Can CBD oil help anxiety? Cannabidiol (CBD) is a chemical occurring in cannabis plants. It is possible to add CBD oil to food, and an increasing amount of evidence suggests that it may improve mental health, particularly anxiety. It does not seem to have adverse side effects, but CBD oil is illegal in some states. Learn more about CBD oil here. Read now
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CBD—or cannabidiol—is a type of cannabinoid, a family of molecules typically associated with marijuana, but in fact, also found in other plants and even humans (in us, they’re called endocannabinoids). There are hundreds of different cannabinoids in marijuana. The best known is tetrahydrocannabinol, or THC, a chemical in marijuana that targets and binds to certain receptors in the brain to give you a high. CBD is non-psychoactive and non-addictive, and it seems to bind to multiple target sites, thereby affecting a range of systems throughout the body.
Another concern is about medications with which CBD might interact. This won’t be an issue with most drugs, says Sunil Kumar Aggarwal, M.D., Ph.D., a palliative medicine physician and scientist who studies cannabis and integrates it into his Seattle medical practice. The exceptions are blood thinners, IV antibiotics, and other drugs whose exact dosing is crucial and must be monitored closely, he says. (Of course, if you have a health problem, talk to your doctor before using CBD, and never take it instead of seeing your physician for a serious condition.)
"If it proved effective for anxiety, depression and panic disorder, it may have other effects as well that could be useful and beneficial [but] this is a really early stage," says David Shurtleff, the acting director of the National Center for Complementary and Integrative Health. His organization's stance: "Take it one step at a time and do the work and really state where we are right now with the research," he says.
Cutting-edge science has shown that the endocannabinoid system is dysregulated in nearly all pathological conditions. Thus, it stands to reason that “modulating endocannabinoid system activity may have therapeutic potential in almost all diseases affecting humans,” as Pal Pacher and George Kunos, scientists with the U.S. National Institutes of Health (NIH), suggested in a 2014 publication.

Cannabigerol is known as the stem cell cannabinoid for its role as a precursor to other cannabinoids found in hemp and marijuana. Previously overlooked as a significant cannabinoid, the role of CBG is becoming better understood, and companies like Medical Marijuana, Inc.’s AXIM® Biotechnologies are starting to research its potential. Because most CBG is transformed into other cannabinoids like CBD or THC by the cannabis plant, natural CBG levels are low in most processed cannabis plants.
At least one benefit of CBD is well-supported by science: It can be effective in treating children with rare, genetic seizure disorders. Adults, children and even animals with epilepsy have been shown to benefit from the chemical too, the World Health Organization reports. There's also some evidence that CBD can help with anxiety, says Dr. Robert Carson, an assistant professor of neurology and pediatrics at Vanderbilt University who focuses on children with epilepsy. "In children, especially those with autism spectrum disorders, this may manifest as improved interactions with others," he says. Other preliminary research shows CBD holds promise for conditions including Alzheimer's disease, cancer, psychosis and Parkinson's disease – and is pretty much impossible to abuse or become addicted to, WHO says.
If you live in a state where CBD is legal for your condition, it’s best to buy it from a state-regulated dispensary. But even there, oversight is uneven. “I feel safe being a cannabis consumer in Colorado, since the state tracks everything from seed to sale, but I didn’t the first few years after cannabis became legal,” when the rules were still taking shape, says Robyn Griggs Lawrence, the Boulder author of The Cannabis Kitchen Cookbook, which features recipes for cannabis edibles.
John Staughton is a traveling writer, editor, and publisher who earned his English and Integrative Biology degrees from the University of Illinois in Champaign, Urbana (USA). He is the co-founder of a literary journal, Sheriff Nottingham, and calls the most beautiful places in the world his office. On a perpetual journey towards the idea of home, he uses words to educate, inspire, uplift and evolve.
THC-dominant edibles (like chocolates) can carry an even higher risk. “It can take one or two hours to feel an effect from ingestion as opposed to a few seconds from inhalation,” says Dr. Bonn-Miller. “This makes titration very difficult.” Add to that, an edible is made to taste good. So you can easily eat more than you should in the course of a few minutes—and end up feeling negative effects hours later.
Tetrahydrocannabinol is the most abundant cannabinoid in most medical and recreational marijuana strains. However, in hemp THC is a minor constituent and appears only in trace amounts under 0.3% by dry weight, as required by the U.S. government for hemp products. THC mimics the action of anandamide, a neurotransmitter naturally produced in the human body, and binds to CB1 receptors in the endocannabinoid system found mostly in the brain. The extremely low levels of THC in hemp make hemp oil non-psychoactive and safe for all ages to use.
The aforementioned entourage effect is the main reason behind the efficacy of whole plant extracts. There are over 100 ‘identified’ compounds in the cannabis plant. While most of these compounds have their own therapeutic benefit, they combine synergistically to provide far better performance than any single compound alone, and that includes CBD. Here are a couple of examples of conditions that benefit from the entourage effect:
Answering the question “what is CBD oil” would be incomplete without mentioning the many CBD oil benefits. In addition to positively affecting the endocannabinoid system, CBD has been the focus of more than 23,000 published studies about cannabinoids in relation to various medical indications including anxiety, epilepsy, inflammation, cancer and chronic pain to name few. You can even find CBD for pets that is specially formulated to safely allow your pets to experience the natural benefits of CBD. For a more comprehensive look at these and other studies, visit our medical research and education page. Stay up-to-date on the latest developments in CBD and cannabis in our medical marijuana news section.
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