A new study, commissioned by sleep brand ‘Silent Night’ has revealed an alarming statistic: adults across the UK lose 36 full days-worth of sleep per year due to stress.
A whopping 82% of participants reported feeling stressed, with 18% revealing they are feeling ‘very stressed’. Sadly, another study performed by The Mental Health Foundation found that at some point in the last year, 74% of us have felt so stressed that we have felt unable to cope.
Apparently, this Stress Awareness Day, many of us are quite acutely aware of stress and anxiety. Perhaps not in the most positive way.
With this in mind, it’s no wonder that stress and sleep are two of the most popular reasons people in the UK decide to try CBD oil. A recent study, performed by cannabis researcher and CBD guru Julie Moltke, found that those using CBD were doing so for self-perceived anxiety (42.6%), sleep problems (42.5%), stress (37%), and general health and wellbeing (37%).
But why do people use CBD for stress? Does CBD really work for stress?
For Stress Awareness Day, we’re going to explore the science, and explain how to use CBD products for stress relief.
How CBD reduces stress and anxiety
Unlike most supplements, which tend to have a fairly single track mechanism for doing a job, CBD (and in fact, all of the cannabinoids studied so far) are what’s known as pleotropic. This means they have multiple mechanisms which act on a variety of different molecular pathways, to have wide-spread effects.
The CBD molecule on its own (which is the most abundant cannabinoid in CBD oil) interacts with a number of receptors that impact stress, including serotonin receptors and endocannabinoid receptors.
CBD and The Endocannabinoid System
The endocannabinoid system (ECS) is a sprawling network found in every animal – from human beings, to sea squirts. It’s made up of receptors, and neurotransmitters called endocannabinoids that are synthesised and released on demand to activate the receptors and keep the body in balance. This system is vital to every single bodily process, including the stress response.
When our endocannabinoids are in healthy supply, among many, many other things, they act as a sort of gatekeeper for stress.
One endocannabinoid (called Anandamide, named for the Sanskrit word for ‘bliss’) helps to control cortisol release and the fight or flight response from triggering in the brain. When present in appropriate levels, Ananamide will help to keep stress under control until absolutely necessary. However, when endocannabinoid levels are depleted, as cannabinoid researcher Dr Ethan Russo theorises can happen as a result of poor diet, lack of exercise, poor sleep and chronic stress, we’re lacking in what we need to prevent a stress cascade at the drop of a hat.
Here's where CBD comes in – the CBD molecule supports the ECS. It does this by inhibiting the enzyme which ordinarily breaks down endocannabinoids, resulting in naturally higher levels of Anandamide, and wider-spread activation of ECS receptors in the brain and body.
CBD and Serotonin
The CBD molecule also directly activates serotonin receptors, which elevates serotonin levels in the body. This neurotransmitter has a huge impact on a range of bodily processes, including digestion, regulating sexual function (including avoiding severe PMS or PMDD), sleep, stress, depression and many other things, which is why SSRIs (selective serotonin reuptake inhibitors) are routinely prescribed for a plethora of issues.
Through this mechanism, one 2018 study (using an animal model) demonstrated that chronic stress induced over the course of 24 days resulted in decreased serotonin activity, which was then completely normalised after seven days of treatment with CBD.
Does CBD relieve stress immediately?
Although the aforementioned actions occur every time you take CBD, and many people do say they feel a difference right away, for the best results CBD should be taken consistently for at least a month. This allows time for cannabinoids (and endocannabinoids) to accumulate in the body.
It’s likely that you’ll start to notice a difference after regular, daily use. Once you’re in the rhythm of taking CBD every day, you might notice fairly speedy results after taking your CBD, although onset will also depend on the form of CBD you take:
CBD Oil: Oral drops absorbed into the bloodstream under the tongue generally becomes active in the body within 10 minutes.
CBD Capsules: Capsules need to go through the digestive process, so these will take longer to take effect (but they will stay active for longer that oral CBD drops). This could be anywhere between 30 minutes and two hours.
CBD Vapes: CBD vapes have the fastest onset (almost immediate), other than intravenous CBD. But will only stay in your system 1-2 hours, so you’ll probably want to top up fairly regularly.
How much CBD should I take to relieve stress?
There are a number of studies looking at the best CBD dosage for stress, with successful amounts ranging from 16mg – 300mg. However, the general consensus is that dose really depends on the user.
Weight, blood volume, reason for use, age, metabolism and other things all change how much CBD might be best for your needs, so the best thing to do is start with a low dose (1-2 drops) and gradually build up over the course of days and weeks to find what works for you. The Food Standards Agency recommends a daily limit of 70mg, but studies have tested CBD safely up to 1500mg.
As well as finding the right dose for you, the key to taking CBD for stress is to do so regularly, as part of your daily routine, not just when stress strikes. If your body is given the chance to naturally build up its endocannabinoid levels over time, Anandamide will help prevent that stress cascade before it happens – a much better option that trying to relieve stress once the wheels are already in motion.
Want to treat yourself to some CBD products for Stress Awareness Day? Take a look at our range, here.