Today, everyone you know is too busy, stressed out and anxious about all the things they’re busy with and stressed out by. But it’s not exaggeration on anyone’s part. We genuinely do have more demands on our time and attention than ever before, and it is getting harder and harder to live comfortably and plan for the future in ways past generations could do without difficulty. 

Over 40 million Americans now have anxiety disorders of various forms, making it the most common mental illness in the country. Over 60 percent of those people, however, don’t receive treatment—or they struggle to find a treatment that works for them without significant negative side effects.

In previous years, medical marijuana was growing as a popular option to help ease symptoms of stress and anxiety. But because the THC in marijuana causes a high, it can actually make people more paranoid and anxious rather than less, so it ends up negating whatever positive effects the CBD and other cannabinoid compounds in the drug could have. Thankfully, with the rising prevalence of CBD, there is now an alternative to medical marijuana that truly does help ease occasional stress and anxiety without a requisite high.  

What the Studies Say

Large numbers of people claim CBD alleviates their symptoms of anxiety, and science is backing them up. Several studies have come out in recent years showing the anxiolytic effects of the cannabidiol compound. Studies from 2011 and 2017 found it to be incredibly helpful for individuals with social anxiety, two studies of which noticed remarkable effects on people with anxiety linked to public speaking. When given 300 mg of CBD prior to their speaking engagements, those individuals experienced a major decrease of subjective anxiety.  

But it’s not just people with social anxiety that have found relief. Research has found CBD can provide relief for those with generalized anxiety disorder, obsessive-compulsive disorder, panic disorder and PTSD as well, a 2015 analysis of multiple studies found. 

Answering “How”

Now, exactly how CBD affects anxiety is principally connected to one “happy hormone”: serotonin! People with anxiety often have lower levels of serotonin than those without, so when CBD enters the mix, it activates CB1 receptors in the brain that influence the regulation of emotions—what scientists call the 5-HT1a receptors—and tells them to take in more serotonin than they would otherwise. The serotonin is already there in our bodies. Our receptors just sometimes need a little extra push to find it and put more of it into circulation. A study from last year looking at CBD’s effect on anxiety and sleep in 72 patients found a success rate of nearly 80 percent for decreased symptoms and better sleep in their first month of CBD treatment, all of which specifically linked back to the increased activity of the 5-HT1a receptors prompted by the presence of cannabidiol in the system.

Beyond influencing serotonin reuptake, researchers are still not 100 percent certain on the other mechanics relating to CBD and anxiety and stress reduction. But there are indications that it has to do with CBD’s impact on the limbic and paralimbic systems in our brain, which themselves influence our emotions and hormone balance and play a big role in detecting and reacting to fear—a major player in stress and anxiety.

It’s important that we continue to state and re-state that the research on this front is still developing. CBD has simply not been studied for long enough to provide absolute statements about its long-term effects on anxiety or other conditions. Yet, current research and anecdotal evidence keeps getting us more and more excited, and more and more confident, in its wide-ranging benefits. 

SEE ALSO: How CBD Interacts With The Body & Epilepsy