This is a post I wrote for Gather, an amazing online space focussed on women's stories.
Early one Saturday morning I found myself in Grass Roots, a marijuana dispensary on Polk Street in San Francisco. I am not a person well-versed in the area, so I was feeling out of my comfort zone. However, I’d been hearing a lot of talk in the health space about CBD oil and I was intrigued; could there really be something out there that’s plant-based, ‘safe’ and helpful in those moments when anxiety rears its ugly head?
Before I went to purchase my own little bottle of magic I wanted to do some research on what CBD oil actually is. Cannabidiol (CBD) oil comes from the Cannabis plant but, more importantly, it is very different from the substance that Cannabis is famous for - THC (or delta-9 tetrahydrocannabinol). Cannabis plants can be grown in different ways to produce more or less THC and CBD. Marijuana is a form of the Cannabis plant that has been grown with high concentrations of THC, whereas Hemp has lower concentrations of THC and is used to make CBD oil. Although Cannabis is the source of both compounds, CBD and THC are very different in the effects that they have on the body. THC activates the brain’s reward systems and produces the “high” that Marijuana is known for. This is not true of CBD, which is non-psychoactive or mind-altering. The crucial difference between CBD and THC is that CBD does not get you high, but THC does.
However studies are beginning to show there may be a number of medicinal benefits to taking CBD, including the treatment of chronic pain, withdrawal from cigarettes and addictive drugs and even the treatment of cancer. Researchers have found that CBD appears to help relieve certain types of anxiety including General Anxiety Disorder, Social Anxiety and Panic Attacks. The science here is still very early and more studies would need to be done to confirm these initial findings, however the results look promising. With interest in the product doubling in the last two years it’s likely we will start seeing more research into the potential benefits.
It’s worth noting that CBD oil is currently legal in California but is not legal in all 50 states of the US. It is possible to get CBD oil with different concentrations of THC and you can opt to have no THC at all. It’s important to note that CBD oil that does contains small amounts of THC would show up on a drug test, so it’s worth checking with the supplier and reading the concentration details on the bottle if this is a concern.
I’ve had my bottle of CBD oil for a few weeks now and so far the results have been good. The weekend I bought it, I was eager to try it so started on half a dropper worth in my tea, which contains about 2.5mg of CBD. I wasn’t suffering any anxiety symptoms at that point and was already feeling relaxed. After about 10 minutes I felt an urge to lie down and then had an hour long afternoon nap and woke up feeling calm and refreshed. A week later and a more testing situation; my period came and with it the inconvenience of hormonal acne on my chin. I had a first date scheduled and was feeling the familiar pull of anxiety and self-doubt. I took a dropper (5mg of CBD) before I walked out the door and by the time I arrived 10 mins later I felt notably more calm and confident as well as alert. The final test, an all-day birthday party with lots of people I don’t know. As someone who leans towards introversion, these events can be nerve-wracking so I was grateful to turn to CBD for a boost. Again, I felt a wave of ease wash over me after a few minutes. In all three situations I experienced no high, no external symptoms and I felt that my mental functioning was completely normal.
A question I’ve considered - is this just the placebo effect? My view is, placebo or not, CBD oil has helped me to feel my best self in moments when I was grateful for an extra boost. Personally, I don’t feel like I need to use CBD every day but I will keep it as part of my self-care toolbox for added support in those SOS moments of anxiety.
Important note: This is only my experience and although I’m happy to share it - CBD is not for everyone. If you are curious about trying it, please research it and choose options that are best suited for your lifestyle.