Cannabidiol, or CBD is a chemical compound naturally found in the Cannabis Sativa or hemp plant. CBD has been used for generations to treat symptoms of chronic illness, pain, anxiety and insomnia. THC, or tetrahydrocannabinol is CBD’s sister compound found in hemp that creates psychogenic effects or the feeling of being ‘high.’ Individuals concerned about unwanted side effects or safety have experienced potent, effective relief from CBD interventions without any compromise on safety. Current research indicates CBD is quickly taking its place in the medical spotlight as a promising, safe substance to aid in the treatment and prevention of various medical conditions.
So how does CBD actually work in our bodies? Attached to our cells are multiple receptors, chemical structures made up of proteins that receive and transmit various signals to stimulate reactions within the body. CBD binds to receptors CB1 and CB2 in our central and peripheral nervous system. While the exact mechanism is not fully understood, CBD interacts with receptor activity and can change serotonin signaling patterns.
Serotonin is a neurotransmitter in the brain, composed of the amino acid tryptophan. Serotonin is responsible for mood regulation, sleep patterns, appetite and behavior changes. Low levels of serotonin are often found in individuals suffering from depression and anxiety. Typically, these mood disorders are treated with prescription SSRI’s- selective serotonin reuptake inhibitors like zoloft and prozac. With proper medical supervision, CBD is becoming an alternative option to help manage anxiety and mental disorders.
Studies involving mice indicated improvements in behavioral and physiological symptoms of anxiety when given CBD. Another 2011 study on individuals with social anxiety disorder (SAD) found that adults given 400 mg of CBD experienced lower levels of anxiety compared to the group receiving a placebo. CBD, either on its own or combined with interventions such as CBT (cognitive behavioral therapy) and medication may be highly effective in treating generalized anxiety disorder, post traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) and anxiety induced insomnia.
A recent study found CBD may have antipsychotic effects in schizophrenic adults, without the negative side effects of antipsychotic medications. More in-depth, controlled studies are needed to determine CBD’s ability to manage and treat mental disorders. In the meantime, discuss alternative options with your healthcare provider before adding or changing your current medication regimen.
Finding the correct dose may be a challenge. Experts claim that most commercial CBD products do not contain anywhere near the concentration necessary to achieve a clinical effect. The few dosage studies performed on adults with anxiety concluded that participants receiving a dose too high (600 mg) or too low (150 mg) did not feel therapeutic effects. The ‘sweet spot’ seemed to be approximately 300 mg, but the correct dosage will vary based on the individual and must be discussed with a doctor.
CBD is very safe and generally causes little to no side effects. However, some individuals may experience changes in weight/appetite, fatigue and diarrhea. CBD may also negatively interact with dietary supplements and medications such as blood thinners. Any medication with a ‘grapefruit’ label should not be taken alongside CBD. CBD and grapefruit act on the same enzymes involving drug metabolism, and CBD may inhibit the medication’s absorption or effectiveness inside the body. Never cease medications you take regularly before consulting a doctor. Doing so may result in withdrawal, with symptoms including nausea, dizziness, irritability and brain fog.
How can you obtain CBD? Depends where you live! Hemp based CBD products containing less than 0.3% THC are federally legal, but may be illegal in specific states. In some areas, CBD is allowed only to treat medical conditions like epilepsy and you would have to obtain a license from your physician to buy CBD oil. If you live in a cannabis friendly state, CBD can be purchased online or in cannabis dispensaries and clinics.
Overall, studies so far may lack some credibility but are overall very promising. With supervision and a proper care plan, CBD may be an excellent supplement or alternative to treat anxiety. As research highlighting CBD’s health benefits continues to surface, we’re likely to see CBD become legalized and readily available in many more parts of the USA and across the globe.