How can CBD help with stress & anxiety?

The Vitl Nutrition Team / 29 Mar 2022

Our nutritionists discuss CBD and its benefits associated with the relief of stress and anxiety symptoms.


We are currently living in anxiety-provoking and stressful times. The Covid-19 pandemic was another drop in the already full bucket for some and others, who are normally ‘chill beans’, were also reduced to worrying wrecks, as we wrestled with a deep-rooted uncertainty of not knowing what was going to happen to ourselves and our loved ones.

Another cause of stress and anxiety is the hustle culture young generations are growing up in. Career progression and success has become prioristised above all else, to the extent that not sleeping enough and putting in long hours at work is ‘cool’. This kind of culture is unsustainable and encourages unhealthy lifestyles, not to mention the stress and anxiety it fuels.

Whilst there is no magic bullet to banish stress and anxiety from our lives, managing anxiety-related symptoms is a puzzle. CBD may be a valuable piece of this puzzle as preliminary studies show a lot of promise.

Let’s first have a look at the endocannabinoid system, which helps us understand the workings of CBD.

The endocannabinoid system (ECS) comprises endocannabinoids which bind to receptor sites (CB1 and CB2) throughout the brain, central nervous system, immune system and organs. This system is constantly working to ensure all our systems remain in balance. It plays a crucial role in regulating fear, anxiety and how we cope with stress. 1  Are you ready for a curveball? CBD doesn’t actually bind to these two receptors but instead acts on an entirely different receptor called the 5-HT1a receptor and this is how CBD works to alleviate stress and anxiety (along with a whole host of other things). 2

Several studies and clinical trials are currently exploring the common report that CBD can reduce stress, anxiety and depression. As stated in the book “Handbook of Cannabis and Related Pathologies” 3 which assessed all available data on the effect of CBD on anxiety and stress up until 2017, “​​the studies assessed in the present chapter clearly suggest an anxiolytic-like effect of CBD, both in animal models and in healthy volunteers. In addition, this cannabinoid was shown to decrease anxiety in patients with social phobia.” Although the evidence around anxiety, social anxiety and post traumatic stress are more promising, 4 results around its effects on depression are more conflicting, based on a 2017 review of evidence. 5

But what about the stress response?

The endocrine system consists of glands throughout our body which regulate everything from energy levels to metabolism and sex drive. One major function of this system is to produce excitation in response to stress, think ‘fight or flight’ mode which your body enters when it perceives danger. This is of course necessary for survival but if this happens too often (and gets out of hand) it can be a source of stress in itself. CBD can help regulate and adjust this stress response, particularly useful if you experience chronic/long term stress. A clinical trial concluded that CBD decreases plasma cortisol levels (cortisol is often known as the stress hormone). 6

It’s important to note that CBD is not a substance that will get you high, unlike THC which is also found in the cannabis plant. CBD is a biologically active but psycho-inactive component of cannabis. Whilst it carries very few adverse effects, CBD may have the potential to be a powerful tool in your toolbox for managing anxiety. We recommend giving our recently launched CBD gummies a try today!

You might also be interested in:

All you need to know about CBD

How to fight stress and anxiety through supplementation

Which is worse for your health: smoking or being constantly stressed?