Cannabidiol (CBD) is a type of natural compound known as a cannabinoid. Cannabinoids are found in the cannabis plant. Cannabis plants are sometimes called hemp or marijuana, depending on their level of tetrahydrocannabinol (THC), another cannabinoid.

THC is associated with a “high.” CBD, however, does not cause psychoactive effects like marijuana does.

CBD can be derived from the hemp or marijuana plant.

CBD has seen a surge in popularity in recent years, as new research explores its potential health benefits. Some research suggests that CBD oil and other CBD products may be beneficial for symptoms of depression.

If you’re looking into using CBD for therapeutic purposes, it’s important to understand that the research around CBD is limited. There have been a lot of studies in the last decade, but most of them were done using animals.

That means the possible benefits of CBD for depression in humans are mostly speculative right now.

Still, CBD does appear to have some benefits for depression, especially for dealing with:

  • anxiety
  • cognitive impairment
  • discomfort before public speaking

THC and CBD may also be helpful for conditions potentially related to depression, such as chronic pain.

Experts believe that CBD’s potential benefits for depression are related to its positive effect on serotonin receptors in the brain.

Low serotonin levels are likely connected to depression. CBD doesn’t necessarily boost serotonin levels, but it may affect how your brain’s chemical receptors respond to the serotonin that’s already in your system.

A 2014 animal study found that CBD’s effect on these receptors in the brain produced both antidepressant and anti-anxiety effects.

A more recent 2018 review of existing studies concluded that CBD has anti-stress effects, which may reduce depression related to stress.

As mentioned, this is an area that’s still being actively studied, and new research and reviews are published every year. As researchers begin to better understand CBD and its potential benefits or concerns, information about how to most effectively use the product will continue to change.

When it comes to treating depression, CBD does appear to have some benefits over antidepressant medications.

Most antidepressant medications take weeks to start working. However, a 2019 animal study found that CBD has a fast and sustained antidepressant-like effect.

CBD may also result in fewer side effects than antidepressant medication. Insomnia, sexual dysfunction, mood swings, and agitation are common side effects of antidepressants. CBD has not shown similar issues.

Caution

While CBD may offer some benefits over antidepressant medications, it isn’t a replacement. Never stop taking prescribed medication, especially antidepressants, without talking to your healthcare provider first.

Abruptly stopping medication that’s been prescribed to you can cause serious side effects. If you want to stop taking medication, work with your healthcare provider to come up with a plan for gradually decreasing your dosage.

Depression and anxiety commonly occur together, and people with one are more likely to have the other. CBD does appear to help with both.

One study found that people who took 600 milligrams (mg) of CBD experienced significantly less social anxiety than people who took a placebo. Another study used a smaller dose of 300 mg, which still reduced levels of anxiety.

Anxiety may also have a link to low serotonin, so CBD’s effect on serotonin receptors might partly explain these beneficial effects.

So far, CBD doesn’t appear to cause many side effects. But some people may be more sensitive to it and experience:

  • diarrhea
  • fatigue
  • changes in weight or appetite

One study found that receiving doses of CBD-rich cannabis extracts can cause liver toxicity in mice. However, some of the mice in that study did receive unusually high doses of CBD.

It’s hard to know if CBD causes any long-term side effects due to a lack of research. So far, experts haven’t identified any major long-term risks.

Keep in mind that this doesn’t mean there aren’t any. It simply means that researchers haven’t encountered any yet.

In a 2017 review, the World Health Organization concluded that CBD is generally safe. They noted that adverse effects may be caused by interactions between CBD and medications.

To minimize your risk of side effects, make sure to talk to your healthcare provider before trying CBD.

This is important if you take over-the-counter medications, herbal supplements, and prescription medications (especially those that come with a “grapefruit warning“). Both CBD and grapefruit have an effect on cytochromes P450 (CYPs), a family of enzymes important to drug metabolism.

CBD is available in four formulations:

  • Oral. This includes tinctures, capsules, sprays, and oils. These mixes can be taken as they are, or they may be used in other preparations, such as smoothies or a coffee.
  • Edible. Drinks and foods, such as CBD-infused gummies, are now widely available.
  • Vaping. Vaping with CBD oil is one way to quickly ingest the compounds. However, there’s some debate over the long-term safety of this method. In addition, it can also cause coughing and throat irritation.
  • Topical. CBD-infused beauty products, lotions, and creams are a big business right now. These products incorporate CBD into things you apply directly to your skin. However, this formulation is likely best for pain, not mental health uses.

If you want to try CBD, you’ll need to find a reputable seller. Hemp-derived CBD is widely available in many areas. You may even find it in some health food stores. Marijuana-derived CBD is only sold in dispensaries in states where marijuana is legal for medicinal or recreational use.

If you’re interested in buying CBD, look for brands that are reputable and trustworthy. You can usually determine if a brand is reputable by checking if they conduct third-party lab testing of their products.

CBD is becoming an increasingly popular remedy for a range of health issues, including depression. If you’re interested in trying CBD, talk with your healthcare provider.

While studies show the compound is generally safe, it may interact with medications. It’s a good idea to review medications and other supplements you’re taking before you begin using CBD.

Is CBD Legal? Marijuana-derived CBD products are illegal on the federal level, but are legal under some state laws. Hemp-derived CBD products (with less than 0.3 percent THC) are legal on the federal level, but are still illegal under some state laws. Check your state’s laws and those of anywhere you travel. Keep in mind that nonprescription CBD products are not FDA-approved, and may be inaccurately labeled.