CBD, short for cannabidiol, has become one of the hottest wellness trends. It’s popping up in cafes, gift shops and pharmacies as a component of oils, tinctures, soaps, lotions, food products and even pet food. Coffee shops are offering to add CBD shots to your latte, while juice bars will add CBD oil to smoothies. Proponents of CBD claim it can help with a variety of ailments,including anxiety, depression, pain, stress, inflammation and more.
CBD is an active compound derived from the hemp plant, a variety of the cannabis plant that marijuana comes from. While marijuana plants contain high levels of THC — the psychoactive ingredient that produces the marijuana “high” — hemp plants have very little THC. CBD isolate (just the CBD compound) contains no THC, while full-spectrum CBD (CBD in addition to other compounds from the hemp plant) contains less than 0.3%, or trace, THC. For comparison, marijuana contains anywhere from 5% to 20% THC. CBD isn’t psychoactive, so you don’t get the “high” feeling like you would from marijuana.
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CBD is commonly found in oil or tincture form. CBD is extracted from the marijuana or hemp plant then diluted in an oil such as hemp seed or coconut oil. As of December 2018, hemp-derived CBD containing less than 0.3% THC is legal in all 50 states under federal law. However, state governments may impose restrictions on the growth and sale of CBD products.
CBD and Anxiety
Occasional anxiety is an expected part of life. It’s something most of us experience to some degree throughout our lives. This differs from anxiety disorders, in which the anxiety does not go away, gets worse over time and interferes with daily activities like job performance and relationships.
For the low-level anxiety, coping mechanisms like meditation, yoga, deep breathing, exercise, journaling or working with a therapist may help. But for some people, that’s not enough. “Of all the wellness tools in my toolbox, CBD oil has been the best addition to my life for anxiety,” said Carlene Thomas RDN, dietitian and author of the upcoming recipe book “CBD Drinks for Health.”
“It worked immediately, effectively and effortlessly in a way that adaptogens and years of meditation hadn’t.” (Adaptogens are herbs, roots and mushrooms that theoretically “adapt” to what your body needs and help protect against various stressors.)
Anecdotal evidence abounds for CBD and decreased anxiety, but scientific research remains limited. Up until recently, because of the federal regulations around CBD usage, research had been difficult to do. The research that does exist on CBD for anxiety use was either done on animals or with small groups of people. From what we know, there seems to be evidence that CBD has a calming effect in the central nervous system.
One study looked at mice and found that CBD had comparable effects to imipramine, an antidepressant medication, in producing antidepressant-like effects. A similar study looked at the effect of CBD on humans with social anxiety disorder and found that the people who took 400 milligrams of CBD had significantly decreased subjective anxiety compared to a placebo. Earlier this year, a study of 72 adults found that anxiety decreased in 79% of the participants.
The exact way by which CBD may help lower anxiety is not well understood, but it appears to be related to CBD binding to and activating a serotonin receptor, which can result in a calming, mood-boosting effect. It’s also unclear what is dosage is necessary to see the anti-anxiety effects. Many studies used dosages of 300 to 400 milligrams per day, while most over-the-counter CBD products have labels that suggest 10 to 15 milligrams per day.
In short, CBD’s effect on anxiety is still unclear and more research needs to be done. Plus, we have to remember that there is a difference between the quality and amount of CBD used in research settings and the CBD products that are available on the shelves.
[See: 8 Ways to Relax — Now.]
Side Effects of CBD
CBD may be from a plant, but there are still some potential side effects to be aware of. Some people have reported dizziness, nausea, fatigue, dry mouth and diarrhea while taking CBD. Also, CBD may interact or interfere with certain medications, so it’s important to talk to your doctor before taking it.
Non-prescription CBD products are not regulated the FDA, so what’s on the label may not be what your getting. One review done in 2017 found that close to 70% of CBD products sold online were improperly labeled and either contained less CBD, more THC or different ingredients than what was stated on the label. In addition, the way the CBD is consumed – whether that’s in oils, edibles, capsules or lotions – affects how it’s absorbed in the body, and not all forms are absorbed as well. “Sublingual CBD oils are a great delivery method – they’re bioavailable, fast-acting and bypass the digestive system, unlike edibles,” says Thomas. “Edibles are a fun experimental way to add CBD to a routine, but your body doesn’t absorb as much CBD and it can take longer to kick in.”
While there are a lot of positive anecdotal reports from people who’ve taken CBD to help manage anxiety, and the research we have is promising, we still need to see larger, longer-term studies. CBD seems to be mostly safe for humans, but its effect can vary greatly from person to person. It also comes with an expensive price tag. If you decided to try CBD, make sure to purchase it from a reputable source and talk to your doctor before starting it.
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