Holidays and anxiety, stress – Can CBD really help curb holiday stress?

With Cannabidiol (CBD) stores popping up around the US and the push for “herbal” medicine, the question is whether CBD and CBD containing products can be helpful in managing anxiety and stress with the upcoming holidays?
Written by 
Baran Erdik, MD, MHPA.
|Last Updated:
CBD and anxiety

Ask any colleague, friend or family member their true feelings about the holidays… I’ll be a mixed bag, with all the love, gifts and cheers on one side of the equation and stress and anxiety from the spending, travel and family time with that weird aunt and uncle on the other side. In this light, a recent survey showed that sixty-two percent of respondents had “very or somewhat” elevated stress levels during the holidays compared with only ten percent reporting no stress.

CBD and the Endocannabinoid System

Cannabis plant has been grown and used for its both medicinal and industrial benefits since the ancient times. Though the cannabis plant contains more than hundred different types of cannabinoids. The most abundant of these is tetrahydrocannabinol (THC) has psychoactive effects and the second most abundant is cannabidiol (CBD). Hemp plants are grown for their fibers as well as relatively high CBD levels, as industrial hemp must have less than 0.3% THC to be legal.

The endocannabinoid system (ECS) consists of cannabinoid receptors (such as CB1 and CB2) that can be activated by CBD throughout the brain, internal organs as well as the immune system. The ECS is involved in regulation of numerous processes throughout the human body from pain to spermatogenesis, as well as regulation of emotions and cognition. Furthermore, studies have shown that the ECS is critical for learning and responses to emotionally salient, especially highly aversive events. (Riebe CJ et al.) Activation of cannabinoid receptors such as some CB1 subtypes have also been shown to be anxiolytic, thus further laying the groundwork for CBD to be useful to help manage holiday related stress and anxiety. (Ruehle S et al.)

Human CBD receptors chart

CBD and the Serotonergic System

Most people have heard of Serotonin. The so called “happiness” hormone. Though this is true on an extremely simplified basis, the serotonergic system is much more complicated, with the system underlying the antidepressant mechanism of action of many types of mechanisms, to other medications working on gut motility and nausea, to migraines. One of the most important serotonin receptors is the 5-HT1A receptor well established as an anxiolytic target, with many medications approved for management of Generalized Anxiety Disorder exerting effect through this receptor. CBD has also been shown to be active at the 5-HT1A receptors potentially driving a neuroprotective, antidepressive as well as an anxiolytic effect. (Zanelati TV et al.)

CBD and Holidays

CBD has been used for thousands of years for its medicinal properties ranging from pain to nausea. With the holidays approaching and the associated stress, CBD will no doubt become an alternative to help manage the holiday related stress, not just by making it easy to manage the stress and anxiety but also help reduce the side effects of such, that is poor sleep, poor appetite and the likes. Cannabis through its effects on the ECS not only lengthens the sleep, but shortens the time it takes to fall asleep, that is makes it easy to fall asleep, with as much as a 15-minute difference. (Babson)

Overall, there is strong preclinical studies demonstrating the utility of CBD to help manage stress and anxiety, as well as help manage the associated side effects of stress such as insomnia and low appetite. Maybe CBD oil will be the best stocking stuffer this year, even for Aunt Edna…


  1. 2020. Holiday Stress And The Brain. [online] Available at: <> [Accessed 19 October 2020].
  2. Riebe CJ, Pamplona FA, Kamprath K, Wotjak CT. Fear relief-toward a new conceptual frame work and what endocannabinoids gotta do with it. Neuroscience. 2012; 204:159-85. [pubmed]
  3. Ruehle S, Rey AA, Remmers F, Lutz B. The endocannabinoid system in anxiety, fear memory and habituation. J Psychopharmacol. 2012; 26(1):23-39. [PDF]
  4. Zanelati TV, Biojone C, Moreira FA, Guimarães FS, Joca SR. Antidepressant-like effects of cannabidiol in mice: possible involvement of 5-HT1A receptors. Br J Pharmacol. 2010; 159(1):122-8. [PDF]
  5. Babson KA, Sottile J, Morabito D. Cannabis, Cannabinoids, and Sleep: a Review of the Literature. Curr Psychiatry Rep. 2017; 19(4):23. [pubmed]
Baran Erdik
Baran Erdik
Dr. Baran Erdik found his medical passion in Cardiology and Internal Medicine, where he now specializes. Since graduating summa cum laude, with a Master’s in Healthcare Administration and Policy from Washington State University, Dr. Erdik found his calling as a consultant for hospitals around the world.

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