CBD for Anxiety: What the Science Says

By | Updated on January 15, 2024

Medically reviewed by
Kimberly Langdon

Evidence Based 27

Key takeaways:

  • CBD’s anxiolytic (anxiety-reducing) properties are backed by solid research. Multiple human studies show that CBD can help with anxiety disorders, with some evidence that it can also relieve anxiety in healthy adults.
  • CBD is a generally safe substance with minor side effects, but it can interact with some drugs. People taking prescribed medications should consult their doctor before taking CBD.
  • Some people are highly sensitive to THC and can experience anxiety even from the small amounts (<0.3%) present in full-spectrum CBD products. If you’re sensitive to THC, be cautious when dosing full-spectrum products or switch to broad-spectrum CBD.

Anxiety is one of the most common reasons people turn to cannabidiol (CBD). The good news is that out of CBD’s many uses, it’s also backed by some of the best research evidence.

In fact, numerous clinical studies show that CBD can reduce anxiety in people with anxiety disorders and even healthy adults. 

Keep reading to learn more about how CBD can help with anxiety, the best way to use it, and other evidence-based tips.

What Does the Clinical Research Say?

There’s a large, ever-growing volume of clinical studies showing that CBD may help with occasional anxiety and specific anxiety disorders.

Anxiety Disorders

Multiple studies have shown that CBD can relieve anxiety caused by anxiety disorders:

  • In a 2011 Brazilian study, people with social anxiety disorder (SAD) were given placebo or CBD capsules (600 mg) before a simulated public speaking test. Another 12 healthy people did the test without treatment. The CBD group experienced less anxiety, cognitive impairment, and discomfort during the test. In fact, their response was similar to that of the healthy group (1).
  • A 2019 study of 37 Japanese teenagers with SAD and a similar condition called avoidant personality disorder found that CBD oil (300 mg) reduced anxiety (2). In the same year, a Colorado study found that CBD improved anxiety in 72 adults with anxiety or sleep issues (3).
  • Another 2019 study of 11 people with post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) — a type of anxiety disorder — found that adding CBD to standard therapy helped reduce the symptoms (4).
  • A 2022 Australian study of 31 people with treatment-resistant anxiety disorders found that CBD reduced anxiety severity and depressive symptoms (5). 
  • A 2020 review of multiple studies on the use of CBD for anxiety concluded that “CBD has a promising role as alternative therapy in the management of anxiety disorders.” (6)

Anxiety in Healthy Adults

So far, we’ve discussed studies of people with anxiety disorders, but what about healthy adults? 

In one 2019 study, 57 healthy men took placebo or CBD capsules (150, 300, or 600 mg) before a simulated public speaking test. Compared to placebo, the 300 mg group had significantly less anxiety during the test (7). 

This study highlights that CBD may also help healthy individuals who experience occasional anxiety but don’t have an anxiety disorder. 

Did you know? According to recent surveys of thousands of CBD users in the US, UK, and France, anxiety, relaxation, and stress relief are the most common reasons people take CBD (8, 9, 10). The British survey also found that “I feel more calm” was CBD’s most commonly reported effect (8).

THC-Induced Anxiety

There’s also evidence that CBD can counteract anxiety and other side effects of tetrahydrocannabinol (THC), the main active ingredient in marijuana. Anxiety and panic attacks are the most common side effects of cannabis use (11).

In one 2022 study, 159 regular cannabis users smoked one of three cannabis cultivars: THC-rich, CBD-rich, or balanced THC: CBD. People using the balanced and CBD-rich strains reported less paranoia and anxiety than those smoking the THC-rich cultivar (12).

Meanwhile, a 2013 review paper concluded that “studies examining the protective effects of CBD have shown that CBD can counteract the negative effects of THC” (13). 

using cbd for anxiety

How Does CBD Help With Anxiety?

CBD seems to lower anxiety by interacting with various receptors and molecules in the brain. 

CBD and Serotonin

First and foremost, multiple studies suggest that CBD’s anxiolytic (anxiety-reducing) effects come from its interaction with serotonin 5-HT1a receptors (14).

For example, a 2008 study in mice found that blocking these receptors prevented CBD’s effects (15). We also know from research that 5-HT1a receptors are abundant in parts of the brain related to stress and anxiety (14).

CBD & Anandamide

Another way CBD may relieve anxiety is by increasing the levels of anandamide, one of the two main endocannabinoids produced by our bodies. CBD seems to achieve this by suppressing FAAH, an enzyme that breaks down anandamide (14).

Anandamide is known to play a role in anxiety. One 2015 genetic study found that people with naturally higher anandamide levels because of a variation in the FAAH gene may experience less overall anxiety (16).

Another 2008 study of depressed women found that low anandamide levels were associated with anxiety (17). Studies in mice also show that stress can deplete anandamide and that this reduction is associated with anxious behavior, which is reversed by FAAH inhibitors (18). 

CBD’s effects on anandamide may also lower anxiety by promoting adult neurogenesis — the formation of new neurons in the adult brain.

In one 2013 mouse study, CBD reduced anxiety in stressed mice by increasing anandamide, which increased neurogenesis in the brain’s hippocampus (19).


There’s even evidence that CBD might interact with receptors of gamma-aminobutyric acid (GABA) (20), a calming neurotransmitter that plays a major role in anxiety (21). Many of the prescription medications and supplements used to relieve anxiety work by influencing GABA.

How to Best Use CBD for Anxiety

The first question to ask yourself is whether you want instant anxiety relief or slower-acting, longer-lasting effects.

Vaping vs. CBD Oil

If you prefer rapid effects, vaping CBD is the best option because it works almost instantly. But it also wears off quicker, lasting about 1-4 hours (22). On the other hand, CBD oil takes 15-40 minutes to kick in but has longer-lasting effects — about 4-6 hours.

vaping cbd
A disposable CBD vape pen.

THC Sensitivity

The second consideration is your THC sensitivity. Some people are so sensitive to THC that even the small amounts (<0.3%) found in full-spectrum CBD can cause anxiety. That’s why you can find many online reports of anxiety and panic attacks from full-spectrum CBD products.

I personally experienced anxiety when I took a large dose of full-spectrum CBD oil.

If you find that you’re sensitive to THC, you can either lower the dosage or use broad-spectrum CBD products, which contain undetectable amounts of THC. Another option is products made with pure CBD isolate.

But if you’re okay with THC, we recommend opting for full-spectrum extracts. They contain many cannabinoids, terpenes, and flavonoids that work synergistically with CBD, making it significantly more effective.

In fact, studies suggest that full-spectrum CBD extracts are about four times more potent than pure CBD (23).

A Word on Gummies & Capsules

As for gummies and capsules, while they can be helpful, we don’t recommend them as your main source of CBD. CBD has low oral bioavailability, so only a small percentage (6-24%) of what you take is actually absorbed and used by the body (24).

How Much CBD Should I Take for Anxiety?

The correct CBD dosage is different for every person. It depends on many factors, including your genetics, body weight, symptom severity, and the type of product you’re taking.

The best approach is to “start low and go slow” (25). Begin with a small dose, like 5-10 mg or the amount suggested by your product. You should watch how you feel for the next two hours; if you don’t notice any effects, you can try a higher dose next time.

Use this approach to work your way up to a dosage that provides the desired anxiety relief. 

As a final piece of advice, if you’re looking for consistent relief, it’s best to take CBD once or twice daily. Alternatively, you can also take CBD as needed, before or during an anxious event. 

Are There Any Side Effects?

CBD is a relatively safe compound with few and minor side effects. The most commonly reported ones include: (26)

  • Tiredness and sleepiness
  • Diarrhea and nausea
  • Low blood pressure
  • Lightheadedness
  • Changes in weight or appetite
  • Dry mouth

But these side effects were mostly reported by studies using high oral doses of pure CBD, so they’re less likely to happen in regular CBD users.

High doses of CBD may also inhibit enzymes that metabolize drugs, potentially causing drug interactions.

One 2021 study of 6 anxiety disorder patients who were taking citalopram (a drug used to treat both anxiety and depression) found that daily high doses of pure CBD (starting at 200 mg and increasing to 800 mg) significantly increased citalopram’s blood levels after four weeks (27).

That’s why it’s always a good idea to talk to your doctor before taking CBD, especially if you’re taking prescription medication.

CBD for Anxiety: Worth a Try

The current evidence suggests that CBD may improve anxiety in both healthy individuals and people with anxiety disorders. Research also shows that it’s a fairly safe substance with much promise.

Still, CBD is not a magical pill, and we agree with researchers that more high-quality studies are needed. If you’re interested in trying CBD for anxiety, we recommend using either CBD oil or a vape product.

If you’re not sensitive to THC, go with a high-quality, full-spectrum CBD oil.


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  2. Masataka, Nobuo. “Anxiolytic effects of repeated cannabidiol treatment in teenagers with social anxiety disorders.” Frontiers in psychology (2019): 2466.
  3. Shannon, Scott, et al. “Cannabidiol in anxiety and sleep: a large case series.” The Permanente Journal 23 (2019).
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  9. Fortin, Davide, et al. “Reasons for using cannabidiol: a cross-sectional study of French cannabidiol users.” Journal of Cannabis Research 3.1 (2021): 1-5.
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