13 May CBD and mental health: A research overview
- Early studies on CBD and mental health show promising results.
- CBD might have anxiolytic and neuroprotective properties.
- People with various mental health disorders, such as anxiety, depression or PTSD, might find CBD helpful in symptom management.
- If you take prescription medication, consult your doctor before taking CBD as interactions may occur.
It might feel like the Covid pandemic is almost over, but months of seclusion, stress, and fear have taken their toll on us.
The number of people suffering from mental health issues has increased during the pandemic and is still high.
We all know that we need to take good care of our bodies and minds to avoid serious mental health problems, and different people find different strategies helpful. Some might play a sport, some might read and others might enjoy journaling to help them find a balance.
More and more people are looking into the impact taking CBD can have on mental health, and so have scientists. More and more research on CBD and mental health is being published and it looks like CBD holds a lot of promise.
If you are curious about CBD and mental health, this review of existing scientific evidence will help you better understand the issue.
CBD is one of the most prominent compounds found in the Cannabis sativa plant.
CBD is extracted from hemp – known for its high CBD and low THC content.
THC (tetrahydrocannabinol) is a controlled cannabinoid, renowned for its intoxicating properties, causing “a high”. CBD products must have non-detectable levels of THC in order to be legally sold in the UK.
As CBD does not have any intoxicating effects, it’s considered a food supplement and can be purchased in most countries without a prescription.
How does CBD affect the mind?
CBD has the potential to influence both the body and mind.
When researching the relationship between CBD and mental health, scientists try to identify the mechanisms in the human brain affected by CBD.
A review from 2021 concluded that CBD could cause a significant change in brain activity and connectivity patterns. These results applied to:
- healthy participants
- participants with a diagnosed psychiatric disorder
- brains in the resting state
- brains performing various cognitive tasks
CBD and mental health: What does the research say?
The mechanisms behind mental health problems are very complex and, in many cases, a very individual approach to treatment is necessary.
Many early studies on CBD and mental health confirm that CBD should be researched further and considered as a potentially valuable addition to standard treatments.
CBD has also been shown to help protect neurons from degeneration, potentially due to its anti-inflammatory and antioxidant properties.
Much more clinical research is needed to understand the interaction between CBD and the brain entirely, but there are solid grounds to keep exploring the field of CBD and mental health.
CBD and stress
When it comes to CBD and mental health, the focus is put mainly on how CBD may help reduce stress.
Stress is your body’s natural response to a challenging and intense situation.
It’s not possible to avoid stress altogether but it is possible to find strategies to manage it better.
Finding an easy way to relax or switch off at the end of the day can be challenging, even if necessary. Many of our customers report that CBD helps them to relax and even improves their sleep quality.
Research has repeatedly shown that people who do not get enough sleep or experience interrupted sleep, suffer from more stress.
According to the NHS, one of the 10 best ways to combat stress is to take ‘me time’, focus on yourself, do what you like, and what you find relaxing.
CBD and anxiety
Anxiety, the body’s response to long-term exposure to stress, is nothing to worry about when experienced occasionally. Yet, if feeling anxious is your permanent state of mind, you might be suffering from an anxiety disorder. Some symptoms of a generalized anxiety disorder (GAD) are:
- Feeling restless and constantly ‘on edge‘
- Feeling a sense of dread
- Irritability, tiredness
- A noticeably strong, fast or irregular heartbeat (palpitations)
- Muscle aches
- Stomach ache
- Feeling sick
- Difficulty falling or staying asleep (insomnia)
Can CBD help with anxiety symptoms? An audit of nearly 400 patients in New Zealand who used prescribed CBD has concluded that CBD is a well-tolerated and relatively effective supplement for people who suffer from various pain and mental health issues, including anxiety-related mental health conditions.
In multiple studies, CBD has also shown anxiolytic-like effects helpful for generalized anxiety disorder (GAD), but more research is needed.
CBD has also shown potential in helping people who have Post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD). Early studies show good reasons to believe that combining CBD with more traditional therapy can improve results.
CBD and depression
Depression is hard to manage. No single cure for depression exists and the search for reliable therapies and medication is ongoing.
People with depression experience physical and psychological symptoms, such as:
- Low mood or sadness
- Feeling no enjoyment out of life
- Feeling hopeless, tearful, irritable
- Low self-esteem
- Lack of energy
- Unexplained body and muscle aches
- Change in appetite
Does CBD have the same effect on humans? More studies in humans are needed to reach a conclusion on this. In a review from 2014, many studies point out that CBD may affect serotonin receptors called 5-HT1A. This matters because we know that low serotonin levels are often associated with anxiety and depression.
Yet, to be sure, more clinical studies on humans are needed in order to fully understand the effects of CBD on depression.
CBD and sleep
49% of our customers say that CBD has helped them with various sleep issues.
Sleep problems are a symptom of many mental health disorders, including PTSD, anxiety, and depression. The researchers working on a large case series from 2019 examined all the existing evidence to determine if there is any link between taking CBD and improvement in mental health disorders.
By looking closely into CBD’s impact on the sleep quality of 103 patients suffering from anxiety, the authors concluded that CBD might help improve sleep.
While research on CBD and sleep is still insufficient, some studies point out that CBD might also help people with sleep apnea or REM sleep behaviour disorder – known causes of poor sleep.
CBD and addiction
CBD is a non-intoxicating cannabinoid and there is no evidence of CBD causing any dependency.
When it comes to CBD, scientists believe that not only it is non-addictive, but it may help people recover from their existing addictions.
Scientists looked into a limited number of preclinical studies on CBD and mental health (most precisely – addictive disorders) performed before 2015. The extensive review concluded that CBD might have therapeutic properties on opioid, cocaine, and psychostimulant addictions. Some preliminary data also suggested that CBD may be helpful in fighting tobacco addiction in humans
A more recent controlled trial showed that CBD decreased craving and anxiety within the study group of people recovering from heroin addiction.
Some of these studies used prescription medical cannabis or CBD, rather than consumer CBD that can be bought online or in shops. For that, and other reasons, further studies are necessary to understand the best way of using CBD as a part of a therapeutic program that can help people overcome their addictions, but there are good grounds to continue.
Are there any risks to using CBD?
Even though CBD is generally well tolerated by healthy people, there are some rare side effects that every user should be aware of.
These CBD side effects include:
- Dry mouth
- Decreased appetite
Fortunately, all these are reversible and are usually a result of inaccurate dosage.
CBD and mental health - interactions with medications
Some specialists who understand both CBD and mental health point out that there is a potential for CBD and mental health medications to interact, as CBD can impact how the liver processes drugs.
In some cases (especially when taken in large doses), CBD can cause tiredness and drowsiness. If your current antidepressants and antipsychotics have the same side effects, adding CBD to the mix might amplify them. The same applies to alcohol.
If you take medication, it’s best to talk to your doctor before taking any CBD.
How do you take CBD?
One of the most popular ways to take CBD is through an oral application. Depending on your personal preferences, you can choose between CBD oil, CBD capsules or CBD snacks, like CBD gummies or CBD chocolate.
If you decide to use CBD oil, you should apply the appropriate number of drops directly under the tongue and wait for a minute or two before swallowing. This is to allow the CBD to be absorbed under the tongue.
In the case of capsules, you should take them like any other supplements, and our CBD gummies and chocolate require no explanation.
Just remember, for best effects, you should take the right dose of CBD, and you should take it regularly. Using our CBD dosage calculator is a great place to start.
Remember to stay within the maximum recommended daily intake of 70mg and avoid it altogether if you are pregnant and breastfeeding.
We still need to learn a lot about both CBD and mental health.
The number of people struggling with mental health justifies the need to find new and effective ways of helping patients cope with symptoms of stress, anxiety, PTSD, and other illnesses.
Will CBD be one of the tools used by health specialists to help promote recovery and improve symptom management? It’s too early to tell. But if the further clinical studies confirm what the limited studies on CBD and mental health suggest, it very well might be.
Disclaimer: There is currently insufficient evidence to support the use of CBD in the condition(s) mentioned above and this text by no means reflects recommended uses. Always seek the advice of your healthcare professional if you are taking prescribed medication or are thinking of using CBD for your condition.
Written by Zaneta Pacific and reviewed by our qualified expert, Moyra Cosgrove, Head of Nutrition at Naturecan, SENR Registered Nutritionist and DProf candidate at LJMU