Using CBD for Mood Support: Pros and Cons

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Mood disorders affect tens of millions of Americans. In fact, it is estimated that social anxiety afflicts more than 15 million in the U.S. (according to the Anxiety and Depression Association of America [ADAA]).


The National Institute of Mental Health estimates that major depression strikes approximately 17 million Americans at least once during their lifetimes (a whopping 7 percent of the population) and disproportionately affects women more than men, according to the ADAA.


During the past few decades, much research has been conducted, including the collection of anecdotal testimonials, regarding the role of cannabidiol (CBD) and other cannabinoids from herbs such as hemp.


Hemp and its constituent molecules have been employed in the treatment of mood disorders such as depression for centuries. In 1621, English clergyman Robert Burton employed hemp in the treatment of depression. In 1887, physician Hobart Amory Hare in the United States used the herb to control restlessness and anxiety for a terminally ill patient. “The patient, whose most painful symptom has been mental trepidation, becomes more happy,” wrote Burton.

Research Studies on CBD and Mood


Lack of motivation and energy are often symptoms of depression. A 2016 review entitled “Beyond the CB1 Receptor: Is Cannabidiol the Answer for Disorders of Motivation?” that was published in the Annual Review of Neuroscience explored preclinical and clinical data regarding the therapeutic efficacy of CBD in the treatment of motivational disorders such as “drug addiction, anxiety, and depression.”


Concluded the study’s authors, “Across studies, findings suggest promising treatment effects and potentially overlapping mechanisms of action for CBD in these disorders.”


A 2012 research study entitled “The Endocannabinoid System in the Regulation of Emotions Throughout Lifespan: A Discussion on Therapeutic Perspectives” that was published in the Oxford-based Journal of Psychopharmacology researched the role of the endocannabinoid system (ECS)—the complex network of cellular receptors located throughout the body with which cannabinoids from hemp, such as CBD, interact and bind—in modulating emotional responses and its effect on depression and anxiety.


Reported the researchers, “The [ECS] has emerged as a major neuromodulatory system critically involved in the control of emotional homeostasis and stress responsiveness.” The study’s authors concluded, “The pharmacological modulation of the [ECS] system has recently arisen as a promising strategy in the management of anxiety and mood disorders.”


Sometimes severe mood disorders manifest as psychotic disorders. A scientific review entitled “Multiple Mechanisms Involved in the Large-spectrum Therapeutic Potential of Cannabidiol in Psychiatric Disorders” that was published in the journal Philosophical Transactions of the Royal Society of London, Series B, Biological Sciences investigated the ability of CBD to treat both non-psychiatric and psychiatric disorders, including anxiety, depression, and psychosis.


Reported the researchers, “It is now clear that CBD has therapeutic potential over a wide range of non-psychiatric and psychiatric disorders such as anxiety, depression and psychosis.”


The study pointed out how CBD exhibits a “bell-shaped dose-response curve,” observing how this molecule delivers different efficacy, depending on dose administered.


The study’s authors concluded, “Activation of TRPV1 channels may help us to explain the antipsychotic effect and the bell-shaped dose-response curves commonly observed with CBD.” 


A 2011 research study entitled “Endocannabinoid System Dysfunction in Mood and Related Disorders” that was published in the journal Acta Psychiatrica Scandinavica “examined the therapeutic potential of cannabinoids in psychiatric disorders.”


The study’s authors concluded the study by hypothesizing that dysfunction in the ECS leads to mood disorders. Anandamide and cannabidiol (CBD) variously combine antidepressant, antipsychotic, anxiolytic, analgesic, [and] anticonvulsant actions, suggesting a therapeutic potential in mood and related disorders.”


A 2009 research study entitled “The Endocannabinoid System and the Treatment of Mood and Anxiety Disorders” that was published in the journal CNS and Neurological Disorders Drug Targets also investigated the role of the ECS in the regulation of mood states and responses and prevention of mood disorders. 


Reported the study, “A growing body of evidence unequivocally demonstrates that deficits in endocannabinoid signalling may result in depressive and anxiogenic behavioral responses, while pharmacological augmentation of endocannabinoid signalling can produce both antidepressive and anxiolytic behavioral responses.”


Concluded the study’s authors, “Collectively, both clinical and preclinical data argue that cannabinoid receptor signalling may be a realistic target in the development of a novel class of agent for the pharmacotherapy of mood and anxiety disorders.”