Studies on CBD for Stress and Anxiety [Scientific Approach]

By now many have heard that taking CBD for stress and anxiety may be a great natural way to relieve these symptoms without getting high. This article focuses on the latter.

A 2019 New York Times article highlighted that Americans are among the most stressed out in the world. Their evaluation of a Gallup poll found that being under 50, earning a low income and having a dim view of President Trump’s job performance were three factors correlated to elevated stress levels.

Stress can come from work, family, financial issues, and medical problems that impact daily life. Interest in CBD is also on the rise, perhaps part of the growing concerns over stress and anxiety.

Indeed, the anxiolytic (anti-anxiety) effects of CBD have been well documented in research conducted in humans and animals. The popularity of CBD has grown faster than the science of it though. Due to a lack of research, some claimed benefits of CBD are not well supported or well understood.

Can CBD Help Stress?

Understanding what science knows about CBD for stress can help you make informed decisions about trying CBD. You don’t have to completely understand how CBD works in the body to relieve stress, but some may wish to have a deeper idea.

Stress vs. Anxiety

Stress and anxiety can present very similarly, but stress specifically is the body’s reaction to a short-term trigger. Stress can be positive and help motivate, or be negative and cause issues like insomnia, poor concentration, and less ability or motivation for daily activities. Over time, stress can turn into chronic stress- a disorder similar to and associated with anxiety and depression.

Anxiety differs from stress in that it is a sustained mood disorder that can be triggered by stress. Anxiety disorders are not temporary like stress. It can cause social and occupational impairments and has symptoms that are experienced daily.

Damage Caused by Stress to the Body

Stress can physically damage the body along with the mind. Stress can also worsen existing conditions and lower overall immune function in the body. Here are some of the ways Mayo Clinic reports stress can damage the body:

  • Depression
  • Digestive problems
  • Endocannabinoid imbalance
  • Fatigue
  • Headaches
  • Heart disease
  • Muscular tension
  • Weakened immune system
  • Weight gain

What is CBD?

CBD is one of over one hundred cannabinoids from the cannabis plant. Most often, CBD is extracted from the hemp variety of cannabis. By acting on the body’s endocannabinoid system, CBD can influence homeostasis and cellular signaling. This produces CBD benefits like reduced pain, less inflammation, and lowered anxiety. Natural products like CBD are of interest because they offer health benefits with few side effects.

Will CBD Get You High?

Taking hemp-derived CBD products will not get you high. CBD products cannot contain more than 0.3% THC and are made from legally grown hemp. Full-spectrum CBD products can contain up to 0.3% THC. That THC may accumulate in the body and result in detectable THC in drug tests. CBD isolate products do not contain detectable amounts of THC. Because of this, isolated CBD products are better suited for people that have to worry about drug tests.

Scientific Studies of CBD for Stress

While many animal studies of CBD have given great insights into how it might work and what it might work for, there is still a large lack of human studies with large numbers of participants. Since not all animal systems translate directly into humans, this lack of study has been a difficult hurdle to revealing the science of CBD.

A human public speaking trial is one of the most cited studies supporting the anxiolytic activity of CBD.1 Researcher Mateus Bergamaschi and associates published their study “Cannabidiol Reduces the Anxiety Induced by Simulated Public Speaking in Treatment-Naïve Social Phobia Patients” in 2011.  Their study found,

“Pretreatment of SAD [social anxiety disorder] patients with CBD significantly reduced anxiety, cognitive impairment, and discomfort in their speech performance and significantly decreased alert in their anticipatory speech.”

Recent Research

Bergamaschi highlights MRI brain studies showing that a 600mg dose of CBD  disrupted fear responses in the brain. His research group believes that taken together, his study and other studies demonstrate the action of CBD in limbic and paralimbic brain areas. These brain areas are known to be associated with anxiety. Indeed, researchers are in strong agreement that CBD does have anxiolytic effects that could benefit humans.

Science’s Conclusions

CBD has a very good safety profile. For stress and anxiety, CBD and can be well tolerated in high doses but also can work well in low doses. While the psychoactive cannabinoid THC may increase feelings of anxiety and paranoia in some people, CBD has an opposite effect that counteracts those effects of THC.

Where to Buy

CBD products can be purchased in stores, but you can also get very good deals online. For sudden stress or anxiety, fast-acting CBD products like CBD tinctures may be desirable. Some people like to take CBD gummies to get a lower daily dose of CBD as well.

Final Thoughts

CBD is becoming renowned for the marketing claim that it will “chill you out.” The claim that CBD can treat or cure a medical condition or disease is illegal to make. There is good evidence in research that CBD is capable of relieving symptoms of anxiety and promoting a better sense of well being. It still is not a legitimate treatment for anxiety though.

This is because the clinical testing and research to qualify it as such have not yet been done. Looking forward, safety and efficacy testing need to be done on larger human studies. In order for CBD to become a medical therapy dosing recommendations must also be clearly determined. In the meantime, those who do not want to wait are able to buy CBD products online and try them.

Reading research on using CBD for stress can help you make more informed decisions. However, to find a CBD product and dosage that help you “chill out” trial and error is still needed.


  1. Bergamaschi, M. M., Queiroz, R. H. C., Chagas, M. H. N., De Oliveira, D. C. G., De Martinis, B. S., Kapczinski, F., … & Martín-Santos, R. (2011). Cannabidiol reduces the anxiety induced by simulated public speaking in treatment-naive social phobia patients. Neuropsychopharmacology, 36(6), 1219-1226. Retrieved from:
  2. Mayo Clinic Staff. Stress symptoms: Effects on your body and behavior. Mayo Foundation for Medical Education and Research. Retrieved from: