What Dosage of CBD Should You Take?
Kendra Cherry, MS, is an author and educational consultant focused on helping students learn about psychology.
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John C. Umhau, MD, MPH, CPE is board-certified in addiction medicine and preventative medicine. He is the medical director at Alcohol Recovery Medicine. For over 20 years Dr. Umhau was a senior clinical investigator at the National Institute on Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism of the National Institutes of Health (NIH).
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CBD is available in a number of different formulations including creams, tablets, oils, and gummies. These can vary in terms of their ingredients as well as dosages, and there is not a great deal of research available on what dose might be beneficial or safe to treat certain conditions.
Cannabidiol (CBD) is the second most abundant cannabinoid found in marijuana. Unlike tetrahydrocannabinol (THC), CBD does not have psychoactive effects. Interest in the use of CBD for health purposes has grown tremendously in the last few years.
CBD is believed to have a range of positive physical and mental health effects. Because of this, it has become increasingly popular as a way to alleviate everything from anxiety to sleep disorders.
In order to determine if CBD is right for you, it is important to consider its potential benefits, side effects, and available research on safe dosages.
CBD is just one of hundreds of different compounds found in the cannabis plant. While cannabis has been used in holistic medicine for many years, only recently have researchers begun to explore some of the medicinal purposes for CBD and other cannabinoids.
While further research is still needed, there is some evidence that CBD may have some beneficial mental health effects. These include:
- Alleviating depression: Some research also indicates that CBD may be useful as a treatment for depression. Studies suggest that the cannabinoid might have an influence on how the brain responds to serotonin, a neurotransmitter that plays a key role in mood. People with depression sometimes have a low level of serotonin, so CBD may help the brain use available serotonin more effectively.
- Improving sleep: While the reasons are not entirely understood and require further research, CBD also appears to have potential as a treatment for sleep problems. For example, one study found that people who took CBD also reported improvements in the quality of their sleep.
- Reducing anxiety: Anxiety is one of the most common types of mental health conditions, affecting almost 20% of American adults each year. Research suggests that CBD may help alleviate acute symptoms of a number of anxiety-related conditions including generalized anxiety disorder, obsessive-compulsive disorder, and social anxiety disorder.
In addition to the mental health benefits, CBD may also have therapeutic benefits for a range of other conditions. The World Health Organization suggests that CBD may have beneficial effects in the treatment of:
- Alzheimer’s disease
- Cardiovascular disease
- Multiple sclerosis
It is important to remember that these benefits have not yet been conclusively proven. More research is needed to determine the role that CBD might play in the treatment of different disorders and health conditions.
There have been a number of studies that suggest that CBD may have a number of different physical and mental health uses. However, more research is still needed to better understand the substance’s potential applications and possible long-term side effects.
A 2019 comprehensive review published in The Lancet Psychiatry looked at previously published studies. The review ultimately concluded that there was little evidence to support the use of CBD for mental health purposes and suggested that more research is needed in order to substantiate its use to treat symptoms of conditions such as anxiety, depression, and insomnia.
It is important to remember that this doesn’t mean that CBD isn’t effective. Many of the studies that were included in the review were small, had few participants, and were not randomized controlled trials.
This suggests that more research involving more participants and well-designed studies is needed in order to better understand if, how, and why CBD works.
While its effectiveness is still up for debate, one 2017 review found that it was a relatively safe option. While it is important to remember that there is still a great deal we don’t yet know about CBD and its effects, it is something that you might opt to try to see if you experience any benefits.
How Much Should You Take?
The dosages used in research studies vary and there is no consensus on how much should be used for specific conditions. If you do decide to try CBD, it is also important to note that there is no universally agreed upon dose. Research also suggests that people may respond differently to various dosages, so the amount that is right for your needs might vary.
Some dosages that have been used in research studies for different conditions include:
- Anxiety: 300 to 600 mg
- Bowel disease: 10 mg per day
- Cancer-related pain: 50 to 600 mg per day
- Parkinson’s disease: 75 to 300 mg per day
- Poor sleep: 25 mg per day
- Psychosis: 600 mg per day
One 2020 review of studies found that participants showed improvements in anxiety levels after single doses of CBD ranging from 300 to 600 mg. Such results indicate that the CBD may hold promise as a treatment to alleviate symptoms of acute anxiety.
It is important to remember that you should always talk to your doctor before using CBD if you have symptoms of a serious mental or physical health condition. CBD could potentially worsen symptoms or interact with other medications you are taking.
Looking at the dosage information for the CBD product that has been FDA approved can also be helpful. For Epidiolex, an FDA-approved cannabis-derived medication used to treat seizures in people with certain types of epilepsy, the starting dosage is 5 milligrams per kilogram of body weight. This dose can later be increased to 5 mg per kilogram of body weight twice a day.
Other CBD products are not FDA regulated and do not have officially recommended dosages. This can make it difficult to determine how much you might need, but there are some things you can consider that might help.
- Assess your sensitivity to CBD: Your individual ability to tolerate CBD can also play a role in determining how much you need. If you are very sensitive to the effects of CBD, you should take a small dose. Some people may find that they are not as affected by the substance, so they may need to take a larger dose to notice any beneficial effects.
- Consider individual factors: When you are trying to decide how much CBD to take, there are a number of factors you should consider. These include the formulation and concentration of the capsule, oil drops, or gummies you are taking, the symptoms you are treating, and your age, sex, weight, and overall health. Generally, people with heavier bodies need to take a little more to achieve the same effects. Men may need a larger dose, while older people may need less.
- Consider the symptoms you’re treating: The symptoms you are trying to alleviate can also play a role in the CBD dosage you need to take to see results. In one study, participants who took 25mg of CBD each day had improved sleep quality, although the results were not consistent. However, you might find that you need a lower or higher dose if you are treating another type of condition.
- Try a dosage calculator: Researchers note that while the variety of dosing strategies and formulations make it difficult to determine efficacy, there are a number of online “dose-calculators” available online (such as mydosage.com) that are designed to help people choose the correct dose. The accuracy of such calculators is difficult to assess, but it may be a good place to start.
Before you try CBD, discuss your plan with your doctor. They may be able to recommend a dose and help you better understand any potential risks, complications, side effects, or interactions you might experience.
Start With a Low Dose
Unless your doctor recommends a specific dose, start by taking 10 to 20 mg a day. Take this for a week to ensure that it is well-tolerated and that you don’t experience any unwanted effects or an allergic reaction.
If this dose does not have the desired effect, try increasing in increments of 5mg each week until the desired amount is reached.
In studies, amounts vary from as low as 20 milligrams per day to up to 1,500 milligrams (mg) per day. The World Health Organization reports that dosages in clinical research studies typically range between 100 and 800 milligrams per day.
Is It Possible to Take Too Much?
So what is the maximum amount of CBD you should take? Researchers have found that 600 mg per day appears to be safe, but one study suggested that doses of up to 1,500 mg a day are safe and tolerated well.
However, it’s important to remember that research is still in its infancy and experts do not yet fully understand the potential long-term impacts of CBD usage. For that reason, you should always discuss your CBD use with your doctor.
Starting at a lower dose and working your way up to the amount you need may be the best ways to avoid taking too much.
How to Take CBD
The amount of CBD found in a product may depend on different factors, including the formulation and method of administration. CBD products are available in a number of different forms including oils, capsules, tablets, nasal sprays, and gummies.
One of the most popular ways to take CBD is as an oil. Such products are made by combining CBD with some type of carrier oil, such as coconut oil. Some more recently developed products include dietary supplements, foods, beverages, lotions, salves, and cosmetics.
The type of CBD product you choose may depend on what you are trying to treat. If you are looking for general mood improvements, a dietary supplement might be a good option.
If you are targeting specific symptoms of a condition, taking an oil, capsule, or gummy might be a better way to obtain a higher, more concentrated dose.
Topical applications may produce localized effects, but they are unlike to have any mental health benefits.
What Kind Should You Take?
It’s also important to remember that many products don’t contain just CBD on its own. There are three types of CBD available:
- Isolate contains CBD and only CBD.
- Broad-spectrum contains CBD and other cannabinoids, but not THC.
- Full-spectrum contains CBD, THC, and other cannabinoids.
It may be helpful to take a broad-spectrum product since research suggests that CBD’s effects may be most beneficial when taken in conjunction with other cannabinoids, a phenomenon known as the entourage effect. CBD may also help mitigate some of the effects of THC.
While CBD is generally well-tolerated, this does not mean that you won’t experience any side effects.
Some of the most common side effects that people experience when taking CBD include:
- Appetite changes
- Stomach upset
- Weight changes
Some recent research has generated concerns over the safety and potential long term effects of CBD. One study involved giving mice an equivalent of the maximum dose of the CBD medication Epidiolex, which is used to treat certain forms of epilepsy. The results indicated an increased risk for liver damage as well as concerns over its interaction with other medications.
It is also important to remember that CBD products are not regulated by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA). Some manufacturers make unproven claims about the uses and efficacy of their products. There is also concern about the quality and safety of the products themselves.
One report by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) indicated that a number of people experienced negative unwanted side effects due to CBD products that contained synthetic CBD, although the products were not labeled as containing such ingredients.
Mislabeling appears to be a fairly common problem with CBD products. In one study, 70% of the CBD products that were sold online contained significantly more of the psychoactive ingredient THC than the label indicated.
Federal law prohibits the sale of products that contain more than 0.3% THC. States laws also vary, so you should always check with your state before buying CBD products online.
A Word From Verywell
If you do decide to take CBD to alleviate an acute or chronic condition, remember that the amount that you take will depend on a variety of factors. Finding the right dosage often takes some experimentation and adjustments. Starting with a low dose and then gradually increasing the amount you take until you achieve the desired effects is the best approach.
CBD Oil for Panic Attacks: Can It Help Treating This Disorder?
The prevalence of anxiety disorders in modern societies is alarming. In recent years, the sales of books about anxiety have increased by 25, and the disorder affects around 284 million people.
Anxiety is like an invisible cage that many people feel trapped in. Being a ‘prisoner’ with no definable reasons can place a serious burden on one’s mental health.
Panic attacks, also known as Panic Disorder, are defined as an anxiety disorder that affects around 2.4 million people in the United States. Women are twice as likely to suffer from the condition than men, and half of all people with a panic disorder develop it by the age of 24.
Whether panic attacks directly stem from anxiety or are triggered by other stress factors, they are real, emotionally debilitating, and challenging to treat.
Doctors generally recommend a combination of pharmacology and psychological therapy. However, conventional anti-anxiety drugs can have severe side effects on both mental and physical health.
Recent research supports an alternative option that may be both effective and safe for panic disorders — without causing the said side effects.
This alternative has a very short name: CBD.
Today, we will reveal the health benefits of CBD for panic attacks. We’ll also take a closer look at how to take CBD for panic disorders for optimal results.
But first, let’s shed more light on panic attacks.
What You Need to Know About Panic Attacks
Panic attacks and anxiety attacks are two different things, although many people think of them as the same conditions.
Anxiety attacks usually have a stressor that triggers them. For example, a person may feel stressed or apprehensive about specific situations. Anxiety attacks disappear at the same time the stressor goes away. They are short-lived.
Panic Disorders, on the other hand, don’t relate to any stressor. Instead, it involves unexpected and recurring episodes of strong fear. They usually involve symptoms like heart palpitations, shortness of breath, abdominal discomfort, and dizziness. Sometimes, the signs of a panic attack may mimic the symptoms of a heart attack or another life-threatening event.
For this reason, Panic Disorder may require extensive testing.
People with Panic Disorder often feel intensely anxious between their episodes. In fact, a person suffering from panic attacks may eventually develop a phobia about a place or situation where a previous attack was triggered, such as a restaurant or shopping center.
Breaking Down the Progression of Panic Attacks
As panic attacks become more frequent, people tend to avoid situations where they believe another attack might occur, feeling afraid they may not receive immediate help. An isolated panic attack is generally short-lived, but it can take a serious toll on a person’s mental well-being.
The memory of fear experienced during a panic attack may compromise your self-confidence and negatively impact your everyday life.
Here are the most common symptoms of developing Panic Disorder:
- Agoraphobia: back in time, this condition was linked exclusively to open and public places. Now, researchers believe that agoraphobia can develop after a panic attack. Although it may occur at any time, it usually shows up within a year of your first recurring panic attacks. The symptoms of agoraphobia include fear of having a panic attack in a place that is difficult to escape from. This, in turn, may lead to a fear of being in crowded places and enclosed areas.
- Anticipatory anxiety: this condition can severely impact your daily life. Rather than feeling relaxed in the period between panic attacks, you feel anxious, tense, and nervous due to a fear of the next attack.
- Phobic avoidance: this term refers to the avoidance of certain environments or situations because a person believes they resemble locations where you have experienced a panic attack. It is closely connected to agoraphobia.
Telltale symptoms of panic attacks include:
- Shortness of breath
- Chest pains
- Pounding heart
- Tingling in various parts of the body
- Fear of losing control
- Fear of dying
What Causes Panic Disorder?
Doctors have yet to identify the reasons why certain people develop Panic Disorder, although it seems to stem from genetic factors. Other triggers could be traumatic life events and thinking in a manner that makes your body feel stressed.
Studies on humans and animals are trying to map out specific regions of the brain that could be involved in fear and anxiety signaling during a panic attack. There’s a complex structure deep within the brain known as the amygdala. This brain area could produce anxiety disorders as a result of abnormal activation.
Another reason why Panic Disorder may occur is a physical injury or a medical condition such as:
- Withdrawal symptoms from drugs
- Use of stimulants such as caffeine, cocaine, or methamphetamines
- Mitral valve prolapse, which is a minor cardiac problem when one of the heart’s valves doesn’t close properly.
Can CBD Oil Help with Panic Attacks?
Humans have been using cannabis to relieve stress and anxiety for centuries. The cannabis plant has been mentioned in ancient pharmacopeias as well as in many sacred texts for its anxiolytic and antidepressant properties.
Recent studies have given us an insight into the mechanism of action behind the herb’s deeply relaxing effects.
For example, we know that THC may reduce anxiety and tension in low to moderate doses, especially when accompanied by at least 1% CBD. Not only can THC curb feelings of anxiety, but it also has a calming effect on the body. However, high doses of THC taken without considering a person’s tolerance to this compound may backfire and aggravate feelings of anxiety .
Recent studies have shown that a different cannabinoid, CBD , may also have significant benefits for panic sufferers. A study published in Neurotherapeutics analyzed CBD as a possible treatment for anxiety disorders. The authors concluded that preclinical trials suggest CBD’s effectiveness in lowering the levels of stress and anxiety (1).
The said study also pointed to CBD as the potential remedy for various anxiety disorders, such as PTSD, GAD, SAD, PT, and OCD. The researchers noted that the anxiolytic mechanism of CBD resulted from its interaction with CB1 receptors and 5-HT1A serotonin receptors in several brain areas. They also stated that further research into the additional CBD-receptor interactions is needed to uncover more positive effects of CBD on the brain.
According to preclinical discoveries, CBD has a minimal sedative effect and lacks anxiogenic (anxiety-provoking) properties. Furthermore, its safety profile is incomparably better than that of commonly prescribed anti-anxiety medications.
Latest Research into the Effectiveness of CBD for Panic Attacks
The majority of studies investigating the benefits of CBD for panic attacks and anxiety have tested acute CBD dosing in healthy people. This means that we need additional research to determine if consistent dosing is effective in the relevant clinical subjects.
One of the most recent reviews of studies on CBD and anxiety was published in 2017 by Soares and Campos in the Current Neuropharmacology journal. The review was titled “Evidences for the Anti-panic Actions of Cannabidiol.’ The authors of the paper underlined that SSRIs, the current treatment of choice for Panic Disorder, lack consistency and aren’t effective in the long run. They also pointed out that these medications carry a range of side effects that causes patients to give up the treatment (2).
At the same time, the researchers are touting CBD as a potentially effective alternative for Panic Disorder.
As we can read in the conclusion part of the paper:
“CBD seems to be a promising drug for the treatment of PD (Panic Disorder). More clinical trials involving patients with Panic Disorder are needed to determine the specific mechanism of action of CBD along with its safe and ideal therapeutic doses.”
In September 2018, Crippa and his team of researchers published a review in Frontiers in Immunology that analyzed the therapeutic potential of CBD. The paper was written to describe the efficacy of CBD in neuropsychiatry. The authors found CBD had anxiolytic, antipsychotic, and neuroprotective properties — all of which may be helpful in treating panic attacks (3).
Clinical studies have also found that CBD offers relief from a wide range of mental disorders, such as PTSD, bipolar disorder, insomnia, Parkinson’s Disease, and social phobia. The researchers concluded that CBD was a “useful and promising molecule” that could be used as a safe alternative treatment for an array of clinical conditions. For example, one 2019 study found that a single dose of 300 mg of CBD caused a considerable drop in anxiety in people with a social anxiety disorder (4).
How to Use CBD for Panic Attacks
There are several product types to choose from when it comes to using CBD for panic attacks. CBD comes in the form of oil, capsules, edibles, vapes, topicals, concentrates, and more. This section covers the most common formats that people take to manage Panic Disorder.
CBD Oil for Panic Attacks
CBD oil drops are hands down the most popular product right now. In this form, CBD is administered sublingually, meaning the user needs to place the desired dose under the tongue, hold it there for about 60 seconds, and swallow. The CBD will reach the bloodstream through the tiny blood vessels in your mouth, avoiding the first-pass metabolism in the liver. The effects of CBD oil are noticeable within 15–30 minutes after administration, lasting 4-6 hours on average.
CBD oil is good if you feel a panic attack is coming and you want to prevent it by calming your nervous system.
CBD Capsules & Edibles for Panic Attacks
Capsules and edibles (e.g. gummies) take the oral route of administration. They need to pass through the digestive system before being released into the bloodstream. For this reason, it may take anywhere between 30–90 minutes before the effects of capsules and edibles take hold. On the other hand, the effects last longer because the CBD is released gradually. Relief from anxiety may last 8–10 hours depending on your metabolism and the potency of your capsules/gummies.
CBD Vape Pen for Panic Attacks
Using a vape pen infused with CBD liquid is the most efficient way to deliver cannabidiol to your body. Vaporization allows the user to heat the CBD vape oil to the point where it releases CBD-rich vapor. This vapor is then inhaled through the lungs and absorbs into the bloodstream through the lung tissue. Vaping CBD provides the fastest effects; they usually appear within 5–10 minutes after inhalation. CBD vapes also deliver the highest concentrations of CBD to your system, as 56% of the inhaled compound ends up in the bloodstream. The only concern about CBD vape pens is their relatively short duration; relief from anxiety and stress usually lasts 3–4 hours.
CBD Dosage for Panic Attacks
If you’re planning to try CBD oil for your panic attacks, we advise you to consult a doctor experienced in cannabis therapies. A qualified professional should be able to point you in the right direction when it comes to the dosage and should be able to establish the right routine in order to avoid potential CBD-drug interaction if you take anti-anxiety medications.
In the aforementioned 2019 study, male participants took CBD before undergoing a simulated public speaking test. The research team found that an oral dose of 300 mg applied 90 minutes before the simulation was enough to significantly reduce the speakers’ anxiety.
The study involved three other groups: a placebo group and study subjects who receive 150 mg and 600 mg CBD. Each group saw little effect on their anxiety.
However, the study had its limitations. First, it tested pure CBD, which is considered inferior to full-spectrum extracts due to the lack of the entourage effect. The entourage effect occurs when all the natural compounds in hemp, including cannabinoids, terpenes, and flavonoids, act synergistically to enhance the potency of the main ingredients in CBD oil. There’s also a methodological concern, as the study only looked at 57 subjects — all of them were male.
More research, including studies on large groups that also include female subjects, is needed to determine an effective dosage range for people with panic attacks.
You can experiment with different dosages based on your weight, metabolism, and the severity of your panic attacks. The best approach is to start low and gradually make your way up to the amount of CBD that brings you the desired relief.
CBD vs Conventional Treatments for Panic Attacks
People who decide to go down the traditional route to treat panic attacks usually have two medications to choose from. The decision is based on a consultation with a psychiatrist, who should be able to adjust the therapy to the patient’s individual needs. Doctors will generally prescribe two types of medicine:
- Anti-anxiety drugs (benzodiazepines) — using CBD over benzodiazepines like Xanax for panic attacks is a controversial subject among medical researchers. Although The American Psychiatric Association found positive evidence and state that doctors can prescribe benzodiazepines based on the individual patient’s medical record, The National Institute of Clinical Excellence has a different opinion in that regard. They claim that benzodiazepines are not an effective long-term treatment for panic disorder. According to the institution, benzodiazepines shouldn’t be used for longer than four weeks when it comes to panic attacks.
- Antidepressants — these medications are less controversial than benzodiazepines. This is generally the go-to treatment recommended by doctors. Regular use of antidepressants results in the alteration of neurotransmitter configurations which help alleviate the symptoms.
Substances to Avoid for People with Panic Disorder
- Alcohol — Alcohol is mistakenly believed to be a stress reliever, but in fact, it’s a toxin that results in more stress and can damage your physical and mental functions. This is a consequence of fluctuating serotonin concentrations in the brain. Alcohol also impairs the nervous system and can contribute to hypertension.
- Artificial and refined sugars — Sugar is present in virtually everything we eat today, so it’s important to cut down on its intake whenever possible. Studies have linked excessive sugar consumption with a deterioration in anxiety symptoms.
- Caffeine — Caffeine is a widely available stimulant. While healthy people can drink up to 4 cups of coffee with no remorse, it can trigger negative symptoms in people with Panic Disorder, including nausea, lightheadedness, nervousness, and jitteriness.
- Trans fat — Also known as hydrogenated fat, trans fat is one of the worst ingredients in the Western diet. Studies have found that it can increase your risk of depression and may result in exacerbated anxiety-like symptoms.
Final Thoughts on CBD and Panic Attacks
Current research into CBD’s benefits for panic attacks and Panic Disorder has concluded that the cannabinoid can be a safe and effective alternative to the conventional treatment options. CBD is available in many different forms. The least processed form includes CBD-rich flowers, but this is also the least concentrated type of product.
If you’re looking for a potent form of CBD, opt for products like CBD oil, capsules, edibles, or vapes. You can experiment with different consumption methods and potencies to find the one that suits your needs.
Most CBD products available for sale are sourced from industrial hemp, which is legal to grow in the U.S. as long as it contains no more than 0.3% THC. With such an abundance of different CBD extracts, scientists have now more opportunities to evaluate the efficacy of whole-plant products and compare them with their isolate-based counterparts.
The studies we have discussed above back up any claims about CBD’s effectiveness for panic attacks, but it’s only a drop in the ocean of its potential health benefits.
As things stand, anecdotal evidence from CBD users also seems to support this form of therapy, although it’s not an officially acknowledged one. Since the FDA doesn’t regulate CBD products, it’s important to do your research on any company that sells CBD oil online before handing out your hard-earned money. Look for reputable companies that make organic products tested in third-party laboratories for their potency and purity.
What is your experience with using CBD for panic attacks? Does it help? What dosage works best for you?
- Blessing, E.M., Steenkamp, M.M., Manzanares, J. et al. Cannabidiol as a Potential Treatment for Anxiety Disorders. Neurotherapeutics 12, 825–836 (2015). https://doi.org/10.1007/s13311-015-0387-1
- Soares, Vanessa P, and Alline C Campos. “Evidences for the Anti-panic Actions of Cannabidiol.” Current neuropharmacology vol. 15,2 (2017): 291-299. doi:10.2174/1570159×14666160509123955
- Crippa, José A et al. “Translational Investigation of the Therapeutic Potential of Cannabidiol (CBD): Toward a New Age.” Frontiers in immunology vol. 9 2009. 21 Sep. 2018, doi:10.3389/fimmu.2018.02009
- Linares, Ila M 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) vol. 41,1 (2019): 9-14. doi:10.1590/1516-4446-2017-0015
Livvy is a registered nurse (RN) and board-certified nurse midwife (CNM) in the state of New Jersey. After giving birth to her newborn daughter, Livvy stepped down from her full-time position at the Children’s Hospital of New Jersey. This gave her the opportunity to spend more time writing articles on all topics related to pregnancy and prenatal care.
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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.