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CBD and mental health: What does the research say?



Many people have turned to CBD to ease their mental health symptoms

Over the past decade, society has become increasingly aware of the importance of looking after our mental, not just physical, health.

Poor mental health can manifest itself in a variety of ways, from anxiety and depression to obsessive thoughts and post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD).

With waiting lists for talking therapies prohibitive, and traditional medication carrying a number of unwelcome side effects, many people have turned to CBD to ease their symptoms – but what does the science say?


This is one of the most common mental health issues users report taking CBD for, and recent research has found they may be onto something.

A two-year study has shown the compound to have a significant positive impact on anxiety and stress, after reviewing 76 articles spanning the past two years.

The report, which was produced by Florida-based Nutrition Formulators and published in the peer-reviewed Innovare Journal of Medical Science, found that more than 70 percent of the research on CBD’s effects on anxiety and stress showed positive outcomes.


In a similar vein, the use of CBD is often hailed by those using it to treat depression, especially those for whom more conventional treatments have failed.

The above study also looked at reports for CBD’s effect on symptoms of depression, and found that there was a 66.6 per cent positive improvement for clinicians using CBD as an alternative treatment.

Furthermore, researchers believe that CBD relieves symptoms of depression by binding to the CB1 receptor within the endocannabinoid system.

The CB1 receptor is believed to reduce nervous system inflammation and regulate the body’s response to serotonin, or the ‘happy hormone’.

Obsessive Compulsive Disorder

OCD manifests itself in a number of ways, such as having to perform certain rituals or becoming obsessed with cleanliness.

Its cause is not yet fully understood, yet there is growing evidence that the body’s endocannabinoid system plays a role in regulating these repetitive behaviours.

In a 2020 study, researchers examined the effects of CBD on 87 people with OCD, and found that patients reported a 60 per cent reduction in compulsions and a 49 per cent reduction in intrusive thoughts. 


Post-traumatic stress disorder is a long-term anxiety-related condition that follows a frightening or distressing life event. Sufferers will often have flashbacks, as well as feeling isolated, guilty and unable to concentrate.

In the US, the use of CBD is an approved treatment for PTSD in most of those states that permit medical cannabis, and many patients both there and the UK are convinced of its benefits.

Earlier this year, a report from University College London found that CBD may reduce symptoms, particularly with regards to nightmares and insomnia, but more research is needed.

The study’s lead author, Dr Chandni Hindocha, said: “Unfortunately, medicinal uses of cannabis have historically been difficult to study due to legal restrictions, so it could take a long time before there is enough evidence to support clinical recommendations. 

“New approaches are needed to make the most of existing evidence in the meantime.”

Dr Hindocha’s words reflect the reality for many CBD treatments; while there is anecdotal evidence that it works for mental health conditions, due to its relatively recent status as a treatment, more research is needed.

Sarah Sinclair is a respected cannabis journalist writing on subjects related to science, medicine, research, health and wellness. She is managing editor of Cannabis Health, the UK’s leading title covering medical cannabis and CBD, and sister titles, Cannabis Wealth and Psychedelic Health. Sarah has an NCTJ journalism qualification and an MA in Journalism from the University of Sunderland. Sarah has over six years experience working on newspapers, magazines and digital-first titles, the last two of which have been in the cannabis sector. She has also completed training through the Medical Cannabis Clinicians Society securing a certificate in Medical Cannabis Explained. She is a member of PLEA’s (Patient-Led Engagement for Access) advisory board, has hosted several webinars on cannabis and women's health and has moderated at industry events such as Cannabis Europa. Sarah Sinclair is the editor of Cannabis Health. Got a story? Email / Follow us on Twitter: @CannabisHNews / Instagram: @cannabishealthmag


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