Hemp Oil for Anxiety - The Next Big Thing
Even though most of the data is anecdotal, there is some data that does suggest hemp oil could decrease anxiety in some individuals. In this article, we will try to clear up some of the misconceptions about hemp oil and anxiety and explain how it could prove useful for you.
To fully understand the effects, we must first discuss our brain chemistry, what anxiety is and how hemp oil affects it, and what it produces in our system.
Anxiety. What is it?
According to the World Health Organization (WHO), nearly 264 million people suffer from anxiety worldwide. In this 2017 report by WHO, it was stated that 21% of the 264 million people are from the Region of the Americas.1 This means over 50 million suffer from some sort of anxiety disorder just in the Americas alone. With that being said, anxiety is considered as one of the most common mental disorders, but what does it exactly mean?
Anxiety is a common term that is often thrown out in the public when it comes to what one may feel in a stressful situation like public speaking, facing a problem at work, or before making an important decision. When one suffers from an anxiety disorder, one can feel that sense of anxiousness and stress for a longer period and it can potentially get worse over time. Those that suffer from generalized anxiety disorder (aka GAD), might suffer from any of the following symptoms:2
- Difficulty concentrating
- Muscle tension
- Sleep issues
- Difficulty of controlling feelings
If you are experiencing any of these symptoms at all, then there are treatments to help you control the symptoms of anxiety and learn how to manage them in your day to day life. We’ll discuss some of the traditional methods and how the benefits of hemp oil could help out too.
Current therapies for treating anxiety involves psychotherapy, medication, or both. Everyone is different and can handle situations in a different way so there is no true “one size fits all” approach when dealing with anxiety. Cognitive behavioral therapy (CBT) is one example of psychotherapy and it is often one of the first things patients try – and one of the best ways to cope with anxiety. It helps retrain our brain through talking to a licensed professional on how to think, behave, or react to different situations which may cause anxious feelings.2 Although this has been shown to do wonders for those with anxiety, many people find it hard to stick with because it takes time and patience to get the results you want.
Often times when going through therapy, it is also suggested to make some lifestyle changes as well to help relieve some anxiety. For example, this can include stress relieving activities such as yoga or meditation. It can also include simple breathing exercises to complete when you feel stressed or anxious. Doing these activities on a regular basis helps people better manage their anxiety.
Another traditional route is medications.
Anti-anxiety medications are one of the most prescribed medications in the United States. Though the medication does not help cure the disorder, it can help to relieve symptoms.2 Examples of these medications include benzodiazepines and selective serotonin reuptake inhibitors (aka SSRIs). Most of the medications can help treat not only anxiety but also another mood disorder – depression.
Depression and anxiety often go hand in hand, and it is no surprise that most of the therapies can help treat both of these mental disorders.2 These medications have studies that show many positive results in relieving anxiety, however there are numerous side effects and, as stated earlier, certain medications may work for some patients but not all patients. Often times, finding the right anxiety medication for a patient will take trial and error. This also takes some time and patience.
It’s no wonder why many are looking into hemp oil as a potential treatment for anxiety. With hemp oil and CBD oil often being thrown around together, let’s take a moment to talk about the differences between them.
CBD Oil vs Hemp Oil
Before going on about the difference between these oils, we must first discuss the plants. There are two different types of cannabis plants, one for hemp and one for drug.
Hemp plants include plants grown for fiber and plants grown for seed oil. Drug plants include intoxicating THC (tetrahydrocannabinol) rich plants and non-intoxicating CBD-rich plants. The difference of the plants is their resin content. The higher the resin the higher intoxicating and medicinal effects.3
CBD oil is derived from the Cannabis sativa plant and it contains cannabidiol also known as CBD. CBD oil is often mixed in other oils to create the CBD oil products most often seen in health care stores and sold to the public. Hemp oil is extracted from the leaves, petals, and seeds from the same plant. The main difference between hemp oil and CBD oil is that the hemp oil can only be extracted from the industrial hemp plant when CBD oil can be extracted from a variety of plants, including industrial hemp plants, medical marijuana plants and other plants as well.
Be careful when looking at potential products, because hemp seed oil (or can be written as stevia cannabis seed oil) is not the same as CBD-rich oil. Oil pressed from hemp seed contains no CBD, no THC, no plant cannabinoids but it makes for an excellent varnish, paint, soap and protein-enriched food supplements.3
Now that you understand the difference between these terms, let’s talk about how hemp oil can benefit those with anxiety.
Hemp Oil and Anxiety
Even though the studies are still preliminary, and more studies still need to be done on the subjects, the current studies that are out now are showing positive effects on hemp oil with anxiety.
One case report done in 2016, focused on children with anxiety and insomnia as part of post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD). The researchers found that the use of hemp oil had some benefits in helping them sleep and dealing with situations that made the patients anxious. They concluded that more studies needed to be done but the results were promising.4
Another recent case series found that cannabidiol may hold benefit for anxiety-related disorders and may prove beneficial in sleeping. However, they did state more controlled clinical studies are needed before a true conclusion must be made.5 One study focused on post-traumatic stress disorder, a phobia related to anxiety disorders, and they concluded that the use of oral hemp in addition to routine psychiatric care was associated with PTSD symptom reduction. It was also reported that the frequent nightmares, which are a common occurrence with PTSD, were decreased too.6
There are a few studies that showcase the potential use of hemp oil in relieving anxiety symptoms. There may be some benefit in using hemp oil to help with anxiety. Though there need to be more clinical studies before one can fully say that this can benefit one with anxiety. Before using any hemp oil, please do research as to where the hemp is sourced and talk to a healthcare provider about the potential interactions with medications and other supplements. Also, there is the potential for side effects when taking hemp oil.
Hemp Oil and Side Effects
Even though most people can tolerate hemp oil, there is the potential for some side effects as with any supplement or medication. The most common side effects typically include tiredness, diarrhea, changes in appetite, weight gain or loss.7 Hemp oil and CBD oil are also not considered to be addictive, as referenced in the WHO report mentioned earlier.
Another study states that hemp oil can potentially reduce inflammation too much which could diminish the lung’s defense system, leading to a higher risk of infection.8 Also currently all trials noted in this article and those that have been currently conducted have been done on adults. It is currently not recommended using hemp oil in children due to the fact there has been no studies done and the unknown effects on a child’s developing brain. Hemp oil is not recommended during pregnancy or during breast-feeding for this reason also.
One of the most important factors to discuss is that the cannabinoid CBD contained in hemp oil is not the same thing as THC (another cannabinoid). CBD does not produce the same psychoactive effects that THC does, and it consequently does not produce the “high” feeling that THC does.
THC is reported to actually cause a feeling of paranoia and even anxiety in some people. There has even been some concern for people who have mental health disorders (a common example in the research is schizophrenia). Some researchers seem to think that THC may actually worsen these conditions or make them become present if you have a higher risk of developing them (i.e. through genetics, etc.). There have been some studies that have tried to link smoking marijuana with increasing mental health concerns, however it has been difficult for researchers to show a direct cause between the two. This is because you would need to have a randomized, double-blind, placebo-controlled trial to show direct causation. There is also the issue of ethics – if this is true you really cannot perform a research study that will make people develop mental health disorders. Thus, this concept of THC and marijuana “causing” mental health disorders will likely never be proven.
Therefore, some people who are already prone to anxiety or panic attacks try to avoid marijuana and any THC products altogether due to the possible risk of worsening anxiety. CBD oil and hemp oil have not currently been reported to increase anxiety, and as mentioned above, may actually help to relieve anxiety.
The role of hemp oil as a helpful tool for anxiety disorders currently remains unclear, but promising. More long-term studies with larger groups of people need to be done to fully assess the benefits and risk.
However, for people that did not get any relief from traditional methods, hemp oil for anxiety could prove useful. Before considering hemp oil for your anxiety, please consult with your physician, pharmacist, or any other healthcare provider to determine the right treatment for you.