What are the purported uses for cbd oil

5 Mental Health Uses for CBD

Kendra Cherry, MS, is an author and educational consultant focused on helping students learn about psychology.

Verywell Mind articles are reviewed by board-certified physicians and mental healthcare professionals. Medical Reviewers confirm the content is thorough and accurate, reflecting the latest evidence-based research. Content is reviewed before publication and upon substantial updates. Learn more.

Steven Gans, MD is board-certified in psychiatry and is an active supervisor, teacher, and mentor at Massachusetts General Hospital.

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The cannabis plant has been utilized for medicinal purposes for thousands of years. The plant contains more than 80 different compounds, which are known as cannabinoids. While tetrahydrocannabinol (THC) is the most abundant and is well-known for its psychoactive properties, the second-most found compound, cannabidiol (CBD) does not have psychoactive effects.  

There has been a growing interest in the potential mental health benefits of CBD in recent years. A 2019 research letter published by JAMA Network Open reported a significant increase in Internet searches for CBD in the United States. While search rates remained steady between 2004 and 2014, there was a 125.9% increase between 2016 and 2017. In April 2019 alone, there were 6.4 million Google searches for CBD information.  

While there have been a number of studies suggesting that CBD might mental health benefits, a recent comprehensive review found that support for this use was scant and that further investigation is needed to substantiate the purported benefits.  

There are a number of conditions that CBD is purported to help, although more research is needed to determine the potential effects and benefits of CBD. Some of the existing studies suggest that CBD holds promise in the treatment of a number of conditions including depression, anxiety, epilepsy, and sleep issues, among other things.

Epilepsy

CBD appears to have a range of benefits for neurologic disorders, including decreasing the frequency and severity of seizures. Some of these conditions, such as Dravet syndrome and Lennox-Gastaut syndrome (LGS), may not respond well to anti-seizure medications. Viral clips of CBD treatments effectively alleviating seizures were shared widely in social media in recent years, and research has supported the effectiveness of these treatments.

A large-scale study on the use of CBD in the treatment of pediatric epilepsy found that CBD reduced the frequency of seizures by more than 50% in 43% of the patients with Dravet syndrome. The Food and Drug Administration (FDA) recently approved a cannabis-derived medication containing CBD, Epidiolex, to treat certain childhood seizure disorders.

Anxiety

Anxiety is a common problem for many people. Anxiety disorders affect an estimated 19.1% of U.S. adults each year. Some studies suggest that CBD may help alleviate symptoms of anxiety. One study look at the possible neural basis for CBD reducing symptoms of social anxiety disorder.

A 2015 study published in the journal Neurotherapeutics analyzed the existing preclinical studies on the use of CBD for anxiety and found that CBD was effective for a number of anxiety conditions including:

However, the authors of the study note that while the substance has considerable potential, further research is needed to better determine the therapeutic benefits and long-term effects.

Depression

According to the National Institute of Mental Health, depression is one of the most common mental disorders in the U.S., affecting an estimated 17.3 million adults each year. Effective treatments are available, which include psychotherapy and medication, although interest in complementary and alternative treatments has also grown in recent years.

CBD has been investigated for having potential antidepressant effects. Some antidepressants work by acting on serotonin receptors in the brain. Low serotonin levels may play a role in the development of depression, and animal studies suggest that CBD might have an impact on these receptors which may produce antidepressant effects.

A 2018 study found that the antidepressant-like effects that CBD produces depend upon the serotonin levels in the brain. Cannabidiol does not appear to increase serotonin levels but instead affects how the brain responds to serotonin that is already present in your body.

Sleep Difficulties

Because CBD may have a calming effect, it may also hold promise in treating sleeping difficulties. Sleep is a critical component of mental health and well-being, yet the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) reports that a third of U.S. adults do not get the recommended amount of sleep each night. This is problematic since not getting enough sleep is linked to health conditions such as depression, type 2 diabetes, obesity, and heart disease.

One study conducted with adults who had symptoms of anxiety and poor sleep found that 65% experienced improvements in sleep quality scores after a month of taking an average of 25mg of CBD daily, although those scores fluctuated over time. Further research is needed to determine the possible effects of CBD on sleep.

Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD)

PTSD affects approximately 6.1% of U.S. adults. It is characterized by symptoms including re-experiencing traumatic events, intrusive thoughts, nightmares, and avoidance of things that may trigger memories of the trauma.

Some research suggests that CBD may be helpful in reducing the symptoms of this condition. In one study published in the Journal of Alternative and Complementary Medicine, researchers found that an oral dose of CBD in addition to routine psychiatric treatment for PTSD was associated with a reduction in symptoms.  

Should You Try CBD?

While CBD holds promise, a recent comprehensive review of the research suggests that support for the mental health uses of CBD remains insufficient. This 2019 study was published in The Lancet Psychiatry and looked at 83 studies on the use of CBD to treat mental illness.  

The researchers looked specifically at six different disorders: depressive disorders, anxiety disorders, attention-deficit hyperactivity disorder, Tourette syndrome, post-traumatic stress disorder, and psychosis. The review examined previous studies dating from 1980 through 2018.

The review concluded that there is not enough evidence to support the use of CBD in the treatment of mental health conditions.

The study did find that pharmaceutical TCH (either with or without CBD) was linked to small improvements in symptoms of anxiety among people with other medical conditions such as chronic pain and MS, although this evidence was considered low-quality.

This does not mean that CBD isn’t necessarily effective; of the studies reviewed, most only included a small number of participants, followed participants for a short period of time, and less than half were randomized controlled trials.

Instead, this study suggests that there simply isn’t yet enough high-quality evidence to support the use of CBD to treat mental conditions. This may change in the future as more research is carried out.

Many experts remain optimistic that CBD may prove useful for a range of mental health conditions. “CBD has shown therapeutic efficacy in a range of animal models of anxiety and stress, reducing both behavioral and physiological (e.g., heart rate) measures of stress and anxiety,” suggested Nora D. Volkow, the Director of the National Institute of Drug Abuse in testimony presented to the Senate Caucus on International Narcotics Control.

Types

CBD is available in a number of different forms and products. Cannabidiol can be extracted from both hemp and marijuana plants, which differ in terms of how much CBD and THC can be extracted.

CBD from hemp plants contains only small amounts of THC that are not sufficient to produce subjective psychoactive effects. CBD produced from marijuana plants, however, may contain varying amounts of THC which can produce unwanted effects.

There are also three main types of CBD available.

  • Isolate contains only CBD
  • Full-spectrum contains other compounds found in the cannabis plant, including THC
  • Broad-spectrum contains other compounds from the cannabis plant but not THC

People may choose to take a full-spectrum product because research has shown that when cannabinoids including THC and CBD are taken together, it magnifies the therapeutic impact, a phenomenon known as the entourage effect.   Research also suggests that CBD can actually counteract the negative effects caused by THC.  

Like full-spectrum CBD, products labeled as broad-spectrum contain multiple cannabinoids, which are purported to provide the therapeutic benefits of the entourage effect without the psychoactive effects of THC.

Some of the ways that CBD can be used include:

  • Oral: This includes oils (which are made by infusing cannabidiol with a carrier oil), oil tinctures (which are produced by combining CBD with alcohol or water), sprays, and capsules.
  • Topical: This includes salves or lotions that are applied to the skin
  • Edibles: This can include candies, gummies, and beverages.
  • Inhaled: Some CBD oils are specially formulated to be used as vaping oil, although there has been an increase in concern about the health dangers posed by vaping.

Topical solutions may produce localized effects, but only those taken by mouth are likely to produce any mental health effects. It is important to note that while there is a wide variety of these products available on the market, the FDA has not approved any over-the-counter (OTC) CBD product. Many of these products may vary in terms of what they contain, their potency, and their effectiveness.

It is also important to note that while hemp-derived CBD that contains less than 0.3% THC is legal by federal law, it is still illegal in some states. You should always check your state laws before purchasing a CBD product.

Possible Side Effects

While CBD may have some benefits, it is also important to consider some of the possible risks. Research suggests that CBD appears to be well-tolerated at doses up to 600mg.  

While CBD appears to be well-tolerated, that does not mean that it is without side effects. While these may vary depending on the individual, some reported side effects include:

  • Anxiety
  • Mood changes
  • Appetite changes
  • Nausea
  • Dizziness
  • Drowsiness

However, understanding the potential side effects is difficult because of the absence of regulation and manufacturing guidelines, which means that there is a lack of consistency in terms of purity and labeling. In other words, it is difficult to determine if the side effects are the same across different products, formulations, and dosages because it is often difficult to determine exactly what is in the products that are currently on the market.

Potential Pitfalls

It is important to talk to your doctor if you are thinking about taking CBD products. This is particularly true if you have an existing medical or psychiatric condition, or if you are currently taking any medications or supplements.

CBD may potentially have an effect on your condition or may interact with a medication that you are taking. For example, CBD can sometimes worsen symptoms of anxiety. CBD can also interfere with the metabolism of certain medications, which may change how your medications affect your body.

Some other concerns to consider before taking CBD:

  • Drug testing: There have been reports of people failing drug tests after using CBD products that are labeled as containing no THC. While most CBD products contain only trace amounts of THC, there is still the possibility that these products may produce a positive result on a drug test. It is also important to remember that full-spectrum CBD products do contain varying amounts of THC.  
  • Mislabeling: Labeling accuracy also appears to be a common problem. One study found that almost 70% of CBD products sold online were mislabeled and contained significant amounts of THC.   This can be problematic if you are taking CBD to address a mental health condition such as anxiety, since THC may have unwanted psychoactive effects. Mislabeling may also lead to positive drug test results, especially if the product contains more THC than it claims.
  • Other possible risks: Finally, it is important to remember that researchers still do not know all the possible risks or benefits of taking CBD. More research is needed to learn about the mental and physical long-term effects of CBD, so you should always use caution and consult your doctor before using it.

A Word From Verywell

If you are experiencing the symptoms of a mental health condition, you should talk to a doctor or mental health professional. Self-medicating with CBD or other supplements can lead to delays in treatment, which may cause your symptoms to worsen. CBD also has the potential to aggravate some symptoms such as anxiety, sleep problems, and psychosis.

If you are still interested in trying CBD as an addition to your regular treatment, work with a healthcare provider who can help monitor your symptoms. Your doctor may recommend a product and dosage that is appropriate based on your symptoms and any medications you are taking. Always be sure to watch out for any potential negative side effects and be sure to talk to your doctor before you stop taking CBD.

CBD Oil: 9 Science-Backed Benefits

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.

Cannabidiol, or CBD, is a chemical compound found in the cannabis sativa plant. When applied topically or consumed through smoke inhalation or edible consumption, CBD interacts with neuroreceptors in your endocannabinoid system, which sends signals between your cells to help regulate your movement, mood, homeostasis and immune system.

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CBD is often extracted from the cannabis sativa plant in oil form and mixed with an inert carrier oil like hemp seed oil for consumption. In fact, of the 60% of U.S. adults who report having used CBD before, 55% of them use CBD oils and tinctures specifically, according to a recent Forbes Health survey of 2,000 U.S. adults conducted by OnePoll.

CBD research is growing, too. Here are nine ways studies suggest CBD oil could benefit your health.

1. Offset Anxiety and Depression

CBD’s ability to calm is perhaps its most popular effect and the reason its use is so widespread. A 2017 study in the Brazilian Journal of Psychiatry tested the anxiety levels of 57 men in a simulated public speaking test. Some received a placebo while others received either 150 milligrams, 300 milligrams or 600 milligrams of CBD before their speeches. Those who received 300 milligrams of CBD experienced significantly reduced anxiety during the test compared to those who received the placebo. Interestingly, participants who received either 150 or 600 milligrams of CBD experienced more anxiety during the test than the 300 milligrams group.

Meanwhile, at least one study in mice revealed CBD had effects similar to the antidepressant imipramine. Human trials are needed, though, to confirm whether CBD can induce this same antidepressant reaction in our bodies.

2. Treat Select Epilepsy Syndromes

In some instances, CBD can be used to treat epileptic seizures.

In 2018, the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) approved the use of CBD under the brand name Epidiolex to treat seizures resulting from Lennox-Gastaut syndrome and Dravet syndrome—two rare forms of epilepsy—in patients at least 2 years old.

Three well-vetted studies provide the basis of support for the FDA’s decision. In these trials, 516 patients with Lennox-Gastaut syndrome or Dravet syndrome received either Epidiolex or a placebo. Epidiolex, when taken along with other prescribed medications, decreased the frequency of participants’ seizures compared to the placebo.

3. Reduce PTSD Symptoms

In a small 2018 study in the Journal of Alternative and Complementary Medicine, 11 people with post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) received CBD along with routine psychiatric care for eight weeks in an outpatient psychiatric clinic. Ten of the 11 experienced a decrease in their PTSD symptoms. CBD was generally well tolerated, the researchers write.

Margaret Rajnic, a doctor of nursing practice experienced in medical cannabis and CBD, emphasizes the importance of using therapy in tandem with any type of cannabis or CBD for PTSD. “There is an amount of therapy that is needed for PTSD,” she says. “But CBD will give you that little bit of decreased anxiety.”

Four other human trials from 2012 to 2016 suggest CBD reduces PTSD symptoms, although some include THC, or tetrahydrocannabinol, the main mind-altering element in cannabis. When THC and CBD work together, they create what’s called an “entourage effect,” complementing each other’s benefits and potency. For example, taking the same dose of THC and CBD together tempers the “high” from THC, while just a little THC paired with more CBD enhances the effects of the CBD.

4. Treat Opioid Addiction

Some studies—both preclinical animal and human clinical trials—suggest CBD could be used to help treat people who are dependent on opioids.

In one such study, researchers administered CBD to people with heroin use disorder. Over the course of a week, CBD significantly reduced heroin users’ cue-induced cravings, withdrawal anxiety, resting heart rate and salivary cortisol levels. No serious adverse effects were found.

Other studies find CBD helpful in reducing various psychiatric and medical symptoms like anxiety, insomnia and pain in patients with substance use disorders, indicating that CBD may be an effective treatment for opioid addiction. However, further studies are necessary.

5. Alleviate ALS Symptoms

Amyotrophic lateral sclerosis (ALS) is a disease that causes nerve cells in the brain and spinal cord to deteriorate, resulting in loss of muscle control that worsens over time. It’s not yet understood exactly why ALS occurs, although it can be hereditary in some cases. There’s no known cure, and there are only two FDA-approved medications to help treat ALS symptoms.

Research suggests people with ALS can benefit from the entourage effect created by the combination of THC and CBD, similar to people with PTSD. In a 2019 study, patients received a combination of THC and CBD in varying doses depending on their needs and preferences. Those with mild, moderate or severe spasticity (muscle tightness and stiffness) due to ALS reported high levels of satisfaction with the treatment, and those with moderate to severe spasticity reported higher satisfaction rates than those with mild spasticity.

6. Relieve Unmanageable Pain

In 2005, Canada approved the use of Sativex, an oromucosal (absorbed in the lining of the mouth) spray with equal proportions of THC and CBD, for the treatment of multiple sclerosis-related central neuropathic pain. In 2007, Canada approved the medicine’s use again for cancer pain that proved unresponsive to other medications.

Meanwhile, continued studies in the U.S. indicate CBD is effective in treating chronic, non-cancer pain. In one 2020 study, researchers administered CBD topically to a group of patients with symptomatic peripheral neuropathy (a result of brain nerve and spinal cord nerve damage) while another group with the same condition received a placebo. Results showed a significant reduction in intense, sharp pains and cold, itchy sensations in those who used the topical CBD compared to those who used the placebo. No participants reported adverse side effects.

When introduced topically, CBD oil doesn’t affect the systemic issue as it might if it were introduced directly into the bloodstream. Instead, topical CBD is more localized and treats pain in a certain area. Since it’s more direct, it may have a more pronounced effect.

7. Ease Diabetic Complications

For starters, tests on human cells found that CBD helps reduce the effects of high glucose levels on other cells in the body, which typically precedes the development of diabetes and various complications. Researchers concluded that with further studies, CBD could have significant benefits when used in patients with diabetes, diabetic complications and plaque buildup in artery walls.

In another small study, 13 patients with type 2 diabetes who weren’t on insulin treatment were given both CBD and a placebo (in lieu of insulin). Researchers found CBD decreased their levels of resistin (which causes resistance to insulin, the protein that regulates sugar levels) and increased their levels of glucose-dependent insulinotropic peptide (a hormone that ensures a sufficient release of insulin from digested food) compared to their baselines before they started the test. These results suggest CBD could be a natural treatment for diabetes by helping the body regulate insulin-related hormone levels.

8. Protect Against Neurological Disease

Preclinical and clinical studies show that CBD has antioxidant and anti-inflammatory properties. Researchers deduce these characteristics can provide significant neuroprotection, or protection against numerous pathological disorders.

Several preclinical studies suggest CBD can produce beneficial effects against Parkinson’s disease, Alzheimer’s disease and multiple sclerosis. Huntington’s disease and cerebral ischemia were also tested, although significant positive results were not recorded. Further clinical studies are needed to confirm CBD’s benefits when used as a treatment for these disorders.

9. Inhibit Arthritis Symptoms

Arthritis involves the deterioration of the tissues in and around your joints. There are several types of arthritis, and symptoms include pain, stiffness and loss of motion. Arthritis treatment usually targets pain relief and improved joint function.

A 2006 study found that Sativex—a CBD-based botanical drug approved in the United Kingdom in 2010—promoted statistically significant improvements in quality of sleep, pain during movement and pain at rest in patients with rheumatoid arthritis when compared to a placebo. It was the first controlled trial of Sativex as a treatment for rheumatoid arthritis, involving 58 patients. CBD was found to have a pain-relieving effect, as well as an ability to suppress disease activity.

In 2018, in a study of more localized treatment, researchers administered a synthetic CBD gel in either 250-milligram or 500-milligram doses daily or a placebo to patients with knee pain due to osteoarthritis. Patients also stopped taking any other anti-inflammatory medications or painkillers, with the exception of acetaminophen, before and during the study period.

The results were interesting, although not entirely conclusive. On one hand, those treated with CBD did not experience much change in pain when compared with placebo patients. On the other hand, there were statistically significant differences between the group receiving the 250-milligram dose and the placebo group when measuring the average weekly improvement of their worst pain levels and their WOMAC (Western Ontario and McMaster Universities Arthritis Index) physical function rating. Additionally, men seemed to benefit from CBD more significantly than women in this test.

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