in the body responsible for hydrolysing anandamide (AEA). AEA is an endocannabinoid that binds to the CB1 receptor. Activating the receptor by increased levels of AEA increases progenitor proliferation and neurogenesis, therefore reducing anxiety. 5

Serotonin related mechanisms

Serotonin is a neurotransmitter molecule and binds to receptors involved in the regulation of mood and behaviour. CBD has been suggested as a possible agonist to the receptor (5-HT1A) therefore increasing activity at the receptor. This has been suggested to give anxiolytic effects to the patient. 6

Vanilloid system related mechanisms

CBD can activate what are known as TRPV channels. These channels consist of a family of over 50 receptors. These receptors can facilitate the release of a neurotransmitter, glutamate, that can induce defensive responses in brain areas linked to anxiety.  AEA is suggested to act as an endogenous agonist to the TPRV1 receptor suggesting in the presence of CBD, there could be increased activation at that receptor indicating it could be responsible for the bell shaped does response curve of CBD (LINK to bell shaped curve). 7

Therefore, as we can see CBD is an incredibly hot topic for current research, whilst current drugs on the market do provide relief for many patients, certain patients can’t tolerate the side effects and an alternative treatment is warranted. Whilst more studies are needed, CBD could be a safe, viable treatment for anxiety.


1 A. W. Zuardi, I. Shirakawa, E. Finkelfarb and I. G. Karniol, Psychopharmacology (Berl)., 1982, 76, 245–250.

2 A. Uribe-Marĩo, A. Francisco, M. A. Castiblanco-Urbina, A. Twardowschy, C. J. Salgado-Rohner, J. A. S. Crippa, J. E. C. Hallak, A. W. Zuardi and N. C. Coimbra, Neuropsychopharmacology, 2012, 37, 412–421.

3 M. M. Bergamaschi, R. H. C. Queiroz, M. H. N. Chagas, D. C. G. De Oliveira, B. S. De Martinis, F. Kapczinski, J. Quevedo, R. Roesler, N. Schröder, A. E. Nardi, R. Martín-Santos, J. E. C. Hallak, A. W. Zuardi and J. A. S. Crippa, Neuropsychopharmacology , 2011, 36 , 1219–1226.

4 J. M. Revest, D. Dupret, M. Koehl, C. Funk-Reiter, N. Grosjean, P. V. Piazza and D. N. Abrous, Mol. Psychiatry, 2009, 14, 959–967.

5 S. a Wolf, A. Bick-Sander, K. Fabel, P. Leal-Galicia, S. Tauber, G. Ramirez-Rodriguez, A. Müller, A. Melnik, T. P. Waltinger, O. Ullrich and G. Kempermann, Cell Commun. Signal., 2010, 8, 12.

6 E. B. Russo, A. Burnett, B. Hall and K. K. Parker, Neurochem. Res., 2005, 30, 1037–1043.

7 A. C. Campos, F. A. Moreira, F. V. Gomes, E. A. Del Bel and F. S. Guimaraes, Philos. Trans. R. Soc. B Biol. Sci., 2012, 367, 3364–3378.

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