Depression is a debilitating mental illness affecting millions of people every day. As more research has been established about depression, so has the number of treatments available to the public. Both medical and non-medical treatment options are available to individuals with all severities of depression.
It’s not surprising that cannabidiol (CBD) has been considered as a treatment for depression. In South Africa, CBD oil has become increasingly popular since its decriminalisation in 2018. With CBD’s claimed benefits and new research constantly emerging, could CBD treat depression?
Continue reading to see what science has to say.
Research on CBD and Depression
Much anecdotal and speculative evidence is circulating on CBD’s potential to be a cure-all for health conditions. While some of this evidence may be true, it will take researchers a while to validate the claims of the public.
Thus, it’s important to note what medical researchers have found during the study of CBD in recent years. So, what does the research say about the effects of CBD on depression?
CBD and Serotonin
This study suggests CBD could help treat depression through its interaction with serotonin in the brain. The research suggests it could be a partial agonist or activator of 5HT1A serotonin receptors.
Serotonin is a neurotransmitter that regulates stress, emotions, and mood. If CBD can activate serotonin receptors in the brain, then it can act like an antidepressant. The most common medications for depression are selective serotonin reuptake inhibitors (SSRIs). This class of antidepressants shows an increase in serotonin levels in the brain.
If CBD can emulate the effects of widely used antidepressants, this could be very exciting to those who don’t wish to use SSRIs. There are many reasons why people choose not to use medication for depression. One of the most common reasons is that SSRIs can cause side effects such as shaking, nausea, and dizziness that can be debilitating to some.
Note: Always consult your doctor before starting, stopping, or changing your medication. Going off of antidepressants or adding something to your medicine can cause adverse side effects.
CBD and Anxiety
An anxiety disorder can be as challenging to live with as depression. Depression leaves a person feeling hopeless, numb, tired, and sad. In comparison, anxiety can leave you haunted by worry, dread, and panic. Although these two conditions differ slightly, they can go hand in hand, as anxiety can increase feelings of cynicism and the risk of depression.
CBD’s effect on anxiety is more widely researched than depression. However, as depression reacts well to an increase in serotonin, so does anxiety. Often people suffer from depression and anxiety at the same time.
This study indicated that an intermediate dose (a dose that’s not too high or low) of CBD administered during animal studies showed the most promising anti-anxiety results. Animal studies showed that, over time, CBD consumption led to lower levels of anxiety, depression, and stress-related behaviour.
More research is needed on the possibilities of CBD improving the symptoms of depression. But if you suffer from both conditions, you may benefit from an improvement in anxiety when taking CBD.
CBD Oil and Depression | FAQs
CBD has earned a positive reputation for being a compound in the cannabis sativa plant that is non-addictive and with few side effects. Additionally, it has been advertised to have many healing properties. While research into CBD for depression is still relatively new and needs further testing, the outcomes look promising.
Moreover, because of its recent decriminalisation people have gained access to a rapidly growing market of cannabidiol products promoting improvements in wellness. This new market has led to an increased interest in alternative treatments like taking CBD for mental illnesses.
The most popular cannabis product in South Africa is CBD oil which is widely accessible online and in stores that sell cannabis products. These are the top questions people ask when starting their CBD journey.
How to Take CBD
There are numerous ways to take CBD. The easiest way is by ingesting the compound in a tincture, edible, or even through inhalation. Taking CBD oil under your tongue is by far the fastest way, but some people don’t enjoy the flavour of hemp.
Others mask the flavour by putting the product in CBD edibles or gummies. Edibles are any form of food containing cannabidiol or any other cannabis product.
Vaping is another popular form of ingesting the compound. People will put CBD-infused vape e-liquid into their devices and smoke it throughout the day instead of eating it.
How Much CBD Should I Take?
Finding the correct dose of cannabidiol is not an exact science. There isn’t one universal dosage because different people respond to varying doses of CBD. The consensus is that the product works best taken regularly. The primarily accepted frequency of consumption is two to three times a day.
This method is suggested because it can take time for the effects of CBD to build. Breaking up your doses also helps you start on a lower dosage that you can use throughout the day. Ultimately the best way to begin taking CBD is with low doses to find the most effective amount for you.
Some general practitioners can help you find the correct dose if they know about CBD. Consulting your doctor can help schedule and monitor your dosage as well.
Benefits of CBD and CBD Oil
When taking CBD, it interacts with your naturally occurring endocannabinoid system (ECS). The ECS is responsible for many bodily functions, such as metabolism, the immune system, pain response, and inflammation. The ECS can also determine how your mood is affected by pre-existing conditions.
After the compound is introduced into the body, it works with the endocannabinoid system to improve responses to inflammation, pain, and stress. With time CBD can lower inflammation, stress levels, and chronic pain. This creates whole-body benefits that, over time, may improve your mood and quality of life.
These effects can decrease depression. The overall improvements in mood and bodily function alleviate some of the co-occurring symptoms that may make your depression worse.
There are also notable anti-nausea effects of cannabidiol and the cannabis sativa plant in general. This can be a helpful solution for cancer patients who struggle with the effects of chemotherapy.
CBD’s sedative effects are also helpful in the treatment of insomnia. Depression tends to cause sleeplessness, and CBD can aid in improving the quality of your sleep. CBD oil for insomnia is a popular choice amongst South Africans due to its ease of accessibility and use.
To recap, here is a list of the benefits of CBD and possible improvements in medical conditions.
- CBD can offer natural pain relief
- It can show improvements in mood and mental health symptoms
- It can improve sleep
- Chronic pain can be improved by reducing inflammation
- It’s been shown to improve symptoms of nausea in cancer patients.
What Else Does CBD Treat?
Besides depression, there have been claims that cannabidiol can treat several health conditions. The most well-researched is epilepsy in children—namely Dravet Syndrome and Lennox-Gastaut syndrome, which doesn’t respond to anti-seizure medication. There is scientific evidence of CBD’s effectiveness in treating these forms of epilepsy.
There is also a strong case for CBD treating addiction, such as lowering cravings for tobacco and heroin in certain conditions. Studies also suggest that the compound can have antipsychotic effects by reducing symptoms of psychosis in people with schizophrenia.
Cannabidiol’s neuroprotective properties show promising outcomes for degenerative diseases like Multiple Sclerosis (MS), Alzheimer’s, and Parkinson’s. The compound may also be able to benefit heart health by lowering blood pressure. Finally, it’s possible CBD can improve acne symptoms by decreasing skin inflammation.
Side Effects of CBD For People with Depression
CBD is generally safe to take if you have depression. However, it’s essential to consult your doctor to see if any of your medications might be affected by CBD. There is a chance the compound can change the way your body processes some medicines. Concerns stem from how the body metabolises particular substances.
This is especially important for people who are on antidepressants. If you’re not careful, it can affect the way the antidepressant works and may leave you feeling worse. Some common medications that interact with cannabidiol include antihistamines and benzodiazepines.
Side effects vary from person to person. The intensity and way they present are different for each individual. While there aren’t many side effects, here are the most common ones for people on antidepressants.
- CBD may interact with your medication and cause changes in its effectiveness.
- Changes in appetite
- Changes in weight
- Abnormal liver test results
- Low blood pressure
- Dry mouth
So, Does CBD Help With Depression?
At this time, there is no straightforward answer. Medical studies must catch up with the public’s use of cannabis products to give accurate information. Many scholarly articles suggest a high potential for CBD to improve many health issues. With time the answers will finally emerge.
However, the Constitutional Court decriminalised CBD in 2018 due to its lack of harmful effects. So if you choose to try CBD, it’s unlikely you’ll have a bad experience. But remember to consult your doctor before starting CBD, as it may interact with your medication.
Start with lower doses until you’re comfortable with how CBD affects you. Finally, remember that at this stage, CBD will likely complement the mental health treatment plan you’re already on. So, it probably shouldn’t be your only treatment against depression until studies validate its effectiveness. Depression is a serious condition and shouldn’t be taken lightly.