CBD and stress: What does the research say?
- Stress is a natural response to an overwhelming or threatening situation.
- Feeling stressed occasionally is normal, but long-term stress exposure can lead to various health problems.
- It is important to find healthy ways to manage stress.
- Increasingly, researchers are exploring the relationship between CBD and stress.
74% of the UK population have recently experienced stress that made it difficult to cope.
This number paints a picture of a stressed-out society full of people who suffer from the pressures of modern life. Some might say that stress is a part of life and nothing can be done about it. But is that the right approach? We don’t think so.
People have the power to introduce changes into their lives that can help them manage stress and, as a result, protect them from its adverse effects.
One of the things that scientists have been exploring recently is the potential effect of CBD in reducing stress levels. So, could CBD contribute to reducing stress levels?
If you’re interested in taking CBD and stress is something that you struggle with, then this article is for you.
What is stress?
Stress is our body’s reaction to feeling overwhelmed or under pressure. When we don’t know what to do, when we feel our well-being or social position is threatened, or when things are getting out of control, we are experiencing stress.
Stress has been around since the days of the caveman. It helped us survive by making our body ready to flee or fight in case of danger, such as a predatory attack.
Even today, stress is not always bad. In small doses and the right situation it can motivate you to complete an urgent task or respond quickly in time-sensitive situations.
Yet, long-term stress is never helpful and is sometimes hard to recognise. It’s possible to be deeply stressed, and putting your body under tremendous pressure without even realising what is happening.
Stress vs anxiety
Stress and anxiety are not the same. Stress is your body’s response to a challenging situation, while anxiety is your body’s response to stress.
Experiencing occasional anxiety when we are in a long-term stressful situation, like dealing with a health problem within the family or working for a company in the middle of downsizing, is to be expected. Usually, it can be managed without help from medical professionals and often goes away when the situation resolves itself.
However, anxiety experienced for a long time that impacts your daily life, or even leads to panic attacks, may turn into an anxiety disorder.
What is CBD?
CBD is one of the most abundant compounds found in the Cannabis sativa plant. It is non-intoxicating and usually extracted from hemp. CBD (cannabidiol) can be found in food supplements (CBD oils, capsules, etc) and in cosmetics.
Current studies suggest that CBD can contribute to well being and support the management of symptoms of some health conditions, including stress, anxiety, inflammation (including skin inflammation), insomnia, chronic pain and more.
How does CBD work?
Studies have shown that CBD interacts with the body through the endocannabinoid system (ECS).
The endocannabinoid system consists of a network of receptors which are spread through the body and found in many organs, from the skin to the liver. The ECS is involved in regulating many processes, such as sleep, mood, appetite, memory and inflammation.
Through its ability to interact with cannabinoid receptors, CBD can help maintain balance in the endocannabinoid system and, in turn, influence and support the processes taking place in our bodies.
CBD and stress: What does the research say?
Researchers are exploring the effects both CBD and stress have on our health, with a lot of focus on how our body reacts to simultaneous exposure to CBD and stress.
People who suffer from stress can experience both mental and physical symptoms. When understanding what stress does to the body, it’s important to recognise these symptoms.
Stress can make you feel:
- Unable to enjoy yourself
Stressed people may also experience:
- Breathing difficulties
- Sleep problems
- Muscle and chest pain
- Digestive problems
- Changes in weight
- Unusual changes in menstrual cycle
But what do current studies tell us about the effects of being exposed to both CBD and stress?
A lot of studies deal with the impact of CBD and stress in people with anxiety disorders. A large case study looking into the sleep patterns of people suffering from anxiety discovered that CBD may help improve sleep quality.
And what about CBD and stress headaches? CBD may contribute to better management of some headaches, such as tension-type migraines that result from stress or anxiety. It is also worth mentioning that some of our customers report they find our CBD products help them in this area, headaches.
Interestingly, the most common reasons why our customers use our CBD products long-term are for sleep and pain management.
CBD balms are also often used to aid muscle tension and soreness, another common symptom of a stressed body.
Does CBD help with anxiety?
We have explored the relationship between CBD and stress symptoms above, but some studies show that CBD also has some anti-anxiety effects.
There are many different forms of anxiety, but Social Anxiety Disorder (SAD) is one of the most common. A CBD experiment from 2011 showed that CBD might inhibit the fear of speaking in public, one of the main symptoms of SAD.
Animal studies have also been showing very promising results, primarily due to the interaction of CBD with 5-HT1A neuro-receptor, which influences how anxiety is experienced.
Last but not least, a general review of existing preclinical evidence concluded that there is good reason to consider CBD as a treatment for various anxiety-related conditions, including generalised anxiety disorder, SAD, panic disorder, and OCD.
CBD and PTSD: Can it help?
PTSD stands for Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder. It’s a mental health problem experienced by people who have gone through a traumatic event, such as participating in a war conflict, experiencing harm, or seeing a loved one harmed.
The symptoms of PTSD include:
- Unexpected triggers
- Physical discomfort (pain, nausea, etc)
- Sleep disorders
Some existing clinical data shows that CBD might decrease anxiety and improve sleep for people who suffer from PTSD.
A more extensive study from 2018 showed that the use of CBD may benefit patients with PTSD, and when used as part of the standard psychiatric care, there appeared to be a link with the reduction of some PTSD symptoms.
In all cases cited above, it’s important to remember that CBD research is ongoing and more studies are needed in specific health conditions before any efficacy claims can be made.
Are there any risks to taking CBD?
After reading about CBD and stress, you might be interested in trying CBD. But are there any risks?
CBD is considered generally safe and well-tolerated by healthy people. Some users might experience minor side effects, but these are rare.
If you are suffering from any medical conditions and taking daily medication, it’s best to speak to your healthcare provider, as CBD might interact with some medications.
This is the case with most supplements and drugs. Pregnant and breastfeeding women should always seek medical advice before taking any supplement.
Other ways to manage stress
We all know the good old stress-management techniques, such as:
- Finding time to relax
- Exercising regularly
- Having a healthy diet
- Spending time in nature
- Developing hobbies
- Maintaining a regular sleep schedule
While scientists are looking into the relationship between CBD and stress, specialists are also on the lookout for things that can provide quick relief to people in a high-stress situation.
One common piece of advice is to stop watching the news. Humans are not built to be able to cope with this much bad news on our own. In the past, we only saw the tragedies that happened close to us, and processed them with other members of our community. Nowadays, we see more tragedies, but we usually digest them alone. It can be simply too much to bear for people who suffer from stress.
We should also remember that when our ancestors became stressed, they would burn the stress-energy very quickly by escaping the danger or fighting the oppressor. In modern days, intense muscle work for as short as 30-60 seconds can help burn that energy. If you feel stressed, try to find a discrete way to do some jumping jacks. It might help you release the excess energy.
How to take CBD
We have discussed CBD and stress, and if you think you might benefit from taking CBD, you might now wonder where to start.
There are many products of various strengths that you can take.
For oral application, consider CBD oil or CBD capsules. If you enjoy sweet flavours, you might also be interested in CBD Gummies.
Independently of which product you choose, we would encourage you to use our CBD oil dosage calculator to assess the correct starting dose.
Always discuss CBD’s potential benefits with your healthcare provider, mention your planned dose of CBD and stress symptoms you are suffering from, and never take more than the recommended maximum daily intake of 70 mg CBD.
What to look for in CBD products
Not all CBD products are equally effective. To ensure you are picking the best CBD available, always check that the product:
- Contains safe levels of THC
- Is free from pesticides, synthetic material or any contaminants
- Has been extracted from certified organic hemp
- Is regularly tested by third-party laboratories
The results of the third-party lab tests should always be available on the producer’s website.
CBD and stress: The takeaway
It is not possible to avoid stress altogether. Stress is entirely normal when experienced occasionally and may even be helpful in some situations.
However, long term exposure to stress may lead to various health problems, including mental health issues such as an anxiety disorder.
As stress is unavoidable, it is crucial to find healthy and effective ways to help your body relax.
Some studies that look into CBD and stress suggest that taking CBD might support stressed bodies and minds, but more research is needed to fully understand these mechanisms.
Disclaimer: There is currently insufficient evidence to support the use of CBD in the condition(s) mentioned above and this text by no means reflects recommended uses. Always seek the advice of your healthcare professional if you are taking prescribed medication or are thinking of using CBD for your condition.
Written by Zaneta Pacific and reviewed by our qualified expert, Moyra Cosgrove, Head of Nutrition at Naturecan, SENR Registered Nutritionist and DProf candidate at LJMU