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Cannabidiol (CBD) is one of several cannabinoids in the Cannabis sativa plant. It is a non-psychoactive compound that may help treat anxiety and various other conditions.

Anxiety disorders are the most prominent mental health conditions in the United States, affecting an estimated 31.1% of U.S. adults at some point in their lives. CBD is an increasingly popular method for managing anxiety symptoms.

Keep reading to learn about the relationship between CBD and anxiety, including research into benefits, how to use, risks and safety, and CBD products to try for different anxiety symptoms.

Is CBD legal?The 2018 Farm Bill removed hemp from the legal definition of marijuana in the Controlled Substances Act. This made some hemp-derived CBD products with less than 0.3% THC federally legal. However, CBD products containing more than 0.3% THC still fall under the legal definition of marijuana, making them federally illegal but legal under some state laws. Be sure to check state laws, especially when traveling. Also, keep in mind that the FDA has not approved nonprescription CBD products, and some products may be inaccurately labeled.

Cannabidiol (CBD) is one of the most researched cannabinoids from the Cannabis sativa plant. The other well-known cannabinoid is tetrahydrocannabinol (THC). Along with CBD and THC, the Cannabis sativa plant contains over 540 chemical compounds.

Cannabinoids, including CBD and THC, bind to specific cannabinoid receptors in the brain.

THC produces the famous ‘high‘ feeling that people associate with cannabis. However, CBD does not produce this effect. Instead, it offers a variety of potential health benefits.

Learn about the similarities and differences between CBD and THC here.

Current research suggests that CBD has powerful pharmacological effects. Many scientists and researchers know that CBD has beneficial anti-inflammatory properties. It works by blocking certain enzymes that trigger inflammation in the body.

Discover the best CBD for inflammation here.

A 2020 systematic review found that treatment with CBD reduced seizures in people with Dravet Syndrome, a drug-resistant seizure disorder.

Learn more about the potential health benefits of CBD here.

The growing legalization of medical cannabis in the U.S. has prompted many scientists to study the various therapeutic uses of cannabis and CBD, including in the treatment of anxiety disorders.

Anxiety disorders are among the most common psychiatric conditions. The National Institute of Mental Health (NIMH) estimates that 19.1% of adults in the U.S. experienced an anxiety disorder in the past year, and more women experience anxiety than men.

According to a 2015 review, CBD interacts with the cannabinoid type 1 receptor (CB1R), the serotonin 5-HT1A receptor, and other receptors in the brain that regulate fear and anxiety-induced behaviors.

The authors of the review also found preclinical and clinical evidence that established CBD as an effective treatment for numerous types of anxiety disorders, including:

In a more recent 2020 study, researchers evaluated CBD’s effects on 397 adults living in New Zealand. The study participants received medical CBD prescriptions for various ailments, including non-cancer pain, cancer-related symptoms, neurological symptoms, and mental health symptoms.

All groups reported improvements in their overall quality of life after 3 weeks of CBD treatment. The individuals who received CBD treatment for anxiety or depression reportedly experienced improvements in their ability to perform daily functions and reduce pain and anxiety or depression symptoms.

Learn more about using CBD for depression here.

70% of study participants reported some level of satisfaction with CBD treatment, ranging from good to excellent. Only 9.9% of participants experienced adverse side effects, such as sedation and vivid dreams. A smaller portion of the study population (0.8%) reported worsening symptoms.

In a retrospective study, researchers evaluated the effects of CBD treatment in 72 adults with either anxiety or sleep problems.

Most study participants received one 25-milligram capsule of CBD once a day (mg/d). A few participants received 50 or 75 mg/d. One individual with a history of trauma and schizoaffective disorder received up to 175 mg/d.

After the first 2 months of CBD treatment, 78.1–79.2% of participants reported improvements in anxiety symptoms. However, 15.3–19.5% of participants developed worse symptoms after CBD treatment.

The authors of one 2020 article reviewed eight studies investigating CBD’s role in treating various anxiety disorders.

The authors found evidence to support the use of CBD as an effective monotherapy or complementary therapy for treating generalized anxiety, SAD, and PTSD.

Learn more about using CBD for PTSD here.

However, the studies showed considerable variation in CBD doses, ranging from 6-400 mg per dose. This variation highlights the need for more high quality, large-scale clinical trials to help establish standardized dosing and clinical usage guidelines for CBD therapy.

CBD resources

Visit our dedicated hub for more research-backed information and in-depth resources on CBD.

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Researchers and healthcare professionals have yet to establish standardized dosing recommendations for CBD therapy.

In a 2019 study, researchers found 300–600 mg of CBD significantly reduced anxiety symptoms in 57 adult males.

The ideal dosage for an individual to relieve anxiety depends on the CBD product, how they administer it, and personal health factors.

CBD administration methods include:

The administration method determines how quickly cannabinoids begin taking effect.

The effects of orally administered CBD, such as oils, edibles (such as gummies), or capsules, generally begin working within 30 minutes to 2 hours. Smoking or vaping CBD oil or cannabis buds results in more immediate effects.

People can use oral CBD products to relieve anxiety throughout the day. It may help to take these products in the morning with some food.

Smoking or vaping CBD oil can provide immediate relaxation that may help people during especially stressful events, such as giving a speech.

Learn more about safe CBD dosage here.

The table below outlines some key terminology that may help people considering using CBD for anxiety:

CBDA compound within the C. sativa plant that does not create the high sensation individuals commonly associate with cannabis use.
THCA compound in the C. sativa plant. It is the psychoactive compound that creates the high sensation from cannabis use.
Full-spectrumA full-spectrum product will contain all of the natural compounds in the cannabis plant, including THC. However, THC levels must be no more than 0.3% to comply with Food and Drug Administration (FDA) regulation on full-spectrum CBD products.
Broad-spectrumBroad-spectrum products contain natural compounds of the cannabis plant. However, while manufacturers remove all or most of the THC in broad-spectrum CBD, it may still be present in trace amounts.
CBD isolateThis is the purest form of CBD and should contain 0% THC.
CannabinoidsThe compounds within the cannabis plant, of which there are over 120. CBD is the second richest compound in the plant after THC.
TerpenesAnother compound of the C. sativa plant, terpenes typically give plants their specific aromas. Some terpenes, such as limonene, may have specific health benefits.
Certificate of analysis (COA)Reputable manufacturers of CBD products should ensure a COA is available for inspection. A COA provides information on the third-party testing that independent labs conduct on a particular product. Sometimes, products have a scannable smartphone code directing people to the COA online.

Read more about terminology and other important CBD information here.

CBD is relatively safe and well-tolerated by the majority of people.

The authors of a 2017 review confirmed that people could tolerate CBD well, even at doses as high as 1,500 mg/day. However, the data on the long-term safety of CBD is limited.

There are some side effects associated with CBD. These include:

Before taking CBD products, individuals should consult with their doctor.

CBD is not suitable for pregnant or breastfeeding people. There is also a risk with certain medications and supplements, such as blood thinners and liver medication. It’s important to check with a healthcare professional before taking any CBD.

People should note that the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) does not regulate CBD for treating anxiety or other mental health conditions. People should use their best judgment when purchasing CBD products. Only buy products from reputable manufacturers and distributors.

Medical News Today chooses products that meet the following criteria:

  • Ingredients: MNT chooses products containing safe and high quality, clearly labeled ingredients. They should also confirm they are free from pesticides, heavy metals, and mold.
  • Dosage: MNT chooses products that must clearly state the CBD dosage and THC content.
  • Serving size: MNT selects products in which manufacturers recommend a dosage and how to take it.
  • Third-party labs: MNT chooses products that must undergo third-party testing for contaminants by an ISO 17025-compliant laboratory.
  • Available certificate of analysis: MNT chooses companies that demonstrate transparency and share a product’s certificate of analysis (COA) after receiving its third-party lab results.

As part of our editorial process, we regularly check our articles to make sure that the products we include best suit our reader’s needs. We replaced several products in this article that included additional supplements or did not have current COAs.

Medical News Today follows a strict product selection and vetting process. Learn more here.

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The following are examples of CBD products that people may use to manage and treat anxiety symptoms.

Please note that the writer of this article has not tried these products. All information presented is purely research-based and correct at the time of publication.

The following table compares the products in this article on size, price, and more.

PriceProduct sizeCBD dosageKey ingredientsUsage
CBDistillery$451 fl oz / 30 ml500 mg per bottle / 17 mg per dosefull spectrum hemp and MCT oil1 drop under the tongue
Charlotte’s Web$44.9960 gummies900 mg per pot / 15 mg per gummyfull spectrum hemp and fruit and vegetable flavorings2 gummies orally daily
Joy Organics$39.95–$69.9530 softgels10–25 mg per softgel / 300–750 mg per bottlebroad-spectrum hemp extract and bovine-derived gelatine1 softgel daily
Calm by Wellness$35.994 fl oz200 mgbroad-spectrum hemp extract, lavender flower oil, aloe leaf juice, coconut oil, jojoba seed oil, and vitamin Eapply a dime-sized amount topically
Social CBD$9.991 patch100 mgpolymer blend and CBD hemp extractapply patch to skin for 24 hours

There are several important considerations when shopping for CBD, such as:

  • COA: People should only buy products from companies with an accessible and current COA. Some companies may display the COA on their shopping page, whereas others may require a person to scan a QR code.
  • Third-party testing: Some companies send their CBD products to third parties for laboratory tests. This ensures that the products contain the type and amount of CBD the company advertises.
  • Type of CBD: Companies can legally sell full- or broad-spectrum CBD or CBD isolate. Full-spectrum CBD contains up to 0.3% THC, whereas broad-spectrum and CBD isolate contain trace or no amounts of THC.
  • CBD strength: People new to CBD may wish to start at a lower strength of CBD. Everyone should always start with the lowest possible dose of a product and gradually increase it as necessary.

Here, we answer some common questions about CBD.

Does CBD really work for anxiety?

Yes, there is evidence that CBD can help relieve anxiety symptoms.

One study found that CBD helped reduce depression and anxiety symptoms and helped increase the quality of life in the study participants.

What are three coping resources for anxiety?

According to the National Institute of Mental Health, there are several methods of reducing anxiety. Three of these are:

What does it feel like to take CBD for anxiety?

CBD may help individuals feel calmer and more relaxed without the feeling of intoxication or ‘high’ associated with cannabis.

It can take up to an hour to feel the effects.

What is the best CBD dosage for anxiety?

This ideal CBD dosage will vary from person to person. Considerations include the severity of anxiety, sensitivity to CBD, and physical factors.

General recommendations suggest starting with a low dose and increasing gradually as needed.

Individuals should speak to their doctors before using CBD to treat anxiety, particularly if taking other medication.

An ever-growing body of research suggests that CBD may help relieve anxiety, the most common mental health disorder.

However, the FDA does not regulate CBD for treating anxiety. This means the quality and dosage of CBD can vary widely between products and manufacturers.

Various products are available for people who want to use CBD to treat anxiety, including tinctures, gummies, lotions, and patches.

People who currently use prescription medication or supplements may want to consult a doctor before using CBD.