Can CBD Help With Depression?
Kendra Cherry, MS, is an author and educational consultant focused on helping students learn about psychology.
Verywell Mind articles are reviewed by board-certified physicians and mental healthcare professionals. Medical Reviewers confirm the content is thorough and accurate, reflecting the latest evidence-based research. Content is reviewed before publication and upon substantial updates. Learn more.
Steven Gans, MD is board-certified in psychiatry and is an active supervisor, teacher, and mentor at Massachusetts General Hospital.
Interest in the potential mental health uses of cannabidiol (CBD) has grown tremendously in recent years, including the use of CBD for depression. CBD is a chemical compound found in the Cannabis sativa plant, also known as marijuana or hemp.
Cannabis contains more than 80 compounds, known as cannabinoids. The main cannabinoid that most people are more familiar with is tetrahydrocannabinol (THC), which is the psychoactive substance that produces the “high” characteristic of marijuana.
CBD, on the other hand, is purported to have a wide range of health benefits without these psychoactive effects. Some research suggests that CBD has antidepressant-like effects, which means it may hold promise in alleviating symptoms of depression.
Despite claims about CBD’s purported mental health benefits, it is important to understand that the research on its use is still limited. There have been studies done, but many of these have limitations and further research is needed in order to fully understand CBD’s therapeutic potential.
Research suggests that CBD has antidepressant effects, although it is important to note that many of these are animal studies.
Other studies suggest that CBD may help alleviate symptoms of depression by interacting with serotonin receptors in the brain. Serotonin is a neurotransmitter that plays a role in a range of functions in the body including the regulation of mood. It may help contribute to feelings of happiness and well-being. It is also often implicated in the onset of depression and many types of antidepressant drugs work by increasing serotonin levels in the brain.
One study published in 2018 suggested that cannabidiol does not increase serotonin levels; rather, it appears to work by influencing how the brain responds to serotonin that is already there.
Another study found that CBD had a “clear anti-stress effect,” which might play a role in reducing stress levels that contribute to feelings of anxiety and depression.
How It’s Taken
Cannabidiol is available in several different forms, although only those that are ingested are likely to produce any antidepressant-like effects or other mental health benefits. It may be taken orally as an oil, spray, or capsule. CBD may also be added to edible products including beverages, candies, or chewable gummies.
CBD can also be used topically in creams, salves, lotions, and balms, although it is likely to only produce localized effects in this form. E-liquids that are inhaled via vaping are also available, though vaping comes with its own risks.
It is also important to note that CBD is available in isolate (only CBD), broad-spectrum (contains other cannabinoids but not THC), and full-spectrum (contains other cannabinoids, including THC).
Possible Side Effects
Most of the available research suggests that CBD is generally well-tolerated and produces few side effects. However, this does not mean that people may not experience any unwanted side effects, which may include:
- Appetite changes
- Mood changes
- Elevated liver enzymes
According to the World Health Organization, the available evidence suggests that CBD is relatively safe. However, the long-term effects are not entirely clear.
One of the biggest concerns that consumers face when purchasing CBD products is the lack of FDA regulation.
CBD products are not subject to regulation because they are marketed as supplements, which means that you don’t know if you are really getting what is described on the label. Because these products are not regulated, you have no way of knowing for sure what you are getting in terms of purity, safety, and dosage.
- One study found that a whopping 70% of CBD products sold online were mislabeled, with many containing much more THC than the packaging claimed. So while many CBD products are labeled as not containing THC, many do contain significant amounts. This could potentially result in a positive result on a drug test. This is a major concern, particularly if you want to avoid the psychoactive effects of THC.
- Another study found that CBD products may also contain potentially dangerous chemicals and medications, including synthetic cannabinoids and cough medicine. Such contamination could lead to health problems including allergic reactions or drug interactions.
CBD vs. Antidepressants
So how does CBD compare to traditional antidepressants? True comparisons of the effects are not yet possible simply because there is not enough research on CBD’s effects.
However, one animal study suggests that CBD might have some possible benefits by comparison:
- A 2018 study published in Molecular Neurobiology concluded that CBD had promise as a fast-acting antidepressant drug. While traditional antidepressant drugs typically take some time to begin working, research on rodents found that CBD showed rapid and sustained antidepressant-like effects.
- CBD also appears to have relatively few side effects. Antidepressant drugs may sometimes cause things such as appetite changes and sexual side effects.
CBD holds promise, but that does not mean that you should turn to cannabidiol products over traditional treatments for depression.
A Word From Verywell
The bottom line when it comes to CBD’s potential as a treatment for depression is that more research is needed. Most of the evidence supporting CBD’s antidepressant effects comes from animal studies or small trials, and one of the largest reviews of the research found that the available evidence is not strong enough to recommend CBD as a treatment for depression.
If you are experiencing symptoms of depression, it is important to talk to a doctor or mental health professional. Depression may worsen over time if left untreated, but there are effective treatments available including psychotherapy and medications.
If you are interested in using CBD to alleviate symptoms of depression in conjunction with other treatments, always talk to your doctor first about how to use it and about any possible medication interactions.
If you or a loved one are struggling with depression, contact the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration (SAMHSA) National Helpline at 1-800-662-4357 for information on support and treatment facilities in your area.
The Best CBD Oil Brands for Anxiety & Depression
In the past several years, CBD has become a popular and natural way for people to help manage their anxiety. What is the best CBD for anxiety? And how does CBD help with anxiety? In this article, we highlight our favorite brands of CBD for anxiety and provide important background information on how to use CBD oils to help manage anxiety and depression.
CBD stands for cannabidiol, and it is one of the active ingredients found in cannabis. Though CBD is a critical component in medical marijuana, most commercially available CBD products are derived from the hemp plant. These products are said to offer a range of personal health benefits, and one of the most significant of those benefits is relief from anxiety.
A Harvard report notes that CBD is commonly used as a way to manage anxiety symptoms, and that those who struggle with various mental health concerns may use CBD to help them combat sleeplessness.
But what does the science really say about using CBD oil for anxiety and depression? And for those who wish to use CBD products to help with anxiety, what are the best CBD for anxiety brands out there?
Does CBD Help for Anxiety?
Studies show that, while CBD doesn’t necessarily alter a person’s baseline anxiety level, it may be useful for reducing experiential anxiety. Indeed, research points to CBD as a potentially effective way to address the symptoms of seasonal affective disorder (SAD), generalized anxiety disorder (GAD), and post traumatic stress disorder (PTSD). Additional research indicates that CBD “has a promising role as alternative therapy in the management of anxiety disorders,” though more clinical testing is needed to verify safe dosage levels.
Based on the available evidence, CBD may potentially help manage the symptoms of anxiety, though it is not a cure. Be sure to consult with your primary care physician or mental health care provider before taking CBD for anxiety and depression if you have any questions or concerns.
Best CBD Oil for Anxiety in 2022
Each product featured here has been independently selected by the writer. You can learn more about our review methodology here. If you make a purchase using the links included, we may earn commission.
- Best Overall – CBDistillery Strongest Full Spectrum – Spruce
- Best Full Spectrum – NuLeaf Naturals
- Best Organic – Cornbread Hemp
How We Chose CBD Product for Calming
When creating our list of the best CBD oils for anxiety and depression, we compared brands and products ib six specific categories.
- Type of CBD — Does the brand use full spectrum, broad spectrum, or CBD isolate?
- Strength — How many milligrams of CBD does the oil contain per recommended dose?
- Source — Where does the get the hemp used in their hemp extract? Is it grown in the U.S.?
- Flavor — Do they offer multiple flavors, and if so, do they use natural flavoring instead of artificial flavors?
- Transparency — Is the product tested by an independent third-party lab and do they make the results easy to access?
- Customer Experience — What are customers saying about the product and if it has helped them manage stress and anxiety?
Learn more about each of the CBD oils on our list below.
Our Complete Reviews & Opinions
Best Overall: CBDistillery
CBDistillery is known for high-quality, pure CBD products, and their full spectrum oil is a great choice to help you relax. All of their products are third-party lab tested and confirmed to be safe and effective. We like their Relief + Relax CBD oil because it is a full spectrum oil that provides plenty of additional active cannabinoids and plant compounds like CBG, CBC, and terpenes to give you the full benefits of the entourage effect.
- CBD: Full Spectrum
- Strength: 33 mg CBD per serving (1000 mg per bottle)
- Hemp source: Colorado
Why buy: We love this strong full spectrum CBD oil for anxiety because it is sourced from non-GMO, U.S. Hemp Authority Certified hemp grown in Colorado. Taking CBD Relief + Relax in the morning may be a great way to support a sense of calm throughout the day.
Strongest Full Spectrum: Spruce
Spruce CBD oil checks all of the right boxes: it’s all-natural, made from USA-grown hemp, and is backed by rigorous third-party lab testing. You can get this lab-grade CBD oil tincture in a range of potencies, ranging from 750 mg to 2,400 mg per bottle. We like that Spruce CBD oil is all-natural, organic, vegan, gluten-free, and contains no artificial flavors, preservatives, or sweeteners. Note that Spruce products may be too strong for entry-level customers.
- CBD: Full Spectrum
- Strength: 25 mg to 80 mg of CBD per serving
- Hemp source: Kentucky and North Carolina
Why buy: We love that Spruce offers some of the strongest full spectrum CBD products, including their extra strength formula with 80 mg of CBD per serving. We recommend it for experienced CBD users looking for powerful relief from feelings of anxiety and stress.
Best Full Spectrum: NuLeaf Naturals
NuLeaf Naturals CBD oil is about as natural as a CBD tincture can get. It’s made from organic hemp, it’s additive- and pesticide-free, and it’s carefully lab-tested by independent third-party labs. This Colorado-grown, full spectrum CBD offers the full benefits of hemp extract in a natural, organic product. It may be taken daily to help you manage stress and feelings of anxiety by promoting a sense of calm and wellness.
- CBD: Full Spectrum
- Strength: 30 mg of CBD per serving (1800 mg per bottle)
- Hemp source: Colorado
Why buy: We love this strong full spectrum CBD oil because of its simplicity. It contains organic full spectrum hemp extract and organic virgin hemp seed oil. NuLeaf Naturals also provides a consistent concentration of CBD across all bottle sizes to make dosing easier.
Best Organic: Cornbread Hemp
To make their Distilled CBD Oil, Cornbread Hemp extracts CBD only from hemp flowers. This distillation allows the oil to maintain a full spectrum of cannabinoids, with a CBD-to-THC ratio of 27:1. Lower in THC than their Whole Flower oil, this product is better for finding comfort during the day while staying focused and alert. Cornbread Hemp CBD is USDA organic and offers a cleaner tasting oil than some whole plant extracts.
- CBD: Full Spectrum
- Strength: 50mg per 1mL serving
- Hemp source: Kentucky
Why buy: We love this Cornbread Hemp Distilled CBD Oil because it uses whole flower CBD extract for a cleaner product and milder taste. It may be a great way to help ease anxiety during the day without drowsiness or loss of focus. Plus, it’s USDA-certified organic with third-party, ISO certified lab tests on every batch.
Using CBD to Help With Anxiety & Depression: What the Research Says
As cited above, initial research has found that CBD has the potential to help manage the symptoms of anxiety in a variety of cases.
There is also clinical evidence to suggest that CBD can be a tool for managing panic attacks. Panic disorder (PD) impacts about five percent of the total global population, making the anxiolytic effects of CBD products potentially impactful on a widespread level.
There is even clinical evidence that CBD may help minimize the symptoms of obsessive compulsive disorder (OCD), a nervous condition that can be debilitating. Currently, OCD is treated primarily through cognitive behavioral therapy and antidepressants, but the recovery rate is exceedingly low. The prospect of CBD as an alternative intervention is potentially game-changing.
But how exactly does CBD impact those with anxiety conditions? The short answer is that products from the cannabis plant tend to have a strong, reactive effect with the endocannabinoid system, a molecular system that regulates many core functions of the body, including emotions. Cannabinoids can bind to receptors in the endocannabinoid system and modify the way they function, yielding a range of possible health benefits.
In fact, one study notes that “modulating the activity of the endocannabinoid system turned out to hold therapeutic promise in a wide range of disparate diseases and pathological conditions, ranging from mood and anxiety disorders, movement disorders such as Parkinson’s and Huntington’s disease, neuropathic pain, multiple sclerosis and spinal cord injury, to cancer, atherosclerosis, myocardial infarction, stroke, hypertension, glaucoma, obesity/metabolic syndrome, and osteoporosis, to name just a few.”
While CBD may potentially help to manage stress and anxiety, it is not intended as a cure for anxiety or depression.
How to Choose CBD Oil for You
When you’re looking for the best CBD for depression and anxiety, it’s important to choose a product that is safe, effective, and natural. Here are some important things to keep in mind when shopping for CBD.
What to Look For
Always look for the following pieces of information when comparing CBD oils for anxiety: type of CBD, hemp source, strength, and lab testing. Below are more details on what each of these mean and why they matter.
Type of CBD
There are actually three different types of CBD extract, including full spectrum, broad spectrum, and CBD isolate. We typically recommend full spectrum products as the most effective, as they allow you to benefit from the full entourage effect of the hemp extract. However, if you undergo drug testing for work or are sensitive to THC, broad spectrum products offer many of the same benefits without the THC. This can also be important for those who find that THC negatively impacts their anxiety.
The quality of the CBD is directly related to the source of the hemp used in a product. Always look for brands that use hemp grown in the U.S.A. We also recommend brands that use either USDA organic hemp or hemp grown using organic farming practices. This ensures that the plants do not contain any pesticides and or artificial fertilizers.
It’s important to know the concentration of CBD in a product so that you can take the appropriate dosage level. For those new to CBD, it’s generally recommended to start with a lower dose, 10 mg or less, and slowly increase the amount as you are comfortable to find the right level of relief. Extra strength products, with 30 mg or more per serving, are recommended for those who know how CBD will affect them. You can read more about the strongest CBD oils here.
Only purchase CBD oils for anxiety that undergo independent third-party lab testing for quality and safety. This is critical to ensure that the product contains the correct levels of CBD and cannabinoids, and that it is free from toxins, heavy metals, or other harmful substances. The brands we recommend all make their lab test results available through QR codes on the product label or on their site.
How to Read Labels
When you check the label of any CBD product, look for information on the four key factors listed above. Labels should clearly state the type of CBD and if it was made with U.S. grown hemp. To evaluate the strength of the product, look for both the amount of CBD per bottle, usually in milligrams per 30 mL, as well as the amount of CBD per serving, usually in milligrams per 1 mL dropper.
Quality products should also include lab-testing certification and a way for you to verify the results for yourself. You can also look for industry certifications and seals from the USDA, Leaping Bunny, the GMO Project, and the U.S. Hemp Authority. Finally, take time to check the list of ingredients to make sure that you are not allergic to any of them. Most CBD oils use a carrier oil like hemp seed oil, olive oil, or MCT coconut oil.
How to Use
For most CBD oils, take a dose once or twice per day, depending on the amount. Some oils work better for daytime use and can be taken in the morning, while others are better suited for nighttime use to help you fall asleep. Again, if you are new to CBD, start with a low amount and slowly increase it to find the correct level to provide relief.
The amount of CBD needed may vary from person to person based on their level of anxiety and other health concerns. One thing that holds true across the board is that using CBD consistently is best for improving stress levels, as the compound builds up within the body, amplifying its effect. In other words, CBD may help you manage anxiety symptoms, but don’t expect it to take effect immediately.
Safety & Side Effects
According to the Mayo Clinic, CBD is generally well-tolerated. There are, however, some mild side effects that can occur. These often result from taking too much CBD, and can include:
- Dry mouth
- Reduced appetite
Additionally, CBD can potentially interact with certain prescription medications, like blood thinners and certain forms of statins. Always check with your doctor if you plan to start using CBD alongside any prescription medications. No CBD product has been approved by the FDA to treat anxiety or depression, so be sure to do your own research on any product you choose to purchase.
While CBD may be a great option to help supplement your anxiety management, it is not meant to cure or treat anxiety. If you are suffering from severe anxiety and depression, the best thing to do is speak with your primary care physician or a mental health professional. They may recommend things like cognitive behavioral therapy, journaling, exercise, yoga, or prescription medications to help.
If approved by your doctor, CBD for depression and anxiety may work with these other approaches to help you find relief and better manage stress.
Josh Hurst is a journalist, critic, copywriter, and essayist. He lives in Knoxville, TN, with his wife and three sons. As a writer and independent reviewer of CBD products, Josh covers the relationship between cannabis-based products and the human body. His writing has appeared in Health, Shape, and Remedy Review.
Medically Reviewed By:
PharmD Scientific Advisor, Medical Reviewer, and Clinical Pharmacist
Adjunct Faculty, UMKC School of Pharmacy