How To Use CBD Oil For Anxiety

Alternaleaf Team
Written by
Alternaleaf Team
Aug 11, 2023
Last updated:
Dec 15, 2023

Anxiety disorders are among the most common mental health conditions in Australia. Anxiety is a complex condition, and can affect your physical health as well as your mental health. There are several types of anxiety disorders, including social anxiety disorder, generalised anxiety disorder and panic disorder.

Because anxiety is such a widespread problem, new treatment options are gaining interest. CBD oil shows some promise in managing anxiety, but how solid is the evidence? Can the type of CBD oil and the way you use it affect how it works for anxiety?

Understanding Anxiety

Anxiety can be seen as the body’s alarm system. When you feel anxious, it can be a sign that there’s something dangerous nearby or that there’s something wrong. If you experience an anxiety disorder, you might feel like the alarm is going off all the time, even when there’s no clear threat.

Anxiety disorders will affect 1 in 4 Australians at some stage in their life. People with anxiety disorders can find it hard to cope with everyday life, and it’s often necessary to treat anxiety with psychotherapy and sometimes medication.

It can be difficult to know if what you’re experiencing is regular, everyday anxiety or an anxiety disorder. Like all health conditions, it’s important to speak to your doctor if you suspect you might have an anxiety disorder, but there are some symptoms to be aware of.

If you feel anxious or worried much or all of the time, become tired easily or have difficulty concentrating because of your anxiety, you may be experiencing an anxiety disorder. Anxiety disorders can even cause physical symptoms, such as muscle tension, trembling and increased heart rate. It can also be difficult to sleep when anxiety is ever-present.

The good news is that there are several treatment options for anxiety disorders. In this post we’ll go over the evidence for CBD oil’s effectiveness for treating anxiety, and help you decide if it might be right for you. First, we’ll go over some of the more common types of anxiety, and how they affect the body.

What Are The Different Types Of Anxiety Disorders?

‘Anxiety disorder’ is a broad term that can refer to several more specific conditions. Some common anxiety conditions include generalised anxiety disorder, social anxiety disorder, panic disorder and specific phobias.

The most common anxiety disorder is generalised anxiety disorder. If you have generalised anxiety disorder, you might find that you worry about a lot of things most or all of the time, and that this persistent worry is affecting your day-to-day life.  

People with social anxiety disorder feel intense worry and sometimes dread in social situations, and may distance themselves from others to avoid feeling this anxiety. If you have social anxiety disorder, you may excessively worry about being in a situation where you might feel embarrassed.

Panic disorder can cause panic attacks, which can be sudden and unexpected or be triggered by a certain situation or thing. Panic attacks are usually short-lived, but can be very upsetting.

People sometimes mistake panic attacks for other health emergencies, such as a heart attack, due to how intense the anxiety can be during an attack. It’s easy for people with panic disorder to become fearful about having a panic attack, which in itself can create anxiety or cause them to avoid specific triggers.

Finally, there are many different phobias. A phobia is an intense fear of something – agoraphobia, for instance, is the fear of being in a place that might cause you to lose control or have a panic attack. This can cause people with agoraphobia to avoid certain situations such as queues or crowds, or sometimes avoid leaving their home altogether.

How Does Anxiety Affect The Body?

Anxiety is not just a feeling – it can cause real changes in our bodies. When you become anxious your breathing and heart rate can increase, concentrating blood in the brain and allowing you to react quicker to the perceived threat.

This is called the fight, flight, freeze response. While it can save your life, the flight, fight, freeze response can be very taxing on the body if it persists outside of dangerous situations. This is because, if you are chronically anxious, the body rarely or never gets the signal to return to normal functioning. This constant state of hypervigilance can weaken the immune system and put you at risk of viral infections and illness.

Anxiety can also affect your digestive and cardiovascular systems. Anxiety can cause rapid heart rate, chest pain and palpitations. Chronic anxiety may put some at a higher risk of heart disease.

People with anxiety disorder sometimes experience stomach aches, nausea and diarrhoea.  There might also be some connection between anxiety disorders and irritable bowel syndrome, a condition that can cause diarrhoea, constipation or vomiting.

What Benefits Does CBD Oil Have For Anxiety?

What we know so far about CBD oil’s role in managing anxiety is promising, but there is a lack of well-designed research. Although, the studies that have been done show that CBD may have some use in managing anxiety disorders.

A randomised, controlled trial from 2019 found that a single dose of CBD helped reduce anxiety related to social anxiety disorder. Another study found similar results for general anxiety, with CBD improving anxiety symptoms and sleep quality, but stated that more controlled clinical trials would help further explore CBD’s effect on anxiety.

Some of the studies specify that while CBD may have anxiety-reducing properties, tetrahydrocannabinol (THC) can cause anxiety. CBD oils typically either have very little or no THC, meaning they could be more beneficial for people with anxiety.

Another study of 57 healthy participants found that 300mg of CBD significantly reduced anxiety levels. Researchers gave participants varying amounts of CBD or a placebo, and found that 300mg significantly reduced anxiety before a simulated public speaking test.

We may not fully understand how CBD oil affects anxiety for a while. That being said, the early research suggests that CBD oil may be worth talking to your doctor about if you experience anxiety and have found other treatments ineffective or not well-tolerated.

How Can I Take CBD Oil For Anxiety?

Currently, there’s no agreed-upon ‘best’ way to take CBD oil for anxiety. Your doctor will assess your condition and determine the best method of delivery for you. Some of the ways you can take CBD oil include dropping the oil under the tongue (sublingual), capsules and lozenges.

Sublingual administration is a simple and discreet way of taking CBD oil. By ‘sublingual’ we mean placing CBD oil under the tongue using a dropper, where the CBD oil dissolves into the capillary-rich area and enters your bloodstream.

You can also ingest CBD via a capsule or lozenge, which may be even easier for some people. Capsules and lozenges can take between 30-90 minutes to take effect. The effects can last from 12-24 hours, but this will vary from person to person.

What Are The Different Types Of CBD Oil?

CBD oils come in three different categories: isolate, broad-spectrum and full-spectrum. There’s no go-to CBD oil for anxiety in particular, so which CBD oil you choose will depend on your doctor’s recommendation.

There’s currently no evidence to suggest that one type of CBD oil might be better than another for anxiety. However, there is some evidence that broad-spectrum CBD oil might have more general therapeutic benefits due to the entourage effect. (Full-spectrum oils also benefit from the entourage effect, but can contain THC, which may exacerbate anxiety symptoms in some patients.)

The entourage effect is the theory that certain cannabinoids, terpenes and flavonoids work together to achieve a greater therapeutic benefit. Broad-spectrum CBD oil typically contains all the cannabinoids, terpenes and other compounds found in the cannabis plant, minus the THC, meaning it may benefit from the entourage effect.

How Much CBD Oil Should I Take For Anxiety?

There are no official dosage guidelines when it comes to taking CBD oil for anxiety. This means that your doctor will assess your needs, then tailor your dosage according to your comfort level and condition.

Like any medication, the right dose of CBD is different for everyone, but a good rule of thumb is to start small and make sure your body has ample time to adjust to the medication.  It’s best to speak with your doctor about your condition and how CBD may affect it. From here you can work out a dosage plan.

It’s also a good idea to record your CBD oil use in a journal. Recording the effects that different dosages have on your anxiety can be a good way for you and your doctor to see how your treatment is progressing.  

Which CBD Oil Should I Use?

Although CBD oil is technically legal to buy over-the-counter at Australian pharmacies, it’s essentially still a prescription-only medication. This is because the Therapeutic Goods Administration requires a lengthy approval process, which CBD oil hasn’t yet been through.

This means that when it comes to choosing a brand of CBD oil, you’re limited to what your doctor prescribes. Thankfully, the CBD oil products that Australian doctors prescribe are held to a rigorous standard, so you can rest assured that you’ll be getting a high-quality product.

Sourcing CBD oil through other pathways isn’t recommended, as unlicensed vendors are rarely transparent about important information such as farming and extraction methods. CBD oil from unlicensed sources can also contain contaminants such as pesticides, insecticides, bacteria or heavy metals.    

What Are The Risks & Side Effects Of CBD Oil?

CBD oil is usually well-tolerated, but some side effects can occur. These side effects include dry mouth, diarrhoea, dizziness and fatigue. It’s important to be aware of these potential risks even though most people are able to use CBD oil without experiencing side effects. Speak to your doctor if you’re worried about side effects or if you experience any.

CBD oil can adversely interact with other medications as well, potentially increasing the risk of side effects or causing other medications to be less effective. In particular, CBD oil can interact with medications that are broken down by enzymes in the liver. This is because the same enzymes in the liver that break down medications also break down cannabis compounds. As always, talk to your doctor about any medications you are on before commencing cannabis care.

What Should I Do If Anxiety Is Affecting My Wellbeing?

Anxiety disorders are very difficult to live with. If you experience persistent anxiety, or it’s having a negative effect on your wellbeing, we’d recommend speaking to a doctor about treatment options. Anxiety treatments work best together, such as supplementing your medication regimen with an exercise program.

CBD oil may be a useful supplementary treatment for anxiety, but always speak with your doctor before making any changes to your treatment plan. Make sure to voice any concerns you have, as the information about CBD oil is sometimes conflicting. In the coming years we’re likely to see more research on CBD oil’s effects, since the early findings have been encouraging.

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