Pros and Cons of CBD for anxiety
There are always trade-offs with any option.
What about the plus and minus column for CBD in regards to anxiety?
First, a 40,000 view of the pathway of anxiety (full review here) to understand how and if it works at all for anxiety?
There are many factors for anxiety but two are prominent.
- GABA - our brain's "brake" pedal (target for benzos) is the immediate switch
- Serotonin - our master mood manager and stress response buffer (target for SSRIs)
In addition, there's exciting new research on:
- Brain inflammation - the immune system is the new star of mental health
- Oxidative stress - a "storm" going on in the brain
- Steroidal hormones (the GABA and serotonin effect)
- Gut inflammation - neurotransmitters are literally made in the gut!
- Histamine - the biggest secret in anxiety research (and CBD choice)
- BDNF - our brain's fertilizer (shared between immune and serotonin)
So..that's the usual suspects.
What about CBD…what are the pros and cons based on our understanding of anxiety.
Here's the list:
CBD pro's for anxiety
- Supports GABA and serotonin when exhausted
- Calms brain inflammation
- Calms gut inflammation and protects gut barrier
- Calms histamine response and mast cell release
- Doesn't build tolerance or cause addiction
CBD con's for anxiety
- Need higher levels to work (up to 300mg daily)
- Higher cost to reach levels needed in research
- Full-spectrum can cause histamine issues which can make anxiety worse
- Lack of transparency on product quality, levels, and ingredients
- Does not address steroidal hormone deficiencies
Let's touch on each of these.
CBD pro's for anxiety
Supports GABA and serotonin when exhausted
CBD backstops the endocannabinoid system which is tasked with balancing other key systems…including the nervous system where neurotransmitters reside.
Studies show that CBD is able to support GABA, serotonin, and others when they become exhausted.
Technically, it's called an allosteric positive modulator.
GABA is very fast while serotonin effects generally build over 14 days.
Calms brain inflammation
A range of studies shows that CBD is able to calm inflammation in the brain, especially after infection, injury, or hyperactivation.
See our review on CBD and neuroinflammation.
All the new research is on the immune system and mental health (more here) so this is very exciting news.
The real target for this may be further south!
Calms gut inflammation and protects gut barrier
The gut acts as a thermostat for brain inflammation via the connection hub called the vagus nerve.
It also supports the gut barrier when damaged which is critical to keeping inflammation down across the body and brain.
Calms histamine response and mast cell release
The first class of anti-anxiety meds were actually anti-histamines!
Histamine is in charge of the allergic reaction but in the brain, it's excitatory and part of the sleep/wake cycle.
A histamine response can feel just like anxiety and is critical to both anxiety and insomnia (see histamine and insomnia here).
It opposes GABA directly which is our calm mediator.
CBD has been shown to calm histamine response but full spectrum can actually make things worse.
You can see the results in our reviews…very different responses. See CBD isolate for anxiety to learn more.
Doesn't build tolerance or cause addiction
This is the most important thing you'll read.
Any substance that builds tolerance over time will make things worse.
THC, benzos, SSRIs all build tolerance. Even the other cannabinoids (CBG, CBN, etc) can do so at a slower clip.
CBD works as a feedback mechanism…that's the positive modulator effect from above.
It doesn't push pathways up or down in one direction (agonist or antagonist).
Crucial difference. See CBD and tolerance to learn more.
What about the downsides!!
CBD con's for anxiety
Need higher levels to work (up to 300mg daily)
There is a lot of bad product on the market with 250mg for a full 1-ounce bottle.
Good luck with that.
The research shows that peak neurogenesis (brain repair essentially) occurs at 300mg.
Some people feel relief at 50-100mg daily since everyone's different.
This is probably the biggest issue we see…inadequate levels for anxiety.
This brings up another issue…
Higher cost to reach levels needed in research
To reach 300mg of CBD daily, we have to look at the cost per mg of CBD.
There's a lot of ripoff product on the market with costs at 20-30 cents per mg of CBD.
For example, 250mg at $60!! That's 24 cents per mg of CBD!!
We price the 6000mg bottle at 2-3 cents per mg before discounts up to 50%.
Our discovery of CBD was from a traumatic perimenopause so it's important to help people reach the levels actually shown in research.
Full-spectrum can cause histamine issues which can make anxiety worse
It's very frustrating for us.
People will try full-spectrum CBD because everyone's pushing it and their anxiety feels worse.
Worse yet, some people will get new anxiety from using this CBD.
Roughly 40-60% of the population has histamine issues and this number goes up as we get older (inflammaging) and for women (progesterone leaving the scene).
All the research is on CBD isolate so that's where we focus.
Isolate can actually calm histamine response (see CBD and mast cells).
That's just part of the problem.
Lack of transparency on product quality, levels, and ingredients
There's so much crap product on the market. Chinese manufacturers with little or no CBD. Amazon options (real CBD is not legal on Amazon). Everyone and their mother jumped on the bandwagon.
Then there are pretty big brands selling hemp oil with traces of CBD (maybe 8mg per dropper).
Worst yet, any brand that doesn't publish its 3rd party testing by batch… easily found on the website (ours is available at the top of every page).
The basic requirements for any CBD you're putting in your body:
- Organically grown in the USA at FDA registered farms
- CO2 processed
- Third-party tested
- No THC (THC builds tolerance)
- No pesticides
- No heavy metals
- No solvents
- No mold
- No bacteria
Again, this should all be reflected in 3rd party testing.
Does not address steroidal hormone deficiencies
CBD can't make up for lacking steroidal hormones like testosterone, estrogen, and progesterone.
CBD does support the endocrine system (hormones) but it can't make up for the loss that occurs as we get older.
Estrogen and testosterone both drive serotonin (our master mood regulator) and progesterone drives GABA (calm and sleep).
We did deep dives on estrogen and mental health or progesterone.
There's no band-aiding that loss (check out supplementation as needed with details here on estradiol).
Okay..that's the plus/minus columns for CBD and anxiety. Reach out to us with any questions.
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.