CBD - New Hope for Those Suffering With Anxiety and Depression


There is no doubt that the inner workings of the human brain, and its underlying mechanisms, remains one of the great mysteries of modern medicine. Though research shows much more about the workings of the brain than was previously known, the chemical nuances resident in the brain that can alter mood, disposition, personality and anxiety levels remain, to a great degree, not fully understood.

Those suffering with debilitating anxiety, chronic depression, or mood swings have experienced the frustration of finding treatment that can consistently manage their issues. Grouped together, these disorders, referred to neuropsychiatric disorders, effect up to 450 million individuals worldwide.(1)

Neuropsychiatric Disorder Range

There is a wide range of neuropsychiatric disorders that can impact individuals to varying degrees. At their worst, neuropsychiatric disorders can be life threatening to oneself or others, if radical mood swings go unmanaged.

A partial list of these disorders includes:

  • Generalized social anxiety disorder
  • Panic attacks
  • Social anxiety disorder
  • Obsessive-compulsive disorder
  • Post-traumatic stress disorder
  • Clinical depression
  • Mood swings

Sadly, those suffering from neuropsychiatric disorders rarely suffer in isolation. These types of disorders take a heavy toll on interpersonal relationships, the ability to hold meaningful employment, and at their worst threaten family structures. An effective, consistent treatment can make or break quality of life for these individuals.

Look at these sobering statistics (2):

  • -Nearly 1 million people commit suicide every year.
  • -Four of the six leading causes of years lived with a disability are due to neuropsychiatric disorders (depression, alcohol abuse, schizophrenia and bipolar disorder).
  • -One in every four families has at least one member with a mental disorder.
  • -Those suffering from mental illnesses are frequently victims of human rights violations, stigma, and discrimination.

In addition to the human suffering they cause, neuropsychiatric disorders are among the most expensive of health problems. A US government study, the National Comorbidity Study Republican, estimated that serious mental illness accounted for $193 billion in lost earnings.(3)

Cannabidiol (CBD) Treats Neuropsychiatric Disorders

With these pathologies affecting human beings in social life, productivity and general health, CBD is taking the medical and brain science world by storm with its tremendous impacts in keeping a number of medical conditions in check. CBD oil has proven to be quite effective in treating a broad range of neuropsychiatric symptoms.

There are a wide range of chemicals within cannabinoid that contribute to its medicinal properties. The phytochemicals that produce anxiolytic effects and favorably influence neuropsychopharmacological manifestations include alkaloids, flavonoids, phenolic acids, lignans, cinnamates, terpenes and saponins. This combination of phytochemicals present in CBD interact with a number of different receptors within the brain, including CB1 and CB2 receptors.(4)

According to an article appearing in PMC, a publication issued by the U.S. National Library of Medicine at the National Institutes of Health, CBD interacts with many other, non-endocannabinoid signaling systems. It is a "multi-target" drug that blocks equilibrative nucleoside transporter (ENT), an orphan protein that interacts with other transient receptors to cause instability in the parts of the brain that can lead to mood disorders.(5)

Phytochemicals also modulate the hypothalamo-pituitary-adrenal axis, the levels of pro-inflammatory cytokines, and tumor necrosis factor to improve brain derived neurotrophic factor levels. Together, these phytochemicals also work well as supplements to conventional anxiolytic therapies in order to improve efficacy and reduce adverse effects.(6) Ongoing clinical studies continue to shed light on structure-activity relationships, metabolism, absorption, and neurophsychopharmalogocal mechanisms of CBD-derived agents, to better understand CBD's positive impact on brain functions that trigger neuropsychiatric disorders.

Stress Increases Risk in Developing Anxiety

Consider also the role of stress in producing anxiety-related disorders. Medical professionals agree that stress is a major risk factor for the development of mood and anxiety disorders. Elucidation of novel approaches to mitigate stress has positive implications for both mental and physical applications. CBD represents one such approach.

CBD compounds are thought to be "gatekeepers" to healthy stress levels. The anandamide and 2-AG present in CBD mitigate the stress response and high emotional loads by improving recovery to pre-stress levels quickly once the stress burden is reduced to baseline.(7)

There is also an emerging role in the interplay between the immune system and the neuro-endocrine system. This involves crosstalk between the immune system, cytokine signaling and the nervous system influencing behavior, anxiety and mood. A number of recent studies have demonstrated a new role specifically for CB2 receptors in creating this critical link between the immune system and anxiety and depression-related behavior. The interplay results in a balanced endocannabinoid system, which is pivotal in generating a healthy stress response (as opposed to an overcompensated one) mitigating excessive fear, anxiety, and panic that can accumulate with dysfunctional responses to stress.

Mechanisms of Action

CBD offers a novel pharmacodynamics profile as an anxiolytic agent. It is believed that CBD modulates neurotransmission in a number of ways. Research has shown that CBD alters 5-HT1A, GPR55, CB1/CB2, and mu/delta opioid receptor sites, while at the same time enhancing hippocampal neurogenesis. The combination of all these neurophysiological effects contribute to CBD's efficacy as a novel anxiolytic.(8)

Mental Health Daily, an online research and blog resource for all issues related to mental health, has this to say about the specifics of how CBD oil works:

  1. 5-HT1A - Studies conducted in humans with panic disorder note impairments in 5-HT1A receptor function and poor 5-HT1A binding. The information collected indicates that heightened anxiety and depression are linked to dysfunctional 5-HT1A activation. Many commercialized treatments specifically target HT1A partial agonists as their primary treatment protocol. CBD directly addresses enhancing this 5-HT1A binding function.
  2. Hippocampal Neurogenesis - CBD is thought to spur growth of neurons within the hippocampus. In animal models, CBD administration induces hippocampal neurogenesis, and is thought to produce a similar outcome in humans. A rat study involved the continuing administration of CBD spurred a reaction utilizing 5-HT1A to increase the biomarker of doublecortin - indicating emergence of new neurons in the hippocampus.
  3. According to the Mental Health Daily report cited earlier, researchers believe that hippocampal neurogenesis may play a critical role in attenuating symptoms of severe anxiety, depression and stress. CBD's affinity to stimulate CB1/CB2 receptor sites also plays a critical role in hippocampal neurogenesis.
  4. CB1 + CB2 Receptors - CBD stimulates CB1/CB2 receptor sites to contribute to general anti-inflammatory effects, which are linked to mood disorders. The Mental Health daily report cites data that links neuroinflammation to a wide continuum of anxiety disorders. Administering CBD for its anti-inflammatory properties contributes to reduced inflammation throughout the body, including the brain, so it yields positive anxiolytic responses.
  5. Opioid Receptor Modulator (ORM) - This particular neurogenesis reaction relates to the degree of severity to which one feels anxiety or depression. Delta receptor agonists block the anxiogenic effects of stressors. Specifically, modulation of the delta receptors within the central amygdala show that the severity to which an individual experiences neurogenetic responses such as depression, anxiety and stress can be greatly reduced. This occurs by the interaction of CBD with the ORM with the aforementioned 5-HT1A and CB1/CB2 effects.

So, it's not only the effects of CBD in isolation that produce favorable results for those suffering with mood disorders, the combined effects on multiple brain functions has also proven to be critical in its success. It's a complicated interaction, but critical to understanding CBD's efficacy in treating behavior disorders.

Who Benefits, And How?

Evidence suggests that CBD oil may be an effective intervention management particularly for those who fail to derive benefit from traditional pharmacology and/or who don't tolerate traditional treatments well. CBD's benefits are wide ranging, so in addition to enhancing mood, it also reduces pain and inflammation, improves sleep quality, and preserves healthy overall brain function. Its lack of side effects makes it an appealing alternative for many.

A report issues in 2015 (9) cites wide ranging evidence that the therapeutic efficacy of CBD in the treatment of anxiety-related disorders was pronounced, particularly in the areas of conditioned fear responses, stress, generalized anxiety disorder, social phobia, panic disorder, PTSD, and OCD. The report notes that CBD does not induce sedation and is extremely safe, especially for use in the short term or as an ancillary treatment protocol to traditional medications.

CBD can be effective as a treatment in and of itself, or in combination with other treatments. Typically, those who have had great success with CBD have either not wanted to utilize traditional treatment options due to side effects, or they have not experienced significant long-term relief with these options and are seeking an ancillary approach.

Brakes and Accelerators

Though emerging science is still developing where the use of CBD and mood disorders is concerned, here is an illustration that will simplify the science behind how all these variables work together.

Think of driving a car, there are times when acceleration is necessary - but not too much or too quickly. Other times, brakes are needed to slow down or even completely stop. CBD's effect on the brain is much like applying acceleration and brakes to the receptors that govern not only the mood, but stress responses, and the degree to which neurological responses happen. Instead of allowing the acceleration of certain receptors to open fully, CBD slows them down. And for other areas that tend to remain closed down, CBD opens key pathways.

The Human Brain

Without a doubt, the brain is the most mysterious and least understood system within the human body. The use of CBD to manage neurological responses is still very much a developing area of science. But more and more, data is revealing that use of CBD is having a positive impact on neurogenesis. The positive impacts are documents in the area of stress relieve, anxiety management, depression, mood stability, and even in more severe manifestations such as seizures and body tics.

Furthermore, CBD's positive influence is demonstrated either as a stand-alone solution, or in conjunction with other typical medical treatments. It is also promising across a continuum of severity of symptoms, treating severe as well as the more mild manifestations of these disorders. With its complimentary positive effects as an anti-inflammatory, individuals are finding long-term relief through the use of CBD.


1 - World Health Organization, "Investing in Mental Health," 2003.

2 - World Health Organization, "Investing in Mental Health," 2003.

3 - Kessler RC, Heeringa S., Lakoma MD, Petukhova M, Rupp AE, Shcoenbaum M, Wang PS, Zaslavsky AM, "Individual and societal effects of mental disorders on earnings in the United States: Results from the National Comoribity Survey Replication," American Psychiatry (June 2008).

4 - Farzaei MH, Bahramsolani R, Rahimi R, Abbasabadi F, Abdollahi M, "A Systematic Review of Plant-Derived Natural Compounds for Anxiety Disorders," NCBI (2016).

5 - Devinsky et al, "Cannabidiol: Pharmacology and Potential Therapeutic Role in Epilepsy and Other Neurophychairic Disorders," Epilepsia (June 2014).

6 - Farzaei et al.

7 - "The Endocannabiniod System and CBD's Role in Stress, Anxiety and Fear Responses," Leafly Report, Science and Technology, (2016).

8 - "CBD Oil for Anxiety: Is Cannabidiol An Effective Treatment?" Mental Health Daily, (2016).

9 - Blessing, Steenkamp, Mananares, and Marmar, "Cannabidiol As a Potential Treatment for Anxiety Disorders," NCBI National Institutes of Health, (October, 2016).