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CBD for Stress

Non-intoxicating cannabis compound CBD seems to help the body cope with stress.

CBD is a non-psychoactive cannabinoid compound found in cannabis. CBD possesses several health benefits, including the ability to alleviate stress by:

  • Regulating the stress response. CBD appears to influence regions of the brain associated with responding to stressful stimuli, resulting in benefits such as reduced anxiety.


Cannabidiol (CBD) is the most abundant cannabinoid in cannabis (Cannabis sativa) after tetrahydrocannabinol (THC). CBD is growing increasingly popular as a supplement because of its multiple health benefits, the most notable of which are:

  • Alleviation of anxiety, depression, and stress
  • Reduction of pain and inflammation

Unlike THC, CBD has no psychoactive effects, meaning that it does not cause any euphoric or mind-altering effects. Coupled with its medicinal properties, this has made CBD an attractive option for helping with a long list of conditions that includes depression and other mental and neurological disorders, multiple sclerosis, and arthritis.

As a stress reducer, CBD seems to function by supporting the body’s response to stress. More specifically, it appears to reduce defensive responses to stressful events or stimuli, which can include adverse effects such as raised heart rate, blood pressure, and anxiety.

CBD supplements can be made from either normal cannabis plants or hemp – a term for cannabis varieties that contain 0.3% or less of THC, which is too low to cause any psychoactive effects. CBD products produced from hemp are currently legal in all US states, whereas those made from normal cannabis are only legal in states that allow medical marijuana use.

How CBD May Help With Stress

Interacting with serotonin receptors

Cannabidiol molecule. By Ben Mills [Public Domain], via Wikimedia Commons
Research suggests that CBD’s stress, anxiety and depression-reducing effects are mainly tied to its activation of the serotonin 5-HT1A receptor, which plays a role in regulating defensive responses to stressful stimuli.

Stimulating adult neurogenesis

Multiple cell culture studies have demonstrated that CBD increases adult hippocampal neurogenesis, the primary way that an adult mammalian brain can grow new brain cells. The impairment of adult neurogenesis has been linked to the development of anxiety and depression.

CBD Uses & Benefits for Stress

Reduction of stress and anxiety are the most popular uses of CBD supplements. And although research on CBD’s health benefits has only just begun, animal and human study findings support its potential to ameliorate both of these concerns, especially in the context of anxiety disorders. In addition, CBD is also used to help with related issues such as difficulty sleeping and chronic pain.

Although CBD is non-intoxicating, it is either illegal or only available by prescription in many countries, including Canada.


Animal Research

Animal studies demonstrate that CBD can:

  • Help the body cope with stress, as exemplified by the reduction of blood pressure, heart rate, and anxiety in rats exposed to restraint stress
  • Reduce stress, anxiety, and depression in mice and rats

Human Research

Current clinical research suggests that CBD helps the body cope with stress, particularly highlighted by its ability to reduce anxiety.

CBD (600 mg) appears to reduce anxiety in individuals with social anxiety disorder

This double-blind, randomized study examined the effects of CBD on anxiety. A total of 24 people with Social Anxiety Disorder (SAD) were given placebo or CBD (600 mg) 90 minutes before a simulated public speaking test (SPST). The CBD treatment significantly lowered anxiety, cognitive impairment, and overall discomfort during the test. In addition, the performance of the CBD group was noted to be similar to 12 healthy controls (HC) who also underwent the test.

  • The researchers concluded that “The increase in anxiety induced by the SPST on subjects with SAD was reduced with the use of CBD, resulting in a similar response as the HC.”

CBD (400 mg) appears to modulate brain regions related to responding to stressful stimuli

In this double-blind, placebo-controlled study, people with social anxiety disorder (SAD) were given placebo or CBD (400 mg) and were examined using brain imaging. Compared to placebo, CBD was found to significantly decrease subjective anxiety through affecting regions of the brain that process defensive responses to stressful stimuli.

  • The researchers concluded that “CBD reduces anxiety in SAD and that this is related to its effects on activity in limbic and paralimbic brain areas.

CBD seems to counteract the anxiety produced by THC

This early double-blind study tested whether CBD was capable of reducing the anxiety produced by tetrahydrocannabinol (THC), the main psychoactive compound in cannabis. Eight people received the following treatments in different order: 0.5 mg/kg THC, 1 mg/kg CBD, a mixture containing 0.5 mg/kg delta 9-THC and 1 mg/kg CBD, diazepam, a common anti-anxiety drug (10 mg), and placebo. CBD was found to counteract the anxiety produced by THC.

  • The researchers concluded that “the effects of CBD, as opposed to those of delta 9-THC, might be involved in the antagonism of effects between the two cannabinoids.”