Today, you’re going to learn everything about using CBD oil for relieving stress.
We reviewed over 40 scientific articles that looked at:
- The potential benefits and effects of CBD, including for stress,
- The mechanisms of action that give CBD its stress-relieving properties, and,
- What doses of CBD were found effective in different studies for stress relief.
The results we found are a MUST-read for anyone interested to explore the potential benefits of CBD oil for stress relief.
The best part?
You’re going to learn exactly what type of CBD oil has the highest chance to relieve stress.
What you need to do to maximize CBD oil's potential for stress relief.
Table of contents:
- What’s the Difference Between Stress and Anxiety?
- CBD Can Lower Blood Pressure
- CBD May Improve Sleep
- CBD Has an Anxiety-Reducing Effect
- CBD May Normalize 5-HT1a Receptor Activity After Periods of Chronic Stress
- CBD and Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD)
- Mechanisms of Action
- Best CBD Oil for Stress
- Step-by-Step Guide for Taking CBD Oil for Stress
- Should You Take CBD Before or After Stressful Situations?
What’s the Difference Between Stress and Anxiety?
Although stress and anxiety can be related, they are two different emotional states.
What’s meant with stress is an inner reaction to an outside trigger. This inner reaction usually expresses itself in various symptoms like:
- High blood pressure,
- Difficulty sleeping, or,
Once the outside trigger that’s causing the stress is gone, the stress usually disappears. Short moments of stress can be useful to change destructive behavior or change your (life)situation to a less stressful one.
The problem with stress arises when it’s chronic.
Modern life is filled with seemingly continues stressors. Whether it’s work stress, financial stress, relationship stress, or social stress, for some people the outside trigger that’s causing the stress is always there.
For some people, stress and its related symptoms are a continuous occurrence.
And the problem is that symptoms like anger, or difficulty sleeping make you even less tolerant towards future stress.
This way, stress can turn into a vicious cycle of:
- Stress > stress symptoms > less tolerance towards stress > more stress > more stress symptoms > even less tolerance towards stress > etc.
Chronic stress can even lead to anxiety. But again, they’re not exactly the same.
Although anxiety can express itself in the same symptoms as stress, the difference is that anxiety doesn’t need an external stressor. Anxiety can be based on imaginary stressors, or excessive worries without any clear cause.
As you become accustomed to being constantly stressed, over time, your mind and body can accept this state as the default state you ‘should’ be in. Even when the stress is gone, you may experience its symptoms, the stress now has turned into anxiety.
Also, as the chronic stress is damaging your mental and physical health, chronic stress can make you more susceptible towards future anxiety.
Everyone experiences moments of stress in their day-to-day life. But it’s important to deal with stress in a healthy manner, not let it turn into chronic stress, or even anxiety.
Can CBD help you deal with day-to-day stresses, and not let those day-to-day stresses turn into chronic stress or even anxiety?
Let’s look at the evidence.
CBD Can Lower Blood Pressure
There’s at least one study that shows CBD can reduce blood pressure in stressful situations.
According to this 2017 study, CBD lowered both resting blood pressure and blood pressure response to stress (1).
Nine healthy male volunteers were given 600 mg of CBD or placebo in a randomized, placebo-controlled, double-blind, crossover study.
The results showed that a single oral dose of 600mg of CBD lowered resting blood pressure, and blunted the blood pressure response to stress. Blood pressure was especially lowered in the pre-and post-stress periods.
High blood pressure is a symptom of stress.
So in this case, CBD can relieve a specific stress-related symptom: high blood pressure.
What does this mean for you?
High blood pressure is a risk factor for cardiovascular disease.
This means CBD can at least reduce some risk factors related to increased blood pressure.
CBD May Improve Sleep
If sleep issues are one of the symptoms that you may experience while feeling stressed, CBD may prove to be helpful.
Clinical evidence is limited, but there are at least a few studies that show CBD can improve sleep.
The evidence points towards CBD being useful in sleep issues that are secondary to anxiety and trauma.
While stress isn’t exactly the same as anxiety and trauma, it has some similarities.
While there’s no scientific evidence (yet), anecdotal evidence shows that CBD can be useful in improving sleep issues that are secondary to stress.
The first time I tried CBD oil, it was in a turbulent period where I was constantly stressed. This period lasted for more than 3-months. Regular stress doesn’t really affect my sleep, but having daily stress for more than 3-months really started affecting my sleep for the worse.
I started looking for natural remedies. I knew cannabis makes me fall asleep very easily, but makes the quality of my sleep worse. THC, the main active compound in cannabis reduces REM sleep. REM sleep has an important role in waking up well-rested. So if you want high-quality sleep, you should avoid high dosages of THC.
But since cannabis made me fall asleep so easily, there must be compounds inside cannabis that can be helpful for sleep without compromising the quality of sleep…is how I reasoned.
That’s when I learned about CBD oil and tried it for the first time within a week of learning about it.
I had the best sleep since this high-stress period started 3 months ago.
It’s also important to mention that I don’t feel CBD oil improves my sleep when I don’t feel stressed. But for those stressed out days, it's a perfect sleep aid.
When you look on public fora like Reddit, you’ll find other stories about people successfully using CBD products for sleep issues secondary to stress and anxiety.
CBD Has an Anxiety-Reducing Effect
Once daily stress has turned into anxiety, CBD can prove to be useful as well.
Various studies show that CBD has anxiety-reducing properties.
A 2011 study looked at the effects of CBD on anxiety related to public speaking situations (2). The study participants were divided in two groups. The first one received 600mg CBD before the public speaking test, the second group received placebo. The group receiving CBD showed:
- Reduced anxiety;
- Reduced cognitive impairment;
- Reduced discomfort in their speech performance, and;
- Significantly decreased alertness in their anticipatory speech.
CBD interacts with the 5-HT1a receptor (a serotonin-subtype receptor).
Activation of 5-HT1a receptor is associated with the anxiolytic (anxiety decreasing) effects (3).
Since anxiety and stress are related, it's likely that this same mechanism will make you feel less stressed when taking CBD.
CBD May Normalize 5-HT1a Receptor Activity After Periods of Chronic Stress
Studies show the 5-HT1a receptor also has an important role in stress regulation (4).\
Chronic stress can reduce 5-HT1a receptor binding. It makes 5-HT1a receptors less active.
A regularly functioning 5-HT1a receptor is essential for mental health (5). Especially mood, cognition, stress and anxiety regulation are influenced by the activity of 5-HT1a receptors.
By activating the 5-HT1a receptor, CBD may reduce some of the damage done by chronic stress to the 5-HT1a receptor.
If stress reduces 5-HT1a receptor activity, CBD may normalize it by activating it.
This is especially important because if you’re chronically stressed, by not changing anything, you risk getting into viscous cycle of:
- Chronic stress > reduced 5-HT1a receptor activity > compromised stress response > more stress > further reduction in 5-HT1a receptor activity > etc.
CBD and Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD)
Although it can have similar symptoms, PTSD isn’t like regular stress. Nor is it like anxiety. But PTSD can produce anxiety.
PTSD can develop when someone experiences a shocking, scary or dangerous event. If this traumatic event keeps bothering a person, for example, in the form of disturbing thoughts and feelings, it can negatively impact that person’s day-to-day life.
So while regular stress is a reaction to a current external stressor, and anxiety is a reaction to imaginary stressors or excessive worries, PTSD is a reaction to a specific external stressor in the past.
Although there’s no clinical evidence (yet), various studies have looked at the effects of CBD on PTSD.
The majority of these studies were animal studies. There were also a few case-studies with humans.
Based on rodent models of PTSD, a 2018 review study found that CBD can both (5):
- Facilitate the extinction of fear-based memories, and,
- Block their reconsolidation.
Possible mechanisms of action that play a role in this effect could be related to the endocannabinoid system.
In a case-study with a 10-year-old girl with a history of abuse and PTSD, daily use of CBD resulted in decreased anxiety and improvement in both quantity and quality of sleep (6).
The doses used in this study were 25mg Charlotte’s Web CBD oil before bed-time and 6-12mg CBD in the form of a sublingual spray during the day.
Mechanisms of Action
How CBD relieves stress is probably very similar to how CBD relieves anxiety.
The 5-HT1a Receptor
As explained, CBD activates the 5-HT1a receptor.
With regards to anxiety, it studies have
Activation of this receptor is associated with anxiety- and stress-reducing effects.
But there’s more.
Anandamide and Increased CB1 and CB2 Signalling
CBD reduces breakdown of anandamide (AEA). It does this by inhibiting the enzymatic activity of FAAH. FAAH stands for ‘fatty acid amide hydrolase’. It’s an enzyme that has an important role in breaking down AEA.
By reducing AEA breakdown, CBD increases AEA levels.
Increased levels of AEA, is associated with increased signaling of the cannabinoid receptors 1 and 2 (CB1 and CB2).
Increased signaling of especially the CB1 receptor has been associated with a reduction in adrenaline and cortisol release (7). Both adrenaline and cortisol get released as a result of the stress response.
Chronic stress is also associated with neuroinflammation and activation of microglia (the brain-resident white blood cells).
Microglia can facilitate anxiety and depressive behaviors and contribute to the development of affective disorders.
CBD has potent anti-inflammatory effects.
One of CBD’s anti-inflammatory mechanisms of action is its inhibition of AEA breakdown, which in turn increases CB1 and CB2 signaling, which in turn prevents activation of microglia (10).
Peroxisome Proliferator-Activated Receptor Gamma (PPARγ)
CBD also activates peroxisome proliferator-activated receptor gamma (PPARγ). Activation of PPARγ reduces neuroinflammation and excitotoxicity that is associated with the stress response (11).
Vanilloid Receptor 1 (TRPV1)
So CBD’s mechanism of action for stress relief seems to be multi-facetted.
That’s also possibly the reason why anecdotally it seems to be so effective for stress relief.
Best CBD Oil for Stress
At Herbonaut we always emphasize the importance of taking cannabinoids as they occur in nature.
In nature, cannabinoids like CBD never occur in isolated forms.
CBD can be found in cannabis plants, always together with hundreds of other compounds.
These other compounds have synergistic effects with CBD.
The most important of these other compounds are other cannabinoids like CBG, CBC, CBN, and THC.
These days, it's even possible to get products where one of these ‘minor' cannabinoids is the dominant cannabinoid. For example:
The second-most important of these other compounds are terpenes like linalool and myrcene.
The best CBD oil for stress contains CBD, but also a wide variety of these other compounds.
Not only do these other cannabis compounds improve the effectiveness of CBD…
But they unique beneficial effects themselves, also when it comes to stress relief.
Low doses of THC have been associated with stress-relieving effects (14).
So the best CBD oil for stress is a true full-spectrum CBD oil with CBD, many minor cannabinoids and terpenes.
Step-by-Step Guide for Taking CBD Oil for Stress
Should You Take CBD Before or After Stressful Situations?
The studies that found CBD to be helpful in relieving anxiety and blood pressure, administered CBD before the stressful situations.
In practice, what we find is that CBD works best when taken consistently, meaning on a daily basis.
A simple dosing regimen could be to take one dose of CBD after breakfast and one dose after diner.
This way, you'll experience a general stress-relieving effect from the CBD throughout the day.
Go to our CBD Hub to learn more about CBD-related topics.
- Jadoon, K. A., Tan, G. D., & O’Sullivan, S. E. (2017c). A single dose of cannabidiol reduces blood pressure in healthy volunteers in a randomized crossover study. JCI Insight, 2(12). https://doi.org/10.1172/jci.insight.93760
- Bergamaschi, M. M., Queiroz, R. H. C., Chagas, M. H. N., de Oliveira, D. C. G., de Martinis, B. S., Kapczinski, F., Quevedo, J., Roesler, R., Schröder, N., Nardi, A. E., Martín-Santos, R., Hallak, J. E. C., Zuardi, A. W., & Crippa, J. A. S. (2011). Cannabidiol Reduces the Anxiety Induced by Simulated Public Speaking in Treatment-Naïve Social Phobia Patients. Neuropsychopharmacology, 36(6), 1219–1226. https://doi.org/10.1038/npp.2011.6
- Dunn, R. W., Corbett, R., & Fielding, S. (1989). Effects of 5-HT1A receptor agonists and NMDA receptor antagonists in the social interaction test and the elevated plus maze. European Journal of Pharmacology, 169(1), 1–10. https://doi.org/10.1016/0014-2999(89)90811-x
- Jovanovic, H., Perski, A., Berglund, H., & Savic, I. (2011). Chronic stress is linked to 5-HT1A receptor changes and functional disintegration of the limbic networks. NeuroImage, 55(3), 1178–1188. https://doi.org/10.1016/j.neuroimage.2010.12.060
- Bitencourt, R. M., & Takahashi, R. N. (2018). Cannabidiol as a Therapeutic Alternative for Post-traumatic Stress Disorder: From Bench Research to Confirmation in Human Trials. Frontiers in Neuroscience, 12. https://doi.org/10.3389/fnins.2018.00502
- Shannon, S. (2016). Effectiveness of Cannabidiol Oil for Pediatric Anxiety and Insomnia as Part of Posttraumatic Stress Disorder: A Case Report. The Permanente Journal, 20(4). https://doi.org/10.7812/tpp/16-005
- Beins, E. C., Beiert, T., Jenniches, I., Hansen, J. N., Leidmaa, E., Schrickel, J. W., & Zimmer, A. (2021). Cannabinoid receptor 1 signalling modulates stress susceptibility and microglial responses to chronic social defeat stress. Translational Psychiatry, 11(1). https://doi.org/10.1038/s41398-021-01283-0
- Ulrich-Lai, Y. M., Figueiredo, H. F., Ostrander, M. M., Choi, D. C., Engeland, W. C., & Herman, J. P. (2006). Chronic stress induces adrenal hyperplasia and hypertrophy in a subregion-specific manner. American Journal of Physiology-Endocrinology and Metabolism, 291(5), E965–E973. https://doi.org/10.1152/ajpendo.00070.2006
- Mohd Azmi, N. A. S., Juliana, N., Azmani, S., Mohd Effendy, N., Abu, I. F., Mohd Fahmi Teng, N. I., & Das, S. (2021). Cortisol on Circadian Rhythm and Its Effect on Cardiovascular System. International Journal of Environmental Research and Public Health, 18(2), 676. https://doi.org/10.3390/ijerph18020676
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- García-Bueno, B., Caso, J. R., Pérez-Nievas, B. G., Lorenzo, P., & Leza, J. C. (2006). Effects of Peroxisome Proliferator-Activated Receptor Gamma Agonists on Brain Glucose and Glutamate Transporters after Stress in Rats. Neuropsychopharmacology, 32(6), 1251–1260. https://doi.org/10.1038/sj.npp.1301252
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