Cannabis and Health

14 March 2019

How can CBD help with anxiety?

Feeling anxious? Stressed out? Depressed? CBD may help to get you back on the right track

By Mell Green

Anxiety affects almost everyone and can be extremely draining — both literally and figuratively. Worrying about things the ‘logical-self’ knows aren’t that big of a deal doesn’t stop the pervasive worry of patients who’ve been diagnosed or who experience discomforting symptoms. Whether you find it challenging to feel tranquil in social interactions, suffer from physical manifestations of stress, or just feel like the burdens of the world are weighing down on you, anxiety is no fun ride, but CBD is a powerful tool.

Unlike conventional medicines, CBD has provided, recreational and medicinal consumers alike, a window of escape and a life quality boost that will show improvement through continual use — due to the anxiolytic effects of CBD. If you are someone who suffers from anxiety, prepare to restore some hope. In this article, we will discuss triggers of anxiety and how supplementing with CBD may be able to help.

Anxiety in a nutshell

While anxiety isn’t generally thought of as “desirable,” it is a natural response to help some people deal with potential danger to their (or loved ones) safety and welfare. But, probably the worst thing to learn is that it doesn’t come in just one form. Social phobias, GAD, hypochondria, OCD, PTSD, and depression are all different anxiety-related disorders that not only manifests mentally but also physically, causing nausea, panic attacks, restlessness, decreased concentration, and sleeping issues. But, just where does anxiety stem from?

Anxiety stems from within the limbic system, more specifically the amygdala, where our fears and memories live. Essentially, the limbic system screens information based on past experiences and attaches the (most times false) perception of a threat, which shapes how we react to future events. These are learned fears that constitute the many forms of anxiety as well as experiences of trauma.

From selective serotonin re-uptake inhibitors (SSRIs), like Prozac and Zoloft, to tranquilizers and benzodiazepines such as Xanax and Valium; many drugs have been developed to target our serotonin system and treat anxiety. However, sometimes they are not effective, and not everyone responds favorably to them. But, don’t break down, break through. Perhaps learning about a specific chemical compound may be therapeutically helpful in your search for alleviating anxiety.

How selective serotonin re-uptake inhibitors (SSRIs) work

What is Anandamide?

For the uninitiated, anandamide (from Sanskrit word ‘Ananda’ literally meaning “divine joy or bliss” is a novel endocannabinoid neurotransmitter in the endocannabinoid system (ECS) that is changing what we thought we knew about cannabis and the human biology.

Aside from producing blissful sensations of happiness, anandamide was found to interact with different areas of the body that are important to pain, memory, appetite, movement, and our emotions. Some people have a genetic tendency to produce high anandamide levels, and they are incredibly blessed. But when they get out of whack, so too does our ECS. This causes an ECS deficiency, which can bring about a range of debilitating conditions including depression, stress, and you guessed it right — anxiety. Luckily, robust levels of anandamide in our bodies exhibit both anti-anxiety and antidepressant properties and can reduce these conditions and calm down the overly anxious.

Since we’ve briefly learned that anandamide is inextricably linked to feelings of happiness, and a lack of it leads to anxiety and other health issues, how can we naturally increase this feel-good compound?

The influence of cannabinoids

In cannabis, we have a plant that’s made up of unique and incredibly therapeutic compounds, and CBD is one of them. As it turns out, when we consume CBD, it increases circulating levels of anandamide. Because of its relationship with anandamide, CBD can be useful for pain and mood and neurological disorders. But, how?

Brain-serotonin-neurotransmission plays a vital role in mood and involves 5-HT1A (serotonin) receptors, which play a role in correcting anxiety behaviors. Research indicates that the effect of CBD on these 5-HT1A receptors may be responsible for the anxiolytic effects of the cannabinoid.

Unlike THC, CBD itself has a low affinity for both the CB1 and CB2 receptor. However, the best part of CBD’s anxiolytic magic is that it acts as an agonist on the human 5-HT1A receptor, which has been shown to promote neurogenesis — the key to treating anxiety. The therapeutic work of CBD inhibits the production of an enzyme called FAAH, which naturally deactivates anandamide. This then enables the increased binding of anandamide to CB1 and CB2 receptors, which has a calming effect and accounts for the reduction in anxiety and all symptoms associated including cognitive impairment, and discomfort in speech performance.

Therefore, it’s probably safe to conclude that boosting anandamide by use of CBD is ideal for combatting anxiety.

A digital rendering of the FAAH enzyme
A digital rendering of the FAAH enzyme

Taking everything into consideration

Anandamide is a relatively recent discovery. However, from the scientific side of things, it seems to provide a ton of general and mental health benefits when working in conjunction with CBD. Although it may seem that we know a lot about cannabis already, we still only have basic understanding of this complex plant’s innerworkings. There’s much to learn about how it affects the brain and mood in both healthy people and those with mental or brain disorders. We suppose that as our understanding improves, in time, we should know more about how other cannabinoids in cannabis interact with different functions in the body.

If you are looking to use CBD to ease your anxiety, here are some good starting points: find a reputable CBD product, start with low doses, and carefully monitor as you go.

Post author
Mell Green
Mell Green is an enthusiast of all things cannabis and writes content that represents some of the best things that we as a people can strive for: good health and happiness.
See more from Mell Green

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