CBD, or cannabidiol, contains cannabinoids, which are important players in our body’s endocannabinoid system. CBD oil is non-psychoactive but may help regulate mood. One endocannabinoid, called anandamide, that is produced in our bodies is actually referred to as the “bliss molecule”. Low levels of anandamide have been linked to decreased happiness and increased anxiety. Particular foods can increase our production of anandamide, like dark chocolate. CBD can prevent the breakdown of anandamide, and therefore, create more bliss.
In a previous article, I discussed the potential for CBD to decrease inflammation and alleviate migraines. Other reported health benefits include decreasing stress and anxiety. This article discusses the peer-reviewed studies that examine the mood-boosting effects of CBD.
A poll in 2018 surveyed 1500 Canadians and 41% reported experiencing anxiety. One-third of responders had been formally diagnosed with an anxiety disorder. It is estimated that anxiety disorders affect 40 million American adults. Therefore, anxiety disorders are the most common mental health condition in both Canada and the U.S.
Anxiety disorders can include the following: generalized anxiety disorder, panic disorder, social anxiety disorder, specific phobias, obsessive-compulsive disorder, and posttraumatic stress disorder. Individuals that suffer from anxiety disorders are six times more likely to be hospitalized for psychiatric disorders. Anxiety is often accompanied by depression.
PCOS and Anxiety
While the research on the connection between decreased mental health and PCOS is sparse, there is evidence that anxiety is more prevalent in women with PCOS. A study from 2009 found that anxiety symptoms were present in 50% of women with PCOS versus 39% of women without PCOS. More recently this association was confirmed in a study I led during my doctoral research. When women with PCOS were compared to women without PCOS, the women with PCOS had significantly higher levels of anxiety. In particular, I found that women with hyperandrogenic PCOS had greater symptoms of anxiety than women with non-hyperandrogenic PCOS. I hypothesized that the external appearance of hyperandrogenic PCOS (which can include increased body/facial hair, acne, and balding) strays from the societal beauty norms placed on women.
“Expectations of female beauty are rooted in Western societies and being hairless is one major social norm of femininity.”D. Cutler, UBC Doctoral Thesis, 2019
This may be one explanation for increased anxiety in women with hyperandrogenic PCOS. PCOS has even been nicknamed “The Thief of Womanhood” for similar reasons. In addition, I found that reproductive hormone levels (including estradiol and androstenedione) were associated with increased anxiety.
How CBD Affects Anxiety
In 2019 a clinical study was published which included 72 people. These adult subjects were given 25 mg of phytocannabinoids per day. After one month, 79% of the anxiety-sufferers experienced improvements in their reported anxiety scores. Also worth noting is that many cases of insomnia are tied to anxiety. The same study found that 67% of those suffering from poor sleep experienced improved sleep after one month. However, over time, this effect didn’t remain.
In a study from 2011, CBD was found to decrease anxiety of public speaking in 24 subjects with social anxiety disorder. While this is a small study, there appears to be potential for CBD to be a safe, effective method of managing social anxiety disorder. This was further demonstrated in 2019 in a double-blind trial. CBD was found to be comparable to the medication Paroxetine at decreasing symptoms of social anxiety disorder in teenagers.
Is CBD safe?
There have been a few reported side-effects, including fatigue, diarrhea, and loss of appetite. Otherwise, CBD has been deemed relatively safe. Precautions should be made to avoid interactions if you are taking medications, or if pregnant/breast-feeding. It is important to always discuss the use of herbs and supplements with your healthcare provider.
In health, Dr. Dylan Cutler, Ph.D.