In case you’ve somehow missed the fad, CBD has kind of blown up lately. Tons of people are raving about this substance called cannabidiol that comes from the hemp plant, all while the FDA tries to figure out how in the world something that sounds so much like “cannabis” has managed to slip past them. CBD is an oil extracted from the cannabis plant that doesn’t contain THC. And since THC is the substance that gives marijuana its fun and hallucinogenic reputation, CBD won’t make you feel “high” like pot does. Just, it turns out, nice and calm.
Every time something trends we see over-enthusiastic fan boys and girls going a little overboard as to what their new favorite thing can do. I don’t think that CBD is a miracle cure for anything that could possibly ail you. But it is true that scientists are finding some serious evidence-based uses for it. Ongoing research is finding benefits from anti-inflammatory properties to pain relief to what we’re talking about today: its exciting anti-anxiety effects. Why so exciting? Because so many of us are anxious, and we need alternatives.
The Benzo Problem
It’s not hard to see why when we realize that our go-to solution for acute anxiety (the anxiety you get in-the-moment) is the drug class benzodiazepines. Those are the little pills like Xanax and Klonopin that leave us feeling magically chill. But even traditional psychiatry is realizing a little too late that “benzos” have a few downsides we didn’t consider all that well before pushing them into popular use. Like, you know, being intensely addictive.
It’s not drug abuse that causes this problem, either. Just taking the dose recommended by your doctor will eventually lead to this physical dependence. And the not-so-fun results? The need to continuously increase your dose over time to get the same effect and the special privilege of experiencing what can be some pretty crazy withdrawal symptoms, like severe anxiety and muscle spasms, if you decide to stop. (This is why benzos should be tapered from slowly, and never stopped immediately.)
I first realized how badly we needed alternatives when I went to write a literature review on anti-anxiety herbs a few years ago. I went over study after study, and found that these researchers weren’t shy about why they’d chosen the topic. It always boiled down to “Because benzos freaking suck!” The scientists are tired of them. We’re tired of drugs that leave us feeling crappy and addicted.
And that’s where CBD comes in.
What’s the Deal with CBD?
While interest in CBD has boomed recently, we can actually find research on its anti-anxiety effects going back to the 90s. More recently, research is finding that CBD seems to work by affecting our limbic and paralimbic brain regions, areas that play a huge role in controlling our emotions. So far, the research most strongly supports CBD’s effectiveness for acute anxiety. In other words, we don’t know how well taking it daily works for long-term anxiety because no one has studied that yet. But it’s those times when anxiety gets exceptionally bad all of a sudden that we know CBD is good for.
Since dating back to the 90s is still a relatively new area of research, figuring out just how to use it can feel a little like detective work. That’s because, while we know that CBD has the ability to relieve anxiety , there isn’t a big enough body of research to know exactly the best dose and method of taking it to get the greatest effect. It wouldn’t be the same for everyone anyway, but it would give us a handy starting point.
Reading others’ experiences with taking CBD can be helpful, but it can also be confusing. You want to get some anxiety relief, not read all of Reddit, after all. That’s why I’m going to break down two ways you can take CBD, give you the info you need to go about doing it, and check off a couple of the pros and cons so you can pick which is best for you. I’ll also link to a couple of high quality products since there’s so much stuff out there to sort through.
Choose Your CBD Adventure
1. Vaping CBD
It’s well-known that inhaling a substance allows it into your bloodstream more quickly than ingesting the same substance. That means that you’re going to feel it faster. This is because when you inhale, the substance is absorbed directly through the walls of your lungs and into your blood instead of taking the long and arduous route through your intestines first. The major reason to choose vaping CBD over ingesting it is that the effect will hit you quickly. And let’s be honest, when we’re freaking out that’s a very good thing.
Potential downsides? You have to acquire and maintain a simple, quality vaporizer (which are actually pretty cheap) and fill the tank with e-juice (no nicotine) and CBD oil.
You’ll ideally want to dilute the CBD oil because using it alone will a) taste like ass and b) gunk up your vaporizer. Another downfall is that the effect doesn’t last as long as with oral (unless you keep vaping it occasionally) and it’s limited to places that allow you to vape (outdoors, at home, in your car, etc).
What You Need:
Start by filling your vape cartridge about 1/3 of the way to the fill line with CBD oil such as that linked above, and then fill the rest of the way to the fill line with e-juice.
And vape! You can adjust the proportion of CBD oil you use as you experiment with what tastes and works best.
2. Ingesting CBD
CBD can also be taken orally, and there are some good reasons you might choose go this route. For one, you don’t have to bother with buying or maintaining a vaporizer. Also, if you choose a product with the daily doses divided up into capsules, you don’t have to wonder how much you may or may not be getting at any given time. And like I mentioned before, the anti-anxiety effect will last longer than with vaping.
The downsides here? Like I mentioned above, it takes longer to feel the initial effect, which can be less than desirable when experiencing hardcore anxiety.
You have two options with oral CBD: liquid extract or capsules of powdered extract. I find that the capsule products tend to be labeled for easier dosing (as in, you won’t have to do any math to figure out how much you’re getting in a single dose).
What You Need:
CBD Capsules (This brand is 30 mg/serving, which is pretty high as far as marketed CBD goes.)
CBD liquid extract (You’ll notice that this product is labeled with the total number of milligrams in the entire bottle rather than per serving. The bottle would only contain about 13 servings of a dose of 30 mg like the capsules above, but many people report feeling an effect at much lower doses. NuLeaf also has a lower-potency product that is less expensive.)
Take a capsule or dose of liquid extract and observe your response. Adjust your dosage accordingly.
The Quality Issue
Whether you choose vaping, ingesting, or both, it’s important to buy quality products. Heading to your local supplement store or vape shop to pick up “CBD” may not be your best bet. You want to purchase CBD products that are either organic, ensuring outside checks and testing, or that have their product lab tested by a third-party company. They will usually offer a link to the results on their website. This is a big deal because such testing is the only insurance that what is being sold as CBD is actually CBD and that the number of milligrams stated on the packaging is anywhere near how much is actually in the product.
Do rip-off products exist? Yep. I recall the surprising study from a couple years ago that investigated supplements from a variety of popular chains only to find that many of them didn’t even contain any of the herb they were supposed to be. The last thing you want is something that can’t possibly help you because it’s not what you thought it was.
CBD offers us an intriguing alternative to benzos for acute anxiety, and more and more info will become available to us as the body of research in the area grows. Since we know that CBD is a safe and potentially effective substance, I would encourage anyone struggling with bouts of anxiety to check it out. I’ve personally found the ritual of vaping it to go well with the deep breathing I’d normally do to calm myself down, and it helps to be able to feel my muscles relaxing just a couple minutes after I start.
I’m pretty sure we haven’t heard the end of this whole CBD thing, and that’s probably a good thing. Have you tried CBD for anxiety? Let us know below!