Depression is a common mental illness that millions of people worldwide suffer from each year. Research shows that as many as half of us will experience a bout of depression at some point in life, with some of us experiencing prolonged depressions that can become life-threatening.
Our treatment options for depression have long been limited and ineffective, but change may be on the horizon. Preliminary evidence suggests that we might find a natural remedy in using CBD for depression, but more evidence is needed in order to substantiate these claims. We’ll discuss the available science behind CBD for depression including how to best use it.
How Does Cannabis Help With Depression?
Those who suffer from depression but don’t want to resort to pharmaceutical drugs often turn to cannabinoid-based therapy options. According to the World Health Organization (WHO) depression affects more than 350 million people of all ages worldwide. Untreated depression can cause many adverse health outcomes and even premature death, so addressing depression is important.
The most common medical treatments for depression in the U.S. are pharmaceuticals that attempt to correct chemical imbalances in the brain. These may include drugs like selective serotonin reuptake inhibitors (SSRIs) and their cousins, the serotonin-norepinephrine reuptake inhibitors (or SNRIs), antipsychotics (and/or atypical antipsychotics), dopamine agonists, and many of the same medications used to treat anxiety like benzodiazepines.
The trouble with these medications is that they often cause dependency issues. Plus, the list of side effects far outweighs the benefits – why is suicide an accepted side-effect of an antidepressant medication? We don’t know the answer to that, but we do know that many people are moving away from these traditional pharmaceuticals and towards more natural treatments, in many cases CBD. The existing evidence, while preliminary, supports the theory of CBD for depression and other mood disorders.
To demonstrate the therapeutic potential of CBD for depression, we’ll analyze a series of studies conducted over the last 10 years. We will outline and synthesize the results of these studies below, emphasizing important findings. We’ll also provide some guidance about dosage strategy, along with a note about potential drug interactions.
What Studies Support the Potential of CBD for Depression?
The discovery of the CBD molecule dates back nearly a hundred years, but research into the therapeutic value of cannabis has been predominantly focused on THC until recently. Now, experts are beginning to shed light on the therapeutic value of CBD, and research regarding the use of the non-psychoactive cannabinoid is rapidly expanding.
With that, information regarding the use of cannabidiol for mental health conditions, like depression, is in high demand. Researchers became interested in the effects of CBD for depression after finding evidence of the potential anxiolytic effects of the supplement. Although research is limited at this time, there is evidence that CBD may have potential therapeutic values that make it a suitable option for regulating mood.
Much of the research regarding cannabinoids for depression and related illnesses involves mice, but there is also evidence involving human experience with cannabidiol. Research specifically dives into the effects of cannabidiol on neural processes and brain functions related to depression, as well as the many different ways the endocannabinoid system regulates these functions.
Researchers found that a deficiency in endocannabinoid signaling results in depressive behaviors. For this reason, many experts believe that CBD may help balance these deficiencies and aid the endocannabinoid system in its regulatory processes to support overall health and wellbeing.
Research efforts regarding CBD for depression are expected to continue to expand rapidly in the coming years, and many experts hope to work toward solid evidence that will help physicians more accurately recommend CBD in place of common alternatives. Until then, CBD for depression is not a proven claim. For now, the research that links cannabidiol to anti-depressant effects includes the following:
1. Antidepressant-like effects of cannabidiol in mice: possible involvement of 5-HT1A receptors.
A 2010 study concluded that, “CBD induces antidepressant-like effects comparable to those of Imipramine. These effects of CBD were probably mediated by activation of 5-HT(1A) receptors.”
Learn more: https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/20002102
2. Antidepressant-like and anxiolytic-like effects of cannabidiol: a chemical compound of Cannabis sativa.
A 2014 study suggested, “that CBD exhibited an anti-anxiety and antidepressant effects in animal models discussed. Most of the studies demonstrated a good interaction between CBD and the 5-HT1A neuro-receptor.” For reference, the 5-HT1A receptor is a subtype of the serotonin receptors that are often targeted with pharmaceutical drugs like SSRIs.
Learn More: https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/24923339
3. Putative role of endocannabinoid signaling in the etiology of depression and actions of antidepressants.
A 2011 stated, “In the last few years, there have been several advances in the determination of the role of the endocannabinoid system in the etiology of depression and the functional actions of antidepressant drugs. Specifically, a deficiency in endocannabinoid signaling is sufficient to produce a “depressive-like” phenotype at the preclinical level…and capable of inducing symptoms of depression in humans at a clinical level. Moreover, facilitation of endocannabinoid signaling is sufficient to produce all of the behavioral and biochemical effects of conventional antidepressant treatments.”
Learn more: https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/21111017
4. Cannabidiol induces rapid-acting antidepressant-like effects and enhances cortical 5-HT/glutamate neurotransmission: role of 5-HT1A receptors.
A 2016 study reported, “our results demonstrate that CBD exerts fast and maintained antidepressant-like effects as evidenced by the reversal of the OBX-induced hyperactivity and anhedonia.”
Learn more: https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/26711860
5. Prohedonic Effect of Cannabidiol in a Rat Model of Depression.
Another 2016 study concluded, “These findings extend the limited knowledge on the antidepressant effect of CBD, now shown for the first time in a genetic animal model of depression. These results suggest that CBD may be beneficial for the treatment of clinical depression and other states with prominent anhedonia.”
Learn more: https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/27010632
What is the best CBD for Depression?
When considering using CBD for depression you should first understand that CBD has not yet been proven effective for depression. Still, anecdotal evidence encourages many people to try CBD for themselves. Like with many medicines and supplements used to treat depression, you want to establish a baseline concentration in your system first by taking CBD regularly. Then, CBD can also be used to manage acute flare-ups or bad days, giving you maximum relief all day long.
There are many different CBD products available, but for managing depression, we recommend using full spectrum CBD oil daily, preferably in the form of Tinctures or Gel Capsules.
These two products are nearly identical, except for form factor and dosing, or the difference between a sublingual tincture and oral capsule. When looking for high-quality tinctures and capsules, remember that CBD must be combined with a fatty carrier oil, like MCT oil or hemp seed oil, in order to be properly absorbed by the body.
Although this alone is often enough to manage the general, daily symptoms of depression, many people find that they still need to use cannabidiol for managing symptom flare-ups or for quieting depression on particularly hard days.
Whether it’s caused by an upcoming event, poor lifestyle choices, or stress – we recommend vaporizing CBD isolate to combat these acute depression flare-ups. We often consider vaping the best consumption method for managing sudden flares. When vaping CBD isolate, a version of CBD that is 99% pure, you can feel relief almost instantly across your entire body.
You can also take more of the capsule or tincture you chose in order to help manage these persistent bouts of depression, but they will take significantly longer to take effect.
Often, the best way to manage moderate to severe depression, recurring depression, or depression caused by a number of chronic conditions is to combine two or more different therapeutic methods to manage daily symptoms and flares. If using CBD for depression works for you, you may consider a combination of different CBD products to hit your mood disorders from all angles.
What is the correct dosage of CBD for depression?
Dosing CBD is a unique, personalized experience that takes into account the type and severity of the ailment you hope to treat, as well as your tolerance and experience with CBD and your body weight.
We suggest those suffering from any kind of depression start with 5-10mg per day of CBD. If relief is not felt at this dosage, we suggest increasing by 5-10mg until the desired effects are achieved. Tinctures can be measured drop for drop, which makes them convenient for marginally increasing your dose until you find out what works for you.
Gel capsules, on the other hand, come in pre-measured doses, with an average dose around 10 mg each. Luckily, you can’t overdose on CBD, so you can start with 10mg capsule, or wherever you feel comfortable.
Then, you just need to monitor the effects and increase your dose as needed to eliminate symptoms. Don’t forget that tinctures and gel capsules take longer to metabolize, so they often provide extended effects. Some people report that ingestibles like these provide relief all day long. The one thing to consider is that ingestible CBD products take a while to set in– it can take up to 90 minutes for you to experience the full effects, so be patient before you increase your dose.
Dosing with a vaporizer is much different, as the amount of CBD you intake has to do with the quality of the vape pen you use, the temperature you vape at, the size of each hit, and more. Fortunately, CBD vaporizers provide quick relief in about ten minutes. You can easily take one hit at a time and wait the ten minutes out to decide if you need to dose again. Eventually, this method will help you get an idea of how many vaporizer hits you need to experience full relief.
A Note About CBD and Drug Interactions
CBD has a scientifically backed safety profile. Even the World Health Organization identifies cannabidiol as a safe supplement for regular consumption. However, it is important to note that CBD utilizes the same pathways for absorption as many other medications, including prescription and over-the-counter options. CBD is metabolized by cytochrome P450 liver enzymes, reducing the total amount of enzymes available just after ingestion. The reduced amount of enzymes means that other medications that also utilize this pathway may not be fully metabolized.
Interactions could include many of the prescription medications prescribed for depression, like tricyclic antidepressants, which utilize cytochrome P450 liver enzymes when metabolized. The interaction between CBD for depression and these medications is indirect and usually mild. The only severe case would be if CBD decreased absorption of a medication prescribed to treat life-threatening symptoms.
Of course, just like other substances that disrupt this pathway (grapefruit), the effect is only. Usually, you can avoid interactions simply by spacing out your CBD dose from your regular medications. If you plan to start taking CBD and are already taking other medications, always talk to your doctor about CBD first.