CBD Oil For Anxiety – Side Effects, Research, Uses and Risks

21st October 2019

Feeling worried or fearful of a potential future event, even if it is mild and seemingly insignificant, is classified as anxiety. Anxiety generally breeds more anxiety. This can manifest in Generalised Anxiety Disorder (GAD), a long-term anxiety condition. Commonly brought about due to stress at work or school, financial worries, or emotional trauma such as the loss of a loved one; anxiety is a condition that can severely impact day-to-day life. We will look into what CBD is and what the science says about using CBD oil for anxiety.

Due to a recent surge in popularity for CBD products and a rise in anecdotal stories flooding the internet, it is estimated that 38% of UK residents who self-medicate with CBD are using it to combat symptoms of anxiety. But, does it really work?

Is CBD the solution to your anxiety problems?

Reports have shown that 38% of people who use CBD products in the UK, use them for anxiety, with many advising that they opt for CBD as a natural alternative to pharmaceutical medication. In the UK, you cannot obtain a prescription for using CBD for anxiety, even though some clinical studies do suggest that it can help. The consensus is that the high production costs of CBD oil compared to other medications plays a large factor in it not being available for anxiety.

Chief Medical Officer for England, Dame Sally Davies believes that “we’ve opened Pandora’s box,” when it comes to the huge range of medical benefits of CBD. Many more medical professional are also endorsing the use of CBD for anxiety, with neurologist Mike Barnes stating, “There is considerable evidence of usefulness in chronic pain, epilepsy, sickness during chemotherapy, as well for anxiety, PTSD, and CBD for sleep.”

What Is CBD Oil?

CBD is the abbreviation for cannabidiol, a compound found within the cannabis plant that is touted in the media for a wide range of health benefits. Endorsed by sports stars and athletes for pain relief and even prescribed in the UK on the NHS to reduce epileptic seizures using CBD; CBD oil appears to have many facets to its medicinal capabilities.

CBD is just one of over 100 cannabinoids found exclusively in the cannabis plant, all of which interact with the body’s endocannabinoid system, affecting physiological functions such as memory and sleep. Once CBD has been extracted, it can be placed into a carrier oil such as coconut oil, and then subsequently consumed in order to receive its medicinal benefits.

For CBD products to be legal for sale in the UK, it must have all traces of a cannabinoid called THC removed. THC, or tetrahydrocannabinol, is the main intoxicating constituent in cannabis known mainly for its use as a recreational narcotic, although it does also have medical benefits.

CBD, on the other hand, isn’t intoxicating and it doesn’t have a propensity to be used recreationally, meaning it is perfectly legal in the UK.

What is CBD?

What Are The Risks To Taking CBD Oil?

CBD oil has been declared completely safe for human consumption in an extensive report by the World Health Organisation, who stated that it isn’t addictive and doesn’t have an overdose limit.

Most people who regularly consume CBD for anxiety won’t experience any side effects, however, they are present in a handful of cases. These include: –

CBD Oil Side Effects

  • Changes in appetite
  • Nausea and sickness
  • Dizziness, tiredness, or drowsiness

The side effects are generally mild compared to the benefits of using CBD oil for anxiety, so those who do experience them will continue to use CBD regardless.

It is worth noting that CBD has the potential to interfere with other pharmaceutical medication, particularly those prescribed for anxiety. Therefore, it is important to speak to your GP before taking CBD if you are on any other medication.

How does CBD oil ease anxiety?

CBD works by interacting with the bodies endocannabinoid system, a system just as important for the survival of human life as the respiratory or circulatory systems. The endocannabinoid system has receptors in the brain, nervous system and throughout the rest of the body that is responsible for mood, memory, sleep, behaviour, and immune function.

The body naturally produces its own cannabinoids, such as anandamide, which is a cannabinoid associated with ‘runner’s high’. The blissful and happy feeling you get from accomplishing physical exercise. CBD artificially elicits a similar response in humans that anandamide does, which explains why it can quickly help with feelings of anxiety and depression.


CBD can also help with the long-term effects of anxiety due to its ability to interact with serotonin receptors in the brain. A lack of serotonin is a medical condition whose primary symptoms are a depressed mood, low energy, and negative thoughts. The usual course of medication would be Selective Serotonin Reuptake Inhibitors (SSRI’s), a pharmaceutical medication that generally causes a wide range of side effects. CBD has been shown to interact positively with the serotonin 5-HT1A receptor, helping to combat anxiety.

The human brain is extremely complex and the full extent of how CBD interacts to combat anxiety is yet to be fully understood. However, research scientists are constantly making discoveries about using CBD for anxiety as well as other mental health disorders such as depression, addiction, and Post Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD).

CBD for anxiety – what does the research say?

The research currently conducted using CBD oil for anxiety is quite extensive but still incomplete. Unfortunately, most of the studies conducted on CBD for anxiety are focused on animals rather than humans, meaning more human studies are needed to confirm CBD’s effectiveness. The completed studies on using CBD for anxiety are: –

  • A 2010 study suggests that CBD has anti-anxiety effects and maybe a valid suggestion for replacing conventional pharmaceutical medication.
  • A 2011 study that shows CBD reduces anxiety associated with Social Anxiety Disorder (SAD), concluding that CBD has the potential to replace conventional SSRIs in the treatment of SAD.
  • A 2013 study conducted in mice suggests that CBD anti-anxiety effects are caused by its ability to regenerate brain cells in the hippocampus of the brain.
  • A 2014 study suggests that CBD’s long-term anti-anxiety and antidepressant effects are a result of its interactions with the 5-HT1A serotonin neuroreceptor.
  • A 2015 study that collated data from 49 other studies that conclude the preclinical evidence for CBD strongly suggests its use for the treatment of anxiety disorders, including Generalised Anxiety Disorder, Social Anxiety Disorder, Personality Disorder, Obsessive-Compulsive Disorder, and Post Traumatic Stress Disorder.
  • A 2015 study suggests that the endocannabinoid system may play a strong role in some stages of neurogenesis. It suggests that the development of drugs that target the endocannabinoid system to aid neurogenesis could help to treat anxiety, depression, and cognitive impairment.

The above research not only suggests that CBD can aid with curing anxiety, but it also suggests mechanisms by which CBD operates to do so, and even at what doses CBD becomes effective. In most cases, this evidence is enough to warrant the start of a substance being used nationally as a medication. However, the production costs of current pharmaceutical medications used for anxiety are much smaller than for the production of CBD.

Can CBD cure anxiety?

CBD has shown time and time again in multiple studies that it is an effective treatment for anxiety based disorders. Studies have suggested that CBD is effective enough that it can replace other medications commonly used for anxiety, such as SSRIs.

The studies also suggest that CBD can help with a range of mental health disorders, such as Generalised Anxiety Disorder, Social Anxiety, Personality Disorder, Obsessive-Compulsive Disorder, and Post Traumatic Stress Disorder.

CBD works to cure anxiety by regenerating brain cells in the hippocampus, a region of the brain which is smaller in sufferers of anxiety and depression. CBD also interacts with serotonin receptors to alleviate anxiety.

All the research currently conducted on CBD for anxiety is enough to suggest it is an effective treatment.

Ways to take CBD for anxiety

Different Forms of CBD
CBD can be consumed in many different ways, all with different associated pros and cons. There’s no one way that works best for everybody; the amount of CBD you take and the way you take it strongly depends on the individual’s personal preference and condition suffered.

Different methods have different time frames in which their effects can become apparent and how long it takes to wear off. Different methods also have different associated bioavailabilities, meaning how much of the CBD stated on the product actually enters your bloodstream.

The common ways of consuming CBD for anxiety are: –


Hemp flower that is high in CBD can either be used in a dry herb vaporizer, or the CBD can be extracted into an e-liquid and used in an e-cigarette. Vaping is a very common method of consuming CBD for anxiety because the effects are instantaneous, although they can be quite short-lived compared to other methods (3-4 hours). Vaping has a bioavailability of between 50 – 90%


CBD can be extracted from hemp flower and placed into another medium, such as oil or alcohol. This can then be placed under the tongue for up to 10 minutes to allow the CBD to be absorbed into the bloodstream via the vessels underneath the tongue. The effects can take 10-20 mins to be fully apparent and can last up to 6 hours. The bioavailability is 60-90%.


Cannabinoids can be dissolved in fat. CBD oil or CBD butter can be used as a culinary ingredient for making items of food and drink. Products available are CBD coffee, CBD lollipops, CBD gummy sweets and CBD brownies. CBD edibles can take up to 2 hours for the effects to be apparent but they can last half a day. However, the stomach acid can break down the CBD, and hence the bioavailability is around 5 – 20%.

CBD Edibles


CBD that has been extracted from hemp flower and placed into a carrier oil can then be placed into capsules (similar to cod liver oil capsules) to be swallowed. These are similar in effect to edibles. However, the protective casing stops the stomach acid from breaking down the CBD straight away so most of the CBD from the capsules are absorbed slowly through your intestines. 20% bioavailability.

How long before I see results?

The science behind consuming CBD products for anxiety shows that it seems to work in two main ways. It helps rebuild brain cells in the hippocampus (a region in the brain known to be smaller in patients with anxiety) and it helps to regulate serotonin levels in the brain. Both of these aren’t instantaneous solutions to combating anxiety, but more long-term solutions.

However, has been shown to instantly slow down the degradation of anandamide (the bliss molecule that causes the runner’s high) which will cause an instant effect. Anecdotal evidence also suggests that CBD also helps to regulate sleep, appetite, pain, and stress instantly for those who consume it, all of which can contribute to anxiety.

So, the effects of CBD will be seen instantly for those taking it for anxiety, but taking CBD over a period of months could also provide a long-term cure for anxiety.

CBD Oil for anxiety – Dosage Guide

The studies conducted on using CBD for anxiety show a wide variety of different dosages of CBD have been tested. Ranging from 5 mg to 600 mg of CBD in a single dose. The effectiveness of CBD for anxiety has been shown in smaller doses and the effects have not shown to be linear as the dosage is increased. Therefore, just because you take more CBD, doesn’t mean that the benefits will take effect faster.

CBD Oil Dosage Gide

The general consensus on taking CBD oil for anxiety is to start small and to gradually increase your dosage until the desired effects are observed. Starting at 5 mg for 3 days and then increasing to 10 mg for another 3 days, increasing every time by 5 mg until the desired effects are reached. Most people find that a regular dose of 20 mg per day is enough for symptom relief.

Many people suffer from the onset of anxiety due to certain triggers, such as a social event or work meeting. In these cases, a CBD vape pen can be useful for instantaneous relief.

Conclusion – CBD for anxiety

CBD has been shown to be extremely effective in relieving the symptoms of anxiety – in both the short-term and over a longer period of time. Research scientists have an understanding of how CBD works to aid anxiety, as well as a whole host of other mental health conditions. Unfortunately, it is unlikely that we will see CBD prescribed in the UK for anxiety, because of the cost to the NHS. Therefore, anybody wishing to consume CBD for anxiety would be expected to self-medicate.

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