I tried CBD oil to help with my anxiety — and I’m still not sure that it worked
Jordan Michelle vapes a CBD oil made from hemp at the Cannabis World Congress Conference on June 16, 2017 in New York City. Billed as ‘the leading trade show and conference for the legalized cannabis, medical marijuana, and industrial hemp industries,’ the 4th annual conference brings together dozens of both small and large businesses involved in the growing hemp and marijuana market. Spencer Platt/Getty
- Studies have shown that cannabidiol (CBD) can reduce anxiety in people with generalized social anxiety disorder.
- Here’s author Jennifer Still’s experience of trying out various CBD products to help with her anxiety.
Generalized anxiety disorder affects more than 6.8 million people in the US, and one in six Americans are on prescribed psychiatric drugs to treat the condition or another mental health issue.
While I’ve never been officially diagnosed with anxiety, working in a high-stress job and being an anxiety-prone person means I have flare-ups that can leave me feeling tense, irritable, and generally unwell .
Thankfully, I don’t experience these episodes enough to warrant pharmaceutical intervention, but I did want to find a natural way to manage my anxiety when it does crop up.
After hearing positive things about cannabidiol (CBD) oil’s effect on our ability to relax and de-stress for those with generalized social anxiety disorder, I decided to give it a go. Here’s my experience.
I spent a lot of time searching online for a high-quality product.
I decided to start taking CBD oil while staying in the UK, which meant that I was looking for a product made and sold in this country to purchase. It’s a legal cannabinoid in the UK , which means it’s pretty readily available online and in health shops such as Holland & Barrett .
I eventually went with a brand called LoveHemp . To start, I chose to take CBD in oil form with a 10% concentration . This is pretty middle of the road in terms of dosage, with products available in as low as 2% and as high as 40% concentrations online.
It didn’t make me spaced out, and I didn’t feel ‘high.’
A lot of people get CBD, or cannabidiol, confused with THC , the latter of which is the psychoactive element in marijuana that gets you high. They’re definitely not the same.
CBD is a separate substance which contains no THC, so you won’t get high when taking CBD as a supplement. Instead, CBD contains compounds which have shown promise for medical uses , including relief from epilepsy, arthritis , diabetes , and anxiety .
One caveat: Many of these studies have involved marijuana strains that contain both CBD and THC. That means further research on CBD alone is needed.
After my first and any subsequent dosages, it didn’t change my state of mind at all. I wasn’t groggy, wired, excitable, or “high.” I felt just like myself.
I experienced a subtle but noticeable difference in my anxiety levels.
While it wasn’t like I was 100% stress-free overnight, I did notice within a week or so of taking CBD oil — roughly six to eight drops under the tongue, held for 90 seconds and then swallowed, twice a day — that I felt less anxious and tense. Things that usually bothered me, like unanswered emails or things going wrong with work, were easier to take in stride.
It also helped that I was sleeping better at night. I hadn’t cut out caffeine or changed anything else about my lifestyle, so I can only attribute the improved ability to fall and stay asleep to the CBD oil.
However, studies have shown that CBD oil has no significant clinical effect on sleep patterns . Maybe it was a placebo effect.
I experimented with different forms of CBD until I found one that fit.
A woman uses a electronic vaporizers with cannabidiol (CBD)-rich hemp oil while attending the International Cannabis Association Convention in New York, October 12, 2014. Eduardo Munoz/Reuters
While I started with CBD in oil form, the taste of the oil itself (usually hemp oil, but it can be purchased in coconut oil form as well) wasn’t that great. While I’m not a regular smoker, I have used a vape in the past, and although I know it’s not good for me, I do find the occasional smoke relaxing.
I was curious about the idea of vaping CBD oil, so I ordered a vape starter kit. I enjoyed it, but my paranoia about the dangers vaping poses to your health put me off the idea in the long run.
I also tried CBD gummies , though the lower concentration of CBD in each dose meant that I didn’t experience the same positive effects as I did with the oil. Eventually, I went back to the original 10% oil and have stuck with that ever since.
I still use it semi-regularly, though other lifestyle changes have likely helped as much in relieving my anxiety.
I always keep CBD oil around to take when I’m feeling in need of relief from my anxiety, rare bouts of insomnia, or even occasional back pain. I haven’t experienced any negative effects from taking CBD , and I definitely look forward to reading more research on its efficacy as it becomes available. I don’t take it daily, maybe just a couple of times a week now, but I like knowing it’s available should I need a boost (whether or not it’s the placebo effect ).
However, I’m also aware that other lifestyle changes I’ve made, such as improving my diet, taking more time away from work, and upping my exercise routine, have likely had just as much of a positive impact on my anxiety levels, so I don’t want to give the CBD oil too much credit.
Is it a miracle product? No, but if it helps people with certain ailments, why not give it a try?
I Took CBD Oil Every Day for My Anxiety—Here’s What Went Down
Dana Myers, LCSW is a licensed clinical social worker and life coach based in Philadelphia. She has a special interest in how race, sex, gender, ethnicity, social status and competencies impact those in marginalized communities and aims to help her clients find purpose and peace in life.
Michelle Regalado is a seasoned editor, fact-checker, and content strategist with expertise in women’s lifestyle news.
When I first learned about CBD oil, I’ll admit I was a bit skeptical. My mind immediately turned to weed and the unnerving experiences I’d had with heightened anxiety in college. For me, a person who’s already predisposed to overthinking, marijuana, no matter what the form, would typically put my mind into overdrive and result in a common yet dreaded side effect: Paranoia. But, let’s back up a bit. What even is CBD?
What is CBD?
A bit of online digging led me to realize that the active ingredient in Charlotte’s Web Everyday Plus Hemp Oil, the product I’d been offered to test, was the chemical compound CBD, which stands for cannabidiol. Unlike THC, the other crucial compound in hemp and marijuana plants, CBD (when derived from the hemp plant) does not produce the psychoactive effects that make you feel “high”; instead, emerging science has hinted that CBD may actually ease anxiety, and therefore, makes you less likely to freak out.
For example, one study comparing the effects of THC and CBD found that, while THC increased anxiety by activating the neurotransmitters involved in the “fight or flight” response, CBD actually repressed autonomic arousal—or the nervous system response associated with sudden increases in heart rate or respiration. In other words, CBD may be ideal for people looking to relax and unwind.
While the science behind CBD’s effectiveness for treating anxiety, pain, and insomnia is still in its infancy, Charlotte Figi’s inspiring story sounds promising. Figi, a 6-year-old girl diagnosed with a rare and resistant form of epilepsy known as Dravet syndrome, was placed on hospice care and given a “do not resuscitate” order when her parents, desperate and frustrated with pharmaceutical medication, considered medical marijuana; specifically, a strain low in THC and high in CBD. Charlotte is now nearly seizure-free since she began supplementing with Charlotte Web’s CBD oil, which the brand named after Figi.
Legal and Safety Things To Know About CBD
The current CBD industry is like the internet’s early years. the Wild West. Legally, speaking, a Harvard Medical School blog post reads, “All 50 states have laws legalizing CBD with varying degrees of restriction, and while the federal government still considers CBD in the same class as marijuana, it doesn’t habitually enforce against it.” With heightened interest around CBD, it’s important to note that because CBD is currently unregulated, it’s difficult to know what you’re getting (whether that’s a tincture—commonly referred to as CBD oil, which is often combined with a carrier oil like coconut oil—topical products like creams and balms, sprays, or capsules), despite product labels and brand promises, the blog post further reads. It’s also important to note that people experience CBD differently. For the most part, the National Institute of Medicine says that while most people can tolerate CBD, side effects do exist. They might include dry mouth, drowsiness, and reduced appetite, among others.
That said, those interested in exploring the potential benefits of CBD should consult with their doctor (especially if you are pregnant, nursing, or currently taking medication) and be mindful of your dosage, writes Consumer Reports. And before you buy, Megan Villa, co-founder of the hemp-focused website and shop Svn Space, told Shape magazine to seek out a certificate of analysis. “Ask for a COA for the batch number of the product you have, since these products are made in batches,” she said. “You need to match the batch number to the COA that pertains to it.” Then, scan the report for potency (i.e. does the number of milligrams of CBD that the product label touts match the lab report?), contaminants and pesticides, and mold (which should live under the “Microbiological Testing” part of the report). Go a step further and note whether the testing lab is GMP (Good Manufacturing Principles) certified, and whether the lab is registered with the Food and Drug Administration (FDA). Shape magazine also suggests purchasing CBD products made from domestically-grown hemp, and reading up on the difference between full- and broad-spectrum and CBD isolate.
With that, I threw caution to the wind and asked for a sample. Here’s what happened—including what it feels like—when I took one full dropper of Charlotte’s Web’s Everyday Plus Hemp Oil in the mint chocolate flavor every morning for seven days.
My First Impression
It was actually a bad bout of jet lag after a trip to California that inspired me to finally test out the CBD oil (I’ll admit that my weed-based reservations kept me from trying it for the first few months). Knowing that the oil had also helped people with sleep issues, I squeezed one full dropper of the Everyday Plus oil onto my tongue, per the instructions, and waited.
Thirty minutes later, I was surprised by how subtle the effect was. While I expected a hazy nodding-off effect similar to melatonin’s, the oil simply relaxed my body ever so slightly—my heart stopped pounding against my chest, my legs stopped kicking beneath my sheets, my mind stopped racing. I wasn’t sure if it was the oil or the late hour, but eventually, physical relaxation gave way to mental relaxation, and I drifted off to sleep.
Reflecting the next morning, I was most surprised by the fact that I never felt “high” in any way—there was never a moment of It’s kicking in; I can feel it now like with pain medications or even anti-anxiety drugs. Considering it takes time, consistency, and the right dosage to experience the full effect, I continued taking the oil once a day for the next six days. Here’s what went down.
It Made Me Less Anxious and Edgy
Rather than overthinking a sternly worded email or analyzing a social interaction, I found it easier to recognize the irrationality of these thoughts and actually let them go.
While normally I’d be slightly tripped up by little things like an overly crowded subway car or a full inbox at work, the CBD oil seems to have taken the edge off of my anxiety a bit. Rather than overthinking a sternly worded email or analyzing a social interaction, I found it easier to recognize the irrationality of these thoughts and actually let them go. In some ways, I feel more like myself. With that said, I’ve still experienced some social anxiety when meeting new groups of people—I’d be interested to see what taking the full recommended dose would do.
I’m More Focused At Work
I work well under pressure, but being extremely busy at work has almost made me less productive—I’m constantly distracted by email, Slack, and the people around me, to the point where getting my work done becomes difficult. This week, however, I’ve found it easier to put my blinders on, block out all distractions (especially social distractions), and focus on one task at a time. I think this is partly related to the lessened anxiety—I feel more frazzled and off task when my anxiety is running high. It almost feels like a newfound sense of clarity and calm that enables me to focus.
I’m Falling Asleep Faster
I assume this is also a side effect of feeling less anxious, but I seem to fall asleep faster; within the 20-30-minute range rather than my normal 45 minutes to one hour (or longer). Not only do I seem to be skipping or at least shortening the whole tossing-and-turning phase of my sleep cycle, but I’m able to snap out of the overthinking that often keeps me up at night. Of course, there’s no telling whether a big life event would disrupt this newfound bliss, but I’d like to think it’s helped on a day-to-day basis.
My Experience With CBD
Would I say that CBD oil has fundamentally changed my life? No. But per the Charlotte’s Web website, this is the typical first experience. “Anyone who has ever started a new vitamin or supplement routine knows the short answer to how long it takes to kick in is—’it depends.’ For many newcomers, they’re not sure what to imagine, or some anticipate a huge change right away. For most of us, though, dietary supplements take time.”
With that said, I’m definitely intrigued enough by the subtle effects to continue taking the oil and to possibly up the dosage to the recommended two full droppers of the 30mL bottle per day. Plus, I take comfort in knowing that it’s an all-natural product that’s responsibly grown on family farms in Colorado. Something that’s safe, legal, requires no prescription, and makes me less anxious, less scatterbrained, and more focused? I’m definitely on board.
Explore the World of CBD
Looking to learn more about CBD? These are some of my favorite products to help get you started.
For those new to CBD, Charlotte’s Web recommends this hemp oil. Containing 17mg of CBD per 1mL serving, this CBD oil is also U.S. Hemp Authority Certified. Choose from four different flavors including Lemon Twist, Mint Chocolate, Orange Blossom, and Olive Oil.
Go deep on the subject of CBD with this book that includes case studies, interviews with doctors, an overview of the latest cannabis research, and how scientists are exploring cannabis for various medical uses. There is also an explainer about the difference between CBD products made from industrial hemp versus in a lab, and products made from the whole marijuana plant.
Charlotte’s Web inaugural CBD oil product comes in two flavors; Olive Oil and Mint Chocolate. It’s also its most potent. According to its website, its Original Formula Hemp Extract Oil comes with 50mg CBD per mL.
Gretchen Lidicker puts a lifestyle spin on the world of CBD as the author draws on the “knowledge of leaders in the health and wellness world” to explain why CBD has become a top beauty and wellness trend for top athletes and celebrities. The book also includes recipes and recommendations for how to choose a top-quality CBD product.
This travel-friendly roll-on is packed with CBD and fragrant essential oils, including lavender, bergamot, and chamomile, for an easy de-stress quick fix. The result? “That elusive feeling of wakeful calm,” reads the Sagely Naturals website.
With this book, CBD is explained from A to Z and breaks down the good, bad, and ugly of a fledgling industry that is poised for rapid growth. CBD: 101 Things You Need to Know About CBD Oil covers what it is, why people take it, who it’s for (and who it isn’t for), its myriad forms, and more.
Lord Jones’ High CBD Formula Body Oil combines CBD with organic avocado, jojoba and safflower oils for smooth, hydrated skin. Each bottle has 100mg of CBD.
Charlotte’s Web’s Extra Strength Capsules feature 25 mg of CBD per capsule. The website offers capsules as a convenient and precise way to take CBD—on the go, stash them in your gym bag, pocket, etc.
Byrdie takes every opportunity to use high-quality sources, including peer-reviewed studies, to support the facts within our articles. Read our editorial guidelines to learn more about how we keep our content accurate, reliable and trustworthy.
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Shannon S, Lewis N, Lee H, Hughes S. Cannabidiol in anxiety and sleep: A large case series. Perm J. 2019;23:18-041. doi:10.7812/TPP/18-041