Lifestyle writer Kelsey Clark recalls her first experience with trying cannabidiol (CBD) to combat her anxiety: “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.”
Kelsey had been hesitant to take cannabis for her anxiety, because of the plant’s tendency to put her mind into overdrive and plunge it into paranoia. But upon learning that CBD doesn’t make consumers feel high like tetrahydrocannabinol (THC) can, she experimented with taking CBD oil daily for a week.
She found that the CBD helped her:
- Sleep better
- Focus more at work
- Made her less anxious
“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. I've found it easier to recognize the irrationality of these thoughts and actually let them go,” said Kelsey, adding:
“In some ways, I feel more like myself.”
Let’s take a look at why CBD helped lower Kelsey’s anxiety and why regular doses of CBD may be the key to feeling calm and relaxed long-term.
How CBD Works in the Body
Kelsey is one of an increasing number of people turning to CBD products to ease anxiety—a condition that more than 40 million Americans face.
Ranging from mild to severe, anxiety disorders can include:
- Panic disorder
- Generalized anxiety disorder
- Specific phobia
- Social anxiety disorder
- Obsessive-compulsive disorder
- Separation anxiety disorder
In general terms, CBD interacts with the endocannabinoid system (ECS). This is a system of receptors found in most places in the body. The ECS helps regulate a wide variety of conditions and body processes like:
- Pain perception
- Alzheimer’s disease
The Science Behind How CBD Can Help Ease Anxiety
Some scientists believe that CBD works well at reducing anxiety, because of the way it interacts with serotonin receptors in the brain; lack of serotonin may be a principle cause of anxiety and depression.
And CBD may act similarly to prescribed selective serotonin reuptake inhibitors (SSRIs), blocking the reabsorption of serotonin in the brain. This makes serotonin more available in the synaptic space (the space between neurons in the brain), increasing serotonin signaling.
Another way CBD helps some folks feel calm is because CBD blocks an enzyme called FAAH, or fatty acid amide hydrolase, which lowers the neurotransmitter and endocannabinoid called anandamide. Anandamide is also known as the bliss molecule, because it imparts feelings of pleasure.
So, CBD helps boost levels of anandamide, because it blocks FAAH, an enzyme that breaks it down. This also means that besides lowering anxiety, CBD can help:
- Relieve pain
- Promote calm
- Help induce sleep
Why Taking CBD Every Day Can Help Lower Anxiety Levels
If you’re looking for immediate relief from an anxiety attack, then vaping CBD oil may be a good idea, because the effects kick in almost immediately. However, if you want to maintain a steady flow of relief throughout the day, or even day to day, then ingesting CBD sublingually or orally at regular intervals may be better.
And this makes sense. Researchers now think that many health problems arise from a cannabinoid deficiency leading to an unbalanced ECS. They believe that taking cannabinoids like CBD daily, as you would a multivitamin, can help balance your ECS for optimal health.
So, while a few puffs from a CBD vape pen may provide immediate anxiety relief, if a more long-term solution is what you’re after, then allowing CBD to build up in your system is the way to go. This will help you achieve a balanced ECS, also known as homeostasis.
How to Find Your Optimal CBD Dose
As far as the correct CBD dosage goes, this can vary from person to person, depending on:
- Body type
- Additional health conditions or concerns
- Consumption method
To determine what dose of CBD works best for you, it’s a good idea to begin with the lowest amount possible and increase it until you find the relief you need.
If you’re new to cannabis, you’ll want to start with a low dose of around 2.5–5 mg. If you take CBD regularly, then you may have to go to 25 mg or higher.
How to Increase CBD Absorption in Your System
While you may know how much CBD is in a product, the amount that your body absorbs depends on many factors, including your consumption method.
To increase absorption, here are some tricks:
- If you’re vaping CBD oil: Use the vaporizer for the first part of the inhalation, and then finish the inhalation with a full breath of fresh air to help drive the vapor deeply into your lungs.
- If you’re eating CBD edibles: Make sure your CBD edibles contain some fats. And if they don’t, then eat something fatty with your CBD. Since CBD is fat soluble, fats may increase absorption by as much as threefold.
- If you’re taking CBD oil sublingually: Put the CBD oil under your tongue, or against your cheek to get it into your system even faster than just swallowing it right off the bat. Try to hold the liquid in your mouth for at least 60 seconds or longer.
Experiment with CBD doses and consumption methods until you find the ones that work best for you.
Photo credit: mimagephotography/Shutterstock.com
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