According to 99% of the research, a resounding yes.
And yes, the research is on CBD isolate (not full spectrum).
We did a deep dive on CBD isolate versus full spectrum for anxiety but let's highlights the key points on
- Is CBD isolate good for anxiety
- Is CBD isolate better than full spectrum for anxiety
First, is there any good research on CBD for anxiety to begin with?
The rough sketch:
Some quick takes:
- CBD supports GABA - our brain's "brake" pedal (target for benzos)
- CBD supports serotonin - our mood manager and stress response buffer
- CBD supports BDNF - the brain's fertilizer (the real star for mental health)
- CBD calms stress response (cortisol)
- CBD calms inflammation - the immune system is key to mental health longer term
- CBD calms oxidative stress - a key player with anxiety
Goodness…that's a lot to address but we have deep dives on each via those links.
So, we have support for the buffer side (serotonin, GABA), repair side (BDNF), and defense side (stress, inflammation, oxidative stress).
That's all great on the science side but what about actual anxiety in actual people?
There are three clinical trials underway right now (about time).
So far, some results such as this one on sleep and anxiety:
The final sample consisted of 72 adults presenting with primary concerns of anxiety (n = 47) or poor sleep (n = 25). Anxiety scores decreased within the first month in 57 patients (79.2%) and remained decreased during the study duration.
The there is "remained decreased". We don't want short term effects of tolerance like benzos and most anxiety aids.
Or this analysis of many studies:
We found that existing preclinical evidence strongly supports CBD as a treatment for generalized anxiety disorder, panic disorder, social anxiety disorder, obsessive–compulsive disorder, and post-traumatic stress disorder when administered acutely
This whole "class" of issues fall under the too little GABA/too much glutamate and reduced stress response (serotonin and anandamide).
Benzos pump up GABA (but cause tolerance and addiction). SSRIs pump up serotonin (but cause tolerance).
The key with CBD is that it doesn't build tolerance, is not addictive, and does not produce a high or interfere with normal functioning.
CBD acts as a feedback mechanism for both GABA and serotonin.
Technically, it's called a positive allosteric modulator. It supports these pathways when they're exhausted.
A key example is this:
repeated treatment with low-dose CBD induces analgesia predominantly through TRPV1 activation, reduces anxiety through 5-HT1A receptor activation, and rescues impaired 5-HT neurotransmission under neuropathic pain conditions.
Let's break this down because it's so telling.
Essentially, they caused an injury in test animals.
Injury eats up serotonin (since it's a pain threshold manager) but serotonin also manages mood and as a result…anxiety.
What did CBD do?
It "rescued" serotonin (5HT), reduced anxiety, and reduced pain.
The most important word here is "rescue". I t doesn't just boost serotonin-like SSRIs so you don't see serotonin syndrome (more here) or serious side effects.
Serotonin is such a powerful pathway…you don't want to just drive it in one direction!
Otherwise, the body will start to push back and our natural serotonin is downregulated.
This means more pain, anxiety, and other issues with time. Tolerance.
There's similar research for all the different pathways above!
Then, there's the specific question of isolate as opposed to full spectrum.
We spend about 2-3 hours daily in NIH research (check out the reviews above!) and all that research is on….CBD isolate!
Here's the bigger issue with full or broad-spectrum CBD.
40-60% of the population has histamine issues and that number goes up as we get older and for women (as progesterone leaves the scene).
These same people can have histamine responses to full-spectrum CBD.
You can look at our reviews and see the difference people have due to this.
In fact, full-spectrum CBD can actually make anxiety worse or even cause it.
Why does histamine matter for anxiety?
Beyond the allergic reaction, histamine has a side gig in the brain…it's excitatory!
In fact, it opposes GABA (the key lever for anxiety) from above in the sleep/wake cycle.
That's why the first class of anti-anxiety meds (like hydroxyzine) were actually…anti-histamines!
Too much histamine is key to anxiety and insomnia (see histamine and insomnia).
So…if we follow the research, CBD can help with anxiety but it must be isolated for a good percentage of the population due to histamine response to full spectrum.
Always work with a doctor or naturopath with any supplement!
The information provided here is not intended to treat an illness or substitute for professional medical advice, diagnosis, or treatment from a qualified healthcare provider.