Anxiety has reached epic proportions in the United States, with nearly 40 million adults struggling with a diagnosed anxiety disorder.1 Pharmaceutical anti-anxiety drugs, while sometimes useful in the short-term, come with a slew of side effects ranging from weight gain to sexual dysfunction. The problems associated with these drugs have led to a surge in scientific research on natural anxiety-relieving compounds with better safety profiles. Cannabidiol (CBD), a chemical compound found in hemp, stands out as a particularly promising natural solution for anxiety. Read on to learn how CBD quenches anxiety and why liposomal CBD formulations are the superior way to take this potent calming compound.
High Anxiety: A Feature of Modern Times
Between concerns about the economy and political landscape, social media overload, and our demanding personal and professional lives, our modern world is an anxiety-provoking place! It comes as no surprise, then, that nearly 7 percent of filled prescriptions in the U.S. are for anxiety and depression medications.2
The most commonly-prescribed anti-anxiety drugs are benzodiazepines, selective serotonin reuptake inhibitors (SSRIs), and beta-blockers. While often effective in the short-term, these drugs cause significant side effects including fatigue and depression (beta-blockers), withdrawal symptoms (SSRIs), and a high risk of addiction (benzodiazepines).3,4,5 However, left untreated, unremitting anxiety depresses immune function, promotes the development of chronic diseases, and significantly detracts from our quality of life.6,7 We clearly need safer, effective alternatives to pharmaceutical drugs for soothing our anxiety.
Put the Brakes on Anxiety with CBD
CBD is one of over 100 compounds known as phytocannabinoids found in Cannabis sativa. Unlike its famous sister phytocannabinoid, THC, CBD does not cause a “high.” Instead, it interacts with a variety of signaling pathways and receptors within the body, including the endocannabinoid system and serotonin receptors, to balance the physiological response to mental and emotional stress.
In a recent survey of CBD use by U.S. adults, 50 percent reported they use CBD for anxiety and stress relief.8 These reports, combined with an expanding body of scientific research on CBD’s profound anxiety-relieving benefits, indicate that CBD may be just the thing we need to soothe our collective anxiety!
The endocannabinoid system (ECS) is a complex network of receptors and signaling molecules that regulate many aspects of our physiology, including appetite, cognition, immune function, inflammation, pain, and sleep. The ECS produces two endocannabinoids, anandamide and 2-arachidonoylglycerol, that interact with its G-protein-coupled CB1 and CB2 receptors. The ECS also harbors several enzymes that control endocannabinoid synthesis and degradation, including fatty acid amide hydrolase (FAAH).9
CBD interacts indirectly with CB1 and CB2 receptors to enhance ECS tone and elevate endogenous endocannabinoids, which have anti-anxiety effects.10 CBD also interacts with non-endocannabinoid receptors, such as the 5HT1a serotonin receptor and GABA receptor, altering neurotransmitter signaling in the brain. Through these diverse mechanisms, CBD modulates the anxiety response, supporting mental wellbeing.11
Preclinical research indicates that CBD has acute anti-anxiety effects in animal models of fear and anxiety.12 In human trials, CBD alleviates social anxiety associated with public speaking, PTSD-related anxiety, and anxiety in those recovering from substance abuse disorders.13,14,15,16 While much of the research on the applications of CBD for anxiety is preclinical, exciting human research is underway to further elucidate how CBD can support optimal mental health.17
Tap Into the “Entourage Effect” for Greater Anxiety Relief
Research indicates that the anti-anxiety effects of CBD are amplified by terpenoids, the phytochemicals that give Cannabis its distinct aroma and flavor.18 β-caryophyllene, a peppery-scented compound found in Cannabis, produces anti-anxiety effects by binding to CB2 receptors, activating the ECS without causing a “high.”19 Linalool and beta-pinene, two other terpenoids found in Cannabis, exert antidepressant activity via the monoamine pathway and may also alleviate anxiety.20
While high doses of THC can exacerbate anxiety, low doses of THC have the opposite effect, reducing anxiety; this paradoxical phenomenon is referred to as a biphasic effect.21 Low-dose THC thus contributes to the “entourage effect,” supporting the anti-anxiety properties of CBD and Cannabis terpenoids.
Novel Delivery Systems Enhance CBD Bioavailability
Phytocannabinoids such as CBD normally have limited bioavailability due to their poor water solubility. Self-emulsifying drug delivery systems (SEDS), which are capsules that break open upon contact with gastric juices and facilitate rapid absorption of their contents, significantly enhance CBD bioavailability.22 SEDS and other liposomal delivery systems may offer more rapid relief for anxiety compared to conventional CBD formulas, such as CBD-infused oils.
In our fast-paced world, strategies for managing stress and anxiety are crucial if you want to maintain your health and quality of life. When combined with a healthy diet, sufficient sleep, and healthy stress-reduction practices such as meditation, CBD can do wonders to help you quench anxiety and live your life to the fullest!
- “Facts and statistics.” Anxiety and Depression Association of America. https://adaa.org/about-adaa/press-room/facts-statistics. Accessed 11 October 2019.
- Marsh T. Depression and anxiety prescriptions are climbing nationwide. GoodRx. 2 May 2019. https://www.goodrx.com/blog/depression-and-anxiety-prescriptions-are-climbing-nationwide/.
- “Beta-blockers.” Mayo Clinic. 16 August 2019. https://www.mayoclinic.org/diseases-conditions/high-blood-pressure/in-depth/beta-blockers/art-20044522.
- Fava GA. Withdrawal symptoms after selective serotonin reuptake inhibitor discontinuation: A systematic review. Psychother Psychosom. 2015; 84(2): 72-81.
- Guina J, Merrill B. Benzodiazepines I: Upping the care on downers: The evidence of risks, benefits and alternatives. J Clin Med. 2018; 7(2): 17.
- Morey JN, et al. Current directions in stress and human immune function. Curr Opin Psychol. 2015; 5: 13-17.
- Liu YZ, et al. Inflammation: The common pathway of stress-related diseases. Front Hum Neurosci. 2017; 11: 316.
- Kopf D, Avins J. New data show Americans are turning to CBD as a cure-all for the modern condition. Quartz. 16 April 2019. https://qz.com/1590765/survey-shows-americans-use-cbd-to-treat-anxiety-and-stress/.
- Ahn K, et al. Enzymatic pathways that regulate endocannabinoid signaling in the nervous system. Chem Rev. 2008; 108(5): 1687-1707.
- Papagianni EP, Stevenson CW. Cannabinoid regulation of fear and anxiety: An update. Curr Psychiatry Rep. 2019; 21:38.
- Blessing EM, et al. Cannabidiol as a potential treatment for anxiety disorders. Neurotherapeutics. 2015; 12(4): 825-836.
- Jurkus R, et al. Cannabidiol regulation of learned fear: Implications for treating anxiety-related disorders. Front Pharmacol. 2016; 7: 454.
- Crippa JA, et al. Neural basis of anxiolytic effects of cannabidiol (CBD) in generalized social anxiety disorder: a preliminary report. J Psychopharmacol. 2011; 25(1): 121-130.
- Linares IM, et al. Cannabidiol presents an inverted U-shaped dose-response curve in a simulated public speaking test. Braz J Psychiatry. 2019; 41(1): 9-14.
- Bitencourt RM, Takahashi RN. Cannabidiol as a therapeutic alternative for post-traumatic stress disorder: From bench research to confirmation in human trials. Front Neurosci. 2018; 12: 502.
- Hurd YL, et al. Cannabidiol for the reduction of cue-induced craving and anxiety in drug-abstinent individuals with heroin use disorder: A double-blind randomized placebo-controlled trial. Am J Psychiatry. 2019; doi: 10.1176/appi.ajp.2019.18101191. [Epub ahead of print].
- Cannabidiol for the treatment of anxiety disorders: An 8-week pilot study. gov. https://clinicaltrials.gov/ct2/show/NCT03549819.
- Ferber SG, et al. The “entourage effect”: Terpenes coupled with cannabinoids for the treatment of mood disorders and anxiety disorders. Curr Neuropharmacol. 2019. doi: 10.2174/1570159X17666190903103923. [Epub ahead of print].
- Bahi A, et al. β-Caryophyllene, a CB2 receptor agonist produces multiple behavioral changes relevant to anxiety and depression in mice. Physiol Behav. 2014; 135: 119-124.
- Guzman-Gutierrez SL, et al. Linalool and β-pinene exert their antidepressant-like activity through the monoaminergic pathway. Life Sci. 2015; 128(1): 24-29.
- Childs E, et al. Dose-related effects of delta-9-THC on emotional responses to acute psychosocial stress. Drug Alcohol Depend. 2017; 177: 136-144.
- Knaub K, et al. A novel self-emulsifying drug delivery system (SEDDS) based on VESIsorb® formulation technology improving the oral bioavailability of cannabidiol in healthy subjects. Molecules. 2019. 24(16): 2967.