Evidence pertaining to how effective cannabidiol (CBD) is in treating anxiety — and any other medical condition or symptom, for that matter — remains anecdotal. However, there have been a few clinical tests proving that CBD reduces symptoms of anxiety.
One example is this study conducted in 2011 and published in Neuropsychopharmacology. The study found that CBD significantly reduces anxiety, cognitive impairment, and discomfort.
There was also a research published that same year in the Journal of Psychopharmacology that used neuroimaging on 10 patients with social anxiety disorder who had taken CBD. This study found that CBD oil significantly reduced subjective anxiety, affecting the limbic and the paralimbic areas of the brain. These areas are responsible for emotions and memory formation.
How CBD works
The effects of the active compounds in cannabis, known as cannabinoids, are largely associated with the way they affect the body’s endocannabinoid system (ECS). The ECS is a large network of receptors and chemical compounds throughout the body.
The body produces its very own chemicals, called endocannabinoids. These endocannabinoids fit into receptors in the ECS, causing various modulating responses.
The main job of the ECS is to regulate certain physiological functions, including mood, appetite, pain response, neurogenesis, immune response, metabolism, neuroplasticity, and inflammation. The ECS maintains the body’s overall balance.
Tetrahydrocannabinol or THC fits directly into receptors called CB1, which are abundant in the central nervous system. However, CBD does not directly interact with any receptors in the ECS. CBD likewise interacts indirectly with the receptors in the ECS that are related to brain function and mood. These receptors are called 5HT1-A (3).
These 5HT1-A (3) are serotonin receptors that are found in high densities in the brain, especially in the amygdala, hippocampus, and cerebral cortex. These three parts of the brain are largely involved in anxiety disorders and in mood.
CBD binds to the 5HT1-A receptor site then partially stimulates the 5HT1. According to scientists, CBD stimulates 5HT1 just enough so as to produce an anti-anxiety effect.
Some studies also suggest that CBD’s ability to promote hippocampal neurogenesis likewise explains why it effectively reduces anxiety.
Additionally, CBD helps ensure that the body has an abundance of the endocannabinoid called anandamide, which is known to have a mood-mediating function and to help an individual feel at ease and relaxed.