How Long Does It Take CBD to Work For Anxiety?
Anxiety is a pressing issue when you're in the middle of it.
Urgency is literally the basis behind anxiety as a response in our brain.
We're going to look at both the short-term and long-term effects of CBD for anxiety.
Both are of equal importance as you'll see below.
We've done deep dives on CBD and anxiety but let's focus on duration in this review.
The heavy lifting of research can be found on the main page above.
Here are the topics we'll cover:
- The short term and long term pathways of CBD and anxiety
- How fast does CBD work for anxiety?
- The long term duration effects of CBD for anxiety
- How much CBD to take for an immediate response
- How much CBD to take for longer-term anxiety
- What's the best kind of CBD for short and long term use with anxiety
Let's get started. Fast!
The short term and long term pathways of CBD and anxiety
To really understand how fast CBD work and what it does over the long term, we have to dive a bit into the key pathways for anxiety.
Interestingly, these pathways match the two main medication classes for anxiety: benzos and SSRIs (antidepressants).
- Short term: GABA - our brain's "brake pedal"
- Long term: Serotonin - our brain's stress response system
- Long term: BDNF - our brain's repair/rebuild pathway
These are your new best friends if you suffer from anxiety and we'll explain why.
GABA is an immediate effect...within 15 minutes if not right away depending on delivery.
Benzos drive GABA function but they are incredibly addictive and quickly build tolerance which leaves you off worse than before you started.
That's why there's a black box warning on the label and they are not recommended beyond 2 weeks.
Tell that to the doctors.
We've been there resulting from a brutal perimenopause (that story is here).
GABA is a foundational neurotransmitter with effects across the nervous system.
It's generally opposing Glutamate (our "gas pedal") but also cortisol (stress hormone) and histamine (allergic reaction player).
Rather than just boosting GABA in one direction, CBD works like a feedback mechanism to support it when it's low (anxiety!).
That's why CBD doesn't have the sedative effect or even overdose risk even at high doses (tested up to 1.5 grams - 1500 mgs).
This pathway is very fast and studies on CBD and public speaking anxiety for people with social anxiety is a perfect example.
We did a big review on it here.
In those studies, they gave 600 mg of CBD about 40 minutes before speaking.
You can speed the effects by holding CBD under your tongue for up to 60 seconds which boosts (and speeds) bioavailability to about 10-15 minutes after use.
That's the power of GABA without addiction and tolerance!
It also goes to calming cortisol (stress hormone) and histamine (vigilance neurotransmitter).
GABA is directly tied into:
- Panic attacks
And more! Check out our CBD and GABA for a full review with lots of research.
Let's turn our attention to pathways that kick in later on.
Serotonin is the master regulator of all human behavior.
That may sound like hyperbole but check out some of the weird results at our CBD and serotonin review.
Better yet, check out the side effects of SSRIs at our CBD versus SSRI review.
Here's the issue:
Too little serotonin function leads to a host of issues including:
- Mood disorders
The list goes on and on.
Too much serotonin is just as bad! In fact, it can be deadly (see CBD and serotonin syndrome).
That's a possible side effect from SSRIs and we experienced that directly when Lexapro was cross prescribed with a common anti-nausea med (which also boosts serotonin).
Full psychotic break and no sleep for 3 nights.
SSRIs don't have a classical addiction response (does not spike dopamine) but good luck getting off of them.
Again, serotonin is a great player in many pathways and tolerance will build to SSRIs.
We bring up SSRIs because there's an interesting item that doctors know all too well…
They don't start working until about 2 weeks!
Why on earth?
If low serotonin is the driver for anxiety and depression, wouldn't an immediate boost of serotonin address the issue?
In fact, anxiety and depression can get worse for the first 2 weeks so benzos are commonly prescribed to "smooth out the transition".
We dive deep into why this happens at our CBD and CRF (a master precursor to stress hormone response).
The real star of the show for long-term effects however is a chemical you probably have never heard of (but will in the coming years!)
BDNF - brain-derived neurotrophic factor
This may be the most important thing you'll read in our 1 million+ words of research.
BDNF drives a process called neurogenesis which quite simply means...brain growth and repair.
It's the other side of the coin fighting a veritable list of enemies:
- Drugs and chemicals
- Infection (even in-utero which has effects later for mental health)
- Stress (acute or chronic)
- Too much glutamate (redlining the gas pedal)
- Hyperactive immune response (see CBD and brain barrier)
The newest research is really showcasing the last one there...immune response.
IT's more than just fighting infection!
Our brain's immune system is intimately tied into mapping out the architecture of our brain.
Just last week, a study found that people with depression have reduced numbers of astrocytes, a key player in this system.
Check out CBD and neuroinflammation to learn all about it.
In our How do SSRIs really work, we look at research where BDNF is turned off and the net effect?
Neurogenesis goes away and SSRIs lose their antidepressant effect!
Read that back over, please. BDNF is really the player behind the curtain.
That's why it takes SSRIs 2 weeks to really show any effect...it's literally rebuilding of brain!
CBD has the exact same response but without the tolerance:
Cannabidiol Induces Rapid and Sustained Antidepressant-Like Effects Through Increased BDNF Signaling and Synaptogenesis in the Prefrontal Cortex
Goodness...let's break that down because it's too important.
- Increased BDNF. Check
- Synaptogenesis - literally building out connections in the brain
- Prefrontal cortex - the part of the brain that makes you, you!
We walk throughout the prefrontal cortex is the voice of reason against fear and anxiety circuits (the amygdala) in our CBD and mechanisms of anxiety review.
People, BDNF is the key to long-term brain health and anxiety, depression, addiction, and pretty much every ailment.
What else boosts BDNF?
- Exercise. That's why it's good for the brain since it actually generates quite a bit of oxidative stress
- Mindful Meditation - BDNF again. Strange, a little quirk of our wiring but we'll take it!
Check out exercise and mindful meditation for anxiety to learn more.
We did a deep dive on research with CBD and BDNF.
- GABA - immediate response with balancing or supportive effect
- Serotonin - immediate effect with stress response and long term as it boosts BDNF
- BDNF -longer-term effect (2 weeks out)
So...with all that said, let's jump into practical questions.
How fast does CBD work for anxiety?
If we leave it to oral intake, it can take about 30 minutes to kick in since the liver and gut are brutal environments.
The trick is to hold the oil under our tongues for up to 60 seconds.
This can speed delivery (generally about 10 minutes) and it boosts the amount that can get in (by about 4x's).
The latter goes a long way to saving money as well.
We discuss many situations where CBD is needed right away and this sublingual route is key there.
Peak CBD in the blood is generally around 4 hours after taking it but the initial effects are much faster.
This times nicely with meals which actually keeps the liver busy so more can get through.
How about longer-term.
The long term duration effects of CBD for anxiety
This goes back to BDNF which is a slow-moving re-building and replenishment of the brain.
That generally ramps up after 2 weeks (exactly the same as SSRIs which then start to lose their effectiveness due to tolerance).
CBD has not been shown to build tolerance, cause withdrawals, or be addictive.
All very important since we're trying to improve our mental health….long term.
There are interesting studies on CBD and addiction which give us a good duration for this long-term effect.
- First 10 days - high CBD for withdrawals (600 mg)
- Day 11 to 2 months - drop dosage for maximum BDNF and neurotransmitters (300 mg)
Generally, the normalization of the underlying pathway took about 2 months but can be longer depending on the duration of use and type of drug.
The two most main triggers for drug relapse:
- Reduced BDNF levels!
Almost NO ONE dealing with addiction knows this fact.
You have to "re-write" the learned process of addiction and that requires neurogenesis.
We bring this up because we can think of anxiety as a circuit that needs to be re-written (the circuit between the prefrontal cortex and the amygdala primarily).
Where benzos might disrupt GABA function, anxiety reflects a similar imbalance.
Of course, we have to look at what's driving the other side:
- Immune response
- Gut barrier issues (see CBD and gut barrier or CBD and probiotics for anxiety)
Clearly, BDNF was not keeping up with the onslaught so addressing both is ideal for actual, long-term improvement.
The net-net is this… long-term effects start after 2 weeks and continue on.
What about dosages for both immediate and long-term effects with CBD and anxiety (or depression for that matter)?
How much CBD to take for an immediate response
Everyone's system is different so test how you feel first.
A test amount might be 50-60mgs.
The studies on immediate and serious needs were generally 600-800mgs.
That's the study on public speaking anxiety and social anxiety as well as a host of different ones from psychosis to phobias.
This is a higher amount but well within the tested ranges for safety.
The opioid withdrawal studies also used 600 mg for the initial withdrawal phase as we mentioned above.
You may find that you don't need this high amount and you can also break it into 3 doses a day around meals (200 mg x 3).
This is as needed (intense anxiety or panic attack) or during an initial introduction.
Again, test and see how you feel ramping up from 50mg.
Once, the storm is quieted, then how much?
How much CBD to take for longer-term anxiety
Here, we have good research.
Studies found that max neurogenesis (the key to long-term effects) was at around 300mg daily.
It operates on a bell curve with neurogenesis effects actually going down from their peak beyond 300 mg.
Short term, it's about putting out the fire. Longer-term, we need to rebuild fire-safe connections.
Check out the research on the ideal CBD dose for anxiety here.
Finally, a very important piece of the puzzle.
What's the best kind of CBD for short and long term use with anxiety
First, we need the following from our CBD:
- Organically grown in the US at FDA registered farms
- CO2 processed
- 3rd party tested
- No THC - many people have allergic (histamine) reactions to THC and it builds tolerance
- No Heavy Metals
- No Pesticides
- No Mold
- No Bacteria
You may notice that many of these are on the "insult" side from above.
Gut inflammation. Immune response. Oxidative stress.
We need a clean products and 3rd party testing (such as at top of the page) is mandatory.
Then, there's the question of CBD isolate versus CBD full spectrum.
Everyone's pushing full spectrum on the market but many people have bad responses to this type of product.
Especially for anxiety!
Here's the deal…
Roughly 40-60% of the population has histamine issues (see gut inflammation review to learn more).
There's a reason antihistamines can have anti-anxiety effects!
The last thing we want is to set boost an excitatory chemical in the brain which again...overwhelms GABA.
We field questions every week from people who GET anxiety from taking CBD.
It's either the full spectrum piece and histamine or a really bad product.
Just check out the reviews and see how different the response can be.
Finally, there's cost.
If we're going to actually match research, we need higher levels of CBD both short and long-term.
The key there is cost per mg of CBD.
We price our 6000mg bottles (about 200mg per dropper) at 2-3 cents per mg of CBD BEFORE discounts up to 30%.
When we found CBD, it significantly reduced suffering from anxiety and rolling panic attacks so we want as many people as possible to get access to high-quality CBD isolate that matches actual research.
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.