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Can CBD oil help with depression?

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Rates of diagnosed depression are on the rise here in the UK and have been for some years. According to the Home Office, around 1 in 6, or 16%, of adults experienced moderate to severe depressive symptoms at some point in their lives, with women being more likely to be affected than men (around 19% of women).

This is a jump of 6% compared to pre-pandemic rates, which is a worrying trend. And with the cost of living soaring over the past few years and life just becoming more and more hectic, it’s not hard to see why.

With this increase in patients suffering from mental health issues, the need for effective treatment options has become more pressing than ever. Conventional treatments such as therapy and pharmaceuticals can be an effective option, but they don’t work for all. This has pushed individuals towards alternative/natural treatments, such as CBD oil, in hopes of breaking the cycle of depression and anxiety.


  • Can CBD help with depression?
  • How long does it take for CBD oil to help with depression?
  • What does the science say about CBD and depression?

Key takeaways

  1. CBD affects both the endocannabinoid and serotonin systems – which are key players in regulating mood, anxiety, and depression. By influencing these systems, CBD can potentially improve depressive symptoms.
  2. Initial research is promising – indicating CBD’s significant role in reducing anxiety and depressive-related behaviours. However, more studies are needed to understand its benefits and mechanisms fully.
  3. CBD is not a quick fix – it’s most effective as a daily supplement and part of a broader treatment strategy that may include therapy and medication. Results may vary, with some individuals experiencing benefits within a few weeks.
  4. Dosage is highly individual – starting with a low dose and gradually increasing it is recommended.
  5. Always consult with a specialist doctor before adding CBD oil to your regimen, especially if you’re already taking antidepressants.

What is CBD?

Before we dive right in, it’s important to understand that CBD is not a cure for depression. It should be used as part of a holistic approach to managing symptoms, including therapy, exercise, and other self-care practices.

CBD is a phytocannabinoid (meaning a cannabinoid derived from a plant) produced by cannabis and hemp plants. Cannabis and hemp are actually both part of the same plant family (cannabis sativa L.) but with varying levels of THC (the psychoactive compound that produces a “high”).

Hemp contains very low levels of THC and in the last few decades has been specifically bred to contain high levels of CBD. This has allowed for the development of CBD oils and other products that offer potential therapeutic benefits without the psychoactive effects.

How does CBD potentially help with depression?

CBD affects humans in a few different ways.

The endocannabinoid system

Firstly, CBD works with our bodies’ endocannabinoid system (ECS). The ECS is a vital neurochemical signalling system that helps regulate homeostasis, or internal balance. It is responsible for modulating the body’s response to stress, pain, inflammation, and more.

In simple terms, our naturally produced endocannabinoids bind with the CB1 and CB2 receptors, located in the central and peripheral nervous systems respectively, to help regulate various processes in the body. The endocannabinoids are then broken down by enzymes, preventing them from being overproduced.

Research suggests that dysregulation of the ECS is linked to various mental health disorders, including depression. CBD has been shown to interact with the ECS by activating or inhibiting certain receptors, reducing the efficacy of the enzymes that break down endocannabinoids, and possibly increasing the amount of endocannabinoids in our system.

The serotonin system

CBD also affects the serotonin system in our bodies. Serotonin is a neurotransmitter that helps regulate mood, sleep, digestion – the list is long. Low levels of serotonin have been linked to depression, anxiety, and other mental health disorders.

The antidepressant-like effect of CBD is caused by the activation of 5-HT1A receptors. Studies have shown that CBD activates these receptors, leading to an increase in serotonin levels. This increased serotonin level can help improve mood and reduce anxiety.

What does the research say about CBD and depression?

While there is still a lot to learn about the potential benefits of CBD for mental health, initial studies have shown promising results.

  • One study from 2020, that reviewed the effects of CBD on various mental health disorders, including depression, found that CBD has a significant impact in reducing depressive-related behaviours. “All of the presented results show that CBD plays a significant role in the regulation of anxiety- and depressive-related behaviors, cognition, and locomotion. “
  • Another interesting paper, this time focusing on CBD and neurogenesis, suggests that CBD may support the growth and development of neurons in the brain. There is a link between reduced neurogenesis and depression, so this potential benefit could be significant.

How long does it take CBD oil to help with depression?

CBD is not a quick-fix solution for depression. All the research points towards CBD being most effective for depression when taken as a daily supplement and as a complementary treatment option combined with therapy and sometimes also medications.

There is no one clear answer to the question “How long does it take CBD oil to help with depression?” as there are simply too many variables at play.

Depression affects each of us differently, and there are many different depressive disorders. We all have our own unique body chemistry, so the therapeutically effective doses of CBD will be different for each of us, as will the time it takes to feel the benefits.

As a general rule, most people should start to feel a difference after taking CBD for a few weeks. However, depending on how CBD works with your unique body makeup, you may experience relief sooner or a little later.

It’s important to note that CBD may not work for every person suffering from depression, and that it is always best to talk to a doctor before making any changes to your current treatment plan. 

FAQs – CBD oil and depression

What is the best way to take CBD oil for depression?

CBD oil is most often taken sublingually – that means under the tongue.

The area under the tongue is full of blood vessels. When you drop CBD oil under your tongue, the CBD is absorbed into these blood vessels and can enter the bloodstream quickly. Taking CBD oil this way also bypasses the digestive tract, meaning more CBD is available for your body to absorb.

What is the best dosage of CBD oil dosage size for depression?

There is no ‘one size fits all’ dosage of CBD oil for depression. Everyone’s body chemistry is different, so the amount of CBD oil that works best for each person will differ. But, as a general rule, it is best to start with low and go slow – start with a small dose (around 5-10 mg) and then work your way up.

If you want more specific guidance, it’s best to speak with a doctor who specialises in prescribing cannabis-based medications.

Is it okay to take CBD oil and anti-depressant medications at the same time?

If you are currently taking any anti-depressant medications, you should always speak with your doctor before adding CBD oil to your routine.


CBD oil is showing great potential to help alleviate symptoms of depression, and the emerging science is backing up the literary of personal patient stories. However, it’s not a one-size-fits-all solution, and depression is a complex condition that often requires a multi-faceted approach.

If you are considering using CBD oil for depression, it’s always best to reach out to your clinical team before making any changes to your current treatment plan.