CBD for Stress: Lowering Cortisol with CBD

CBD for Stress: Lowering Cortisol with CBD

Stress: we’ve all dealt with it. Indeed, some of us are currently experiencing an increase of stress now more than ever before.

Since the COVID-19 pandemic, at least 8 out of 10 adults have felt a significant rise of stress in their lives. That’s at least 80% of the American population [¹]. Scary, right?

But that’s not all…

Close to 50% of adults report feeling body tension, irritability, mood swings, and uncontrollable anger, all caused by an increase of stress [¹].

Police officers have even seen a huge increase in road rage since 2019 [²]. People have been shot, beaten, and ran over—all from road rage incidents.

And while we’re all trying to cope and rebuild from the COVID-19 pandemic, it seems we have an epidemic on the rise…

It’s called stress!  And whether we realize it or not, we’ve all been affected by it.

But, you may be wondering…

What is stress?

You know that feeling of having butterflies in your stomach? Or adrenaline coursing through your veins? Or that overwhelming pressure and tension that surges through every joint, muscle, and bone in your body?

Well, according to research, that’s stress.

In other words, stress is an emotional, mental, and physical reaction people encounter when facing life changes [³].

Now, these changes don’t have to be big. They can be as little as meeting up with a friend they haven’t seen in awhile, engaging in social gatherings, traveling for work, writing a school paper, or experimenting with a new recipe.

To be fair, stress is a normal part of life. We’ve all experienced elevated heart rates, the flip-flopping stomach aches, and the flutter of nerves. Just think back to when you tried talking to your first crush. Nerve-wracking, right?

But stress is never meant to last long term.

Long-term stress is dangerous. It can wreak havoc on your mental and physical health, causing digestive disorders, insomnia, headaches, depression, and anxiety [³].

If you don’t address long-term stress, it’s inevitable that your health will suffer.

But here’s what’s interesting about stress: it’s actually a hormone called cortisol, and it exists in every human.

What is cortisol?

Right above our kidneys we have these glands called adrenals, and they are what produce the stress hormone known as cortisol [].

Now, the main purpose of cortisol, a.k.a our “stress hormone”, is to alert us when we are in danger, control our blood pressure and sugar levels, regulate our glucose metabolism and immune response, reduce inflammation, and balance our wake and sleep cycles [].

And believe it or not, when we exercise we actually put our body through a great deal of stress, in which case our adrenal glands produce just enough cortisol to achieve our exercise goals and respond to the inflammation our muscles, joints, and bones just endured.

But having too much cortisol (or too little) can really throw your body out of whack, thus causing an array of unwanted symptoms, and in extreme cases, even death.

Cortisol levels: What’s normal and what’s abnormal?

Normal cortisol levels do range from person to person, but in a nutshell, cortisol levels are usually higher in the morning and lower at night.

As we get ready for bed, our cortisol levels die down, helping us fall into a deep sleep. When the sun rises, our cortisol levels increase, causing our body to wake and start the day.

Low levels of cortisol will usually lead to Addison’s disease, which causes []:

Extreme fatigue

Nausea and vomiting

Weight loss

Abdominal pain

Muscle weakness

High levels of cortisol leads to Cushing’s syndrome, which causes []:

Weight gain

Acne

Facial hair (in women)

Irregular menstrual cycles (in women)

Thinning skin

The best way to maintain a balanced level of cortisol is a healthy lifestyle. Exercise, healthy eating, proper sleep, meditation, and rest can all help keep your cortisol levels in check.

But experiencing long-term stress can throw your cortisol levels out of whack, thus causing the above symptoms. In fact, the Mayo Clinic even suggests that prolonged exposure to cortisol can actually increase depression, digestive disorders, sleep problems, and anxiety [].

So what does this mean? Can stress cause anxiety?

Stress and anxiety

Many believe that stress and anxiety go hand-in-hand. But that’s not entirely accurate…

Stress can actually trigger anxiety, and anxiety can contribute to stress in the body.

But if you’re wondering, “Are stress and anxiety the same?” The answer is, not exactly.

While stress and anxiety often share identical symptoms, there are some key differences…

What is anxiety?

While we all face anxious thoughts from time to time, anxiety is a mental disorder [].

It’s persistent, and often doesn’t go away even after stress is relieved.

Anxiety can be triggered by an object, a situation, a flashback, or a number of other things. Fear, dread, rapid heartbeat, and sweating are often the first signs of anxiety disorder [].

Anxiety sufferers often have no control of their response when they are under an anxiety attack. And it can lead to other disorders like depression, phobias, and panic disorders [].

But as it turns out, higher cortisol levels have been linked to anxiety disorder [].

Which brings us to…

How to lower cortisol?

Doctors will often prescribe corticosteroids, antidepressants, and other pharmaceutical drugs to help balance out your cortisol levels.

Now, corticosteroids are synthetic versions of our cortisol hormones. They help address inflammatory conditions like asthma, they can treat Addison’s disease, and even normalize skin conditions like psoriasis  [].

But there’s a problem with these traditional treatment options: they can cause multiple side effects.

Since corticosteroids are the most common treatment for irregular cortisol levels, we’re going to focus on their side effects  []:

Osteoporosis

Thinning skin

Weight gain

High blood sugar

Diabetes

Anxious feelings

Mood swings or changes

Irritability

Cushing’s syndrome

High blood pressure

Depression

Suicidal thoughts

Glaucoma or cataracts

Sure, pharmaceutical drugs have their place, but with so many side effects, many people have wondered… How do you lower cortisol naturally?

Supplements to lower cortisol

There are a few natural supplements that have helped reintroduce balance into our body. And some believe they can lower their cortisol levels.

The first is….

Ashwagandha

Ashwagandha is an herb that scientists have studied for its therapeutic, anti-stress properties. In fact, many people use ashwagandha for stress and anxiety issues.

One controlled trial explored how ashwagandha would affect cortisol levels in 60 adults. Within just two months of taking ashwagandha, all 60 adults showed a significant reduction of cortisol levels [].

Other studies showed similar effects at reducing cortisol levels and addressing symptoms of anxiety [, ¹⁰, ¹¹, ¹²].

That said, more studies are needed. But it’s reassuring to see that adaptogen herbs like ashwagandha have been studied for reducing cortisol levels.

Next we have…

Fish oil

There’s a lot to be said about fish oil. Most people praise it for being rich in omega-3 fatty acids, which are known for their potential anti-inflammatory properties.

And now it seems it may have an impact on cortisol levels as well.

For example, one study that involved 2,724 participants showed that those with high levels of omega-3 fatty acids actually had lower levels of both inflammation and cortisol [¹³].

Other studies found the combination of fish oil and docosahexaenoic acid, better known as DHA, which is used in maintaining normal brain function in adults, significantly lowered cortisol levels [¹⁴].

More studies are needed, but again, it’s encouraging to know that something natural like fish oil—which can be obtained from eating high quality, wild-caught fish or supplements—can help address cortisol levels.

Lastly, we want to explore…

CBD oil and CBD gummies

A lot of people didn’t know what CBD was back in the early 2000s, but fast-forward to today and it seems almost everyone has at least heard of it.

And since CBD is non-psychoactive, the world has welcomed it with open arms.

But how does CBD help with cortisol levels?

Well, according to a 1993 study, researchers found that CBD actually had an impact on the production of cortisol [¹⁵].

But that’s not all…

In a 2020 review, researchers found that CBD had positive effects regarding conditions like anxiety, stress, depression, and even dementia [¹⁶].

There are a ton of other studies that showcase CBD’s therapeutic properties, in which case many scientists believe it to be a less invasive and natural option than some pharmaceuticals. However, more studies are needed.

That said, the only way to achieve these therapeutic benefits is by purchasing high quality CBD products from reputable CBD brands.

CBD and stress: final thoughts

Stress and anxiety can throw our cortisol levels out of whack. But if we can adopt a healthy lifestyle, learn to identify what elevates our stress, and consume natural supplements that have been shown to reduce stress, we can reintroduce balance back into our body and regulate our cortisol levels.

If you do decide to consume natural supplements like fish oil, ashwagandha, or CBD, just be sure you only purchase these supplements from reputable brands.

Look for a solid brand reputation, third party testing, and high-quality cultivation.

Sources:

1.American Psychological Association: Stress in America 2020

2.PEW: Cops Scramble to deal with deadly road rage during pandemic

3.NIH: Stress

4.Health Direct: The Role of Cortisol in the body

5.Mayo Clinic: Stress management

6.Mental Health.gov: Anxiety Disorders

7.Pub Me.gov: Salivary cortisol levels in person with and without different anxiety disorders

8.NIH: An investigation into the stress-relieving and pharmacological actions of an ashwagandha (Withania somnifera) extract: A randomized, double-blind, placebo-controlled study

9.NCBI: Adaptogenic and Anxiolytic Effects of Ashwagandha Root Extract in Healthy Adults: A Double-blind, Randomized, Placebo-controlled Clinical Study

10.NCBI: Body Weight Management in Adults Under Chronic Stress Through Treatment With Ashwagandha Root Extract

11.NIH: A prospective, randomized double-blind, placebo-controlled study of safety and efficacy of a high-concentration full-spectrum extract of ashwagandha root in reducing stress and anxiety in adults

12.NCBI: Efficacy and Safety of Ashwagandha (Withania somnifera) Root Extract in Insomnia and Anxiety: A Double-blind, Randomized, Placebo-controlled Study

13.NIH: Omega-3 polyunsaturated fatty acid levels and dysregulations in biological stress systems

14.NIH: Fish oil supplementation reduces cortisol basal levels and perceived stress: a randomized, placebo-controlled trial in abstinent alcoholics

15.NIH: Effect of cannabidiol on plasma prolactin, growth hormone and cortisol in human volunteers

16.Innovare Journal of Medical Sciences: THE ROLE OF CANNABIDIOL IN THE INFLAMMATORY PROCESS AND ITS PROPERTIES AS AN ALTERNATIVE THERAPY – A REVIEW (META-ANALYSIS)