Researching CBD oil for depression

CBD and Depression

CBD has wide-ranging benefits, but what about its effects on depression? Here, we find out what the research shows from Oils by Simpson of 2012

CBD oil shows promise in reducing anxiety and depression. Still, more long-term, and human studies are required before researchers can conclude whether CBD can fully replace traditional antidepressants.

CBD oil, derived from the cannabis plant, is a well-known natural treatment alternative for various health conditions, including chronic pain, insomnia and anxiety. CBD, short for cannabidiol, is a cannabinoid compound and can be extracted from cannabis to be used in various products available for purchase. CBD oil is one of the most popular cannabis-based products. CBD oil is CBD extract mixed with a carrier oil, like hemp or coconut, and can be applied topically or taken orally or sublingually.

What is depression?

Depression (also known as major depressive disorder) is a medical illness that affects how you think, feel, and act. While it’s relatively common, it can be serious and lead to self-harm or suicide. Depression negatively impacts the individual and often causes intense sadness accompanied by a loss of interest in hobbies that were once of interest. In doing so, depression can lead to various physical and emotional problems as a side effect of its symptoms, leading to a decreased quality of life. While depression can occur at any age and stage of life, it usually appears in the late teens and early adulthood for many people. Interestingly, women are more likely to experience depression. Treatment of depression can vary, but most cases include a mix of medication (including antidepressants) and psychotherapy.

CBD and depression

Depression can be a long-term health condition that can be debilitating to a person’s quality of life and overall well-being. Traditional antidepressants can work to alleviate symptoms; many of these medications have potential side effects, including recurrent headaches, feelings of agitation, and changes in bowel movements.

While research surrounding CBD and depression is still in its infancy, initial studies have indicated CBD shows promise as a treatment for anxiety and depression with minimal side effects.

Most of these studies have involved animal models. For researchers to make conclusive claims, more long-term studies involving human participants are required. A 2018 review looking at several studies concluded that CBD has anti-anxiety and antidepressant effects, improving mood and concentration when stress is experienced. Researchers also found CBD could create effects without directly activating receptors, indicating a minimised risk of addiction.

A 2014 review also investigated the reason why CBD can help alleviate depression symptoms. In most studies, CBD showed a positive interaction with serotonin receptors in the brain and acted as an antidepressant compound in animals. Because serotonin influences emotions and regulates feelings of happiness, this research has great importance.

The endocannabinoid system

We all have an endocannabinoid system (ECS) within our bodies. The ECS is a complex cell-signalling system that aims to restore balance within the body. As the ECS consists of endocannabinoids that bind to cannabinoid receptors throughout the brain and nervous system, it can create therapeutic effects within the body, including a decreased heart rate and increased feelings of calm.

The ECS is only one way CBD can help improve symptoms of depression. Cannabinoids can also interact with serotonin receptors to increase the uptake of serotonin within the body. Serotonin is well-known for being the “happy hormone,” so when this occurs, users may experience improved mood, energy levels, and overall concentration.

Side effects and dosage

The amount of CBD oil for your needs will depend on your preferences and what you’re looking to get out of it. It’s normal to do a bit of trial and error to find out what time in the day suits you best. Some people like to take a few drops in the morning to keep their mood levels high throughout the day, while others enjoy taking CBD oil a few hours before sleep for its insomnia-relief benefits.

As a general rule, most experts agree that the majority of people should start slowly when taking CBD oil, especially if it’s your first time trying any cannabis-based product. You can then increase the dosage and frequency over time based on its effects. A good amount to start with is several drops a day, and a common way to take it is sublingually (under the tongue). Because this area is rich in capillaries, taking a few drops this way can enhance the absorption rate.

While most people experience no side effects with CBD and will have no issues throughout the process, others may develop side effects. While these are often minimal, several factors, like metabolism and body composition, are seen to contribute to this. Side effects include:

  • Diarrhoea or constipation.
  • Dry mouth.
  • Decreased or Increased appetite.
  • Dizziness
  • Fatigue

Generally, side effects will disappear once your body gets used to taking CBD. Still, you can limit your risk of developing side effects by incorporating CBD oil slowly into your daily routine. It’s also crucial to check in with your doctor before, during, and after taking CBD, especially if any symptoms persist or get worse. You’ll also be able to talk to them if you’re worried about taking the correct dosage, or if you’re wondering if CBD oil is the best choice for you, talk to your doctor before starting. CBD has also been shown to interact with other medications, highlighting the importance of checking in with a health professional before taking it alongside any antidepressants.

CBD oil as a preventative for depression

Depression is a complex health condition, and several factors can play a role in depression:

  • Genetics: Depression often runs in families. If an immediate family member, parent, or sibling has or has had depression, the risk of you developing it is high.
  • Biochemistry: Certain differences in the chemicals within the brain can be a contributing cause to developing depression symptoms.
  • Personality: There seems to be a high correlation between people easily overwhelmed by stress and those who are emotional, pessimistic, and with low self-esteem to be more likely to develop depression.
  • Environmental factors: If there is constant exposure to violence, chronic stress, abuse, or a decreased quality of life, this may increase the risk.

CBD cannot prevent many of the risk factors of depression, including individual biochemistry and genetics. However, CBD can help alleviate tension and stress in some situations. There is a distinct link between long-term elevated stress levels and depression and anxiety, so by lowering some metabolic markers of stress, CBD may be able to reduce the risk of developing depression. Stress is a highly significant cause of depression, so decreasing stress levels naturally is of interest for researchers investigating CBD and depression.

While most research investigating CBD’s effects on stress comes from animal studies, results have been promising. Researchers recently investigated how exactly CBD affects stress levels in rats. Lowered rates of stress levels and anxiety signals were observed alongside decreased blood pressure and heart rate. CBD’s anti-stress effects are due to its interactions with the ECS.

CBD oil and depression symptoms

Depression is a complex health condition and can be associated with numerous symptoms. These side effects are often unpleasant and can fuel the feedback cycle to decrease the quality of life for individuals with anxiety significantly. The symptoms of depression include:

  • A continuous low mood or sadness.
  • Feeling hopeless and helpless often.
  • Low self-esteem.
  • Severe changes in appetite (either increase or decrease).
  • Fatigue or extreme tiredness nearly every day.
  • Insomnia and poor quality of sleep.
  • Extreme anxiety (depression and anxiety often walk hand in hand).

It’s important to note that while CBD can ease and assist some symptoms of depression, it’s advised to check in with your doctor for your treatment. Cases of depression can be severe, and patients will require a diagnosis and treatment plan from a health professional.

Decreased appetite

For some individuals with depression, food is not of interest to them, and their appetite may be significantly decreased as a result. A loss of appetite, a lack of interest in food, and nausea around food can be some side effects of depression. Long term, this can be detrimental to the individual, leading to severe and rapid weight loss, fatigue due to muscle loss, and insufficient nutrient uptake.

While most studies investigating the relationship between CBD and appetite have varying data, with some showing weight gain and others showing distinct weight loss, CBD has been shown to impact appetite directly. For many people, CBD use has been linked to an increased appetite. However, this can vary depending on the individual, their genetics, and the CBD dosage and product type. CBD may also reduce nausea, which can help improve appetite. The interaction of CBD with the ECS leads to the regulation of vomiting and nausea in both humans and animals.

Insomnia and poor sleep quality

Sleep is essential for health, as the body is being healed and repaired during the night. When we don’t get enough sleep, this can lead to an increased risk of mental and physical health conditions. In patients with depression, a lack of sleep or poor sleep quality can exacerbate depression symptoms, resulting in a negative feedback cycle.

CBD can help improve sleep quality in people with depression in various ways. A study in 2012 investigated CBD dosage and sleep duration and found individuals who were administered a moderate amount of CBD (160 milligrams) reported having a longer period of sleep than those who took a placebo. This could be due to the anti-anxiety effects and increased feelings of calm due to the interaction between CBD and the ECS.

Insomnia is often linked with high levels of cortisol, a stress hormone. When cortisol levels are high, this decreases sleep quality and promotes feelings of alertness. CBD can act as a sedative to help control cortisol levels by limiting cortisol release. Researchers recently found that people who take moderate amounts of CBD oil daily had lowered cortisol levels, which helped decrease anxiety levels to encourage sleep.


Anxiety is commonly associated with depression, as patients with depression also have a high chance of developing anxiety as a result of decreased mood and emotional instability. As anxiety develops, this can be accompanied by its own range of symptoms, including chest pains, headaches, and a rapid heart rate.

While the research investigating the relationship between anxiety and CBD is still in its infancy, some studies have highlighted the effects of CBD on several markers of anxiety. The National Institute on Drug Abuse has stated CBD effectively reduces stress in animals, like rats. Subjects were observed as having lowered behavioural signs of anxiety. Another review in 2018 looked at CBD and its role in post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD), a type of anxiety characterised by interrupted sleeping patterns. Researchers found CBD can help with several PTSD symptoms, like decreased sleep quality and nightmares.

As explained earlier, the ECS is a cell-signalling system, and it also controls various bodily processes that affect mood. The role of CBD oil in improving anxiety can be attributed to its interaction with the ECS to lower heart rate and promote relaxing feelings. One of the reasons why CBD oil is so popular is because many users report positive effects after taking doses of CBD, including feelings of calmness and clarity.

The bottom line

Depression is a common mental health disorder experienced by individuals from all walks of life. While there isn’t enough conclusive evidence to support CBD oil as a standalone option for patients with depression, research shows much potential.

While CBD oil is safe and generally well-tolerated, individuals should always discuss taking CBD oil for depression symptoms with a health professional before starting.


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