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CBD and Stress: A Possible Alternative

Being “stressed” generally means you feel rundown, worried, overwhelmed, anxious, or some combination of those. The sensation of stress is the physical and mental response to the body and mind feeling attacked.

It results in the release of chemicals and hormones including adrenaline, cortisol, and norepinephrine. These chemicals can, in turn, lead to symptoms like agitation, headaches, trouble focusing, upset stomach, low energy, aches, low sexual desire, and trouble sleeping.

Put simply, stress is no fun.

Chronic Stress

Most of us feel stressed from time to time. Before a big test or an important meeting. If money’s tight or an unexpected life event happens. Stress is a normal part of life and the way your body is meant to react in certain situations. The problem, however, arises when that stress becomes a constant chronic feeling in your life. A grinding tension that eats away at you day after day and that you don’t know how to overcome.

When stress reaches the level of chronic stress, that’s when treatment may be necessary. Unfortunately, for many people, the medical industry’s solutions for stress, and the possible resulting anxiety and depression, often fall short. Frequently, it errors on the side of strong prescription drugs like:

  • Prozac
  • Celexa
  • Sertraline
  • Citalopram
  • Paxil

However, many times these drugs don’t get the job done and don’t help people to feel better. As a result, many are turning to CBD to help treat their chronic stress or to supplement their existing treatment.

CBD and Chronic Stress: CB1 Receptors

If chronic stress goes on for too long, it will have damaging effects on your mental and physical health. Over time it begins to change your brain’s chemistry and structure, leading to hyperactivity in some areas and atrophy in other areas. It also decreases the levels of neurotransmitters (like serotonin, dopamine, and endocannabinoids) and alters their receptors.

This is where CBD comes in.

CBD is thought to help stress through its interaction with the endocannabinoid system, which plays a vital role in our physiology, mood, and general day to day experience and perception. It helps our bodies maintain emotional balance in the same manner as serotonin and dopamine do. For this reason, it is also deeply intertwined with our body’s reaction to stress.  Prolonged exposure to chronic stress can cause an endocannabinoid imbalance, which makes it even more difficult to escape from a stressful state.

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Without diving too deeply into the brain chemistry, our bodies react to stress by overstimulating and under-stimulating various receptors (particularly our CB1 receptors) in order to alter chemical levels in our brains and nervous systems. This is an attempt by the body to solve the problem and shield us from further pain.

Although these bodily responses are necessary for us to properly deal with stress, periods of prolonged exposure can lead to too much manipulation of our brain’s chemical receptors. During times of chronic stress, the body’s initial overstimulation of CB1 receptors can actually cause it to backpedal and then under-stimulate those same receptors.  

This back and forth of stimulation can lead to a chemical imbalance in the brain. In other words, if your body initiates these stress-responses for too long it begins to not know what to do and can essentially overreact.

CBD is thought to help chronic stress by preventing the overstimulation of our body’s CB1 receptors and by boosting our body’s production of endocannabinoids. This then reins in the body’s response to stress and helps lead to the proper chemical levels and a balanced emotional state.

CBD and Stress: FAAH Enzymes

Additionally, it is possible that CBD inhibits the production of the FAAH (fatty acid amide hydrolase) enzyme, which is responsible for breaking down anandamide, an endocannabinoid generally associated with calmness and feeling good (read: the "happy" endocannabinoid).

FAAH is released by the body in times of stress to reduce levels of anandamide in order to trigger a normal response of agitation and anxiety. During periods of chronic stress, however, anandamide levels may become too low because the body is releasing too much FAAH. In this instance, CBD combats stress by reducing the amount of FAAH, thus increasing the amount of the “happy” endocannabinoid, anandamide.


Chronic stress is a big problem for a large number of people. Prevailing trends in our society like increasing debt, less job security, and volatile economic conditions only serve to increase the stress that a lot of us feel.

Without having dove too deeply into the science and studies, I hope this article helps you see the great potential CBD may have to help people with their stress. CBD might be the alternative you’re looking for to expensive, addictive, and potentially dangerous prescription drugs.

To learn if it is right for you, all you have to do is give it a try and see if it improves your life.