CBD Oil for Depression

CBD Oil for Depression

Depression as defined on Britannica.com, “in psychology, a mood or emotional state that is marked by feelings of low self-worth or guilt and a reduced ability to enjoy life.”1)https://www.britannica.com/science/depression-psychology

Depression may also be referred to as melancholy, the blues, unhappiness, sorrow, sadness, or misery. There are various levels of depression that can either be temporary or situational, or severe to fatal.

Major or chronic depression required medical attention and some form of treatment. CBD oil for depression is being researched and studied as a treatment for those suffering from depression.

The information contained here will address depression, types of depression, depression that accompanies other mental illnesses, conventional treatments, and CBD oil and how it may help depression.

What causes depression?

The most common thing said about depression is that it happens due to chemical imbalances. However, that does not reflect the complexity of depression as a disease.

According to an article on Harvard Health Publishing, depression is more than a chemical brain imbalance. It can be caused by these factors:

  • Faulty mood regulation by the brain
  • Genetic predisposition or vulnerability
  • Stressful or traumatic life events
  • Medications
  • Medical conditions

What areas of the brain are affected by depression?

Harvard Health Medical School takes the stance that these forces along with a plethora of others merge to cause depression. 2)https://www.health.harvard.edu/mind-and-mood/what-causes-depression

In figure 1 of the published article on Harvard Health Publishing shows the areas of the brain affected by depression, which includes:

  • Basal ganglia – Interconnected with the thalamus, cerebral cortex, and the brain stem and controls eye movements, voluntary motor movements, emotion, and cognition 3)https://www.sciencedirect.com/topics/medicine-and-dentistry/basal-ganglia
  • Amygdala – Deep inside the brain and associated with emotions like sorrow, pleasure, fear, anger, and sexual arousal
  • Hippocampus – Processes long-term memory and recall
  • Left hemisphere – Controls the right side of the human body and is associated with creativity 4)https://www.livescience.com/32935-whats-the-difference-between-the-right-brain-and-left-brain.html
  • Thalamus – Directs high-level functions like movement, speech, thinking, learning, and behavioral reactions
  • Right hemisphere – Controls the left side of the human body and is analytical 5)https://www.livescience.com/32935-whats-the-difference-between-the-right-brain-and-left-brain.html
  • The prefrontal cortex – Found in front of the brain and contributes to motivation, attention (medial prefrontal cortex), impulses and distractions (orbital prefrontal cortex), controls strong emotions, creation, and execution of plans (lateral prefrontal cortex) 6)https://www.goodtherapy.org/blog/psychpedia/prefrontal-cortex

Interestingly enough, Rafi Letzter, published in Live Science, says that there really are no significant differences between the left and right brain functions other than the side of the body the hemispheres control. 7)https://www.livescience.com/32935-whats-the-difference-between-the-right-brain-and-left-brain.html

What are the types of depression?

As mentioned previously, there is not just one cause or type of depression. Depression can take on many different forms, including the following. 8)https://www.psycom.net/depression.central.html

  • Major depression – The most common form and may include recurrent episodes
  • Postpartum depression – Mothers suffer various levels of disconnection from the baby after giving birth
  • Dysthymia – Persistent low mood lasting for long periods of time (sometimes a year or more) that makes the sufferer feel like they are living on automatic pilot
  • Bipolar disorder – Also referred to as manic depressive disorder and causes manic and depressive episodes
  • Seasonal affective disorder – Occurs mostly in the winter due to lack of sunlight
  • Situational depression – Triggered by something life-changing such as the death of a close family member or the loss of a job
  • Premenstrual dysphoric disorder – Occurs in the second half of the menstrual cycle and is severe depression that affects the person’s ability to function

It is likely that many people have experienced some level of depression in their lives. The difference is that not everyone is affected the same and some people are able to heal faster than others.

What are the symptoms of depression?

Just as vast in range as the forms of depression are the symptoms of depression. Due to the multiple forms of depression, some have more recognizable symptoms while others are less noticeable.

The following list is a mere short-list example, but it does represent the basic symptoms of depression. 9)https://www.psycom.net/depression.central.html

  • Restlessness, irritability, frustration
  • Persistent feelings of hopelessness, emptiness, worthlessness, or sadness
  • Lack of energy, tiredness, fatigue
  • Appetite or changes in weight
  • Sleeping disruptions, insomnia, difficulty sleeping, sleeping too much
  • Thinking, memory, concentration, or decision-decision difficulties
  • Physical symptoms like back pain, headaches, stomach aches
  • Recurrent thoughts of suicide or death

What are the current treatments used for depression?

Before conventional or alternative treatments for depression are administered, various tests performed by physicians, psychologists, psychiatrists, or other medical personnel.

Physical exams can uncover a physical illness that may be the culprit that is causing your depression. Lab tests can detect thyroid function and uncover issues with your blood count that may contribute to depression.

A psychiatric evaluation may be in order when a physical condition is not found. A psychiatrist will ask you to describe your symptoms, feelings, behaviors, and thoughts to make a diagnosis. It is not uncommon to fill out a questionnaire regarding your symptoms and feelings.

  • The Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders (DSM-5) may be used to diagnose depression.
  • Once a diagnosis is provided a personalized treatment plan is created. This may include dietary or lifestyle changes or medications such as the following.
  • Atypical antidepressants like Trazadone, Wellbutrin, or bupropion.
  • Serotonin-norepinephrine reuptake inhibitors (SNRIs) such as Cymbalta or Fetzima.
  • Selective serotonin reuptake inhibitors (SSRIs) like Zoloft or Celexa.
  • Monoamine oxidase inhibitors (MAOIs) such as Marplan or Parnate.
  • Tricyclic antidepressants like Norpramin or Surmontil.
  • Mood stabilizers, antianxiety medications, or antipsychotics may also be used along with these medications or as a standalone treatment 10)https://www.mayoclinic.org/diseases-conditions/depression/diagnosis-treatment/drc-20356013

The Mayo Clinic also includes a list of alternative supplements and treatments commonly used for depression.

Supplements such as St. John’s wort, SAMe, Omega-3 fatty acids, and other nutritional supplements are sometimes used to treat depression.

Alternative or integrative practices such as acupuncture, massage, relaxation techniques, yoga, tai chi, meditation, guided imagery, music therapy, art therapy, exercise, or spirituality may be used to help with depression. 11)https://www.mayoclinic.org/diseases-conditions/depression/diagnosis-treatment/drc-20356013

Most medications used for depression are associated with a number of adverse side effects that range from mild to fatal. Some alternative therapies and supplements provide some relief, but not for everyone. This is why more research and human studies are needed to uncover the efficacy of CBD oil for depression.

What is CDB oil?

Cannabidiol (CBD) oil comes from cannabis plants such as marijuana or hemp. It is a natural compound also known as cannabidiol. Hemp is the most used for CDB oil because of its low tetrahydrocannabinol (THC) content.

While CBD and THC are both categorizes as cannabinoids, they have vastly different effects on the human body. THC is known for its psychoactive effects that make you high like smoking marijuana would. CBD oil produces no psychoactive effects (it will not make you high).

There has been a wave of popularity over the past few years in the exploration into the potential benefits of using CBD oil for depression as well as other mental health and medical conditions.

How does CBD oil work?

According to Jonathan Weiss’ article, “What is CBD and how does it work?” on the Open Access Government website, CBD enhances the human body’s ECS (Endocannabinoid System).

In the 1990s the ECS was discovered and is believed to be one of the most important receptor systems in the body for maintaining good health. It has been recognized as a crucial modulatory system in the endocrine, brain, and immune tissues.

The ECS responds to both the endogenous cannabinoids and the Phytocannabinoids. The ECS receptors CB1 and CB2 are found throughout the human body. The CB1 receptors are in the brain with the highest amounts found in the Amygdala, Hippocampus, and the Hypothalamus.

CB2 receptors are found in the immune cells, thymus, spleen, and tonsils. Therefore, the ECS plays an important part in homeostasis. 12)https://www.openaccessgovernment.org/what-is-cbd/66697/

How might CBD oil for depression be effective?

Based on everything you have read in this article up to now regarding the brain and the CB1 and CB2 receptors and how CBD works, it makes sense that CBD oil for depression might be an effective treatment. It might even be better and faster than conventional medications. 13)https://www.psypost.org/2018/11/cannabidiol-induces-a-rapid-and-long-lasting-antidepressant-effect-in-rodent-model-of-depression-52664

The only way to get definitive evidence that CBD oil is an effective treatment for those suffering from depression is to do more research and perform more clinical human studies. It will likely be well worth looking into since depression affects so many people across the globe.

What about the CBD oil for depression studies?

The next few paragraphs will list a few studies related to depression and CBD oil for depression.

Study July 3, 2018: “Hippocampal mammalian target of rapamycin is implicated in stress-coping behavior induced by cannabidiol in the forced swim test”, Amanda J. Sales, Manoela V. Fogaça, Ariandra G. Sartim, Vitor S. Pereira, Gregers Wegener, Francisco S. Guimarães, and Sâmia R. L. Joca. Conclusion: CBD induced an antidepressant-like effect and increased BDNF levels in the dorsal hippocampus. 14)https://doi.org/10.1177/0269881118784877

Study June 5, 2018: “Antidepressant-like effect induced by Cannabidiol is dependent on brain serotonin levels“, Amanda J. Sales, Carlos C. Crestani, Francisco S. Guimarães, and Sâmia R.L. Joca. Conclusion: Antidepressant-like effect induced by CBD in the FST is reliant on serotonin levels produced by the central nervous system. 15)https://www.sciencedirect.com/science/article/pii/S0278584618301167

Study: February 2019: “Cannabidiol Induces Rapid and Sustained Antidepressant-like Effects Through Increased BDNF Signaling and Synaptogenesis in the Prefrontal Cortex”, Amanda J. SalesManoela V. FogaçaAriandra G. SartimVitor S. PereiraGregers WegenerFrancisco S. GuimarãesSâmia R. L. Joca. Conclusion: The data supports the potential for a promising therapeutic effect for CBD as a fast-acting antidepressant. 16)https://doi.org/10.1007/s12035-018-1143-4

Is CBD oil for depression legal?

The legality of CBD oil for depression depends on the laws in a country, state, or region. For instance, in some states, it is legal to use CBD oil extracted from the marijuana plant, while in others, only CBD oil extracted from hemp is legal.

As far as the federal government in the United States, hemp-derived CBD related products are legal at the federal level as long as they contain less than 0.3 percent THC. There are still some states where even that is not legal. Be aware of the legal aspects of using CBD oil for depression before you partake. 17)https://www.healthline.com/health/cbd-for-depression#takeaway

What are the side effects of using CBD oil for depression?

The side effects of CBD oil are few but important to know. The most common side effects include:

  • Diarrhea
  • Tiredness
  • Appetite changes
  • Weight loss or gain
  • Bloating
  • Nausea
  • Vomiting

None of these side effects were reported as severe. 18)https://www.medicalnewstoday.com/articles/319475.php

The biggest issue surrounding the use of CBD oil for depression is drug and food interactions. It can affect the efficacy of a medication or create other issues when combined with certain foods and vitamins. Vitamin C and grapefruit juice are two things that do not mix well with CBD oil.

How do you take CBD oil for depression?

Depending on how you want to use it CBD oil can be used in an oral tincture, capsule, oil, or spray, edible gummies or beverages, vaping though it comes with its own issues, and topical applications in lotions, creams, and serums.

Since CBD oil and products are considered supplements, the FDA does not regulate them. Dosages are open to interpretation, but the manufacturer labels should be followed when it comes to a reliable and reputable source.

It is prudent to consult with your doctor before trying CBD oil for depression and to learn what is an acceptable dosage. It is better to start low and work up to a larger dose if you need it. If you take medications, talk to your doctor or pharmacist to find out what interactions might occur with CBD oil. 19)https://www.medicalnewstoday.com/articles/319475.php


CBD oil is generally becoming a popular alternative to pain medications for people who suffer from pain. However, it is also being used for a wide range of health conditions from anxiety and depression to chronic pain and neuropathy. Make sure you read reputable websites for reviews when making purchases.

CBD oil for depression is considered safe to use, but it still may interact poorly with medications you take or certain supplements, foods and beverages.

Always read the labels on CBD oils to ensure the product is derived from hemp with a low concentration (less than 0.3 percent) of THC. Research local laws regarding the use of any CBD product before using it.

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Prof. S. Whitehall MSc
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Written by Prof. S. Whitehall MSc

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