Peace of mind is something we all want, but it eludes many of us. The statistics themselves are, quite frankly, depressing: One in five American adults struggles with some form of mental illness.
Anxiety and depression—two common mental health disorders—can greatly damage the state of our physical and emotional well-being. The World Health Organization ranks depression as the single largest cause of disability worldwide, while anxiety disorders are ranked sixth.
Even low-level depression and anxiety can leave us nominally functioning, while still taking a toll even if no one else sees it.
While more stringent research needs to be done, there’s growing evidence suggesting that cannabidiol (CBD) can play an effective role in addressing mental health issues, such as:
Doctors often prescribe pharmaceutical drugs to treat anxiety and depression. These drugs can carry side effects, including:
And these medications, such as benzodiazepines, can also be addictive and may lead to serious substance abuse issues. This is why so many people are now looking for a more natural approach to addressing their mental health issues and improving their emotional well-being.
An article in Psychology Today by naturopathic doctor Peter Bongiorno points out that CBD oil, which doesn’t make consumers feel high like tetrahydrocannabinol (THC) can, is a natural, plant-based oil laden with cannabinoids.
Some cannabinoids, called phytocannabinoids, come from plants. Meanwhile, our bodies naturally produce other cannabinoids, called endocannabinoids.
He explains, “[Endo]cannabinoids are ‘feel good’ molecules naturally made by the body when we are feeling relaxed and secure or involved in something that makes us happy, like hugging someone we care about or sitting down to a meal we are looking forward to.
“Cannabinoids are also released when we sleep well and exercise. Cannabinoids bind to little docking stations in our bodies called cannabinoid receptors that help stimulate those feel good responses. Discovered in 1992, the main cannabinoid molecule is called anandamide, which is translated from the Sanskrit as ‘bliss molecule.’”
Cannabinoids play a strong role in keeping our bodies balanced. Research suggests that CBD helps prevent the breakdown of anandamide in our bodies, leaving us with more of the bliss molecule and, as a result, feeling happier.
The Depression Alliance explains that when cannabinoids bind to certain receptors, they can boost the activity of serotonin, a neurotransmitter that’s been shown to uplift mood and reduce stress levels. CBD specifically has been shown to amplify serotonin’s effects, because it boosts the activity of the receptors that serotonin binds to.
Research from 2014 indicates that CBD interacts positively with serotonin receptors in the brain, helping keep serotonin levels balanced— an important therapy for people suffering from depression.
Another study, this one from 2018, suggests that CBD holds promise as a quick-acting antidepressant. The study also found that CBD produced long-lasting anti-depressant effects.
However, it should be noted that these are both animal studies, and so we really need human trials to verify their findings.
There are human studies showing that CBD may be useful in treating panic disorders, which affect about 5% of the world’s population. Panic disorders are characterized by sudden, recurring panic attacks. Medical News Today points out that a 2017 review found “positive results” for the benefits of CBD in helping with anxiety issues.
One study in the review showed that “a single dose of 300 mg of CBD caused a notable decrease in anxiety levels after a simulated public speaking test.” Meanwhile, another study found that “600 mg of CBD caused a significant reduction of anxiety measures in people with social anxiety disorder.” It should be noted that these amounts of CBD are well over a typical single dose of the cannabinoid.
While CBD shows promise in helping us achieve emotional well-being, Peter Bongiorno in Psychology Today reminds us that it isn’t a cure-all but an important tool in a well-balanced approach:
“I always recommend not simply taking supplements for anxiety, but making dietary and lifestyle changes, and adopting stress-relieving rituals and therapies to bring full healing to your body. Also, visit with your doctor on a regular basis or when issues pop up. While CBD is a very good supplement, I find its power is enhanced when combined with natural modifications.”
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