Best CBD Oil for Depression

Written by 
Valerie Usher, Health & CBD Journalist.
|checkMedically reviewed by 
Leonard Haberman, MD & Chemist.
|Last Updated:
CBD and depression
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* Please advise your physician prior to each use of CBD.

Table of Contents

What’s the Best CBD Oil for Depression?

Those who have symptoms of depression know it’s not an easy disorder to live with. While a handful of medications can be used to alleviate depression symptoms, they’re often accompanied by unpleasant side effects. Because of this, many who struggle with depression sometimes turn to CBD oil (r CBD concentrate to ease their symptoms.

There isn’t a substantial quantity of clinical evidence showing that CBD products can help with depression, but there have been a few studies published. In 2018, Washington State University looked at how people with clinical depression reacted to both cannabis and CBD. Although the study concluded that CBD mixed with THC yielded better outcomes than CBD alone, the results were clear. CBD does have an impact on depressive symptoms. The findings were later published in the Journal of Affective Disorders.

Indeed, animal CBD trials have produced preliminary evidence suggesting that CBD could be beneficial in the fight against depression. There’s also anecdotal evidence from the accounts of CBD users themselves that can’t be discounted. Still, CBD use for depression is currently a guessing game, because we simply don’t have enough knowledge.

The use of CBD oil should never take the place of mental health care from a professional, such as a psychiatrist. However, some doctors let their patients use CBD to augment their medical mental health care plan.

What Exactly is CBD Oil?

Over the last five or more years, CBD oil has become all the rage. You’re probably hearing about it everywhere. People use this “magical” substance for the management of all kinds of symptoms. But what exactly is it? You may already know that CBD oil or extract comes from cannabis plants.

The most abundant molecules found in cannabis are delta-9-tetrahydrocannabinol (THC) and cannabidiol (CBD). Each of these chemicals has its own effects on the human body, with THC being responsible for the psychoactive effects of cannabis. CBD is not a psychoactive material and it will not cause you to feel “high”.

There is still much to be discovered about how THC, CBD and other cannabinoids found in cannabis interact with the human body, but we do know they interact with the human endocannabinoid system (ECS). The ECS in turn regulates many of the body’s processes, including inflammation, mood and sleep cycles.

The ECS is composed of receptors found on neurons that are specifically designed to receive “messenger” chemicals called cannabinoids, which are produced and sent by other neurons. As it so happens, cannabis is loaded with cannabinoids that can interact with and influence the ECS. Scientists know that THC binds directly to these cannabinoid receptors in the body, but CBD’s exact mechanism of action is still to be determined.

So, where do CBD products come from and how can they be legal?

Large quantities of CBD can be found in hemp plants, a type of cannabis plant that doesn’t contain measurable amounts of THC. CBD products extracted from industrial hemp plants don’t carry the intoxicating effects contributed by THC. Completely THC free CBD products are not available. Legal products can only contain the maximum amount of THC allowed by law, 0.3 percent.

While many forms of cannabis are illegal at the federal level for possession or consumption, CBD extract in its pure form is completely legal, thanks to the unique properties of the hemp plant. Due to the Hemp Farm Act of 2018, hemp plants that contain less than 0.3 percent THC were legalized and removed from the federal list of schedule I controlled substances. Forms of CBD that come from non-hemp cannabis sources are illegal according to federal law. State laws may differ from federal law.

Potential Benefits of CBD

Professional study of CBD’s health value is still in its early stages and only limited information is available. Where studies have found CBD shows signs of valuable potential medicinal qualities, more work is needed to determine safe dosages. However, there are plenty of anecdotal reports that CBD may help with a variety of problems, including:

· Insomnia

· Pain and inflammation

· Anxiety

· Stress relief/relaxation

· Depression

· Difficulty concentrating

Lots of studies also suggest that CBD could offer further medicinal benefits, but more research needs to be done. Depression is one of the conditions falling into that category of unknowns. While some preliminary studies on animal subjects suggest CBD could work as an antidepressant, the human evidence is still lacking.

Side Effects of CBD

The good news is that CBD appears to be generally safe. It does, however, have some side effects. Even if you use the product and find out it’s not really helping with depression symptoms, you won’t experience unpleasant effects or withdrawal symptoms when you stop taking CBD as you may with other medications. The most commonly reported side effects of CBD use are nausea, fatigue and irritability. Like grapefruit juice, CBD can increase the potency of certain medications in your bloodstream, which could potentially be dangerous. Scientists think more studies on CBD safety need to be performed.

Since CBD products aren’t recognized as a drug by the FDA, they’re not regulated the material like other drugs. There’s no way to ensure what you’re ingesting is pure and safe. That makes the purchase of CBD products an endeavor you should approach in a serious and careful manner. Also, without scientific evidence, there’s no way to know what dosage is correct in your specific situation. More studies are being performed that will elucidate details like this. Surely, we’ll have a fuller picture of CBD and its uses in years to come.

How CBD Oil Can Help Depression

According to the American Psychiatric Association (APA), “Depression (major depressive disorder) is a common and serious medical illness that negatively affects how you feel, the way you think and how you act.” It’s an illness characterized by sadness and may include a loss of interest in things you once loved and the inability to function normally, both of which make daily life difficult. Depression can present on its own or show up as a feature of other mental illnesses, such as bipolar disorder or seasonal affective disorder.

Depression can be caused by a number of factors including genetics, traumatic experiences, stress and medical problems. Studies have found that some people with depression have a smaller hippocampus section of the brain than those without depression. The condition is controlled by neurotransmitters in the brain, like serotonin and dopamine, whose levels need to be maintained in an intricate balance for successful mood regulation. In other words, moods, and depression, are controlled by nerve chemicals in the brain that need to stay balanced. If neurotransmitters don’t communicate effectively, your mood can be disturbed, leading to depression.

CBD is being explored more and more as a depression treatment because it might be able to help regulate those out of whack brain chemicals. We know it interacts with the ECS, and we know the ECS is tied to mood regulation. There’s definitely room for the possibility that CBD could help with depression

This reasoning makes sense to scientists, and some studies have provided evidence to support the idea. However, for now, there are only theories, not enough hard evidence to know for sure. A 2014 study performed in Switzerland involving mice suggested that CBD had antidepressant properties. The rodents were tested with both CBD and the antidepressant Imipramine. Researchers concluded that CBD worked as well as Imipramine in reducing depression symptoms. Imipramine is a tricyclic antidepressant that helps depression by increasing the concentration of brain chemicals in the gaps between cells that are needed for mood regulation. It makes sense that CBD could have the same effects, because of its connection with the ECS.

Because it’s a serious medical condition, depression should always be treated by a medical professional. Often, the recommended plan of care for depression is medication, therapy or a combination of both. Many people, with doctor’s approval, use CBD to fight depression symptoms, whether alone or in addition to traditional treatment. People often turn to CBD because traditional antidepressant medications come with side effects they dislike or don’t offer the relief they need.

The 2014 study on mice concluded that CBD may work with certain brain receptors called 5HT1A receptors, which are involved in the balance of brain chemicals that govern the depression processes. Antidepressant drugs are known to work on these receptors as well. However, this is only theory and hasn’t yet been confirmed. Given the current evidence available, it’s still not fully known how CBD reacts with receptors in the body.

CBD vs. Antidepressants

Antidepressants have been proven to influence important chemicals involved in mood regulation. There’s still not enough evidence to suggest that CBD would do the same. Therefore, medication is based on well accepted scientific evidence while CBD is based more on theory and preliminary evidence. It’s important to take your doctor’s recommendations seriously when it comes to treating your depression. Just because you don’t need a prescription doesn’t mean you shouldn’t ingest CBD without medical attention. Depression should be viewed and treated seriously.

Types of CBD Products and How Much to Take

There is no “best” way to take CBD. It varies for everyone based on preference and the type of condition they’re trying to treat. CBD can be made into a tincture and dropped under the tongue, cooked into foods and eaten, vaporized and inhaled, rubbed into the skin and muscles in a lotion or oil form, or taken in capsule form. When taken orally, CBD’s onset is slower, and its effects last a long time. When inhaled, CBD hits the bloodstream almost instantly and affects the body strongly while wearing off more quickly. Topical use of CBD allows it to reach pain sites quickly through skin absorption.

There’s no official dosage of CBD that can be recommended, because more evidence is needed to help professionals make such a determination. It’s best to start with a very low dosage of CBD, increasing the dosage slowly until effective control of symptoms is achieved. That way, any bothersome side effects can be caught as they slowly appear, and you can make sure you don’t take too much.

It is important, however, to be careful when choosing CBD products. Since they’re not approved by the FDA, they aren’t regulated or inspected at all, as are typical drugs and edible products. Therefore, many CBD products aren’t of very high quality or they contain added ingredients. They might not contain accurate dosages as labeled, or even contain CBD at all. It’s hard to know what you’re consuming with no regulation in place.

Tips for Choosing a CBD Product

If you’re ready to start looking at CBD products to treat depression symptoms, there are lots of details to consider. There are hundreds of brands out there, and the market is growing every day. Here are some of the most important aspects you should consider when buying a CBD product:

· Is it clean? Does the product contain any contaminants from the hemp plant or those introduced through processing methods? CBD can be extracted with the use of carbon dioxide gas, ethanol or oil. Things can go wrong during the manufacturing process. Too much of a solvent could be left in your product, or microbes could contaminate it. The only way to ensure the product is safe for ingestion is by checking the company’s third party lab results. Look for levels of residual solvents, residual pesticides and heavy metals.

· How strong is it? There are many dosages available in many forms, so buying the product with the right CBD strength can be tricky. Plus, without third party testing, you don’t know if the amount of CBD claimed on the label is what’s actually in the package.

· Is it pure? Make sure you’re buying a legal product by finding one that’s clear of THC content. The chemicals in the product should be tested and reported on by the company. As long as there is less than 0.3 percent THC, CBD is considered “pure” and legal.

· Is it third party tested? This may be the most important aspect of shopping for CBD products. A company that dedicates time and money to having their products tested by a company unrelated to their own exudes transparency. You’re able to get a good look at just what exactly is in the product you’re buying.

· Certificate of Analysis (CoA)? To prove their quality levels, companies should be able to provide a Certificate of Analysis upon request. This is a document sent straight from an accredited lab that tested their products; a sort of quality assurance. This is where you can make sure the THC level is legal (under 0.3 percent) and the CBD levels are actually as advertised. Many CoAs also display lab results for solvents, pesticides, bacteria and other contaminants.

· Is the company reputable? Look at company reviews to get a feel for the companies that are trustworthy. Those are probably the ones you want to purchase from. Higher ranked companies may be pricier, but that’s the cost of quality.

The Bottom Line

If you’re thinking about trying CBD extract to aid with your depression, keep in mind that the jury’s still out on its effectiveness. Studies have found other medicinal uses for this compound, but there’s still insufficient empirical evidence to ensure that CBD will alleviate depression symptoms. However, some studies show promise, and many people report that it does indeed help with their symptoms. Its low incidence of side effects is appealing to those who want to avoid Big Pharma medications and other substances with side effects. If you decide to buy a CBD product, make sure to check the important parameters and be picky about your product.


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About The Authors
Valerie Usher
Valerie Usher
Health & CBD Journalist
Valerie Usher is a health journalist who covers the topics of CBD, mental health, women’s health and careers. In 2017, she graduated from Miami University in Oxford, Ohio with a degree in Integrative Studies. Her concentrations were in health and society. In college, Valerie excelled in scientific research study and soon began reading studies on CBD. She’s been ghostwriting and content writing about CBD and cannabis since 2017. Valerie is mainly interested in the way CBD aids in mental health.
Leonard Haberman
Leonard Haberman
MD & Chemist
Dr. Leonard Haberman is a physician and chemist who has been involved in solving chemical and medical problems for 43 years. He graduated from New York University as a dual major in chemistry and biology and went on to obtain a PhD in chemistry from the University of Minnesota where his focus was synthetic methods. He spent 18 years with the Shell organization, working in a mixture of technical and business roles. He returned to the university in 2005, graduating with an MD degree in 2009. He has published in the open literature and in the proprietary literature of the Shell organization. He holds two patents and currently works as a consultant, assisting clients with projects within the disciplines of medicine and chemistry that have potential business applications.
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