How To Use CBD To Help Alleviate Anxiety
Dr. Bindiya Gandhi is an integrative medicine physician with expertise in functional and holistic medicine based in Atlanta, Georgia.
Commissions we earn from partner links on this page do not affect our opinions or evaluations. Our editorial content is based on thorough research and guidance from the Forbes Health Advisory Board.
Table of Contents
- CBD for Anxiety
- How to Use CBD for Anxiety
- CBD Dosage for Anxiety
- Potential Risks and Side Effects
While delta-9-tetrahydrocannabinol (THC) can have a bad rap for being intoxicating and anxiety-inducing, cannabidiol (CBD) can actually be used to relieve anxiety. Research supports this benefit, with several studies reinforcing the positive effects CBD can have on various anxiety conditions. In fact, 51% of U.S. adults who use CBD do so to help alleviate their anxiety, according to a recent Forbes Health survey of 2,000 U.S. adults conducted by OnePoll.
CBD isn’t yet legally cleared as an anxiolytic, or anxiety relief medication. Therefore, it’s up to you—and, ideally, a doctor who specializes in cannabis administration—to determine whether CBD is a safe treatment for your anxiety.
Here’s what the science says regarding CBD’s anxiolytic properties, along with experts’ dosage guidelines and advice on how to take CBD safely.
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CBD for Anxiety
The Food and Drug Administration (FDA) has yet to approve any CBD-based medications for anxiety. However, many studies indicate the substance can be an effective anxiolytic.
CBD for Generalized Anxiety
In 2011, a small trial-tested CBD on participants with generalized social anxiety disorder (SAD) and healthy control patients undergoing a simulated public speaking test (SPST), which is a common anxiety testing method  Bergamaschi MM, Queiroz RH, Chagas MH, et al. Cannabidiol reduces the anxiety induced by simulated public speaking in treatment-naïve social phobia patients. Neuropsychopharmacology. 2011;36(6):1219-1226. . Compared to a placebo, CBD significantly reduced anxiety and discomfort in the participants with SAD. In fact, their reduced anxiety levels were comparable to those of the control participants.
Eight years later, a 2019 test compared the efficacy of three CBD doses (150 milligrams, 300 milligrams and 600 milligrams) and a placebo in men taking an SPST  Linares IM, Zuardi AW, Pereira LC, et al. Cannabidiol presents an inverted U-shaped dose-response curve in a simulated public speaking test. Revista brasileira de psiquiatria (Sao Paulo, Brazil : 1999). 2019;41(1):9-14. . Compared to a placebo, 300 milligrams of CBD significantly reduced participants’ anxiety during the speech, but the 150-milligram and 600-milligram doses did not. These results highlight how dosage can be highly variable and that more CBD isn’t necessarily more effective.
Meanwhile, another 2019 study tested CBD in much lower doses than most other clinical studies—some participants consumed 25 milligrams a day while others consumed 50 milligrams or 75 milligrams a day  Shannon S, Lewis N, Lee H, Hughes S. Cannabidiol in Anxiety and Sleep: A Large Case Series. Perm J. 2019;23:18-041. . Researchers thought higher doses might be too expensive for participants to maintain in their normal lives and that low doses would still prove effective. Indeed, anxiety decreased within the first month for most participants and remained low. Sleep quality also improved, although it fluctuated more than anxiety. Only three patients reported side effects.
CBD for Anxiety and Depression
In 2020, researchers tested the effects of CBD oil at varying doses across 397 patients with a variety of ailments  Gulbransen G, Xu W, Arroll B. Cannabidiol prescription in clinical practice: an audit on the first 400 patients in New Zealand. BJGP Open. 2020;4(1):bjgpopen20X101010. . Participants with non-cancer pain or mental health-related symptoms experienced significant improvement in anxiety and depression, as well as in their abilities to complete their usual activities. The use of CBD oil suggested significant pain relief in these groups as well.
CBD for PTSD and Phobia Therapy
A small 2019 study of 11 patients found that, when consumed orally and administered alongside routine psychiatric care, CBD decreased patients’ posttraumatic stress disorder (PTSD) symptom severity  Elms L, Shannon S, Hughes S, Lewis N. Cannabidiol in the Treatment of Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder: A Case Series. J Altern Complement Med. 2019;25(4):392-397. .
Other studies suggest CBD can reduce PTSD symptoms when consumed with THC  Bitencourt RM, Takahashi RN. Cannabidiol as a Therapeutic Alternative for Post-traumatic Stress Disorder: From Bench Research to Confirmation in Human Trials. Front Neurosci. 2018;12:502. . When taken together, the two compounds create what’s known as the “entourage effect,” where THC enhances the effects of CBD as CBD tempers the effects of THC, resulting in a more well-rounded experience  Ferber SG, Namdar D, Hen-Shoval D, et al. The “Entourage Effect”. Terpenes Coupled with Cannabinoids for the Treatment of Mood Disorders and Anxiety Disorders. Curr Neuropharmacol. 2020;18(2):87-96. .
Some studies also suggest CBD can enhance the effects of exposure therapy—which assists patients in dissociating certain cues with a fear response—and cognitive behavioral therapy  Das RK, Kamboj SK, Ramadas M, et al. Cannabidiol enhances consolidation of explicit fear extinction in humans. Psychopharmacology (Berl). 2013;226(4):781-792.  Blessing EM, Steenkamp MM, Manzanares J, Marmar CR. Cannabidiol as a Potential Treatment for Anxiety Disorders. Neurotherapeutics. 2015;12(4):825-836. .
How to Use CBD for Anxiety
Without clear FDA guidance, optimal CBD use for anxiety varies from person to person. You may find one method works better for you over another. You can consume CBD in the following forms:
- Oils and tinctures, which come in dropper bottles and are consumed by mouth
- Gummies, which are chewable, sweet and often fruit-flavored
- Sprays, which come in bottles with a nozzle to be sprayed in the mouth
- Capsules, softgels or tablets, which are taken individually by mouth like a pill
- Vapes, which heat CBD oil without igniting it, resulting in an inhalable vapor
- Flowers, which are dried hemp plants that are typically ignited and smoked
- Creams and gels, which introduce CBD topically (through the skin) as a more localized treatment
You may have to try different forms to determine what works best in addressing your anxiety. For instance, when it comes to the absorption of CBD in your bloodstream, vaping and smoking are more effective than edibles like gummies.
CBD Dosage for Anxiety
You also have to find the right CBD dosage for your anxiety. Experts suggest starting small and working your way up depending on how your body reacts.
Many clinical trials jump right to testing high doses. Successful doses evaluated for anxiety relief specifically include:
- 600 milligrams in patients with SAD in a speech simulation  Bergamaschi MM, Queiroz RH, Chagas MH, et al. Cannabidiol reduces the anxiety induced by simulated public speaking in treatment-naïve social phobia patients. Neuropsychopharmacology. 2011;36(6):1219-1226.
- 300 milligrams in male patients in a speech simulation  Linares IM, Zuardi AW, Pereira LC, et al. Cannabidiol presents an inverted U-shaped dose-response curve in a simulated public speaking test. Revista brasileira de psiquiatria (Sao Paulo, Brazil : 1999). 2019;41(1):9-14.
However, other trials suggest much lower doses are also quite effective in treating anxiety.
- 25 to 75 milligrams for generalized anxiety and/or sleep problems  Shannon S, Lewis N, Lee H, Hughes S. Cannabidiol in Anxiety and Sleep: A Large Case Series. Perm J. 2019;23:18-041.
- 33 to 49 milligrams a day for PTSD, in addition to routine psychiatric treatment  Elms L, Shannon S, Hughes S, Lewis N. Cannabidiol in the Treatment of Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder: A Case Series. J Altern Complement Med. 2019;25(4):392-397.
Another study involving hundreds of patients noted success with doses from 40 milligrams to 300 milligrams a day, further supporting the idea that CBD dosage varies significantly, depending on a person’s symptoms and physiology.
Potential Risks and Side Effects
The World Health Organization deems CBD a safe and generally well-tolerated substance. Studies report very few adverse effects, if any.
However, taking CBD while on other medications may pose a risk, as these substances may interact and cause unwanted effects, such as weight gain, drowsiness, upset stomach and change in appetite.
Cheryl Bugailiskis, M.D., a cannabis specialist at Heally, a telehealth platform for alternative medicine, also warns people with preexisting liver injuries and people taking medications that can cause liver injuries should practice caution when using CBD.
How to Take CBD Oil: CBD Drops, Coffees and Cocktails
So, you’ve read all about cannabidiol (or CBD as it’s more commonly known) and now you’re thinking of giving it a whirl. It makes sense. The food and wellness industries are buzzing about this natural chemical compound, which is said to help with anxiety, arthritis, pain relief, menopause symptoms and insomnia to name but a few.
You’ve decided you want to try it, so what’s next? When it comes to how to take CBD oil, you’re spoiled for choice. From tinctures and topicals to smoothies and coffee blends, there’s an overwhelming amount of options out there. Unsure where to start? That’s where we come in – here’s our CBD oil guide to help you decide how best to take CBD oil.
How to take CBD Oil?
While there are many ways to take CBD oil, it depends on the strength of the oil. With our 250mg CBD Oils (a great starting point), you put five CBD oil drops under your tongue and hold them there for 30-60 seconds, and do that three times a day. You can, however, freestyle, putting your drops into a smoothie, juice or even your morning cuppa. CBD is said to take the edge off coffee too.
Which brings us to…
9 Ways to Take CBD Oil at Home
1. In a tincture
In layman’s terms, a tincture is a concoction you take by dropper or spray straight into your mouth. You can take CBD oil by putting it directly under your tongue (that part of the mouth is a capillary-rich area and so the CBD will reach your bloodstream quicker). Try dropping a dose of CBD under your tongue and holding it there for a minute before swallowing.
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2. In a capsule
CBD oil also comes in a capsule form, which can be a good option for people who want to maintain a consistent amount of the compound in the body. However when CBD is ingested it passes through the digestive tract which means you might have to wait upwards of 30 minutes before experiencing any effect.
3. In a smoothie
Some blends of CBD oil can have a pungent, earthy taste. It’s not for everyone, which is why many people like to mask the flavour with other – more delicious – ingredients. Another way to take CBD is by adding half a teaspoon of CBD oil to your morning smoothie for a calm start to the day. If you’re after some smoothie inspo, head over to the 5 Best Self Care Smoothies With Hemp .
4. In coffee
If only there was a way to capture the energy of coffee without its associated jitters. Oh wait… there is! There are an increasing number of CBD coffee brands popping up, who claim that when coffee beans are infused with CBD, they take away the anxiety that caffeine consumption can cause. This makes the ‘up’ that your coffee gives you a little smoother; it takes the edge off. Or use a dairy-free milk that’s infused with CBD to easily control your dosage and allow you to continue using your favourite coffee blend.
5. In a salad dressing
Now we’re talking the same language, right? Try incorporating a little CBD oil into your daily cooking routine to get a bunch of health benefits without much effort at all. For a delicious and nutritious salad dressing, start with three to four tablespoons of olive oil, then add two teaspoons of CBD, the juice of half a fragrant lemon and salt and pepper. Here’s 5 hemp oil friendly recipes for starters.
6. In a vape pen
Okay so this one might sound a little scary, but vape pens are easy to use and can go undetected because they produce little smoke. The plus side of taking CBD in a vape pen is that when CBD is inhaled, it enters the lungs where it rapidly passes into the bloodstream. However, it’s important to note that the long-term safety of vaping is still unknown.
7. In sweet treats
The beauty of CBD is that it can basically be baked into anything, which is why you’ll find everything from cookies and brownies to gummies and caramel candies infused with it. Sweets are easy to take along with you in a bag on the go, while baked goods might need to be kept refrigerated to keep the CBD fresh (or just eat them quickly before they go off?).
8. In a topical rub or balm
In balm or rub form, CBD is often blended with fragrant coconut oil or beeswax, which makes it easy to spread on the skin (and makes your bod smell great too). When used topically, CBD can reach local targets, like sore muscles or joints. We’ve also heard it works wonders for period pain.
9. In a cocktail
If you’re feeling fancy go on the hunt for a CBD cocktail. We’ve heard reports that over in San Diego you can order The Mr Nice Guy – that’s a vodka and mezcal mixed drink that includes CBD. More proof, if any were needed, that CBD can be imbibed alongside any other food or drink, and that you’re going to be seeing a whole lot more of it soon.
How Much CBD Should I Take Each Day?
We always suggest starting the day with a few drops – it just sets the tone, you know? But you can top up throughout the day, no problem. Everyone will have an amount that works for them, just play around with it and see what feels good. We recommend starting with 5mg doses, 3 times per day and increasing your dosage incrementally over the course of a few weeks, ensuring you always stay below 70mg each day.
Check out our guide to CBD dosages for detailed advice.
Should I Refrigerate CBD Oil?
No, you shouldn’t. It’s best kept in a dark place like a pantry or cupboard so that it stays cool without getting too cold.
Should I Drink CBD Oil or Rub it Into My Skin?
Whichever you prefer! As outlined above, you can add CBD oil to a variety of different drinks or rub it into your skin as a topical balm. However, rubbing it into your skin tends to be better for sore joints or muscles.
What Does CBD Oil Under the Tongue Do?
This is one of the many ways the body can absorb CBD oil – as we mentioned above, your tongue is capillary-rich, meaning this method will allow the CBD to reach your bloodstream quickly.
How Long Does It Take for CBD Oil to Work on Joint Pain?
It depends on a variety of factors, such as how strong the CBD oil is (the stronger the concentration, the faster you will feel its effects) as well as how you are consuming it. For example, if you are taking CBD oil by placing a few drops under your tongue, it should take effect in around 15 to 45 minutes , while a topical application may take longer.
How Often Should I Take CBD Oil?
This varies from person to person and, when in doubt, you should always consult a doctor. However, we recommend starting with one of our 250mg bottles of CBD and taking five drops three times a day. After you begin to learn how this affects your body, you can better decide whether you should scale your dosage up or down (as long as you don’t exceed 70mg of CBD per day!).
Should I Take CBD Oil in the Morning or Evening?
Again, this is up to you and how CBD oil affects your body. People who find that CBD oil makes them feel energised, awake and clear-headed may prefer to take it in the mornings (or afternoons when they need a bit of a boost), while those who find that CBD oil helps them unwind and relax may prefer to take it in the evenings.
Can CBD Keep Me Awake at Night?
It can, but it probably won’t. While some people do feel that CBD oil makes them feel more alert, preliminary studies have shown that CBD oil is an effective way to treat insomnia.
Have we caught your attention? Now that you know how to take CBD oil, are you interested in trying it out for yourself? Check out our range of Pure CBD oils and start experimenting with your smoothies, baked goods and more!