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Are you considering using CBD for anxiety?

We’ve all felt it: sweaty palms, a pounding pulse, trembling hands. Maybe it was right before giving an important presentation, or during a scary movie. Or maybe you feel it when you’re in enclosed spaces, or when you remember a traumatic experience.

Whatever the trigger, when you are experiencing anxiety, it can seem like there’s nothing more urgent than getting that feeling to go away. So, how can you figure out whether you should try CBD? We’ve pulled together the latest research on CBD for anxiety to help you make the best decision for you.

Anxiety is a normal response to stressful or threatening situations. But sometimes those physical and emotional symptoms can kick in during times when you’re not, you know, in danger. And under those circumstances, that fight-or-flight response isn’t helping you to escape a hungry tiger. Nope, it’s just getting in your way.

Because we all experience anxiety in some degree, it might not be surprising that it’s so prevalent. In the United States, about one third of adults experience an anxiety disorder at some point in their lives, according to the National Institute for Mental Health (NIMH).

So, if we all experience anxiety, what qualifies as an anxiety disorder? The main categories include:

Generalized anxiety disorder: excessive, intrusive, unprovoked worry and stress
Obsessive compulsive disorder: frequent upsetting thoughts accompanied by urges to repeat specific actions
Post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD): flashbacks and/or anxiety after experiencing a traumatic event
Panic Disorder: panic attacks, or episodes of intense fear
Phobias: intense, irrational fear of things or situations that don’t actually pose a threat
There are plenty of pharmaceutical treatments for anxiety disorders, but these can have unwanted side effects. The most common of these are dizziness and fatigue, and serious adverse effects like difficulty breathing or loss of coordination are also possible.

Recently, there’s been a lot of media coverage around using CBD for anxiety and stress. Even National Public Radio recently reported on the possibility of using CBD to relieve anxiety, interviewing doctors and scientists who express cautious optimism. And when you look for anecdotal evidence, you’ll find testimonial after testimonial claiming that CBD can have a powerful impact on anxiety.

CBD is short for cannabidiol, and is part of a group of cannabis-derived substances called cannabinoids.

While CBD has been getting more attention in the last few years, the most well-known cannabinoid is probably still THC, or tetrahydrocannabinol. That’s the compound in cannabis that is primarily responsible for the “high” feeling that marijuana is known for, and it also may have a number of therapeutic benefits. From relieving pain to promoting sleep, THC is more than just a recreational drug.

CBD in isolation, on the other hand, isn’t psychoactive, and doesn’t really have any potential for abuse. For most people, it’s about as recreational as popping an ibuprofin—which is to say not at all.

So, what does CBD do?

CBD interacts with a system of chemicals and receptors found throughout the body, which is known as the endocannabinoid system. And it’s not just part of the human body; every vertebrate on the planet has an endocannabinoid system.

This system regulates a variety of processes in the body, from managing mood to controlling the balance of individual cells. Because of this, cannabinoids like CBD could have wide-ranging medical applications.

When it comes to anxiety in particular, CBD seems to affect the brain by increasing levels of the neurotransmitters serotonin and glutamate. These neurotransmitters affect learning, memory, and sleep, and may play a role in treating anxiety and mood disorders.

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