CBD Oil for Anxiety & Depression: The Pros & Cons
Everyone’s talking about it, so we’re here to help you weigh up the pros and cons, without bias.
The pros & cons of taking CBD oil:
1. Depression & Anxiety
With symptoms like excessive worry, extreme self-consciousness, chest pain, and panic attacks, anxiety can be a debilitating condition. Depression can be equally destructive—feeling sad, with little interest in the activities you once enjoyed.
Fortunately, there are a wide variety of options for treating anxiety and depression. Selective serotonin reuptake inhibitors (SSRIs) are popular, but they come with a host of side effects. Others have the risk of addiction.
Many people search for a safer, more natural way to treat anxiety and depression, so new options are being developed and researched all the time.
One emerging treatment is CBD oil. It’s becoming more popular with each passing day, but there are still major questions about how effective it is at treating anxiety and depression—and how exactly it helps.
As a fairly new and little-understood product, it’s important to learn as much as you can about CBD oil for anxiety and depression—and speak to your mental health provider—before you decide to try it.
2. What Is CBD Oil?
Cannabidiol (CBD) oil is a type of cannabinoid. Cannabinoids are chemicals that occur naturally in the cannabis plant. Cannabidiol is extracted from the plant and made into an oil.
Tetrahydrocannabinol, or THC, is another type of cannabinoid. It’s the chemical responsible for the “high” one feels after using marijuana. Because CBD is not THC, you cannot get high from using CBD oil.
CBD oil is suggested to have positive effects for people with:
- and other mental health disorders
- in addition to depression and anxiety
- Studies have shown inconclusive results for most of these uses, with the exceptions of epilepsy, anxiety, and depression
3. How Does CBD Oil Work?
CBD oil for depression and anxiety is still being studied and doesn’t have as much research to back it up as many other treatments do. Make sure you talk to your doctor about whether it’s a good fit for you and how to incorporate it into your treatment plan.
4. CBD for anxiety
It isn’t known exactly how CBD oil combats anxiety, but it’s thought to work with a receptor in your brain called CB1. Researchers believe the interactions between CBD oil and CB1 alter serotonin signals.
The core problem at the heart of anxiety disorders is low serotonin—a neurotransmitter related to mood and well-being. SSRIs, for instance, work by blocking the absorption of serotonin in your brain, meaning you get more serotonin. CBD oil may do something similar.
Studies have shown that CBD oil can be effective in treating various types of anxiety, including:
- Social anxiety disorder (PTSD)
Behavioral symptoms of anxiety and physiological symptoms of anxiety, like rapid heartbeat, were reduced in some studies. It’s also been shown to be effective against anxiety-related insomnia.
5. CBD for Depression
CBD oil works similarly for people suffering from depression because depression happens when serotonin levels are low. Increasing the amount of serotonin in your brain has a positive effect on your emotions and motor skills.
CBD oil may also affect the hippocampus, which plays a large role in regulating your emotions. When you have depression, your hippocampus doesn’t function as well. CBD oil may help promote neurogenesis or the formation of new neurons in the hippocampus.
6. How to use CBD
You take CBD oil by either putting a few drops under your tongue with a dropper or mixing it with food. CBD gummies are also becoming popular.
7.Disadvantages of CBD Oil
While CBD oil for anxiety and depression holds promise, there are significant disadvantages to its use.
First, it isn’t widely available. You can only buy CBD oil in states where medical marijuana is legal.
Second, no CBD oil products are approved by the FDA for the treatment of anxiety or depressive disorders. Only one CBD oil product is FDA-approved, and that is for the treatment of epilepsy.
Without the oversight and regulation of the FDA, CBD oils vary widely in quality. Manufacturers can more or less put whatever they want on labels.
According to Marcel Bonn-Miller, adjunct assistant professor of psychology at the University of Pennsylvania School of Medicine, 43% of CBD oil products contain too little CBD, while about 26% contain too much.
Due to its lack of regulation, approximately one in five CBD products contain THC, meaning they could give you a high. THC can increase anxiety instead of reducing it. The additional risk in taking CBD oil is that even if the product contains trace amounts of THC, you could still test positive for marijuana on a drug test.
Quality CBD oil is considered safe, but it does come with a few side effects.
- Dry mouth
- Sleeping problems
- Gastrointestinal discomfort
More concerning than these side effects is the potential harm CBD oil can inflict on your liver. About 10% of people taking CBD in studies showed increases in liver enzymes. This increase could indicate potential liver damage. These concerns were severe enough for 2% to 3% of participants in the study to drop out due to concerns from the people running the study.
There is also the potential for dangerous drug interactions when taking CBD oil with another medication. If you are taking an antidepressant or any other medications, be sure to consult with your doctor before taking CBD oil.
8. Other Alternative Anxiety & Depression Treatments
Although CBD oil as a treatment for anxiety disorders and depression is a potentially viable option, there are alternative treatments—besides medication—that are safe and effective.
Transcranial magnetic stimulation, or TMS, is one such treatment. It offers hope for patients with anxiety disorders by restoring the neurons in the amygdala—the part of your brain involved in the fight-or-flight response—to a normal level of functioning. In those with depression, TMS stimulates the thalamus and hippocampus, which work to control the brain’s emotional responses.
TMS does this by stimulating your brain using electromagnetic pulses. It has very few side effects, and results can be felt in just two weeks.
Explore TMS side effects
Many people are searching for natural treatments for anxiety and depression, and it isn’t hard to see why.
It’s always a good idea to be open-minded to new treatments, especially when there is clinical evidence to back them up. The most important things to do are conduct thorough research and discuss any options you’re considering with your doctor.
What Dosage of CBD Should You Take?
Kendra Cherry, MS, is an author and educational consultant focused on helping students learn about psychology.
Verywell Mind articles are reviewed by board-certified physicians and mental healthcare professionals. Medical Reviewers confirm the content is thorough and accurate, reflecting the latest evidence-based research. Content is reviewed before publication and upon substantial updates. Learn more.
John C. Umhau, MD, MPH, CPE is board-certified in addiction medicine and preventative medicine. He is the medical director at Alcohol Recovery Medicine. For over 20 years Dr. Umhau was a senior clinical investigator at the National Institute on Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism of the National Institutes of Health (NIH).
Verywell / Madelyn Goodnight
CBD is available in a number of different formulations including creams, tablets, oils, and gummies. These can vary in terms of their ingredients as well as dosages, and there is not a great deal of research available on what dose might be beneficial or safe to treat certain conditions.
Cannabidiol (CBD) is the second most abundant cannabinoid found in marijuana. Unlike tetrahydrocannabinol (THC), CBD does not have psychoactive effects. Interest in the use of CBD for health purposes has grown tremendously in the last few years.
CBD is believed to have a range of positive physical and mental health effects. Because of this, it has become increasingly popular as a way to alleviate everything from anxiety to sleep disorders.
In order to determine if CBD is right for you, it is important to consider its potential benefits, side effects, and available research on safe dosages.
CBD is just one of hundreds of different compounds found in the cannabis plant. While cannabis has been used in holistic medicine for many years, only recently have researchers begun to explore some of the medicinal purposes for CBD and other cannabinoids.
While further research is still needed, there is some evidence that CBD may have some beneficial mental health effects. These include:
- Alleviating depression: Some research also indicates that CBD may be useful as a treatment for depression. Studies suggest that the cannabinoid might have an influence on how the brain responds to serotonin, a neurotransmitter that plays a key role in mood. People with depression sometimes have a low level of serotonin, so CBD may help the brain use available serotonin more effectively.
- Improving sleep: While the reasons are not entirely understood and require further research, CBD also appears to have potential as a treatment for sleep problems. For example, one study found that people who took CBD also reported improvements in the quality of their sleep.
- Reducing anxiety: Anxiety is one of the most common types of mental health conditions, affecting almost 20% of American adults each year. Research suggests that CBD may help alleviate acute symptoms of a number of anxiety-related conditions including generalized anxiety disorder, obsessive-compulsive disorder, and social anxiety disorder.
In addition to the mental health benefits, CBD may also have therapeutic benefits for a range of other conditions. The World Health Organization suggests that CBD may have beneficial effects in the treatment of:
- Alzheimer’s disease
- Cardiovascular disease
- Multiple sclerosis
It is important to remember that these benefits have not yet been conclusively proven. More research is needed to determine the role that CBD might play in the treatment of different disorders and health conditions.
There have been a number of studies that suggest that CBD may have a number of different physical and mental health uses. However, more research is still needed to better understand the substance’s potential applications and possible long-term side effects.
A 2019 comprehensive review published in The Lancet Psychiatry looked at previously published studies. The review ultimately concluded that there was little evidence to support the use of CBD for mental health purposes and suggested that more research is needed in order to substantiate its use to treat symptoms of conditions such as anxiety, depression, and insomnia.
It is important to remember that this doesn’t mean that CBD isn’t effective. Many of the studies that were included in the review were small, had few participants, and were not randomized controlled trials.
This suggests that more research involving more participants and well-designed studies is needed in order to better understand if, how, and why CBD works.
While its effectiveness is still up for debate, one 2017 review found that it was a relatively safe option. While it is important to remember that there is still a great deal we don’t yet know about CBD and its effects, it is something that you might opt to try to see if you experience any benefits.
How Much Should You Take?
The dosages used in research studies vary and there is no consensus on how much should be used for specific conditions. If you do decide to try CBD, it is also important to note that there is no universally agreed upon dose. Research also suggests that people may respond differently to various dosages, so the amount that is right for your needs might vary.
Some dosages that have been used in research studies for different conditions include:
- Anxiety: 300 to 600 mg
- Bowel disease: 10 mg per day
- Cancer-related pain: 50 to 600 mg per day
- Parkinson’s disease: 75 to 300 mg per day
- Poor sleep: 25 mg per day
- Psychosis: 600 mg per day
One 2020 review of studies found that participants showed improvements in anxiety levels after single doses of CBD ranging from 300 to 600 mg. Such results indicate that the CBD may hold promise as a treatment to alleviate symptoms of acute anxiety.
It is important to remember that you should always talk to your doctor before using CBD if you have symptoms of a serious mental or physical health condition. CBD could potentially worsen symptoms or interact with other medications you are taking.
Looking at the dosage information for the CBD product that has been FDA approved can also be helpful. For Epidiolex, an FDA-approved cannabis-derived medication used to treat seizures in people with certain types of epilepsy, the starting dosage is 5 milligrams per kilogram of body weight. This dose can later be increased to 5 mg per kilogram of body weight twice a day.
Other CBD products are not FDA regulated and do not have officially recommended dosages. This can make it difficult to determine how much you might need, but there are some things you can consider that might help.
- Assess your sensitivity to CBD: Your individual ability to tolerate CBD can also play a role in determining how much you need. If you are very sensitive to the effects of CBD, you should take a small dose. Some people may find that they are not as affected by the substance, so they may need to take a larger dose to notice any beneficial effects.
- Consider individual factors: When you are trying to decide how much CBD to take, there are a number of factors you should consider. These include the formulation and concentration of the capsule, oil drops, or gummies you are taking, the symptoms you are treating, and your age, sex, weight, and overall health. Generally, people with heavier bodies need to take a little more to achieve the same effects. Men may need a larger dose, while older people may need less.
- Consider the symptoms you’re treating: The symptoms you are trying to alleviate can also play a role in the CBD dosage you need to take to see results. In one study, participants who took 25mg of CBD each day had improved sleep quality, although the results were not consistent. However, you might find that you need a lower or higher dose if you are treating another type of condition.
- Try a dosage calculator: Researchers note that while the variety of dosing strategies and formulations make it difficult to determine efficacy, there are a number of online “dose-calculators” available online (such as mydosage.com) that are designed to help people choose the correct dose. The accuracy of such calculators is difficult to assess, but it may be a good place to start.
Before you try CBD, discuss your plan with your doctor. They may be able to recommend a dose and help you better understand any potential risks, complications, side effects, or interactions you might experience.
Start With a Low Dose
Unless your doctor recommends a specific dose, start by taking 10 to 20 mg a day. Take this for a week to ensure that it is well-tolerated and that you don’t experience any unwanted effects or an allergic reaction.
If this dose does not have the desired effect, try increasing in increments of 5mg each week until the desired amount is reached.
In studies, amounts vary from as low as 20 milligrams per day to up to 1,500 milligrams (mg) per day. The World Health Organization reports that dosages in clinical research studies typically range between 100 and 800 milligrams per day.
Is It Possible to Take Too Much?
So what is the maximum amount of CBD you should take? Researchers have found that 600 mg per day appears to be safe, but one study suggested that doses of up to 1,500 mg a day are safe and tolerated well.
However, it’s important to remember that research is still in its infancy and experts do not yet fully understand the potential long-term impacts of CBD usage. For that reason, you should always discuss your CBD use with your doctor.
Starting at a lower dose and working your way up to the amount you need may be the best ways to avoid taking too much.
How to Take CBD
The amount of CBD found in a product may depend on different factors, including the formulation and method of administration. CBD products are available in a number of different forms including oils, capsules, tablets, nasal sprays, and gummies.
One of the most popular ways to take CBD is as an oil. Such products are made by combining CBD with some type of carrier oil, such as coconut oil. Some more recently developed products include dietary supplements, foods, beverages, lotions, salves, and cosmetics.
The type of CBD product you choose may depend on what you are trying to treat. If you are looking for general mood improvements, a dietary supplement might be a good option.
If you are targeting specific symptoms of a condition, taking an oil, capsule, or gummy might be a better way to obtain a higher, more concentrated dose.
Topical applications may produce localized effects, but they are unlike to have any mental health benefits.
What Kind Should You Take?
It’s also important to remember that many products don’t contain just CBD on its own. There are three types of CBD available:
- Isolate contains CBD and only CBD.
- Broad-spectrum contains CBD and other cannabinoids, but not THC.
- Full-spectrum contains CBD, THC, and other cannabinoids.
It may be helpful to take a broad-spectrum product since research suggests that CBD’s effects may be most beneficial when taken in conjunction with other cannabinoids, a phenomenon known as the entourage effect. CBD may also help mitigate some of the effects of THC.
While CBD is generally well-tolerated, this does not mean that you won’t experience any side effects.
Some of the most common side effects that people experience when taking CBD include:
- Appetite changes
- Stomach upset
- Weight changes
Some recent research has generated concerns over the safety and potential long term effects of CBD. One study involved giving mice an equivalent of the maximum dose of the CBD medication Epidiolex, which is used to treat certain forms of epilepsy. The results indicated an increased risk for liver damage as well as concerns over its interaction with other medications.
It is also important to remember that CBD products are not regulated by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA). Some manufacturers make unproven claims about the uses and efficacy of their products. There is also concern about the quality and safety of the products themselves.
One report by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) indicated that a number of people experienced negative unwanted side effects due to CBD products that contained synthetic CBD, although the products were not labeled as containing such ingredients.
Mislabeling appears to be a fairly common problem with CBD products. In one study, 70% of the CBD products that were sold online contained significantly more of the psychoactive ingredient THC than the label indicated.
Federal law prohibits the sale of products that contain more than 0.3% THC. States laws also vary, so you should always check with your state before buying CBD products online.
A Word From Verywell
If you do decide to take CBD to alleviate an acute or chronic condition, remember that the amount that you take will depend on a variety of factors. Finding the right dosage often takes some experimentation and adjustments. Starting with a low dose and then gradually increasing the amount you take until you achieve the desired effects is the best approach.