Until recently, we didn’t have access to 100% natural, safe and highly-effective anxiety treatments. This guide explains how to get the most out of CBD and other potent natural supplements.
Table of Contents
- The Stress – Endocannabinoid Connection
- Common Biological Causes of Anxiety
- Thyroid Problems
- Low Testosterone
- Glutamate – GABA Imbalance
- Inflammation in the Gut & Brain
- Common Types of Anxiety Disorders
- Generalized Anxiety Disorder (GAD)
- Obsessive-Compulsive Disorder (OCD)
- Social Anxiety
- (complex) Post-traumatic Stress Disorder / PTSD
- Panic Disorder
- Treating Anxiety with CBD
- What is CBD?
- What CBD Does & Doesn’t Do
- Is CBD Safe? Addictive?
- Is CBD Legal?
- Is it Safe to Take CBD with Other Medications?
- Best Types of CBD Supplements for Anxiety
- CBD Isolate
- Full-Spectrum CBD Oil
- Hemp Flower
- Nanoemulsified CBD
- CBD Nasal Spray
- CBD eLiquid Vape Pens
- Best CBD Dose For Severe Anxiety
- The “Scientifically-Proven vs. Anecdotal” Dose Disparity
- CBD Dosing Guidelines & Side Effects
- How Long Does it Take for CBD to Relieve Anxiety?
- How Often Do You Need to Take CBD?
- Finding Your Personal, Optimal Dose of CBD
- CBD Side Effects
- CBD Cost Saving Tips
- Post-CBD Dose “Rebound Effect”
- CBD For Panic Attacks
- Best Nutritional Supplements for Anxiety
- Self-Therapy: Stopping Anxiety & Panic Attacks with The DARE Method
- Stop Anxiety & Panic Attacks with the DARE Method
- Managing PTSD Emotional Flashbacks
- Physical Tools To Reduce Stress & Tension
- Yoga Mat
- Lacrosse Ball
- Accupressure Mat
- Infared Jade Heat Mat
- Weighted Blanket
- Massage Chairs
Disclaimer: This document is for informational purposes only. By writing this, I am not recommending you take CBD or any other supplements. You should talk to your doctor before starting or discontinuing any medicinal substances.
(If you want to do additional research, click on the links marked [R] for a supporting scientific study or reference.)
Anxiety is a one hell of an affliction. If your anxiety is chronic and severe enough – it literally feels like a never-ending form of torture. Your heart pounds, adrenaline and stress hormones flood through your arteries, your muscles clench up into tight balls and knots… as drastic and catastrophic thoughts of unpleasant future outcomes race through your mind in rapid fire. Everything that is potentially good and pleasant in life gets ruined as your brain frantically scans and hypothesizes all the hypothetical different “worst possible scenario” and schemes of ways it could avoid each one.
The awful experience of anxiety often triggers additional “anxiety about having anxiety,” and it spirals out of control, unchecked. It keeps you awake at night. Ashamed to face other people. Miserable.
Sufferers are frequently encouraged to “get help”… which is code for surrendering to mind-numbing, libido-killing prescription drugs and years of expensive & ineffective talk therapy.
The current FDA-approved medical treatment options for anxiety are abysmal: highly-addictive benzodiazepines like Xanax or other harsh prescription drugs with long lists of side effects.
“Benzos” offer temporary relief, but they also cause dependence & rebound anxiety [R]. If you try to go off them, you’ll experience withdrawals with even worse anxiety than you’ve ever suffered in your life (which was terrible or you’d never have started them).
The other devilish thing about anxiety is that it can get worse over time.
The Stress – Endocannabinoid Connection
Researchers have recently discovered how the brain turns chronic stress into pathological anxiety.
The body makes its own natural cananbinoid neurotransmitters, called endocannabinoids: anadamide and 2-AG. These internal cannabinoids are chemical messengers that help us to eat, sleep, relax, forget & protect.
Chronic stress depletes the body’s anadamide (AEA) levels — by increasing an enzyme called FAAH which breaks anadamide down [R]. If this happens too much, your natural cannabinoid levels can stay depleted and this may lead to constant anxiety and lowered ability to tolerate stress [R].
Taking cannabidiol (CBD) causes a significant increase in anadamide levels [R].
Common Biochemical Causes of Anxiety
Before we jump into how to calm anxiety, we should talk about what some of the common root causes are:
One of the most common causes of depression and anxiety is untreated hypothyroidism (low thyroid function) [R]. Sometimes key thyroid hormones show up as “low” on lab tests and need to be boosted by taking synthetic thyroid hormones or natural thyroid extracts.
Other times, a patient’s lab tests look fairly normal but the thyroid isn’t working optimally. This condition, called subclinical hypoythroidism, affects 3 – 18 % of the adult population and causes symptoms like weakness, muscle pain and reduced strength and anxiety [R].
Other patients report heat intolerance, insomnia and noise sensitivity.
Holistically-oriented practitioners sometimes recommend thyroxine-free tablets of natural desiccated thyroid glandular for subclinical hypothyroidism. Dr. David Brownstien, MD has a somewhat controversial but popular style of treating hypothyroidism with larger doses of iodine. I’ve tried both under the supervision of a medicial practitioner and found that boosting my thyroid lowered my anxiety.
For more detailed information on how the thyroid works and affects your anxiety levels, I recommend the book “Thyroid Mind Power” by Dr. Richard Shames.
Low Testosterone in Men
For men, testosterone is a crucial hormone that promotes feelings of ambition, confidence, courage, stoicism and calm. Sitting at desks and on couches & looking at screens for 16 hours a day is not helpful in building healthy testosterone levels. As a result, levels are falling in Western countries: men’s testosterone levels dropped overall 17% between 1987 to 2004 [R].
Anxiety often leads to insomnia, and impaired sleep causes low testosterone levels [R].
Vitamin D deficiency is quite common among modern people who don’t spent a significant amount of time outdoors in the sun. Get your levels checked by your doctor or order an in-home Vitamin D test kit. If your levels are low, you need to get daily sun exposure or supplement with 3,000 to 5,000 I.U. of Vitamin D. Men who took Vitamin D daily for one year had a significant increase in total testosterone levels [R].
Testosterone can be reliably increased by lifting heavy weights or performing calisthenic bodyweight exercises. 15 minutes a day on an exercise bike can boost testosterone levels [R]. I try to do a lot of push ups, pull ups, dips, air squats… and at least one hour of light jogging or cycling… per week. It really makes a huge difference in my mood, libido and confidence levels.
If your testosterone levels seem or test low, you may want to research herbal supplements like:
- Testojack 100
- Super Miraforte
Glutamate – GABA Imbalance
If you have severe anxiety, you might have excess glutamate.
Glutamate is the main excitation (anxiety) neurotransmitter, and GABA is the main inhibitory (calming) neurotransmitter in the human brain [R].
Some of our glutamate is naturally converted into GABA.
GABA synthesis is complicated and unique among neurotransmitters: it is controlled by two separate genes on two chromosomes [R]. Conversion of glutamate to GABA requires adequate levels of vitamin B-6.
Changes in glutamate and GABA metabolism may play important roles in the control of anxiety [R].
If you have way too much glutamate or not enough GABA — due to a biological conversion problem or nutrient deficiency — you will probably be a nervous wreck.
The role of glutamate in anxiety disorders is becoming more recognized by science [R]. Human clinical drug trials have shown glutamate-modulating drugs & supplements are useful in the treatment of OCD, PTSD, generalized anxiety disorder, social phobia and schizophrenia [R].
An amino acid called cysteine helps reduce the synaptic release of glutamate [R]. I take a bioavailable cysteine supplement called NAC to help keep my glutamate levels under control.
CBD is a positive allosteric modulator of the GABA receptor [R]. This means it increases GABA activity.
Inflammation in the Gut & Brain
90% of the body’s serotonin is synthesized in the gastrointestinal (GI) tract [R]. Changes in serotonin are observed in inflammatory bowel conditions [R]. Altered serotonin levels may contribute to anxiety [R].
The most common cause of gut inflammation is food intolerance. The biggest culprits are gluten [R] and dairy. A number of my clients have reported a reduction in OCD or anxiety symptoms just by cutting out wheat (gluten) and dairy. I highly recommend this. Other people are more sensitive and need to follow a unprocessed “paleo” diet.
If you are really serious about lowering inflammation, I recommend Selfhacked’s Lectin Avoidance Diet or Dr. Gundry’s Plant Paradox Diet. I believe vegan & vegetarian diets should be undertaken with caution by people with chronic inflammation or mental health issues… as most are high in inflammatory foods like wheat, soy, beans, dairy, potatoes, etc. In addition, “plant-based” diets are often deficient in key ‘mental health’ nutrients like DHA, Vitamin D, B-6, Zinc,Vitamin A or B12 [R].
Psychological stress modulates cytokine (inflammatory chemical ) production [R]. Cytokine signaling in the brain is known to regulate neurotransmitter metabolism.
One theory says that oxidative stress creates brain inflammation (“neuroinflammation”) which leads to anxiety disorders [R]. Common symptoms of neuroinflammation include: pain, fatigue, cognitive disruption, brain fog, depressed mood, lack of motivation & anhedonia (lack of pleasure). Neuroinflammation can be reduced with botanicals like curcumin, resveratrol & quercetin… or with prescription drugs like low dose naltrexone.
Many times when people take supplements and make lifestyle changes to lower their inflammation, their anxiety goes down along with it.
Common Types of Anxiety Disorders
Chronic anxiety is the most common form of mental disorder. 18.1% percent of adults suffered from anxiety within the past year and 28.8% suffer at some point in their lives [R].
Generalized Anxiety Disorder (GAD)
GAD is characterized by persistent and excessive worry about a number of different things. People with GAD may anticipate disaster and may be overly concerned about money, health, family, work, or other issues. Individuals with GAD find it difficult to control their worry. They may worry more than seems warranted about actual events or may expect the worst even when there is no apparent reason for concern.
Obsessive-Compulsive Disorder (OCD)
OCD is a mental condition where people feel the need to check things repeatedly, perform certain routines (called “rituals”), or have certain thoughts repeatedly (called “obsessions”). It’s so intense that you can’t control your thoughts or activities for more than a short period of time. This can include hand washing, arranging of items in a certain order, or checking to see if a door is locked. This can take hours a day, ruin the ability to socialize, and cause enormous distress.
There is another form of OCD called “Primarily Obsessional OCD” or “Pure-O” where a person suffers & obsesses mentally but doesn’t act out on rituals.
I suspect that a lot of OCD is caused by inflammation which disrupts neurotransmitter levels: not enough serotonin or too much glutamate.
Emerging clinical evidence also appears to tentatively support certain nutrients for treating OCD: NAC, inositol, glycine, and milk thistle [R].
People with Social Anxiety Disorder (or social phobia) are often described as introverted or “shy.” They dread making social plans or having social interactions because they are afraid of being scrutinized and judged by others. They have paralyzing performance anxiety and obsess over any possibility they might do something humiliating or embarrassing– so many prefer to avoid social situations with unknown people or outcomes, like parties or dates.
A small study found that CBD may help social anxiety disorder [R]. Anecdotal reports claim CBD help social anxiety suffers be more comfortable in social situations.
Agoraphobia is an anxiety disorder that flares up around situations where the person perceives their environment to be unsafe with no easy way to escape. It could be flying on a plane, driving somewhere far away from home, crowds or wide open spaces. Doing common events like traveling or being in crowds can cause full-blown panic attacks. You become afraid to go somewhere you can’t get away from and having a panic attack – and the fear keeps you from “going out.”
In severe agoraphobia, people stay confined to their homes. In milder cases, people avoid certain places or traveling outside of a certain area or “zone of comfort.” This can severely impede a sufferer’s social life, family life & professional opportunities.
Post-traumatic Stress Disorder / PTSD & Complex PTSD
Post-traumatic Stress Disorder is a serious condition that can develop after a person has experienced or witnessed a terrifying event in which serious physical harm occurred or was threatened. Symptoms of PTSD include:
- reliving with mental obsessions or flashbacks
- avoiding people or places that trigger bad memories
- increased arousal & hypervigilance
- negative thoughts and mood
Complex Post-traumatic Stress Disorder, or cPTSD, is a psychological disorder thought to occur as a result of repetitive, prolonged trauma involving sustained abuse or abandonment by a caregiver or other interpersonal relationships with an uneven power dynamic.
People can develop cPTSD from being raised by physically or emotionally abusive parents who screamed, yelled & threatened… or physically / emotionally abandoned them. People with cPTSD tend to get easily “triggered” by people or situations that remind them of their abusive family members, captors or caregivers – and can have “emotional flashbacks” into a highly anxious, traumatized state for hours or days on end.
Symptoms of cPTSD include all the symptoms of PTSD, plus some additional ones:
- Negative self-concept – (shame, critical of self/others; feeling inferior)
- Disturbed relationships – (isolated; feeling different that others; social anxiety)
- Emotional dysregulation – (heightened/flattened anger, sadness, joy)
If you’d like to learn more about healing post-traumatic stress, I suggest “Waking the Tiger” by Peter Levine or “Complex PTSD: From Surviving to Thriving” & “The Tao of Fully Feeling” by Pete Walker.
Panic Disorder is an anxiety disorder characterized by reoccurring unexpected panic attacks. Panic attacks are sudden periods of intense fear that may include palpitations, sweating, shaking, shortness of breath, numbness, or a feeling that something terrible is going to happen. The maximum degree of symptoms occurs within minutes.
Flashbacks from PTSD or “emotional flashbacks” from cPTSD (which often last for hours) are sometimes misdiagnosed as panic disorder.
Treating Anxiety with CBD
What is CBD?
Cannabidiol (CBD) is a naturally occurring compound found in cannabis & hops plants.
CBD does not cure the psychological or biological root causes of anxiety, but it can offer temporary relief from the symptoms.
Unlike the THC, CBD does not have mind-bending “psychedelic” effects and does not typically cause anxiety or paranoia [R].
Since 2008, breeders have focused on creating CBD-dominant “hemp” plants that have strong medical properties but minimal intoxicating effects.
CBD-rich hemp extracts have been sold in the USA as a natural supplement since 2014.
What CBD Does, In My Experience
- Turns down mental “noise” and chatter
- Reduces intensity of anxious thoughts
- Reduces frequency of anxious thoughts
- Helps muscles to relax
- Lowers inflammation in muscles, joints and brain
- Alleviates minor aches and pains
- Alleviates depression and ahedonia
- Helps me sleep better
What CBD Will NOT Do, In My Experience
- Will not change your personality from uptight to totally laid back
- Will not prevent you from getting triggered or upset by difficult people or situations
- Will not cure serious mental health issue or personality disorders
- Will not erase or release traumatic memories
- Will not knock you out (put you quickly asleep) like Xanax or a sleeping pill
If you are expecting an industrial-strength solution that will cut through your anxiety like a chainsaw, you may want to consider prescription drugs.
Is CBD Safe? Addictive?
Oral CBD is safe & well-tolerated [R]. CBD has significantly low abuse potential [R,R]. Taking large doses of CBD for 28 days did not produce withdrawl symptoms or evidence of physical dependence [R].
I have taken CBD pretty much daily since 2014. I have only had brief and transient side effects, no significant “tolerance” or withdrawals if I stop. I just experience a return to my pre-treatment state. I’ve experienced no apparent issues, complications or downsides – other than the cost of buying CBD supplements.
Is CBD Legal?
At the time of this writing, CBD that comes from cannabis is a Schedule I controlled substance in the United States. Epidiolex (prescription CBD oil) is a Schedule V controlled substance. This means that, regardless of state laws, CBD is federally not legal to possess or use without a prescription. However, the law is being widely & openly disregarded. CBD companies and small retail merchants are doing a brisk business & openly selling and shipping CBD products in 50 states. There have been few high profile arrests or prosecutions of CBD vendors. However, the attorneys advising major nationwide supplement retailers like Costco & Whole Foods tell them not to sell CBD because their opinion is that it’s not legal.
Unless you are sure you are in an area where you know cannabis possession is 100% tolerated by the local authorities, you should be discreet and should not consume CBD in public.
If you need to be 100% law abiding, there is a form of CBD extracted from the hops plant — it doesn’t come from cannabis — that should be 100% ultra-legal in all 50 states and territories regardless of cannabis laws.
Is it Safe To Take CBD With Other Medications?
According to the prescription safety sheet for Epidiolex (prescription CBD oil) mentions 3 drugs by name that you should specifically avoid taking together with CBD
- Taking CBD and alcohol — or other depressants — together will increase the risk of sedation & sleepiness.
- CBD raises blood levels of the anti-epileptic drug Onfi (clobazam) metabolites 3x, increasing the risk of side effects.
- Taking CBD and the anti-epileptic drug Depakote (valproate) together increases the chance of liver enzyme elevations.
Oral CBD is broken down in the body by the P450 CYP34A liver enzyme. Grapefruit is a natural substance that interferes with this enzyme and if you drink grapefruit juice along with CBD… you will have higher levels of CBD in your blood, which could increase the chances of CBD side effects.
The best thing to do is ask your doctor about taking CBD directly. If you can’t or don’t want to do this, you can ask your pharmacist or doctor if it’s OK to take a certain medication with grapefruit. S/he will know exactly what you are talking about. If it’s OK to take a medication with grapefruit and it’s not listed above, there is lower risk in trying CBD while taking it.
Here’s a list of prescription drugs that might interact with CBD.
Best Types of CBD Supplements for Anxiety
It’s a jungle out there! The market has exploded with different types of CBD and numerous brands to choose from. Some are are made by Ph.Ds in pharamacetuical grade labs, others are made by stoners in motorcycle garages. Before you spend your hard earned money, you might want to evaluate whether it can reliably claim to have one or more of the 8 signs of a high quality CBD product.
CBD isolate is a highly refined, crystalline form of CBD that is upwards of 99% pure. Nearly all of the plant material, other cannabinoids and terpenes have been removed. CBD can be vaporized, swallowed in capsules or made into a homemade CBD oil tincture for optimal absorption.
Pros: Relatively inexpensive form of CBD. One of the most neutral forms of CBD. It is the least likely to cause a “high,” euphoria, cognitive disturbances or brain fog. It is the least likely form of CBD to test positive for marijuana on a drug test.
Cons: CBD isolate lacks trace amounts of THC, other cananbinoids & terpenes that enhance the anti-anxiety & pain-relief effects. It is messy and inconvenient to consume “as is” and has to be diluted or measured beforehand.
Full-Spectrum CBD Oil
Full spectrum CBD oil is an oral tincture that contains concentrated amounts of CBD, along with a natural range of other cannabinoids such as CBDv, THC, THCv, CBG, CBN. In the USA, most full spectrum oils contain less than 0.3% THC. The level varies from product to product but there is enough THC to activate the CB1 and CB2 receptors. The best full-spectrum products testing offer much stronger mood, pain, sleep & anti-anxiety effects than pure CBD isolate. The levels of THC in full-spectrum products are also enough to fail some drug tests.
I recommend Lazarus Naturals high potency CBD tinctures as the “gold standard” of effectiveness for a full-spectrum CBD oil.
Pros: Affordable. Discreet. Looks fairly innocuous.
Cons: Oral CBD oil has a low absorption rate of around 6% [R]. Oil products in dropper bottles can be messy or difficult to dose “on the go.” Takes anywhere between 45 mins to 2 hours to kick in, depending on what else is currently in your stomach.
High-potency cannabis concentrates come in a variety of forms and consistencies – that range from viscous oils to brittle solids. Different consistencies have different names like: oil, distillate, wax, budder, live resin, rosin, slabs or shatter. They are usually extracted from dried cannabis material with CO2 or solvents like alcohol or butane.
Hardcore users vaporize (“dab”) concentrates in waterpipes that are heated by butane blow torches. I suggest more efficiently, safely and discreetly consuming them in small, battery vaporizers called “wax pens.” The Hemp Barn’s Distillate Vape Cartridges are made with real cannabis terpenes, no artificial chemicals, have high levels of broad-spectrum cannabinoids and no THC.
Up to 40% of the theoretically available cannabinoids could be captured in the vapor stream of a “dab” during inhalation experiments [R].
Pros: Very fast onset of effects, within seconds.
Cons: It’s probably bad for your lungs to inhale oil vapor that’s been heated to high temperatures. Short duration of effects: 1 to 3 hours. Less discreet — it looks like you are “smoking something” and can give off a cannabis smell. Low quality or amateur-made concentrates may contain toxic solvent residue.
This is actually low-THC marijuana. It technically contains less than 0.3% THC, but in reality it often contains ~0.5% THC-a which is converted into active THC. This doesn’t cause a mind warping “high” but it can cause mild euphoric effects, sleepiness or overall feeling of wellness or relaxation that is noticeably potent than CBD isolate or full-spectrum CBD oil.
Most hemp flowers on the commercial market are grown outdoors, harvested with machinery and cured in bulk. The better quality, smoother-smoking flowers are grown indoors or in greenhouses.
For a US hemp flower distributor I recommend Starseed Botanicals.
Pros: 100% natural and minimally processed. Cheapest form of CBD per milligram. Fast onset of action (within seconds). Has potent entourage effects with terpenes, low-moderate amounts of THC and minor cannabinoids.
Cons: Short duration of effects (1 to 3 hours). Less discreet – it looks and smells exactly like marijuana. Hemp Flower will easily cause people to fall a drug test due to the higher THC content. Smoking or vaping flower is “messy” (ash, smoke, residue) and not healthy for the throat, vocal chords or lungs.
Nanoemulsified (a.k.a. “water soluble” or liposomal) CBD
Nanoemulsified cannabidiol oil,or “nano CBD,” is made by using ultrasound waves to blast CBD oil into submicroscopic “nano particle”-sized droplets so tiny they pass directly through your mouth & esophagus right into your blood. Nano CBD has an immediate onset of action, 6 times higher absorption, and potent therapeutic effects at much lower doses [R].
I like Quicksilver Scientific Nanoemulsified Colorado Hemp Oil. The company CEO Dr. Christopher Shade said that a Boulder, Colorado physician colleague of his prescribes it at 1ml (which is 2 pumps of the 50ml-sized bottle), three times per day. Patients can then make dose adjustments upward or downward, if necessary.
Pro: Potent, fast-acting relief for severe anxiety or other neurological conditions. 6x higher absorption than regular oral CBD oil or isolate.
Cons: More expensive than traditional CBD oil. I feel the duration of effects are just a little bit shorter than regular CBD oil.
CBD Nasal Spray
CBD Nasal Spray is CBD that has been made into a water-compatible, nanoemulsified solution that allows it to be sprayed and absorbed into the nasal passages. There’s so many veins in the nose that the CBD goes right into the bloodstream and quickly to the brain. CBD nasal spray bypasses the GI tract and the liver.
I recommend Nasadol brand CBD Nasal Spray.
Pros: Extremely high absorption rate of 34 – 46% [R]. Fast onset within 10 mins – excellent for calming panic attacks. Affordable.
Cons: Long-term human studies on the safety of nasal-spray drug delivery have not yet been done. I don’t find it to be that long lasting.
CBD eLiquid Vape Pens
These battery operated e-cigarettes that heat and vaporize “e-liquid.” E-liquid usually contains CBD and a carrier liquid (Propolyene glycol, glycerine or MCT oil), and oftentimes synthetic or natural flavor compounds. These compounds are rapidly absorbed into the bloodstream through the lungs, within seconds.
Pros: Fast acting, easy to dose, provides a gratifying oral fixation similar to smoking.
Cons: Usually contains artificial chemicals or MCT oil, which some suggest is not ideal for health. Short duration of action (1 to 2 hours) which may require more frequent dosing.
Best CBD Dose For Severe Anxiety
Everyone wants to know: “How much CBD am I supposed to take?”
And no one likes the answer, which is: “Every patient is different. You’ll have to experiment and find a dose that is the best combination effective and affordable for you personally.”
CBD produces effects that can be described as an Inverted U-shaped Dose Curve. Too small a dose is ineffective for anxiety. A moderate dose will product effective anxiety relief with no side effects. Too large of a dose will produce less anxiety relief & positive effects… while increasing the chance you’ll experience negative side effects.
If you have severe anxiety, you might need to take a higher dose of CBD than what is suggested on the packaging of a consumer CBD product… or than what seems affordable to your monthly budget… to get full relief.
Don’t “lowball” your own mental health and wellness! It’s not worth it.
The “Scientifically-proven vs. Anecdotal” Dose Disparity
Scientifically-established CBD doses are often much higher than consumer product dosing:
- Scientific studies suggest around 300mg is an optimal dose of CBD for treating anxiety, according to the small handful of human studies published.
- Anecdotal consumer reports suggest a very wide range of doses — from 5mg to 100mg can provide anxiety relief.
Here’s why I think there is such a big gap in the CBD doses cited by scientific studies & consumer reports:
- The studies (and prescription CBD trials) used purified CBD isolate. Some consumers are using full-spectrum CBD oil that contains some THC, making the effects much more potent.
- Scientific studies measuring CBD’s effects on anxiety were double blind, placebo controlled. Nobody was sure who was getting CBD oil vs. placebo vegetable oil. This eliminates the “consumer effect” where someone spends their hard earned money on a supplement and then subconsciously convinces themselves it must be working. The cost per dose was not a concern of the participants.
- Consumer products are formulated to sell more than to be effective. To sell they must be affordable to the lowest common denominator of the mass market. A 10mg CBD gummy bear is not made because gummy bears are most effective delivery method and that 10mg is the optimal dose. They are just fun to buy and cheap to make. That’s not to say that 10mg of CBD has no effect on anxiety… it might be chill for some people, but no one has proven it in a double-blind laboratory setting — yet.
There have only been a few small scale studies done on CBD and anxiety so far. I think if more studies were done with thousands of participants, we might see different outcomes.
CBD Dosing Guidelines & Side Effects
Here’s what we know from the few scientific CBD anxiety studies done on humans. These studies used CBD isolate and not full-spectrum extracts containing THC and other cannabinoids:
- CBD at dosages between 300-400mg reduced anxiety in both healthy individuals and patients with social anxiety disorder [R, R].
- CBD significantly reduced anxiety and discomfort caused by public speaking at a dosage of 600mg [R].
- Another 2018 study on public speaking found per-treatment with 300 mg of CBD significantly reduced anxiety. 150 mg, 600 mg and placebo did not [R].
The last study described the “inverted U-shaped dose-response curve” – which means that neither too low nor too high of a dose will work for anxiety. You have to find a “sweet spot” in the middle that gives you maximum relief with minimum of side effects.
The prescription CBD oil Epidiolex is prescribed for epilepsy, not anxiety, but it is prescribed with the following evidence-based guidelines where the optimal dose of CBD varies depending on a person’s weight:
- The starting dose is 2.5mg per kilogram of body weight, 2x per day, for one week. (170mg CBD per dose for 150lb. person)
- After one week, increase to a maintenance dose of 5mg per kilogram (340mg CBD per dose)
- Patients who tolerate 5mg per kilogram, but still need more relief from seizures, can go up to 10 mg per kilogram (680mg CBD).
- Doses of up to 20mg per kilogram (1360mg) provided just a little more relief but had higher incidence of side effects.
Health guru Joe Cohen recommends 150mg of CBD twice per day.
You might require something completely different. A highly sensitive 90lb. woman with mild situational anxiety might only need 5mg once in a while to feel way better. A rugged 290lb. man with extreme, constant hypervigilance & severe anxiety may require 750mg to feel full relief.
You will have to conduct your own experiments to find out.
I recommend keeping a CBD journal and taking notes on how it affects you.
According to one study, CBD is safe and well-tolerated via the oral route up to 1,500 mg/day [R].
How Long Does It Take for CBD to Relieve Anxiety?
Oral CBD should provide noticeable anxiety relief within 1 to 2 hours of taking an adequate dose. If you are starting with very small doses or you have severe anxiety, some people don’t notice the effects until they build the dose up for a few days.
Smoking, vaping, nanoemulsified or CBD nasal spray should provide relief within minutes.
How Often Do You Need to Take CBD?
If you have occasional or situational anxiety, you can take CBD occasionally and “as needed.” If you have chronic (daily) anxiety, you can take CBD everyday.
Many people take oral CBD twice per day: in the morning and once again in the late afternoon or evening. Some people who opt to use potent, but shorter acting, forms of CBD like nanoemulsified , nasal spray or concentrates take those 3 to 4 times per day.
Finding Your Personal, Optimal Dose of CBD
Using oral CBD isolate or full-spectrum CBD oil: I suggest “starting low and going slow” and titrate using increments of 10mg until you find a “sweet spot” where you feel an unmistakable sense of “silence” or “freedom” from mental chatter and tension.
If 10mg is not working, bump it up to 20mg the next day, etc. If 20mg does absolutely nothing for a few days, you might want to jump up to 50mg.
If you are still feeling tense or anxious in a normal, run-of-the-mill situation (not when something especially upsets or triggers you – that’s normal)… you can increase the dose on subsequent days until you find relief. Then stay at that dose on subsequent days.
A lot of people make the mistake of taking a relatively small dose of CBD like 25mg or 50mg that is listed on the side of a product bottle — and then quitting. Don’t give up & conclude that “CBD doesn’t work” unless you gradually titrate up to 300mg and still experience no anxiety relief.
Note: Using “water soluble” Nano CBD, nasal spray or vaping has much higher bioavailibility than oral CBD oil, so the doses used will be much lower.
CBD Side Effects
In clinical studies, these were the most commonly reported CBD side effects [R]:
- changes in appetite or weight
These are some additional side effects I’ve noticed when just starting up, or when my dose is too high:
- Mental Dullness or “Brain Fog”
I suspect that the same dose of CBD makes one person (with low serotonin) feel calm & cheerful might make another person (with high serotonin) feel overstimulation or insomnia.
Mild CBD side effects are sometimes transient and go away in a couple days if you keep taking the same daily dose. The first time I tried high potency CBD I felt very good physically, but a little bit mentally & verbally dull. Because the overall feeling was very positive and the side effects were tolerable… I decided to maintain that daily dose and within 2 to 3 days the cognitive side effects had gone away completely, leaving me with a sense of overall physical wellness and mental sharpness. I was glad I stuck with it and “rode out the side effects.”
On the other hand, there are times when I have taken new forms, or larger doses, of CBD and I felt quite depressed and “bad” overall. For me that was a signal to lower the dose the next day to one that caused no side effects… and to only increase it in the event I felt the return of anxiety and needed additional relief.
CBD Cost Saving Tips: Finding the Balance Between “Affordable vs. Effective”
A lot of people feel a much more pronounced and liberating sense of anxiety relief on higher doses. For instance: 250mg twice per day for a total of 500/mg per day may induce an anxiety-free nirvana for someone who has been suffering their whole life.
Unfortunately, CBD is a relatively expensive drug to manufacture in terms of overhead cost. Hemp has to be grown on expensive & secure land, harvested, trimmed, dried, shipped, processed, extracted by an lab into CBD, then measured, packaged, marketed and shipped.
At the time of this writing, CBD isolate retails at around $20 per gram. 300mg would cost $6, and if taken twice per day it would total around around $12 per day or $360 per month for full-strength CBD relief.
Many people have to compromise and take smaller doses, or dose less frequently to be able to afford it. Here are some tips to get more bang for your buck:
- Make your own CBD oil tinctures – homemade CBD oil is virtually always cheaper than pre-packaged products
- Dose later in the day – see if you can skip the morning dose before before taking one stronger dose in the afternoon or evening.
- Use a full spectrum oil or Microdose THC – adding a tiny dose of 1 – 3 mg of THC may make a smaller dose of CBD much more effective
- Use hemp flower “trim” to make edibles – you can buy an ounce of trimmings from hemp flowers for around $30 USD. If they contained 14% CBDa and 0.5% THCa and you decarboxylated & cooked them into oil or ghee you could yield as much as 3967mg of CBD and 141mg THC. This would have a more potent effect than 3,000mg of CBD isolate that costs $45 – 60 USD.
- Add anti-anxiety supplements – Replace or reduce one of your doses with anti-anxiety supplements which are usually cheaper than CBD
- Use a higher absorption CBD Product – like CBD nasal spray occasionally as needed.
The Post-CBD Dose “Rebound Effect”
When CBD starts to work for anxiety, you will feel a distinct sense of calm and a blessed freedom from mental chatter and anxiety.
Since CBD has effects on the serotonin receptors [R], many anxiety sufferers note an elevation of mood and a feeling that “all is well” for the first time in a long time. This lasts for about 5 to 6 hours or so until the dose of CBD starts to wear off.
Some people, especially those with rather severe anxiety or mental tension, feel a “rebound effect” where the anxiety returns quite noticeably as the dose wears off. In contrast to the relief they felt just hours ago, it can feel agonizing.
Note: the rebound effect from CBD is not an exaggerated or ramped-up sense of anxiety like the one you get when withdrawing from benzodiazepines or opiates.
If you feel the rebound effect, there is no cause for alarm. You can just take another dose of CBD — as often as needed. I take CBD up to 3x daily to avoid the rebound effect.
CBD is stored body’s fat cells and it “builds up in the body” after a few weeks of using CBD consistently… you may become less sensitive to the effects of the dose wearing off.
CBD For Panic Attacks
A powerful “secret weapon” in the war against panic attacks is Nadasol CBD Nasal Spray with Limonene – 400mg. It is fast acting and extremely potent. If I am having a panic attack, or I get triggered and anxiety is breaking through and making me miserable, I will take a spray in each nostril for quick relief. Because Nasadol is much more highly absorbed than oral CBD… you don’t need to take huge, several-hundred-milligram doses. I get excellent relief with a single 4mg “booster dose.”
Self-Therapy: Stopping Anxiety, Panic Attacks & Emotional Flashbacks
One major misconception about CBD is that it can just magically solve all your problems. The truth is that you can’t just drown your problems and personal issues with CBD oil any more than you can drown them in whiskey. You can try, but it’s not likely to work for the long term.
CBD can blessedly help “turn down the volume” and intensity of the anxious chatter in your head… but… you still have to do the ‘inner work’ and learn how manage your anxious feelings effectively.
Here are the quickest and most effective self-therapy methods I’ve discovered….
Stop Anxiety & Panic Attacks with the DARE Method
Dare: the New Way to End Anxiety and Stop Panic Attacks by Barry McDonaugh is an easy-to-read self-help book that presents a surprisingly effective method for managing general anxiety. Examples of general anxiety would be:
- anxiety about an upcoming date or public speech
- jitters about missing your connecting flight
- worrying about your kids or pets when you’re away from them
The DARE method is a counter-intuitive, revolutionary form of self-therapy that focuses on embracing and fully feeling your anxiety, rather than trying to push it away. The book explains that when you try to “block” or suppress your anxiety, it just causes the feelings to swell up and actually increase in intensity.
Strangely, if you embnce your anxiety and feel it as fully and deeply as possible for a short, uncomfortable interval… the anxious feeling will fully dissipate… along with the physical tension held in your body.
The D.A.R.E. Method is an acronym for 4 steps you can mentally peform the moment you discern you’re mentally getting trapped in a downward spiral of anxiety:
- D = Diffuse – When your mind taunts you with a frightening or unpleasant scenario, like missing your flight, you assertively diffuse the concern and say it’s not as big of a catastrophy as your mind would have you believe. “What if I miss my flight?” could be diffused by mentally saying, ‘So what!!! You might be delayed a couple hours, but you’re still going on vacation no matter what!” You kind of make mockery of the shrill, castastrophic voice in your head and convince yourself that what you’re anxious about is really not THAT big of a deal… unless it’s literally life or death.
- A = Accept – In the second step, you accept and invite the anxiety towards you. You allow the anxiety into your mind and body, you acknowledge it. You can visualize your anxiety as a small crying child or distressed animal and invite it up towards you, allowing it to sit in your lap you embrace it with your arms. You can say aloud “I accept and allow this anxious feeling” while fully experiencing the feeling in your body, heart and bones.
- R = Run Towards – If the anxiety is still persistent, you must ‘run towards’ it in your mind.. rather than ‘run away’ from it fearfully. You might say to yourself “OK, BRING IT ON!” — and you mentally run towards your anxiety as fearlessly as lion would run toward a barking dog. Then you amplify and experience the anxiety you have been feeling… turning the volume up to an “11 out of 10″… and sometimes I even scream in terror (in my mind, or even out loud if I am alone and have privacy) to fully, fully express the feelings of fear and helplessness.
- E = Engage – After you have fully expressed the anxiety and experienced it as fearlessly and deeply as you are capable of, it’s time to change gears in your mind and engage in something else. You need to physically and mentally do something that will help keep you distracted while the anxiety winds down and goes away. My favorite “engage” activity is juggling 3 balls. I learned how to do it in about 90 minutes of watching an online video tutorial and practicing. Juggling completely and utterly engages my mind and body while evaporating anxiety. You could also go for a walk, sing and dance with headphones on, exercise or do an engaging hobby like painting / knitting or writing.
I have tried a lot of different methods and programs… and I can say with confidence that the DARE Method is extremely effective at extinguishing anxiety – especially when combined with CBD treatment. When I ‘run the DARE method’ against anxiety I find that my face will physically change into a smile and my tight shoulders and neck muscles will release. If you are discerning and disciplined enough to remember the DARE method and then actually use it when you get anxious.. it works better than meditation or medication, better than cognitive behavioral therapy, better than mindfulness, better than deep breathing, etc.
I found the DARE Book at my local public library. I highly recommend buying or checking out this book and studying it – because the full depth of the technique can’t be explained here in a paragraph, only briefly summarized.
Managing Emotional Flashbacks
Post-traumatic stress can cause a peculiar class of extreme anxiety & panic episodes that the DARE method isn’t the most suitable for handling…
A lot of people who suffered from abuse or neglect during childhood suffer from emotional flashbacks – which are a signature symptom of Complex PTSD. Emotional flashbacks are sudden and often extended ‘amygdala hijackings’ that catapult you back into the frightening circumstances of childhood — they are experienced as intense episodes of fear and despair. Most emotional flashbacks don’t have a memory or visual aspect to them, so the person who is triggered rarely recognizes that s/he is re-experiencing a traumatic episode from childhood.
Example: Bob is on the phone at work with an angry male customer who yells & calls him a ‘incompetent idiot.’ Bob’s adrenaline shoots up and he is upset & anxious for the rest of the day. He can’t stop thinking about the phone call, replaying it in his mind, overwhelmed with intense feelings of fear, shame and anger at the nasty caller. Bob just can’t ‘let it go’ and thinks about quitting his job – and that night he suffers from terrible insomnia. The next day Bob feels depressed, drained and exhausted… and ashamed. Bob doesn’t even realize that he is actually flashing back to his childhood when his father repeatedly put him down and belittled him. The angry customer just ‘triggered’ his unhealed traumatic memories of his dad disparaging him and caused them to burst open into his consciousness and emotionally “bleed out” all day.
If you suspecting you are suffering from these episodes, I strongly suggest printing out and keeping a copy of Pete Walker’s 13 Steps for Managing Flashbacks nearby at all times – learning to recognize the signs of being in a flashback, and apply them as soon as you can make the discernment. For more in-depth help, you may want to pore over a copy the book “Complex PTSD: From Surviving to Thriving.”
Physical Tools to Reduce Stress & Muscle Tension
Chronic anxiety activates the sympathetic nervous system. If it happens all the time, it can result in sympathetic dominance. Chronic stress uses a lot of bioiogical energy and it may burn up lot of magnesium and ATP, which can cause the muscle fibers to shorten and become chronically tight or locked-up in ‘muscle spasms.’
Even after the original stressors, anxious thought or flashback has subsided, the tight muscles can make you feel physically uncomfortable for days later — unless you take action to restore your muscles back to their original, unstressed state.
Here are my favorites tools to help reduce muscle tension and promote physical relaxation:
Yoga is a type of exercise that involves breath control, physical movements and meditation [R].
I consider yoga to be the king of stress-reducing activities — at least of the ones which can be done solo & for free.
You can get a yoga mat at a discount department store for as little as $12. The best quality yoga mats I have used are Manduka PRO mats: they have superior cushioning, durability and grip.
There are plenty of free yoga instruction videos online. But I highly recommend the DVD “Vinyasa Flow Yoga – Uniting Movement and Breath – Session One” by Seane Corn. Learning the 60 minute yoga routine on this disc totally transformed mood & healed my muscles when I was at my lowest point of severe anxiety.
A lacrosse ball is a semi-hard rubber ball that you can use to remove muscle knots & spasms in your shoulders, neck and back. It can be used to give yourself an extremely firm ‘trigger point massage‘ that is much stronger than anyone’s fingers or thumbs could ever dig in to you.
They cost about $5 at a sporting goods store.
To use a lacrosse ball, lie on your back on the floor and place the ball just above your shoulder. Roll your body backwards, trapping the ball underneath in your trapezius muscles between your neck and shoulder. You will feel intense pressure and even some pain if you’re doing it right. Lie on the ball in one spot and don’t move for a few minutes until the tension or spasm has fully released. Then gently roll to the next area of tension and repeat.For safety, don’t roll the ball directly on your spine (or near it) just use it on the sides of your back and shoulders.
A Theracane is a powerful self-massage tool hat is especially good at working out muscle knots and spams in your back or shoulders, but it can be effectively applied to give trigger point massage to any area of the body.
Use the curvature of the tool as a level to dig the multiple knob-like pressure points deep into and under the muscles, forcing the tension to release. The pressure breaks up adhesion in muscle fibers and tendons.
It can increase oxygenated blood flow to muscles and it feels so good.
Accupressure mats are like a plastic “bed of nails” that you can lie or stand on.
When you first lie on them, it really hurts and prickles, creating a firey and rather uncomfortable sensation. You can dampen the sensation by wearing a shirt. After a few minutes of discomfort you will find that the prickling sensations become numb and you find your muscles and mind both become more relaxed.
Acupressure mats are good for sleep onset insomnia. Lying on one for 15 or 20 minutes before bed has reduced the time it took me to fall asleep… back in the high anxiety, insomnia filled ‘hell years’ before I discovered CBD and the supplements in this guide.
Infared Jade Heat Mat
A Infared jade heat map is a high-tech heating pad. A traditional heating pad just warms the skin and passes heat from the wire elements to the surface of your skin. A Infared heating pad uses Infared waves transmitted through jade stones to send heat up to 2″ – 3″ into the muscles and body – heating you from the inside out, kind of like a mild microwave.
Lying on these pads feels very warm and relaxing, similar to tanning on warm beach sand or lying on the hood of a car on a hot day. It also has an calming, parasympathetic nervous system-activating effect. I find it’s mentally calming & physically soothing… and it relieves back or injury pain when applied to the area.
If used on high setting or for extended periods it can actually make you sweat and have a noticable detoxification reaction, like a sauna. Be careful not to overdo it.
A very small study in Japan recently suggested that infared treatments may decrease anxiety in patients with chronic fatigue [R].
A wide variety of infrared heat mats are available, and they are not cheap: ranging in cost from $50 to $5000. I wouldn’t recommend the cheapest ones for health & safety because it’s an electrical device you lie on. I recommend the Therasage Instant Calmer Heating Pads as well-made, quality and effective product.
A weighted blanket is a thick comforter-like blanket that has been filled with heavy glass or plastic beads. They weigh between 10 and 30 lbs. Weight blankets create a cozy, luxurious physical sensation of being hugged or held. This can quickly calm anxiety or panic & create a sensation of peace and comfort. They cost between $100 – $300.
Massage Chair / Hydromassage Bed
Massage chairs are electronic devices that give a fairly decent theraputic massage using mechanical rollers. Hydomassage beds are plastic beds that shoot powerful jets of warm water up and down your back as you lie on them. These devices are expensive and cost thousands of dollars for a quality machine that delivers an effective massage. If you don’t have the space or the funds to buy one, certian gyms and health spas provide access to them as part of their membership. In the US, Planet Fitness is a nationwide gym franchise that offers unlimited, 24-hour-a-day use of fitness equipment plus massage beds and chair for $20 per month. I find that 10 minutes on the bed and then 10 minutes in the massage chairs can really take the edge off a stressful day and help downshift my nervous system into a more relaxed mode.
You Now Have the Tools to Jailbreak Yourself from Severe Anxiety!
Anxiety used to be a lifelong sentence that was nearly impossible to break free from.
Many unfortunate souls became alcoholics or junkies… or just suffered in silence.
Finally we have natural, healthy & safe plant-based anxiety medicines like CBD & nutritional supplements… effective self-therapy techniques like DARE… and ample access to powerful stress reduction tools like yoga. These tools really, truly work. A long as you love yourself enough to make the effort, experiment and learn how to use them – you are likely to find some degree of success.
My escape from chronic anxiety was extremely difficult: it required me reading hundreds of books and buying literally thousands of bottles of the wrong supplements that didn’t work. I hope these tips make your journey to freedom a lot easier and more straightforward.
If these tips have been helpful to you, get out the word: please share this guide on your social media or e-mail it to friends who may be suffering.