CBD and Stress Relief- Does it work?

CBD and Stress Relief- Does it work?

CBD and Stress Relief - Does it work?


CBD, or Cannabidiol, has been one of the fastest-growing supplements over the past four years. An estimated $4.6 billion in CBD products were sold in 2020. That number is expected to grow to over $16 billion by 2026 (Yahoo). The incredible growth is encouraged by changes in the regulatory environment and increased claims made around the benefits of CBD. Many have touted CBD to help anxiety disorder, stress, insomnia, PTSD, and pain (NY Times). The list goes on and on. These claims, coupled with the non-psychoactive nature of CBD versus THC, have led to a prevailing trust of American consumers to test out CBD. 


Is CBD even legal? 


While some states passed laws allowing hemp-based products, many others still deferred to federal law. Before 2018, CBD and many other hemp-derived substances were considered marijuana under federal law. However, in December 2018, the Agricultural Improvement Act of 2018 (aka the 2018 Farm Bill) was passed. Among other things, this law excluded hemp from the definition of marijuana and defined hemp as a cannabis plant and its extracts that contain less than 0.3% THC content (LexisNexis).  


Long story short, the new rules that have been refined since split CBD products into two categories: cosmetics and dietary supplements/food. For cosmetics, CBD products can be marketed legally as long as they don’t violate any typical FDA or FTC regulations for cosmetics. For supplements, it got much trickier. The FDA started by greenlighting a pharmaceutical drug made of CBD called Epidiolex in 2018 for seizures in children. This is important because it set a precedent of CBD being classified as a drug that would exclude it from being used in food or dietary supplements. While no new rules have been filed, the Principal Deputy Commissioner Dr. Amy Abernethy of the FDA testified to the US Senate that “any CBD food or purported dietary supplement products in interstate commerce do so in violation of the FDCA (federal Food, Drug and Cosmetic Act).” (The National Law Review) In short, it’s still not clear if CBD is considered legal at a national level.

What’s the research say about its benefits?


The legality questions surrounding CBD certainly haven’t stopped supplement companies from marketing and selling their products. So the question remains, does CBD actually help anxiety? Many small studies have been done in this space, even before CBD became prevalent in the market. A 2015 study leveraged data from 49 other studies conducted primarily preclinical mice and rats. This study concluded there was substantial evidence that CBD has a considerable potential to be used for several anxiety disorders, but more clinical studies were needed (Neurotherapeutics).


So what about studies in humans? Unfortunately, there haven’t been many studies around anxiety in adults that have been completed. In September 2020, an article synthesized all of the recent research in the space. Still, it concluded that not nearly enough clinical work had been completed involving women, even though preliminary clinical evidence suggests there may be a benefit from CBD on anxiety disorders (Cannabis and Cannabinoid Research). The article does mention three clinical studies that are currently underway evaluating: 300mg of CBD weekly for phobic disorders, 200-800mg for use in anxiety disorders, and 1mg three times a day for four weeks and its benefit on anxiety. The outcome of these studies will be helpful in genuinely assessing how beneficial CBD is for anxiety and what dosage it should be taken to achieve a benefit.


Are there risks to CBD?


The safety of CBD still warrants further study, but it does appear to be widely well-tolerated. The WHO has reported that there seem to be few toxicity risks and noted that a study in monkeys saw no ill effects at levels less than 30 mg/kg of body weight taken for 90 days (World Health Organization). The most common side effects that have been reported have been dry mouth, diarrhea, reduced appetite, drowsiness, and fatigue (Mayo Clinic).  

In addition to potential side effects and more research needing to be done on safety, there have been some concerns related to what you’re actually getting when you buy CBD. A study performed in 2016 of 84 products found that 43% were under labeled on their concentrations, 26% were over labeled, while only 31% were accurate in their reported dosage (JAMA). The study reports that THC was present in significant quantities in 21% of the products.


While CBD does show a lot of promise, we believe that more clinical research is needed around its safety and efficacy. This is one of the primary reasons we did not include it in Virtue’s Anxiety + Stress Relief formula. Like other ingredients in supplement brands, you simply cannot be sure that these products contain CBD and don’t have traces of THC or fairy dusting of fillers like we discussed in other blogs. We encourage you to hold off on picking up that CBD supplement until more research is completed.



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