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Treating PTSD with CBD – Benefits & Effects

  • CBD has been shown to help reduce symptoms in some PTSD patients.  
  • CBD is a non-intoxicating compound produced in cannabis flower.
  • How does CBD help treat PTSD?
  • How to use CBD to treat PTSD.

Patients suffering from PTSD don’t have a lot of options when it comes to safe, natural, and legal herbal remedies. The condition, which produces bouts of anxiety and panic attacks, is traditionally treated with prescription pharmaceuticals that can notable unwanted side effects — including even thoughts of suicide. 

PTSD is most common among former military members who have been involved in combat as well as victims of violence and emotional abuse. 

More than two dozen states have legalized the medicinal use of marijuana. However, many PTSD patients cannot or would rather not use marijuana to treat their condition. For these patients, CBD and other minor cannabinoids might offer an alternative that is actually more effective than THC at suppressing and calming anxiety attacks. 

But is CBD truly effective at treating PTSD? Many PTSD patients who use CBD and other cannabinoid compounds found in CBD-rich hemp flowers swear by it. But what do the experts say?

A CBD expert on treating PTSD

Martin Lee is an affiliate of the Multidisciplinary Association for Psychedelic Studies (MAPS). Lee is also the director of the portal ProjectCBD. Lee has closely studied the effects of CBD on anxiety disorders, such as PTSD.

According to Lee, a 2105 research report (link below), presents enough preclinical evidence to suggest that CBD might offer a safe and effective treatment for PTSD patients. Lee had this to say about the study.

“Researchers found that people with PTSD had lower levels of anandamide, an endogenous cannabinoid compound, compared to those who did not show signs of PTSD. Innate to all mammals, anandamide (our inner cannabis, so to speak) triggers the same receptors that are activated by THC and other components of the marijuana plant.”

Lee claims the body doesn’t produce sufficient levels of an endocannabinoid called anandamide in PTSD patients. Endocannabinoids are cannabinoids produced naturally by our own bodies. Anandamide is responsible for the release of serotonin. It interacts with endocannabinoid receptors in the brain that are involved in a process called fear extinction

The purpose of fear extinction is to deescalate fear and instill a sense of safety after any danger has passed. However, in some PTSD patients, the lack of serotonin uptake might result in panic attacks when no danger is present. 

CBD produces effects similar to anandamide. CBD has shown the ability to increase levels of both anandamide and serotonin in the body and to help reduce feelings of anxiety in some PTSD patients.

“Scientists have determined that normal CB-1 receptor signaling deactivates traumatic memories and endows it with the gift of forgetting,” Lee said, “But skewed CB-1 signaling, due to endocannabinoid deficits (low serum levels of anandamide), results in impaired fear extinction, aversive memory consolidation, and chronic anxiety, the hallmarks of PTSD.”

How Does CBD Help Treat PTSD?

There exists both anecdotal and scientific evidence to suggest that medical marijuana is effective at treating the symptoms of PTSD in some patients. However, if used incorrectly marijuana containing levels of high-THC — the intoxicating cannabinoid — can worsen matters. An unpleasant experience with THC can turn patients off to using cannabis to treat PTSD. 

Like THC, CBD is produced in the resinous flower clusters of the female cannabis plant. However, over-the-counter CBD is produced in strains of cannabis with little to no THC. Products made from hemp-derived CBD are non-intoxicating.

CBD, CBG, or delta-8 THC for PTSD?

CBD and THC and other cannabinoids produce different effects on the human body. For PTSD patients, the benefit of THC is that it can have uplifting effects and improve mood in general in most patients. However, used in excess, THC triggers processes in the brain that initiate a fear response causing anxiety and paranoia. Obviously, this is a state that PTSD patients should avoid. Used in small doses, a little THC can go a long way toward alleviating depression that often comes with PTSD.

On the other hand, CBD is particularly effective at reducing anxiety and paranoia while also helping to quell feelings of depression. 

Another cannabinoid known as cannabigerol or CBG is even more effective than CBD at relieving feelings of anxiety in some PTSD patients. 

Furthermore, a cannabinoid called delta-8 THC offers some of the uplifting effects of marijuana but reduces the potential for increased anxiety and paranoia. D8 THC is produced from CBD. Anyone can buy CBG, CBD, and D8 THC online without a medical marijuana card as long as it was produced from legal hemp extracts and not marijuana. 

It’s important to keep in mind that each of these cannabinoids affects each individual differently. As such, some experimentation might be required by PTSD patients to find the ideal mix and dosage of these cannabinoids. 

Treating PTSD with CBD, CBG, or delta-8 THC

PTSD patients using products containing CBD, CBG, or delta-8 THC should always start treatment with a very small dosage and wait several hours to experience effects. It’s best to start with microdosing —  dosages of under 5 milligrams. 

Assuming the patient feels no adverse effects, the dosage can be increased slightly with each use until the desired effects are achieved. 

Cannabinoids’ effects are biphasic. That means that the effects can actually diminish if patients surpass their ideal dosage range. Using more of any cannabinoid than required ends up being a waste of money. It can also take away from the effectiveness of cannabinoids in treating PTSD.

The onset time and bioavailability of cannabinoids 

Two additional important considerations when using cannabinoids for PTSD are the onset time and bioavailability of the delivery method.

PTSD is often characterized by the sudden onset of feelings of anxiety, paranoia, and fear. In these cases, a delivery method with a fast onset time is ideal. However, some PTSD patients also suffer from ongoing feelings of depression. Symptoms such as depression can benefit from a delivery method with a slower onset time and longer-lasting effects. 

Inhaling CBD and other cannabinoids via smoking, vaping, dabbing, or via the use of cannabinoid inhalers offers PTSD patients the fastest onset time. Relief can be felt within seconds. Patients can smoke or vape legal, high-CBD or -CBG hemp flower with a  maximum of 0.3 percent THC as well as CBD-rich concentrates. 

However, patients suffering from lung or circulatory conditions such as asthma, bronchitis, and high blood pressure should avoid smoking and vaping to avoid further harm. These methods also offer the highest bioavailability — that is the levels of cannabinoids that enter the bloodstream. 

Tinctures offer a bit longer onset time than inhalation with somewhat lower bioavailability. Tinctures are oils or alcohol-based liquids infused with cannabinoids. Tinctures are generally packaged in dropper bottles providing a method of accurate dosing. 

The recommended dosage of a tincture is dropped under the tongue where the cannabinoids are able to absorb into the bloodstream. Onset time can take a few minutes or longer in some cases. And full effects take up to half an hour. Tinctures can also be added to food and beverages. 

Cannabinoid capsules and lozenges, and medical marijuana edibles can also be purchased online and at dispensaries nationwide. However, oral application offer increased onset time and lower bioavailability as the cannabinoids must traverse the digestive system.

Some additional delivery methods also exist such as cannabinoid patches and topicals. The cannabinoids in these products are absorbed through the skin into the bloodstream.


While cannabis offers a safe and natural alternative for treating PTSD, marijuana containing THC can worsen PTSD when not used in small dosages. Cannabinoids help PTSD patients by supplementing the body’s own natural endocannabinoids thus increasing levels of anandamide and serotonin in the brain. Other cannabinoids such as CBG and delta-8 THC might also be helpful for some patients. 

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