One of the more well-known negative effects of cannabis use is anxiety, including paranoid thoughts. This anxiety is thought to be triggered by a chemical called Delta 9-tetrahydrocannabinol (THC), which also produces the acute effects of the drug. But there’s another chemical compound in the same plant, cannabidiol (CBD), which has no psychoactive effects and actually reduces anxiety in humans. It might seem strange that the same plant contains chemicals that both increase and decrease anxiety, but this is something researchers have known about since the early 1980s.
What’s the evidence?
In 1982, researchers in Brazil published a study where people were either given THC, or THC and CBD. People given only THC felt more anxiety as expected, but when people were given CBD at the same time, this seemed to block its anxiety-producing effects . But the anxiety-reducing effects of CBD aren’t limited to cannabis users. It can also reduce anxiety in everyday stressful situations.
Perhaps sadistically, researchers like to use public speaking simulations to test anxiety treatments since it’s a common fear and will certainly quicken the pulse of most people. In one such study, participants were given CBD, a placebo, or one of two medications often prescribed for anxiety: diazepam and ipsapirone. As expected, CBD was effective in reducing anxiety following the test but did not produce any side-effects. 
In 2011, a similar study was published in a journal with a tongue twister of a name – neuropsychopharmacology. This time CBD was tested on a group of people suffering from social anxiety disorder (SAD), a debilitating form of anxiety triggered by social situations. Again, participants had to endure a simulated public speaking test, and once again the results showed reduced anxiety in those who were given CBD, which brought their anxiety down to the same level as participants without the disorder. 
Okay, it works. But how does it work?
To find out how CBD works, neuroscience researchers gave people some CBD capsules and then put them into brain imaging scanners to see what brain areas are affected. They found that CBD impacts the limbic and paralimbic systems. These are in the center of your brain at the top of the brain stem, and these systems are primarily involved in fight-or-flight emotions like anxiety. In particular, they noted an increase in brain activity in an area called the right posterior cingulate cortex (PCC). 
The PCC processes emotional information. If you’re feeling anxious, or if you’re exposed to something you have a phobia of, there will likely be decreased activity in your right PCC (or left PCC, if you’re left-handed). When you’re not anxious, there will be more brain activity here. This study shows that CBD triggers activity in the right PCC, perhaps helping the brain process emotional information in a way that reduces anxiety.
It’s also worth pointing out that the right PCC receives a lot of input from brain areas that process social information — which explains CBD’s effectiveness in the public speaking tests, and for people with SAD.
Another interesting result the researchers reported in this study was reduced anxiety before the stress-producing event — in this case the brain scan itself. So CBD seems to help reduce “anticipatory anxiety,” which is to say, the anxiety you feel just before a job interview when you’re shifting nervously in the waiting room.
A growing evidence base
There are many more studies supporting CBD’s ability to reduce anxiety in humans, but you get the idea. One compelling aspect of this evidence base is that it approaches the problem from several angles — cannabis users, healthy participants, people with anxiety disorders, and brain imaging studies — but the research has all pointed to the same conclusion: CBD is effective in reducing anxiety, but lacks the nasty side-effect profile that traditional treatments possess.
Where to get quality CBD
At Maximum Lifestyles our staff is always busy researching popular trends and passing along vital information to our readers. In the case of CBD we’ve found our research and information has been life changing to thousands. So, check out the article we published about CBD here. You’ll be glad you did.