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CBD for anxiety: What to know

Updated: Mar 21, 2021

Cannabidiol (CBD) is one of several cannabinoids found in the Cannabis sativa plant. It is a non-psychoactive compound that may help treat anxiety and various other conditions.


Anxiety disorders are the most prominent mental health conditions in the United States, affecting an estimated 31.1% of U.S. adults.


One major question among healthcare professionals is whether CBD can alleviate anxiety disorders.

According to an article in Dialogues of Clinical Neuroscience, anxiety disorders are among the most common psychiatric conditions. The National Institute of Mental Health (NIMH) estimate that 19.1% of adults in the U.S. experienced an anxiety disorder in the past year, and more women experience anxiety than men.

What the research says

According to the authors of one 2015 review, CBD interacts with the cannabinoid type 1 receptor (CB1R), the serotonin 5-HT1A receptor, and other receptors in the brain that regulate fear and anxiety-induced behaviors.

The authors of the review also found preclinical and clinical evidence that established CBD as an effective treatment for numerous types of anxiety disorders, including:

  • generalized anxiety disorder (GAD)

  • post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD)

  • panic disorder (PD)

  • obsessive-compulsive disorder (OCD)

  • social anxiety disorder (SAD)

In a more recent 2020 study, researchers evaluated CBD’s effects in 397 adults living in New Zealand. The study participants received medical CBD prescriptions for a variety of ailments, including non-cancer pain, cancer-related symptoms, neurological symptoms, and mental health symptoms.

All groups reported improvements in their overall quality of life after 3 weeks of CBD treatment. The individuals who received CBD treatment for anxiety or depression reportedly experienced improvements in their ability to perform daily functions and reduce pain and anxiety or depression symptoms.

70% of study participants reported some level of satisfaction with CBD treatment, ranging from good to excellent. Only 9.9% of participants experienced adverse side effects, such as sedation and vivid dreams. An even smaller portion of the study population (0.8%) reported worsening symptoms.

In a retrospective study, researchers evaluated the effects of CBD treatment in 72 adults with either anxiety or sleep problems.

The majority of study participants received one 25 milligram capsule of CBD once a day (mg/d). A few participants received 50 or 75 mg/d. One individual with a history of trauma and schizoaffective disorder received up to 175 mg/d.

After the first 2 months of CBD treatment, 78.1–79.2% of participants reported improvements in anxiety symptoms. However, 15.3–19.5% of participants developed worse symptoms after CBD treatment.

The authors of one 2020 article reviewed eight studies investigating CBD’s role in treating various anxiety disorders.

The authors found evidence to support the use of CBD as an effective monotherapy or complementary therapy for treating generalized anxiety disorder, social anxiety disorder, and post-traumatic stress disorder.

However, the studies showed considerable variation in CBD doses, ranging from 6-400 mg per dose. This variation highlights the need for more high-quality, large-scale clinical trials to help establish standardized dosing and clinical usage guidelines for CBD therapy.

How to use

As previously mentioned, researchers and healthcare professionals have yet to establish standardized dosing recommendations for CBD therapy.

In a 2019 study, researchers found that 300–600 mg of CBD significantly reduced anxiety symptoms in 57 adult males.

The dosage that a person takes to relieve anxiety depends on the CBD product and how they administer it.

CBD administration methods include:

  • oil

  • sublingual spray

  • capsules

  • edibles

  • vaporized oil or cannabis flowers

The administration method determines how quickly cannabinoids begin taking effect.

The effects of orally administered CBD, such as oils, edibles, or capsules, begin working within 30 minutes to 2 hours. Smoking or vaping CBD oil or cannabis buds results in more immediate effects.

People can use oral CBD products to relieve anxiety throughout the day. It may help to take these products in the morning with some food.

Smoking or vaping CBD oil can provide immediate relaxation that may help people during especially stressful events, such as giving a speech.

Risks and side effects

The authors of this 2019 review confirmed that people could tolerate CBD well even at doses as high as 1,500 mg/day. The data on the long-term safety of CBD are limited. Some side effects associated with CBD include:

  • drowsiness

  • decreased appetite

  • diarrhea

  • changes in weight

The Food and Drug Administration (FDA) do not regulate CBD for treating anxiety or other mental health conditions. People should use their best judgment when purchasing CBD products. Only buy products from reputable manufactures and distributors.

Summary An ever-growing body of research suggests that CBD may help relieve anxiety, the most common mental health disorder.

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