Cannabidiol (CBD) is a cannabis compound with an array of health benefits. If you follow a few health blogs or Instagram pages you will almost certainly have seen something about CBD, as it has exploded in popularity recently.
CBD can be used to treat symptoms of Alzheimer’s Disease, Parkinson’s Disease, MS, pain, anxiety, depression, cancer and diabetic complications. It’s an impressive list.
Personally, I’d seen CBD oil recommended for anxiety and decided to give it a try for that reason.
In this post, I’ll be focussing on CBD oil made from hemp. This type of CBD oil has no psychoactive effects as it contains no THC – and it’s the THC in cannabis that is responsible for the high. CBD oil made from hemp is legal in the UK. You can even buy it in Holland & Barrett!
CBD oil made from cannabis is also legal in the UK, as long as THC levels are below a certain threshold. (I’ve read conflicting information and it seems to be an area of confusion, but the threshold may be 0.2% or 1 mg!)
Cannabis oil with higher levels of THC is not currently legal in the UK, although this is a controversial area with many people calling for it to be legalised for medical use. Epilepsy patients, in particular, can benefit greatly from cannabis oil containing THC.
For the rest of this post, when I refer to CBD or CBD oil, I mean the product made from hemp with zero THC.
I have no doubt that cannabis oil containing THC can be very beneficial too, but I have only researched CBD oil made from hemp in any detail.
CBD is generally considered very safe, but there is one important caveat: CBD is known to interact with many medications. If you’re taking any medication and want to try CBD oil – do your own research and also check with your doctor.
How CBD oil helped me with anxiety
In order to tell you how CBD oil has helped me, I first need to tell you about anxiety.
For as long as I can remember, I’ve been an anxious person. A worrier, hugely conscientious, highly sensitive, nervous around new people, and shy. Over the years I have massively expanded my comfort zone, but I still tend towards of all these things.
At what point do you move from certain personality traits to having an anxiety disorder? I don’t know, exactly, and anxiety is not something I’ve had a formal diagnosis of.
What I can tell you is, there have been many times when I have worried to the point of obsession. And it’s no way to live.
It’s exhausting and draining when your mind is hypervigilant and your thoughts are endless self-perpetuating loops of worries, fears, exaggerations and worst-case scenarios.
Most of the time, this has just been ‘life’, and I didn’t give it much consideration, or imagine that things could be any different. It’s not that I was always unhappy, but I was always walking on a tightrope.
Then when life would throw curveballs and the pressure built up, when I was exhausted and depleted – the whole thing could spiral into something far less manageable.
At these times, I have experienced definite anxiety symptoms. Difficulty sleeping, hyperventilating, a racing heart, and negative thoughts getting wildly out of control. I’ve also had three panic attacks over a few years, although all under extreme circumstances.
Quite simply, CBD oil has turned the volume way down on all of this. It’s like the loud hum of a fridge or a fan – you only notice how much noise there was when it stops. CBD oil has reminded me of what quiet feels like.
I don’t feel compelled to worry in the same way. I find it so much easier to let things go. I don’t get stuck in that loop of negative thoughts. I don’t pick at (metaphorical) scabs.
I still find that anxious thoughts and low mood resurface when I’m suffering from PMS, or I don’t get enough sleep, or I’m particularly stressed. But overall, I can honestly say that CBD oil has transformed the quality of my life.
I’ve not had any side-effects, and I don’t feel different in any way – expect for the absence of the negatives described above. Interestingly when I researched CBD for this post, I found that others had described it in the exact same way.
The science behind CBD
Where does CBD come from?
Cannabidiol, or CBD, is one of 104 chemical compounds (known as cannabinoids) found in the Cannabis sativa plant.
There are two very different forms of the Cannabis sativa plant. Cannabis plants have been bred specifically to increase THC, whereas hemp plants contain no THC and have rarely been modified at all. The CBD oil I am discussing in this post is made from hemp.
How does CBD affect the body?
The human body has a specialised endocannabinoid system which is involved in regulating sleep, appetite, pain, and the immune system (amongst other functions).
All cannabinoids, including CBD, produce effects in the body by attaching to receptors – and the human body produces its own cannabinoids. CBD does not actually attach to cannabinoid receptors, but it directs the body to use more of its own endocannabinoids.
How does CBD work for specific health conditions?
CBD may help to reduce chronic pain by affecting endocannabinoid receptor activity, reducing inflammation and interacting with neurotransmitters.
There is strong support (from preclinical evidence) for CBD as a treatment for generalised anxiety disorder, panic disorder, social anxiety disorder, obsessive-compulsive disorder, and post-traumatic stress disorder.
In animal studies, CBD has been shown to have antidepressant-like effects due to its ability to act on serotonin receptors.
The benefits of CBD are most well-established for the treatment of neurological disorders such as epilepsy and multiple sclerosis, including seizures that are difficult to control with other medication.
What does the future of CBD look like?
Research is still in its infancy, and much of the research to date has been animal studies. However, there is potential for CBD to alleviate cancer-related symptoms, treat acne, reduce psychotic symptoms, reduce substance abuse, prevent the spread of cancer, and reduce incidence of diabetes.
Benefits will become clearer as further research takes place, but I personally think the potential is exciting and the side-effect profile is low.
How to take CBD oil
What to look out for when buying CBD oil
I would recommend looking for CBD oil that is full-spectrum, organic, and third-party tested. Choose an oil that has been extracted through C02 or olive oil methods, and suspended in hemp seed oil or olive oil.
Let me break down why…
Full-spectrum CBD oil is much more effective than a CBD isolate due to the ‘entourage effect’, which means that all the cannabinoids work together synergistically.
It is also important that the CBD oil is organic, because the soil the plant is grown in affects the quality of the end product. Nutrients – and toxins– are taken up by the plant, and these will remain in the CBD oil that is produced.
It is best to choose a CBD oil that is regularly tested by a third-party lab to ensure the correct levels of cannabinoids and terpenes, plus to test for heavy metals, volatile organic compounds, herbicides and microbes.
You can get CBD oil at different strengths, typically starting at 2.5% with the strongest usually being 10%. It is more cost-effective to buy a higher concentration and use fewer drops.
CBD oil can be extracted through various different methods (you can read more about extraction here). The key thing is to avoid CBD oil extracted using solvents, whereas C02 and olive oil extraction appear to be the best methods.
If you look at a few websites, you will see a whole range of products – CBD oil suspended in hemp seed oil or olive oil, CBD oil suspended in propylene glycol and/or vegetable glycerine, capsules and gummies.
I would recommend CBD oil suspended in hemp seed oil or olive oil. You can use this sub-lingually (under the tongue), which is relatively fast-acting whilst also long-lasting. I would recommend a bottle with a dropper not a spray, as the sprays can clog up and CBD oil gets everywhere!
CBD oil suspended in propylene glycol and/or vegetable glycerine is designed for vaping. This is the fastest way to take CBD oil but the effects don’t last as long. This is not something I have tried, but perhaps it would be useful for acute anxiety.
Capsules and gummies are ingested orally, and CBD is not well-absorbed through this route. This means that if you use 100 mg CBD oil capsules, your body will only absorb 6 to 15mg. This seems pretty inefficient to me, so I don’t have any plans to take CBD in this way.
You can also get suppositories, but I haven’t really looked into this!
For the rest of this post, my recommendations are based on CBD oil suspended in hemp seed oil or olive oil, taken sub-lingually (under the tongue).
You can find a list of the best CBD oils in the UK here, including the brand that I use. You can also find recommendations here, although this list skews towards premium brands so be warned, they are expensive!
I use CBD Armour 10% CBD Oil Silver. It is full-spectrum, organic, third-party tested, and extracted using olive oil (a continuous flow of extractor oil takes the cannabinoid concentration above 10%, at low temperatures to maintain a full spectrum of cannabinoid content).
(This is not a sponsored post or an affiliate link, it’s simply the best product I could find at a price point I could afford. If you have more to spend, you will have a lot of choice.)
I have seen CBD oil advertised that claims 20x better absorption, and I have seen this brand recommended (in the US). However, they don’t say what route of administration they are comparing to, and if they are comparing to ingesting orally then it wouldn’t be a fair claim.
How and when to take CBD
As mentioned above, I recommend using CBD oil with a dropper bottle rather than a spray. You need to make sure you don’t swallow immediately after taking CBD oil, to give it time to be absorbed under the tongue. Also, take it in front of a mirror so you can see how many drops you are taking.
I take two doses of CBD oil per day, one when I wake up and one 12 hours later. CBD oil builds up in your system over time, so if you are taking it twice a day every day, the effects should be maintained over time. This means although the effects of CBD don’t last a full 12 hours, there should be enough in your system to maintain the benefit.
On the other hand, I know someone who uses CBD oil for pain management, and they take it several times a day in order to effectively manage pain. So, when working out your dosage and how often to take CBD, it really is important to consider your own circumstances.
How much CBD oil to take
Dosage varies depending on the condition you are trying to treat and your weight, and there is a lot of variation between individuals.
However, a good rule of thumb is to take 1–6mg of CBD for every 10 pounds of body weight based on the individual’s level of pain (from no pain to severe). You can consult the following table to give you a guideline.
My CBD oil is 10% in a 10 ml bottle, which is 1,000 mg. The instructions on the bottle tell me there are 240 drops in the 10 ml bottle, so each drop will contain 4 mg. Taking two drops a day is a total dosage of 8 mg, four drops a day is 16 mg and so on.
My weight is in the 86-150 lb range, so my recommended dose would be 12 mg based on no pain. I take two drops twice a day, which is 16 mg and a bottle will last me two months, making the £30 price tag manageable.
To work out your CBD oil dosage, you could either assume a 10 ml bottle contains 240 drops, or follow instructions in this blog post. You will probably find dosage guidance on your CBD oil bottle, but it is worth doing your own research and calculations so that you take into account your weight and what you are trying to treat.
What matters is how you respond to that dosage, so the guidelines are purely to give you a place to start – then it’s a matter of determining what works for you.
If you want to try CBD oil…
Before I tried CBD oil I did quite a bit of research to find out whether it was something that might help me, and to work out exactly what to buy and how to take it. My view is that it is safe, with few potential side-effects.
I have condensed everything I learned into this post, so I hope it’s a good starting point – but please use it as just that. Be sure to do your own research to make sure it’s right for YOU – and speak to a doctor if you are taking other medications.