CBD has been in the news a lot lately, at times touted as a miracle cure-all, and other times demonised due to its origins in the Cannabis plant. Anxiety is one of the areas where it is claimed to be effective in helping patients to recover.
What is Anxiety?
Anxiety covers a wide range of disorders and is more accurately classified as a group or family of various conditions. It is a common occurrence and leads to a great deal of mental anguish and discomfort for a lot of people. People who suffer from anxiety generally experience uneasiness and worry, as well as inner turmoil.
These emotions are usually out of proportion to the issue that is bothering the sufferer. This means that friends and relatives can sometimes think that a person who has anxiety is simply overreacting to a situation.
Anxiety is not the same as fear – a common emotion experienced by everyone at one time or another. Anxiety is more like a fear of a future threat, rather than current worry. Social anxiety, PTSD, Generalised Anxiety Disorder, and OCD are examples of the range of conditions that count as ‘anxiety’. As well as sometimes being a pre-existing condition, anxiety can be caused by singular traumatic events. It can be brought on by recurring ones: exams, mathematics, and stage performance (‘stage fright’).
As well as episodes and events, anxiety can be influenced or caused by substance abuse – alcohol or illicit drugs, and prescription drugs. Although anxiety varies hugely from person to person, the physical symptoms can be debilitating. Muscular tension is a well-known unfortunate symptom of anxiety. IBS or Irritable Bowel Syndrome is also a common side-effect, as are fatigue and insomnia.
CBD or cannabidiol has been around for a long time, even if we humans did not know it. It is made by the Cannabis plant, long cultivated for making rope and clothing, and for its edible, nutritious and medicinal seeds. The plant takes carbon dioxide from the air, and water from the soil, and uses solar energy to break them apart. It then puts them back together into a range of molecules – one of which is CBD.
Wild Cannabis evolved in Central Asia. When hunter-gatherer tribes of humans passed that way after making their way out of Africa, Cannabis liked the conditions left behind by the wandering bands and became a ‘camp follower’ herb. It wasn’t long until we were purposefully growing and breeding Cannabis for our own ends.
CBD was being used – if unknowingly – by a neolithic farmer in the Netherlands 4,500 years ago. This person was found buried with a huge amount of Cannabis pollen, along with Meadowsweet – another medicinal herb. This exciting find points to a long-running relationship between CBD and us.
In the second half of the 20th century, CBD was isolated and found to be one of the more bioactive molecules in the plant, and a range of both physical and mental health conditions are said to be helped by responsible usage of CBD oil.
Is It Effective?
An enormous review of the latest CBD research was carried out by scientists at the Universities of Salerno and Naples in Italy in 2017. Although not yet published in a journal, the study has been used by the World Health Organisation (WHO) in the latest report from their Expert Committee on Drug Dependence. CBD was found to be non-addictive and relatively low in its potential to cause harm to users.
In regard to anxiety, CBD was found to have a set of effects that have the potential to help with both mental and physical symptoms. Physically, CBD reduces muscular tension, restlessness, and fatigue. These are all common problems encountered by those who suffer from chronic anxiety. CBD is also listed in the ECDD report as being beneficial for problems in concentration – caused by anxiety.
This issue is often one of the symptoms that causes the most disruption to anxiety sufferers. Along with this, CBD has been found to reduce social anxiety in human subjects and to improve social interactions in rodent experiments in the lab. A final thing to consider is CBD’s effects on THC. THC is another new medicine (approved in Canada) that has been extracted from the same plant as CBD. Unfortunately THC can have a side-effect of causing anxiety in the patients it is used by. CBD has been found to actively reduce this problem.
It appears that CBD has a significant effect on a huge amount of the signs and symptoms of anxiety disorders, and more research is constantly being published.