By Pelin Thorogood | Published in Svn Space | March 20, 2020
Millions of Americans are turning to CBD to combat anxiety and insomnia. According to a August 2019 Gallup poll, 20% of CBD users cite relief from anxiety while 11% cite relief from insomnia as primary reasons for use, trailing only pain relief as the leading driver.
CBD has a promising role in the management of anxiety and sleep disorders. Yet, in spite of widespread usage, there is still a scarcity of clinical data supporting if and how CBD may be beneficial for anxiety or insomnia. The few small controlled trials and case series around CBD use for anxiety or sleep on PubMed, a biomedical and life science literature database maintained by the US National Library of Medicine conclude with the same sentiment – that “CBD has a promising role in the management of anxiety and sleep disorders. However, more clinical and longitudinal studies with standardized approaches to dosing and outcome measurements are needed to determine the appropriate dosing strategy for CBD and its place in therapy.”
Given the remarkable lack of formal clinical studies, there is still a lot of confusion about how CBD works, what it exactly does, not to mention the basics, namely when, what and how much to take. So, what do we already know about these topics based on existing medical research? And, more importantly, what are we doing to learn more? Read on to find out.
The Anxiolytic Effects of CBD
While CBD is believed to have neuroprotective, anti-depressive, and anxiolytic benefits, the mechanisms of action by which CBD decreases anxiety are still unclear. Most evidence points towards a calming effect in the central nervous system, with studies supporting CBD’s ability to interact with serotonin receptors and GABA receptors in the brain. Serotonin, otherwise known as the “hormone of happiness”, plays an important role in emotion, mood, and anxiety. CBD may be directly activating the serotonin receptors, thereby delivering an anti-anxiety effect, though the scale of this impact is still being explored. CBD may also increase the serotonin supply in a second way, essentially, by enabling more serotonin to remain in the synapses in the presence of cannabidiol. GABA, on the other hand, is the main ‘inhibitory’ neurotransmitter, reducing excess activity in the brain and promoting relaxation. There is evidence that CBD may be modifying the way the GABA receptor works, amplifying its natural calming effects.