For most of us, stress has become an accepted part of everyday life and unfortunately, it can negatively impact mental and physical health and functioning. Many people are turning to CBD oil for stress relief, but does it actually work? Or is it all placebo?
Stress happens and there are many unavoidable reasons for it. Perhaps it’s due to an illness, work deadlines, school, family commitments, or a combination of things. While these episodes may be fleeting, there is a growing number of people who find it next to impossible to get out from underneath the anxiety that accompanies and fuels their daily stressors. This is where CBD oil may be able to help.
To better understand how to use CBD oil for stress relief and anxiety reduction, let's first explore the science behind some of the ways cannabidiol (CBD) may benefit you. If you're looking for actual CBD products to help reduce your stress, check out our CBD buyer's guide for people with anxiety.
Each person has their own way of dealing with stressful situations. Whether it’s going for a run, reaching for a cigarette, or taking prescription medications, there are a number of different ways to temporarily relieve anxiety and stress. Some methods for finding stress relief are healthier than others.
According to the World Health Organization, cannabidiol (CBD) is “generally well tolerated with a good safety profile.” If your current strategies for turning down your stress levels aren’t exactly healthy, CBD oil may be the safer, more natural alternative you’ve been looking for.
What’s more, CBD may help rewire the way you respond to stressful triggers, offering a long-term, possibly permanent solution to dealing with anxiety and stress. This revelation is huge, considering the negative effects stress can have on not just on your mental capacities, but on your physical body.
While the effectiveness of CBD oil for stress relief in humans is predominantly anecdotal, there are several clinical trials underway, and a number of previously conducted animal studies have already produced positive results.
A review published in 2015 looked at 32 rodent studies and all but one found positive applications for CBD oil in terms of stress relief.
In this context, CBD oil has been found to have two primary benefits: reducing anxiety-induced stress responses and aiding in “extinction learning.” In facilitating both of these processes, CBD oil ultimately protects the mind and physical body from the negative impact of chronic stress.
An experiment conducted on mice examined their response to a stressful situation. In this instance, the stressful situation was being placed in the same cage as a boa constrictor. While mice in the control group who had not been administered CBD oil panicked immediately, those who had been given a low dose of CBD oil were more likely to first survey their environment and then decide on the best location to hide.
Studies examining CBD’s effect on stress and anxiety in humans have also been published. One study in particular examined the impact of CBD oil on people with anxiety disorders. The test subjects were tasked with performing one of the most nerve-wracking and stress-inducing activities known to mankind: public speaking. The study found CBD oil significantly reduced anxiety and stress levels in the group of people who’d received CBD oil compared to the control group.
A key part of recovering from stress is the process of extinction learning. This is the process by which the brain severs fears from their associated triggers. In humans with post-traumatic stress disorder, this type of stress therapy is especially effective.
In a study examining CBD’s effect on extinction learning, 48 test subjects were conditioned to link electric shocks to a colored box. Skin conductance and shock expectancy were recorded throughout. These measurements were then compared to the results gathered from the same subjects placed in the same context 48 hours later. The subjects that had been given CBD oil during their initial experience were quicker to release the negative association between the colored box and the shocks than those who had not.
From an evolutionary perspective, the body’s response to stress is useful. Humans’ ancient ancestors relied on the ‘fight or flight’ response, stimulated by stress, to stay out of danger. The brain is wired to remember these stressful situations so they can be anticipated and avoided in the future. Unfortunately, today, humans are constantly exposed to stressors that do not necessarily signal a life or death situation and the ability to anticipate the worst case scenario, often manifested as anxiety, only makes things worse.
High levels of stress hormones such as cortisol cause the body to prioritize the fight or flight response, giving fewer resources to other important bodily functions like the immune system and metabolism. This shift in priorities can lead to an increased risk of heart disease, fatigue, depression, weight gain, as well as aggravate issues like irritable bowel syndrome (IBS) and anxiety.
Stress can cause physical changes in the brain, too. Chronic stress can make the amygdala, the instinctive, reptilian part of the brain, hyperactive, while shrinking the logical part of the brain known as the prefrontal cortex. Stress can also cause chemical changes, impacting the neurotransmitters serotonin and dopamine.
Fortunately, CBD oil has been known to have a positive impact on these neurotransmitters, cortisol, and the physical brain, which in turn lowers stress’ impact on the body and mind.
Because CBD oil has been shown to impact multiple receptors and neurotransmitters in the body, it can be difficult to pinpoint exactly how it relieves stress. Science’s best estimation is that CBD oil reduces stress through neuroregeneration, cortisol regulation, and the stimulation of neurotransmitters.
Thanks to advances in medical technology, we now know more than ever about the damage that stress can cause to the brain. The good news is, many areas of the brain are able to heal, regenerate neurons, and establish new neural pathways.
CBD oil may enable neuroregeneration, allowing the brain to more quickly repair the damage that stress has caused. A 2016 study examined the effects of CBD on mice with brain injuries. In it, researchers found that CBD oil reduced neuroinflammation while promoting neuroplasticity, the brain’s process for reorganizing and building new neural pathways.
Often referred to as the “stress hormone,” cortisol is aptly named due to its being released when the body is exposed to a stressful situation, whether that be a real life-or-death threat, or vigorous exercise.
CBD oil has been shown to be anti-catabolic, which means it can regulate the amount of cortisol released into your system. By regulating cortisol, CBD oil helps reduce the experience of stress and its after-effects (e.g. inflammation and decreased metabolism).
One of the neurotransmitters that has been well researched in relation to CBD oil is serotonin. The way serotonin operates within the system is complex, with its effects depending on a range of variables.
Cannabidiol (CBD) binds to serotonin receptor 5-HT1A, which is believed to play a part in the experience of stress and anxiety. Anti-anxiety drugs such as buspirone adhere to 5-HT1A in the same manner, explaining why using CBD oil for stress relief can have such powerful results.
To actively combat stress, most practitioners will recommend that you combine your CBD oil treatment with traditional talk therapy techniques, like cognitive behavioral therapy (CBT), that further aid in reducing anxiety and retraining your brain’s response to stress.
Stress changes brain chemistry as well as physically changing certain areas of the brain. In order to achieve long-term stress relief, a well-rounded treatment plan will allow for the rewiring of neural connections and undo the patterns of stress and anxiety that have become entrenched in your mind. While activities such as mindfulness can rebuild brain pathways in isolation, this process may be accelerated by the neuroregeneration properties of CBD oil.
CBD oil can be a nice complement to other stress modulators like mindfulness, talk therapy, and relaxation techniques.
If you are interested in using CBD oil for stress relief, it is best to first speak to your doctor. While generally safe, CBD oil can interact with certain medications including antibiotics and antidepressants so it is best to make sure it’s safe before proceeding. You can also talk to a cannabis doctor for more information; they’ll likely have more experience prescribing CBD oil as a medical treatment option.
Once you have determined that CBD oil is legal in your state, you can then choose your delivery format. For most people, taking a CBD oil capsule, edible, or CBD oil drops is the easiest and most convenient way to get a regular dose. For people who experience sudden stressors, a CBD oil vape product will provide the fastest relief, but the effects won’t last as long as an edible or CBD drops. Carefully consider your individual needs and pick your product accordingly.
When it comes to taking CBD oil for stress relief, there is no universal dose because no two people will respond to CBD oil in the same way. Unless your doctor advises otherwise, it is best to start with the lowest recommended dose on your CBD oil product.
If you’re having trouble finding a starting dosage, we at CBD Oil Review recommend the following after testing hundreds of products:
The CBD Oil Review Serving Standard is 25mg of CBD, taken twice daily.
From there, you can slowly adjust the dose up or down as needed; we recommend increasing your dose by 25 mg every 3-4 weeks until you find the relief you’re looking for.
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