CBD Oil And Anxiety

Written by Jim Folk
Medically reviewed by Marilyn Folk, BScN.
Last updated May 20, 2021

cbd oil and anxiety disorder

Cannabidiol (CBD) is gaining a lot of media attention lately because of its reported health benefits, including reducing anxiety. But can CBD oil reduce anxiety? Is it safe? Do we know the long-term health effects?

Admittedly, there is a lot more to learn about CBD and its effects on health. This CBD Oil and Anxiety article explains what we currently know.

CBD Oil And Anxiety

Cannabidiol (CBD) is an extract from the cannabis plant. It can be used as an oil that is rich in chemicals called cannabinoids that bind to special receptors throughout the body.[1]

Delta-9-THC (tetrahydrocannabinol), which causes the "high" associated with marijuana, is the best known cannabiniod. But THC is just one of many cannabinoids. Cannabidiol also binds to the same receptors as THC but doesn’t produce a “high.”[1][2]

“In humans, CBD exhibits no effects indicative of any abuse or dependence potential…. To date, there is no evidence of public health related problems associated with the use of pure CBD.” – World Health Organization[3]

Many proponents claim CBD oil has many health benefits,[2] including slowing the growth of cancer, a pain reliever, an anti-inflammatory, an anti-nauseant, to help with sleep, and reducing anxiety, to name a few.

CBD oil can be taken in many forms, such as used as a salve for pain, taken internally via drops, spray, or in food, or inhaled.

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Does CBD produce a high?

Extracted from hemp, CBD does not produce a “high.”[1][2] Hemp is a type of cannabis plant that is grown for industrial use, such as making clothing, paper, rope, textiles, shoes, food, bioplastics, insulation, and biofuel.

CBD oil derived from marijuana, however, does produce a “high.”

How Does CBD Oil Work?

Our bodies produce endocannabinoids naturally. These cannabinoids bind to receptors throughout the body.[4][5] While the exact science is still unknown, some suggest that using CBD may help people whose bodies don’t produce enough endocannabiniods on their own. Others suggest taking CBD increases the longevity of the body’s natural cannabinoids, which can prolong the calming effect.

Since research on CBD is in its infancy, much is still unknown about the effectiveness of CBD or its long-term effects.

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Can CBD Oil Help With Anxiety?

CBD is thought to have a calming effect on the nervous system. At this time, however, research and anecdotal evidence is mixed on whether CBD can help with anxiety disorder and its symptoms. Some people find it helpful in reducing anxiety, some find it does nothing for them, and some find it makes things worse.

In two recent online polls we conducted (one at our website and one in our Anxiety & Mental Health Discussion Facebook Group), the 24.7% of respondents who tried CBD reported:
26.8% said they found it very helpful
34.5% said they found it a little helpful
35.1% said they found it made no difference
3.6% said it made things worse

The remaining 75.3% of respondents said they hadn’t tried CBD.

Research to date suggests similar findings.

One study, however, found that 79.2% of study participants had decreased anxiety scores within the first month of the study, which remained decreased throughout the study duration (three months). 66.7% of this study group also reported an improvement of sleep but the improvement fluctuated throughout the duration of the study.[6]

The study also found that 22% of participants experienced a worsening of problems compared with the previous month’s assessment.

Overall, the study reported that CBD was well tolerated by most participants with only a few having a negative reaction.

It’s worth noting that the existing psychiatric medications were also taken during the study and many of the participants stopped taking CBD throughout the study leaving only 37.2% remaining on CBD at the third month assessment.

Another study found that CBD oil had no significant anxiolytic (anti-anxiety) effect.[7]

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CBD Oil Side Effects

CBD can produce some of the following side effects:[1][2][4][5][6][8]

  • Racing heart, palpitations
  • Fatigue
  • Dizziness, light-headedness
  • Drowsiness
  • Depression
  • Hallucinations
  • Paranoia
  • Low blood pressure
  • Change in appetite
  • Change in weight
  • Slow digestion
  • Upset stomach, nausea
  • Diarrhea
  • Dry mouth
  • Vomiting
  • Bloodshot eyes
  • Irritability
  • Increased level of the blood thinner coumadin
  • Increase other medication levels in the blood similar to grapefruit juice

CBD can also be addictive. Symptoms of withdrawal include:

  • Irritation, frustration, anger
  • Sleep problems
  • Nervousness, agitation
  • Hot flashes
  • Nausea and stomach cramps

Although more study is required, research has found some long-term effects associated with CBD use.[4][5][9] They include:

  • Increased risk of lung cancer when inhaled
  • Increased risk of testicular cancer, especially with moderate to heavy use
  • Reduced risk of bladder cancer
  • Increased risk of schizophrenia with THC use due to abnormal cortical dopamine synthesis

Long-term Effects Of CBD Oil

At this time, the long-term effects of CBD are unknown. More research is required.

A Nutritional Perspective

When I asked Liliana Tosic (R.H.N. – Registered Hollistic Nutritionist) her perspective on CBD, she provided this response:

Importance of Full Spectrum CBD Oil

Among herbalists and natural/holistic health professionals, there’s a well-accepted truth about plants. The sum of all its parts is much greater than any single, isolated component.

Traditional Chinese and Ayurveda Medicine insists on using full-spectrum herbal extracts in place of single, isolated components to take advantage of the whole plant’s synergistic properties. Isolates from plants rarely have the same degree of health activity as the whole plant. This is the case with vitamins too.

While CBD may be the most recognized phytocannabinoid in hemp, the plant contains other vitally important cannabinoids, as well, such as CBG, CBC, CBDV and CBN, which all offer exciting health properties.

Hemp also contains nearly 200 terpenes, active compounds that give plants their taste and smell. Herbalists and holistic health professionals believe the terpenes in hemp are thought to interact synergistically with its phytocannabinoids to create an “entourage effect” that enhances the healthful effects of each individual component.

Here is a brief background about the human endocannabinoid system (ECS):

As part of the ECS, the body produces two types of endocannabinoids: anandamide and 2-AG. These endogenous cannabinoids are transported into our cells through the CB1 and CB2 receptors. As we get older the body becomes less efficient at producing anandamide and 2-AG.

The proper functioning of our ECS also depends on adequate status of our omega-3. Omega-3 is therefore considered a good brain fat needed in our diet. The feeling of euphoria that people get after exercising hard is from an increased level of anandamide, not just endorphins.

One important way we can nourish and support ECS is to exercise regularly. Moderate exercise not only helps keep ECS in shape, it dramatically increases our levels of anandamide and 2-AG. That feeling called “runner’s high” is the effect.

Most believe that lifted mood comes from a release of endorphins alone. Researchers now point out that this euphoric feeling is also coming from an increase in anandamide. Anandamide targets CB1 receptors as well as the opioid and endorphin receptors. The higher the anandamide levels, the better we feel.

CBD oil with just CBD alone cannot fully support your body’s endocannabinoid system (ECS). The ECS needs all of the phytocannabinoids and terpenes in hemp to function effectively, not just CBD.

That’s why I do not recommend using CBD oil alone. Doing so is mainly ineffective and a waste of money. If CBD does not attach to the CB1 or CB2 receptors, it can't fully support ECS.

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Yes, more research is needed. As CBD pertains to anxiety, since each body is somewhat chemically unique, what might work for one person might not for another. If you are interested in trying CBD, we recommend you first talk with your doctor to see if it’s right for you. Also talk with your pharmacist if you are taking any prescription or over-the-counter medications. Then, use caution.

As new research comes available, we’ll update this article accordingly.

Additional Comments

Anxiety (apprehensive behavior) creates stress. Stress creates symptoms. Anxiety symptoms are symptoms of stress. We call them anxiety symptoms because overly apprehensive behavior is the primary cause of the stress that produces symptoms.

So, apprehensive behavior (the cause of the problem) creates symptoms of the problem. Taking something to reduce symptoms doesn’t address the cause of the problem. Taking something to reduce symptoms merely puts a “bandaid” on the symptoms.

There are many natural ways to reduce symptoms. These natural ways don’t produce potentially harmful side effects or long-term health effects.

While we understand the desire to reduce symptoms, we encourage you to address the cause of the problem. Addressing the cause of the problem (overly apprehensive behavior) eliminates the symptoms by default.

Working with an experienced anxiety disorder therapist is the most effective way to overcome overly apprehensive behavior. Working with a therapist is the Gold Standard treatment for anxiety disorder because it is highly effective.[10][11][12]

If you are looking for lasting, natural success, therapy is the best option.

It’s our passion to help people overcome problematic anxiety and its symptoms. We desire they go on to live satisfying and fulfilling lives without the need for “something” to manage symptoms.

All of us at anxietycentre.com have overcome anxiety disorder. We believe you can too!

Yes, recovery is work and takes time. But once it’s done, it’s done for good. This can be a realistic expectation for you, too.[13]

The Recovery Support area of our website has over 10,000 pages of self-help information, such as:

  • how to overcome anxiety and panic attacks,
  • how to stop incessant mind chatter,
  • how to overcome inward focused thinking,
  • what containment is and how to do it,
  • what causes the underlying factors of anxiety,
  • complete descriptions and explanations about all anxiety symptoms,
  • over 100 hours of conversations with members about anxiety and recovery,
  • how to overcome problems with sleep, and
  • over 1000 answers to frequently asked questions about anxiety.

There’s so much more.

If you are interested in overcoming anxiety disorder for good, the Recovery Support area contains “must know” information.

The combination of good self-help information and working with an experienced anxiety disorder therapist, coach, or counselor is the most effective way to address anxiety and its many symptoms. Until the core causes of anxiety are addressed – which we call the underlying factors of anxiety – a struggle with anxiety unwellness can return again and again. Dealing with the underlying factors of anxiety is the best way to address problematic anxiety.

Additional Resources

Return to our Anxiety Articles page.

anxietycentre.com: Information, support, and therapy for anxiety disorder and its symptoms, including CBD oil for anxiety disorder.


1. Villines, Zawn. “CBD Oil for Anxiety: Research, Benefits, and Risks.” Medical News Today, MediLexicon International, 27 July 2018.

2. “Cannabis and Cannabinoids (PDQ®)–Patient Version.” National Cancer Institute, 2019.

3. White, Jason, et al. “CANNABIDIOL (CBD) Pre-Review Report.” World Health Organization, 2017.

4. Burgess, Lana. “CBD for Arthritis: Benefits, Use, and Side Effects.” Medical News Today, MediLexicon International, 2 Aug. 2018.

5. Grinspoon, Peter. “Cannabidiol (CBD) - What We Know and What We Don't.” Harvard Health Blog, 5 June 2019.

6. Shannon, Scott, et al. "Cannabidiol in Anxiety and Sleep: A Large Case Series." The Permanente Journal, 7 Jan. 2019.

7. Jensen, Hannah, et al. "Cannabidiol effects on behaviour and immune gene expression in zebrafish (Danio rerio)." PLoS One, 31 July 2018.

8. Iffland, Kertin, et al. "An Update on Safety and Side Effects of Cannabidiol: A Review of Clinical Data and Relevant Animal Studies." Cannabis and Cannabinoid Research, 1 June 2017.

9. Christin Schifani et al, "Stress‐induced cortical dopamine response is altered in subjects at clinical high risk for psychosis using cannabis." Addiction Biology (2019).

10. Hofmann, Stefan G., et al. “The Efficacy of Cognitive Behavioral Therapy: A Review of Meta-Analyses.” Cognitive Therapy and Research, U.S. National Library of Medicine, 1 Oct. 2012.

11. Leichsenring, Falk. “Is Cognitive Behavioral Therapy the Gold Standard for Psychotherapy?” JAMA, American Medical Association, 10 Oct. 2017.

12. Kingston, Dawn. “Advantages of E-Therapy Over Conventional Therapy.” Psychology Today, Sussex Publishers, 11 Dec. 2017.

13. DISCLAIMER: Because each body is somewhat chemically unique, and because each person will have a unique mix of symptoms and underlying factors, recovery results may vary. Variances can occur for many reasons, including due to the severity of the condition, the ability of the person to apply the recovery concepts, and the commitment to making behavioral change.