Why I Started Taking CBD Oil: CBD for Stress and Anxiety
CBD is the best thing I’ve taken to help with my stress and anxiety. Here’s why I became interested in CBD:
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All stories start with some form of selfishness. I had a problem. I wanted the problem fixed. My problem was chronic stress and anxiety, and I felt like I had tried everything to fix it. As a dietitian and someone involved in the wellness world, I had done my research on lots of options. Feeling like you’ve run out of solutions is frustrating. And when you stumble upon a glimmer of hope for something you haven’t tried, you become curious… maybe boarder-line obsessed to get more information.
The problem was, this was 2017, and the information available online for CBD was extremely limited. Which, let’s be honest, only made me want information even more.
It’s not that my stress is worse than your stress. Or that my stress required prescription medication to resolve chronic stress and anxiety. It doesn’t. I have the privilege of being very healthy and happy, and having the education to understand my body.
My stress is self-imposed stress to be honest. My husband and I run our own business. We are renovating a historic house ourselves (thanks to a bad situation with a contractor). We had sick family members. I was sitting on a board of directors for a volunteer organization and putting out “fires” daily. It was just life. But I knew I could and should be doing to help my body deal with it.
If you’re familiar with the Enneagram personality test, I’m a “one”. It means by nature I’m organized, productive and feel the need to do things “correctly”. It also means I push my stress and emotions into a tiny box and, as I’ve heard it so perfectly described, put it on a shelf that says “to deal with later”. The problem being, eventually you have to deal with all of it at once “later” and you don’t let anyone else see the result.
I had tried meditation (which did help. Headspace is excellent!). I tried adaptogens (ashwagandha was the first thing that ever made a beneficial impact for me in the supplement world). I got an exercise routine. I talked to friends. I had a gratitude journal. But day to day, it wasn’t enough. I held my stress, anxiety, and definitely my emotions inside. The routine above helped tamp down the eventual outburst my body would have twice a year, forcing me to slow down, evaluate, and wonder what I could be doing better. The in between always manifested visibly, as a cold sore, a break out or under-eye circles.
I started seeing tiny mentions of CBD in my periphery of sources that were pretty deep into the wellness world. No one was talking about CBD the way they are now. The farm bill hadn’t passed (December 2018). Hemp was technically still in the same category as cannabis. There were substantially less products being sold. It was very much a legal grey area. But the information I was seeing was promising, and it sounded like people like me were seeing results. Inevitably, when you see or talk to people who seem like you, and they like a product, your brain tells you to try it.
The funny thing is, when I first started researching CBD, I never saw CBD as part of a cannabis-related conversation. I have never smoked pot before. I’ve never had the college weed brownie experience (I was a rule following, club president control-freak hell-bent on getting into post-graduate internships and passing organic chemistry). Even when I wrote my first article on CBD in early 2018, people mentioned (and still mention) to me how much they enjoyed the fact it was me writing and experimenting in this space. I didn’t fit their perception of what someone in the CBD conversation “should” look like (a stoner, crunchy granola person, etc. and a conversation that deserves its own post).
I saw CBD as more of an extension of the wellness adaptogen, plant healing space. And I still do (although I have a much better understanding of the botanical and societal intricacies of CBD and cannabis). Cannabis was not something I used. I did not hear about CBD because of it. I tell you this because you might be like me: someone who is looking for a wellness tool to get better but is nervous about the general public perception of misinformation related to CBD. And if you’re the other way around- someone who utilizes cannabis for wellness and heard about CBD because of it- that’s fine too (you do you!).
These are, perhaps, the two most significant barriers to entry for people in the world of CBD. They equate CBD to cannabis (I still have colleagues who believe CBD is the exact same thing as illegal-in-some-states cannabis …it’s not). And/or they are afraid to try something that feels like ‘someone like me’ wouldn’t add to their wellness routine.
If we jump back to why I started taking CBD, we were in the midst of “she did her research and is actively looking for excuses/reason to take/not take CBD.” I was traveling for work and met up with someone who worked in the wellness world. Long story short, she hands me extra CBD she has on hand. I am, therefore, out of excuses.
I come home, we try CBD and both my husband and I immediately- truly within an hour- cannot get over how we feel. I don’t mean to be dramatic, but we feel life-changing-good. And that is beyond annoying because I could have had those results much sooner. This was no placebo effect. Chris and I are hyper-aware of how we feel, where we feel it and we cross check against eachother. We keep notes. We try to be objective.
That shit worked.
I feel significantly less stressed and anxious. I am instantly “over” worrying about all the shit that I had been unnecessarily stressing about. We accomplished home/life-related projects we had been putting off for weeks because they had felt too emotionally stressful.
CBD doesn’t dull you or suppress you. For both my husband and me, our experience with CBD is it tells your inner critic/stress dealer to STFU so you can accomplish what you need to do. You don’t always feel like the next email, or forgetting something at the grocery will be the thing that sets you off into being unnecessarily upset. For Chris, it makes him stop his cycle as information gatherer to “know everything” before starting a project. He just starts. It takes the stress peaks out of the days you need it. It gave me the emotional/stress reduced headspace I needed to sort through daily emotions instead of packing them away.
I’m a skeptical, science-driven person. And even as I convey my CBD experience to you, it sounds too good to be true. It seems like every supplement claim out there in a market full of scams. But it’s not.
Since I started taking CBD over a year and a half ago, it’s gotten me through a lot. It’s helped me through family deaths and care-taking that exhausted us for nearly half a year. It’s gotten me through a project so big I would have typically cracked multiple times by now. I’ve had a single cold sore in a calendar year (by comparison I would get them about once a month).
We don’t take CBD every day. We take it occasionally, and in times of deep stress, daily for a week or two. It’s not an answer to everything, but it is by far the best tool in my wellness toolbox.
Without a doubt, CBD is the one wellness thing that has changed my life the most. This isn’t some massive, dramatic reveal of CBD and “fixing” disease. I share this because you might be like me: someone privileged to be healthy, happy, and informed, but who needs some help.
You don’t need to look a certain way or have been “into” cannabis in your teens and twenties to be interested in CBD. In fact, you don’t need to do anything except your own research.
If this is the excuse you’re looking for to try CBD, you’re out of excuses now.
I Tried CBD in My Tea, and Here’s What I Felt
I’ve been burned by a lot of wellness fads in the past. Indeed, it’s been my job for over a decade to embrace what companies say will be the new “revolution” in health and personal care and make myself a guinea pig. I’ve tried many products, diets, or even retreats to determine if they have hope (probiotics) or belong at the bottom of the bin (rocker bottom shoes).
So naturally, with the rapid proliferation of CBD shops across the U.S., my nature brought me to the point where I had to try this much-hyped and ballyhooed product—and write about it, so you’ll know if it’s right for you or not. Are you someone thinking about trying hemp tea or CBD oil for the first time? I encourage you to let my experience be your guide. But before we get into my story, let’s go over some basics.
What Is CBD?
Cannabidiol (CBD) is one of several dozen active compounds found in cannabis. CBD’s popular first cousin, tetrahydrocannabinol (THC), is the compound that’s associated with marijuana’s “high” or psychoactive effects. CBD has zero psychoactive effects.
However, research shows that CBD has some positive health benefits. For example, studies show:
So CBD Isn’t Marijuana?
No, it’s not. Some people confuse hemp with marijuana because they’re both types of cannabis. Indeed, both hemp and marijuana are different varieties of the same plant species, Cannabis sativa. But marijuana typically has between three and 15 percent THC, and hemp has less than one percent. CBD products, by law, cannot have more than 0.3% THC by dry weight.
In December 2018, the U.S. Congress removed hemp from the Controlled Substances Act. It is no longer illegal to possess hemp-derived products in all 50 states. That’s why you’ve likely seen so many stores popping up in your town, or even found your local spa or health food store selling CBD products.
My CBD Tea Experience
There’s a stigma, for better or worse, associated with marijuana that may be deterring people from trying CBD. I will be the first one to tell you that, as a rule, I’m no fan of the sensation of being “high” or stoned. I do, however, like and am always curious about, alternative treatments to health issues I face, whether it’s essential oil diffusers for headaches, acupuncture for low-back pain, or probiotics for regular tummy troubles. Because research shows CBD may help ease symptoms of anxiety, I decided it was a good option for me to try.
I started by using half a dropper of a 500-milligram tincture in a cup of green tea in the morning and a cup of herbal tea before bed. I did this every day for one week. Each half dropper delivers about 8 milligrams of CBD; a full dropper would be 16. Typical recommended doses for people trying CBD for the first time are between 20 and 40mg per day. However, research shows much higher doses are well tolerated.
The First Dose
My first experience with CBD was at night, after a long day of work. I was exhausted but decided to go ahead and give it a try. Many brands recommend you take CBD oil sublingually, or under the tongue, for a faster-acting effect. I chose tea in order to mask the bitter oil flavor of the tincture.
I don’t know if I can fully credit the CBD—I was very tired already—but I found myself quite relaxed within 15 minutes of finishing my cup of tea. I was asleep shortly after, and I had a very deep sleep that night. My sleep tracker recorded 100 percent sleep quality, with very little movement. That’s unusual for me, but again, it was a long, taxing day. My body could have been responding to the exhaustion, not the CBD. But I was certainly curious.
Over The Next Week
The next morning, I repeated the amount and felt nothing, not even a hint of relaxation. That’s OK. I’m typically more relaxed and refreshed in the morning as is, so it could be that I didn’t have any “symptoms” to alleviate.
Over the course of the next four days, I only noticed mild effects when I would take the CBD with my tea before bed. During the day, I felt nothing. I decided to up my dosage to a full stopper for the three remaining days. That’s when I began to notice some differences.
Upping The Dosage
On my first day with two full droppers (32mg), I felt incredibly relaxed, almost too relaxed. I struggled a bit to find motivation for work. Thankfully, it was a Saturday, so I could afford the luxury of laziness. I didn’t experience any “head” symptoms, like dopiness or feeling spaced out, as some people with higher doses report. But I did certainly feel a bit disconnected from my sense of drive. That night, when I used another whole dropper in my tea, I fell to sleep rapidly and slept harder than I had slept in some time.
The next day, the effects of my first higher-dose day weren’t as strong. I was able to accomplish my work and felt productive, but a certain “edge” was taken off my mind. When I work, I typically feel crunched or pinched by deadlines, even when I’m not late. The higher CBD didn’t fully erase the “urgency” I feel with my work, but it helped me feel calmer, less frantic.
For what it’s worth, my week with CBD counts as a win, and I will likely keep taking it, especially during periods of high stress or anxiety. I may also venture to try other options, like gummies. Other brands have different formulations that may make the effects of CBD more or less powerful, too. Though my total dose, even on the “high” dose days, was well within the recommended limits for a first-time user, I would be curious to see the impact of a higher dose. I’ll just be sure to do it on days when I don’t have deadlines.
It’s important to note that CBD use and products are still in their infancy, and newer, better products will probably be available in the next few years that will make these initial products look silly. Indeed, a study mentioned earlier suggests CBD is really, truly only beneficial in large doses (over 300 milligrams), so it’s possible the impacts people like myself do experience are minimal compared to what’s possible. As studies increase and products improve, the CBD landscape may change dramatically.
Is CBD Worth It?
My initial impression is a positive one. I fully believe people can have positive results after taking CBD for a variety of issues. In my experiment, I was only trying to treat anxiety, and I found it to be moderately helpful. It did not eliminate the anxiety or associated stress, but it felt as if it took the sharp edge off the running worries and constant stream of thoughts that I frequently experience. I felt calmer, though not at all “high.”
Where Should I Buy CBD?
If you are interested in trying CBD yourself, be sure to source high-quality CBD products. Unfortunately, CBD products have been dropping in quality in recent years, and they are not regulated by the Food and Drug Administration (FDA). That means you cannot know for sure, just by looking at a bottle, if you have a good product. Look for third-party lab tests—reputable companies will proudly promote them—and read a lot of reviews. Websites like Leafly and CannaInsider provide extensive reviews on effectiveness and potency.