Cannabidiol, more commonly known as CBD, is a natural compound derived from the cannabis plant that has become increasingly popular as a wellness supplement in recent years. You’ll find CBD products on the shelves of many UK high street and online health and wellness stores in various forms, including CBD oils, gummies and capsules.
While CBD doesn’t have the same psychoactive effects as THC (the primary component of marijuana), it has been found to offer numerous health benefits for both physical and mental wellbeing. One such benefit is its potential to help reduce stress, anxiety and depression - all common issues that are, unfortunately, on the increase worldwide. In this article, we’ll explore how CBD can potentially be used to improve your mental health by providing an overview of its effects on these conditions and discussing what research tells us about its efficacy.
How CBD Works
Our bodies have a complex cell signalling system known as the endocannabinoid system (ECS), which is responsible for keeping our body and mind in a balanced state (homeostasis). This involves the regulation of many of our important physiological functions such as sleep, pain perception, metabolism, stress response, memory and appetite. When you take CBD – as a gummy, capsule or an oil such as our Day + CBD Oil, it interacts with receptors within your ECS and influences the body’s response, facilitating a number of positive and therapeutic effects on the mind and body. This is why many people are opting for CBD products as a remedy for anxiety, stress, depression, sleep and chronic pain, amongst other common ailments.
The research so far into the impact of CBD on the mind and body is promising but still in the early stages, and further clinical studies must be conducted to determine all the potential wellbeing benefits of CBD.
How Does CBD Make You Feel Mentally?
When you find your ideal dosage of CBD (more on this later), the mental benefits can be hugely rewarding. CBD is widely regarded for its calming and anxiolytic properties. Many users report feelings of relaxation with less anxiety, reduced tension and improved clarity of mind after using cannabidiol. The cannabinoid can also help with pain relief, inflammation and sleep.
CBD for Depression
Depression is a common mental health disorder, impacting around 1 in 6 adults across the UK. It's associated with other psychological issues such as stress, anxiety and loneliness. The UK has experienced a dramatic rise in depression rates since the start of the COVID-19 pandemic, with 17% of adults struggling with mental health issues as recently as summer 2021 - compared to just 10% prior to 2020. While depression is often treated using psychotherapy or pharmaceuticals, there is growing interest in natural alternative remedies, including CBD.
While human studies are limited, there have been promising results from animal-based research where CBD has shown antidepressant effects in mice. Another human-based study, where a group of people between the ages of 16 and 69 used CBD to self-heal symptoms of depression, found that the majority of respondents reported that they felt better after treatment with CBD.
Can CBD Raise Serotonin?
Although it doesn't necessarily raise serotonin levels, CBD could potentially influence the way your brain reacts to the existing serotonin in your system. Low amounts of this neurotransmitter are usually associated with depression and its symptoms. Taking CBD may help re-establish balance within these chemical receptors, resulting in antidepressant effects.
CBD for Anxiety
Anxiety is a prevalent mental health issue which can cause a plethora of physical and mental symptoms and, in some cases, can be debilitating.
There is an abundance of preclinical evidence showing that CBD has the potential to treat anxiety disorders such as social anxiety, generalised anxiety disorder, panic disorder and OCD (obsessive-compulsive disorder), according to a 2015 review. While more human-based research is required, some evidence from human studies also concludes that CBD has an anxiolytic effect. One study showed a decrease in activation in the amygdala – an area of the brain which plays a key role in anxiety responses to stressful factors – following the administration of CBD.
CBD for PTSD
Post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) is a mental health condition experienced by people who have gone through a traumatic event, such as military combat, physical assault or sexual abuse. Symptoms can include flashbacks, nightmares, difficulty sleeping and intrusive thoughts. CBD has been studied for its potential to help manage PTSD symptoms and has been shown to be effective in reducing nightmare symptoms linked to PTSD.
CBD for Sleep
Sleeping issues are often linked to mental health disorders such as anxiety, with symptoms making it more difficult to fall asleep and remain asleep during the night. Sleep deprivation can also have a negative impact on anxiety and depression symptoms. When we get enough sleep, we generally feel better, have greater energy levels, make healthier food choices and have an overall better quality of life.
The endocannabinoid system plays a key role in our sleep-wake cycle and it is thought that CBD has a positive impact on sleep as it interacts with ECS receptors. The cannabinoid has shown potential in increasing the total amount of sleep and increased REM (rapid eye movement) sleep in rats. While further human studies are needed, studies so far show that higher doses of CBD may have a sedative effect on humans.
Types of CBD
When shopping for CBD products, you’ll typically find that there are three types of CBD: full-spectrum, broad-spectrum and pure isolate.
- Full-spectrum CBD – this contains all compounds of the hemp plant, including THC, which can increase the efficacy of CBD. However, CBD products in the UK can contain no more than 0.2% THC by law, so check the label and Certificate of Analysis for your CBD product before purchase, to ensure your product is legal.
- Broad-spectrum CBD – this type of CBD is similar to full-spectrum – containing many of the natural hemp compounds – but is THC-free. Broad-spectrum CBD is often favoured by those hoping to improve anxiety and depression symptoms but are keen to avoid any psychoactive effects from THC.
- Pure CBD Isolate – this is pure CBD which contains no additional hemp compounds. CBD isolate is ideal for those new to CBD and who wish to avoid THC completely, however, its effects may be mild when compared to broad-spectrum and full-spectrum CBD.
When starting CBD for the first time, opt for a low dose and build it up slowly over time. This allows your body to gently adjust to feeling the effects of CBD and enables you to carefully monitor how you feel and notice any potential side effects. There is no one-size-fits-all answer when it comes to the right dosage, as this depends on several factors including your body weight and metabolism. Build up slowly until you find the right dosage for you.
Is it Safe?
Absolutely. CBD is safe, legal and has very few side effects that are generally mild. These may include nausea, fatigue and diarrhoea. If you are taking prescription medication, however, consult with your GP before taking CBD, which can potentially interfere with some medicines.
If you are showing severe symptoms of a mental health disorder, talk to your GP or health professional urgently. For mild to moderate symptoms, such as interrupted sleep, feeling tense or anxious thoughts, you could try self-medicating with CBD, which has been shown in various preclinical and human-based studies to have the potential in treating anxiety, depression and PTSD as well as improving sleep. In addition to CBD, we recommend daily exercise (you don't need a gym; a daily walk will suffice), healthy eating including lots of fruit, vegetables and protein with fewer processed foods, plus meditation and mindfulness practice.
Learn More: 10 Ways to Practise Self-Care with CBD