It's a classic mismatch.
The amount of research on CBD and anxiety does not match people's knowledge on the subject.
Huge misunderstandings on key points like dose, how to take, when to take, and the big one…what to take.
Time to bring everyone up to where research (NIH no less) sits. We may need a step-ladder!!
Here's the listing of the top 10 tips:
- Getting the CBD dose right for anxiety
- The whole full spectrum versus CBD isolate question
- Breaking up doses to maximize the effect on anxiety
- Short-term versus long-term pathways of anxiety
- Taking CBD after meals
- The "tongue" trick
- The "what if" for stressful situations
- The 10/20 day split
- CBD's supporting cast for anxiety
- Getting to the root of anxiety
If you want a really eye-glazing review on CBD and the pathways of anxiety, go here.
We have 1000's of words reviewing every aspect you can imagine on CBD and anxiety. We'll link to our favorites towards the bottom.
Let's get started!
Getting the dose right
This is by far the biggest disconnect.
Many people will try 20-30mg of CBD for anxiety and wonder why it's not working.
Keep in mind that everyone's system is different and some may actually get some benefit with low levels but this does not match the research.
Most of the issue comes from people's expectations of what CBD will feel like. THC has crashed the party in this regard!
CBD does not create a "high". It doesn't build tolerance. It's not addictive. There's no rebound.
In fact, CBD has been found to counter THC's effects on that front and this is the true meaning behind the term "entourage effect" from the Israeli Godfather of CBD research.
So…how to look at CBD dosage for anxiety?
First, a general wellness test is around 30-50mg. This is to see how you respond and dispel any worries!
The higher level of CBD is generally around 300mg daily based on research.
This is peak neurogenesis, the key to long-term improvement.
We'll look below at times of intense stress/anxiety below.
Many people find benefits at 100mg daily so you really need to play with the range to see how you respond.
This definitely doesn't match 30-ounce bottles with 250mg total CBD out on the market!
That's about 9mg per dropper. Total ripoffs.
Check out our Top 10 Tips on CBD Dosage Guide for more.
The type of CBD is another big issue.
The whole full spectrum versus CBD isolate question for anxiety
Most of the market is pushing full or broad-spectrum CBD.
This is usually CBD added back into hemp oil with or without other cannabinoids and/or cannabis plant material (terpenoids, etc).
What's not being discussed, especially in terms of anxiety, is histamine.
Histamine is excitatory in the brain…it actually eats up GABA, our key calming pathway (and target of benzos - see CBD versus benzos here).
Roughly 40-60% of the population has histamine issues and this number goes up as we get older and for women (due to progesterone leaving the scene).
All the plant material in full or broad-spectrum can make anxiety worse or cause it! Not to mention insomnia (see histamine and insomnia).
Most importantly, almost all the research is on CBD isolate…CBD by itself.
We have a whole review on full-spectrum versus CBD isolate for anxiety.
It's the #2 biggest disconnect on the market for people dealing with anxiety.
Let's get practical now.
Breaking up doses to maximize the effect on anxiety
CBD has a peak level in the blood after 4-6 hours. This times perfectly with meals (more on that below).
If 300 mg per day is the peak level for neurogenesis (key to mental health and addiction) 100mg after each meal would hit this target and spread the level out through the day.
Some people will save the third "installment" for nighttime (see CBD and sleep).
CBD should be taken at least 4 hours away from medications (check with doctor or naturopath) so skipping one of these and having 150mg/150mg for the other two would address this.
Again, everyone's system is different and you may get benefits at 100mg daily. In which case, just break it up!
Of course, you can take it at one time (strong safety profile up to 1500mg in NIH research) but test and adjust.
For how long?
Short-term versus long-term pathways of anxiety
There are two critical pathways (of many) that directly impact anxiety:
- GABA - short-term; brain's "brake" pedal
- Serotonin - longer-term; master regulator of all human behavior, a stress response buffer
GABA (target of benzos) works very fast…almost immediately.
Serotonin builds over time which is why SSRIs don't kick in for 2 weeks (till tolerance kicks in).
It turns out that the real magic behind serotonin is actually BDNF, our brain's fertilizer and that takes time to "build". Literally building new brain connections!
CBD supports both pathways in a feedback mechanism which is why you don't see tolerance, addiction, or bizarre side effects like with anxiety meds.
Let's tease out ways to make CBD work best for anxiety.
Taking CBD after meals
Most CBD is taken orally and the oils are generally how we can achieve levels actually shown in research.
Here's the deal. The liver processes CBD (and about 60% of medications).
Very little CBD gets past the gauntlet of the gut and especially the liver.
To counter this, you can take CBD after meals. Why?
The liver also breaks down fat in our meals and if it's busy with this task, more CBD gets through!
So…CBD after meals can boost the bioavailability by significant amounts.
That combined with the next key trick can drive up levels by 4x's.
The "tongue" trick
With CBD oils, holding the oil under your tongue for up to 60 seconds does two things...
- Boosts the amount that is absorbed by bypassing the gut and absorbing directly into the sublingual gland.
- Speeds effects from 20ish minutes to 5-10
The real impact is allowing more to absorb before the gut gets to work on it.
Again, between this method and taking after meals, research shows a 4x's boost in availability.
That means you can take less and save money!
Okay..what if we have something really stressful coming up (social situation, etc).
The "what if" for stressful situations
There's an interesting study on CBD and public speaking that we can lean on.
Basically, they gave CBD to people with diagnosed social anxiety before public speaking.
Literally the worst fear of anyone with social anxiety (or without apparently).
The effects were profound with an obliteration of the subjective feeling of anxiety during the event.
Check out the full CBD and public speaking study.
What can we take from this if we have a very stressful situation coming (or going)?
- First, the dose was higher at 600mg.
- Second, it was taken 1 and ½ hours before the event (public speaking)
600-800mg mirrors levels in research for more serious issues so it's definitely within bounds.
If you hold the CBD oil under your tongue, it can speed availability if you don't have 1 ½ yours to wait!
Peak CBD is about 4-6 hours after usage.
This brings up an interesting strategy if we're new to CBD.
The 10/20 day split
Mirroring what we see in studies on drug withdrawal (opioid, alcohol, nicotine, etc), there's an interesting pattern:
- A higher dose for the first 10 days (think of anxiety like withdrawal) at 600mg daily
- A lower dose for peak neurogenesis (the target of SSRIs) for day 11-30 at 300mg daily
Beyond that, you can test how you feel and always adjust accordingly.
Anxiety can be overwhelming so there's merit in hitting with a higher dose at first to right the ship and then settling down to the 300mg since neurogenesis and BDNF are the key drivers for long term change.
Along the way, there are other tools to look at which also don't build tolerance.
CBD's supporting cast for anxiety
We have a visual guide to anxiety tools here but the cheat sheet:
- Magnesium glycinate - powerful supporter of GABA and stress response
- NAC - acts like a sink for excess glutamate (opposing force to GABA) and detox
- Steroidal hormones - get tested; so many people are low and these drive GABA and serotonin
- Vitamin D - also a steroidal hormone with many people are deficient; get tested (and question why your doctor hasn't tested you already)
- Berberine - powerful calming agent in the gut which drives brain inflammation
- CDP Choline - eat eggs! Supports acetylcholine, the key "calm and focused" transmitter
- Medicinal mushrooms - rebalances the immune system which is the future of mental health
That last one is a great lead into to the final section!
Getting to the root of anxiety
People, outside of loss of steroidal hormones (especially for women)…this is the root of it (for many people)!
Early trauma or infection (even in utero) can cause havoc in almost every system tied to anxiety:
- GABA and serotonin gets downregulated
- Inflammation gets upregulated
- Stress response gets weakened
And much more!
Getting to the root of this is critical to affecting long term change.
The mushrooms are interesting to rebalance these effects since the mark-up from early trauma/infection is primarily "written" in the immune system's record.
It's important to understand "why" we get anxiety!
Okay…that's a wrap. We have lots of research backing all these sections with dozens of NIH studies.
Be well. Take care of each other. Take care of yourself.
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.