The latest craze to hit the alternative medicine circuit is CBD oil. It has been touted a panacea for everything from gastrointestinal issues to pain relief. Which begs the question “Is there evidence to support the claims that CBD comes with a plethora of health benefits like treating anxiety, or is it all just hype?”. Although there is evidence to suggest that it does help, it is important to understand if there are circumstances where it might do more harm than good?
What is CBD Oil?
CBD oil is an extract that comes from the hemp or marijuana plant. Unlike marijuana that gives you a euphoric “high,” CBD oil does not contain the ingredient THC. The reason that CBD has become popular is that it has cannabinoids, which have been proven beneficial for many conditions, but it does not come with the adverse side effects associated with marijuana use.
Why is it Beneficial?
CBD oil is thought to have medicinal properties because it contains cannabinoids. Cannabinoids are chemical compounds which occur naturally in the body, and they interact with the endocannabinoid system.
They are responsible for mediation between cells and systems by triggering chemicals that affect how a person feels not just physically, but mentally as well. Cannabinoids are thought to hold promise for health because the phytocannabinoids found in CBD, work by imitating the endocannabinoids that are naturally found in the body.
Researchers dealing with CBD believe that it might work as a bridge to connect the brain and the body. The area of the brain that the cannabinoids attach to dictates how the person will be affected. So, theoretically, CBD oil can work medicinally to treat anxiety and depression if it aims to bind to the right receptors.
What Do CBD Studies Conclude?
According to the Anxiety and Depression Association of America, 18% of the population is afflicted by an anxiety disorder. Traditionally, anxiety disorders are treated with psychotherapy and or the use of medications. Medications, however, do not come without side effects, which leaves many anxiety sufferers looking for an alternative.
A survey published in Cannabis and Cannabinoids Research in 2018 reported that as many as 62% of those who take CBD oil do so to help curb the symptoms of anxiety, pain, and depression. And although scientists aren’t entirely sure how CBD might work to ease the symptoms of mood disorders, research suggests that it can help to influence pain receptors in the brain and to modulate levels like serotonin.
How Do Cannabinoids work?
5-HT1A agonist is a specific type of serotonin receptor that is important to conditions like anxiety and depression. Mood disorders can be targeted and treated with medications that seek to enhance the production of serotonin. Medications like Prozac and Zoloft work by stopping serotonin from being reabsorbed in the brain, which makes it more readily available. That helps the brain to transmit serotonin signals better and can help to boost mood and reduce anxiety.
CBD has been theorized to have the ability to work similarly to SSRI medications like Prozac and Zoloft by enhancing 5-HT1A transmission. And there are some studies to indicate that CBD might do so better, and without the same side effects that can come from medications.
The hippocampus plays a significant role in brain functioning. Mostly considered highly critical for cognition and memory, brain scans have shown that those who suffer from depression and anxiety have a smaller hippocampus. Therefore, treatment for anxiety is most successful when it can help to enhance neuron production in the hippocampus.
One study, whereby mice were administered CBD, showed that it helps to regenerate neurons, which could be useful to aid in the treatment of those suffering from anxiety and depression related to hippocampus decreased function. Both SSRI and CBD have been shown to enhance neurogenesis and, thereby, reduce anxiety.
What Does the CBD Research Say?
Most of the research done on the effectiveness of CBD oil, to date, have been done on animals and in laboratory experiments. In 2015, the Journal Neurotherapeutics conducted preliminary research showing that CBD oil shows promise for the amelioration of conditions like obsessive-compulsive disorder, PTSD, generalized anxiety disorder, social anxiety disorder, and panic disorder.
In another study released by Frontiers in Pharmacology, researchers found that administering CBD oil, at varying levels to people who were about to speak publicly, reduced their anxiety. The results were dose-dependent, however. There appeared to be a lowered anxiety threshold at 300 mg, but not at 100mg or 900 mg.
In Brazil, researchers conducted a double-blind experiment with participants diagnosed with social anxiety. After the test subjects consumed CBD oil, they reported a decrease in anxiety symptoms. Further brain scans confirmed the subjective reports by displaying flow patterns in the cerebral blood flow that was consistent with an anti-anxiety effect.
So, it Smoke and Mirrors or an Alternative Treatment?
Although most of the research compiled is primarily on animal subjects and in laboratories, there is promise that CBD oil, in the right dosage and targeting the right receptors, might help to reduce anxiety and depression for some patients. Since it does not contain THC, the psychoactive agent found in marijuana, there are no risks of adverse effects psychological.
When compared with SSRIs, which are the standard and traditional treatment for mood disorders, some studies suggest that CBD oil works more effectively and without any of the risks or side effects to SSRI medications.
If you are currently taking SSRIs, however, it is vital to understand how taking CBD can interrupt with. their effectiveness. And there are other medications that, likewise, might be affected by taking CBD oil. So, will it work for you? The jury is still out! But one thing you can rely on is that it can’t hurt to try if you stay within safe limits of consumption and aren’t taking other medications that can interfere.