CBD is one of more than 100 compounds in cannabis that create drug-like effects in the body, including the nervous and immune systems. Called cannabinoids, these compounds mimic naturally produced compounds in our bodies called endocannabinoids that help maintain overall balance.

The endocannabinoid system (ECS) forms a major signaling network that regulates memory, mood, pain, and hunger. CBD and other cannabinoids act as keys, locking and unlocking receptors – much like how dopamine and serotonin act as messengers in the nervous system. Though most cannabinoids bind to nerve receptors, CBD does not directly trigger receptors. Instead, it binds in a different spot, freeing the normal spot. By doing this, it makes it harder for receptors to activate. While this may seem undesirable, too much nerve activity can be bad. If you are experiencing loss of sleep or heightened stress, it may be from overstimulation of cannabinoid receptors.

Unlike THC, CBD will not get you high, or arrested. It is easy to take and compares very favorably to pharmaceuticals, especially opioids: you cannot overdose or get addicted, and its side effects are rare and mild.

Another 40 million Americans struggle with anxiety, whose symptoms range from difficulty concentrating, headaches, and insomnia to heightened blood pressure and depression.

Traditional treatments have been therapy and prescription meds, but both can be costly, and some drugs have adverse side effects. CBD sidesteps both downsides, but not everyone seeking relief will experience CBD the same way. You may feel less benefit, or slower relief, than other users. That is because every metabolism and set of stress factors is unique.

Anecdotal evidence of CBD’s benefits is more plentiful than definitive science. However small studies in 2019 reported significant reductions in anxiety among a majority of test subjects, and the National Institute on Drug Abuse says CBD has lowered stress in rats. In addition, brain scans have shown reduced anxious brain activity in humans using CBD.

What is more, we know the ECS manages serotonin levels, which impact how we perceive and experience feelings of anxiety. Anxiety and depression are thought to be caused in part by a lack of serotonin, and CBD has been shown to mimic its effect on the brain.

CBD may also help treat anxiety-induced insomnia. A 2011 study done on people suffering from Seasonal Affective Disorder showed that patients who received CBD instead of a placebo experienced lower anxiety levels. For PTSD, several recent studies showed CBD stopped nightmares and also ended mental looping.

There is also evidence CBD can deliver the benefits of the two main classes of anxiety medications: SSRIs and benzodiazepines. SSRIs like Zoloft work by increasing serotonin levels. Since CBD can activate serotonin receptors, there is a possibility that it can be helpful – without the potential for psychological addiction.

Benzodiazepines like Ativan and Xanax work by affecting neurotransmitters, one of which – GABA – is known to suppress nerve activity. Since anxiety is thought to be partially caused by excess nerve activity, the drugs increase GABA’s effects. Promising research in Australia found that CBD may also alter the BABA neurotransmitter in ways that enhance its effects.

Be aware, however, that CBD may lessen the effect of some prescription meds. Researchers have found that CBD is an inhibitor of a liver enzyme that helps break down drugs. With high CBD doses, the enzyme might not function properly. To be safe, speak to your doctor before starting a CBD regimen.

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