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  • by Nicola Boulton September 02, 2023 10 min read

    Explore the potential of CBD (cannabidiol) as a natural remedy for depression. Learn about current research, how CBD interacts with the brain, and its effectiveness in managing depressive symptoms.

    Depression is a common and debilitating mental health condition that affects millions of people worldwide. While there are various treatment options available, including therapy and medication, some individuals are turning to alternative approaches like CBD (cannabidiol) to manage their symptoms. In this article, we'll dive deep into the potential benefits, mechanisms of action, and considerations when using CBD for depression.

    Understanding Depression

    Depression is more than just occasional sadness; it's a complex mood disorder characterized by persistent feelings of sadness, hopelessness, and a loss of interest in previously enjoyable activities. It can also manifest physically, leading to changes in appetite, sleep disturbances, fatigue, and even physical pain. Depression has both environmental and genetic factors, making it a multifaceted condition.

    Types of Depression

    Major Depressive Disorder (MDD)

    Major Depressive Disorder, often referred to as clinical depression, is one of the most common and widely recognized forms of depression. It is characterized by persistent feelings of deep sadness, hopelessness, and a profound lack of interest or pleasure in activities that were once enjoyable. Common symptoms include changes in appetite and sleep patterns, chronic fatigue, difficulty concentrating, and, in severe cases, thoughts of self-harm or suicide. To be diagnosed with MDD, these symptoms must persist for at least two weeks and significantly impact an individual's daily life.

    Persistent Depressive Disorder (Dysthymia)

    Persistent Depressive Disorder, also known as dysthymia, is a milder but longer-lasting form of depression. Unlike MDD, which can come and go, dysthymia involves a persistent, low-grade depressed mood lasting for at least two years in adults (one year in children and adolescents). While the symptoms are similar to MDD, they are typically less severe. Individuals with dysthymia may also experience changes in appetite, sleep disturbances, fatigue, and low self-esteem.

    Bipolar Disorder

    Bipolar Disorder is a mood disorder characterized by extreme mood swings that alternate between depressive episodes and periods of mania or hypomania. Depressive episodes in bipolar disorder are similar to those in MDD, with overwhelming sadness, loss of interest, and other typical symptoms. However, what sets bipolar disorder apart are the manic or hypomanic episodes. These phases involve elevated mood, increased energy, impulsivity, and a reduced need for sleep. Bipolar disorder is categorized into several types, including bipolar I (with full manic episodes), bipolar II (with hypomanic episodes), and cyclothymic disorder (with frequent mood swings).

    Seasonal Affective Disorder (SAD)

    Seasonal Affective Disorder is a subtype of depression that occurs seasonally, usually in the fall and winter when daylight hours are shorter. Symptoms of SAD include fatigue, oversleeping, weight gain, and a persistent low mood. This form of depression is believed to be related to reduced exposure to sunlight, leading to disruptions in the body's internal clock and decreased production of certain neurotransmitters.

    Postpartum Depression

    According to Stewart et al (2016), postpartum Depression is a type of depression that occurs during pregnancy or within 4 weeks following delivery. It is associated with hormonal changes, sleep deprivation, and the emotional and physical demands of caring for a newborn. Symptoms include mood swings, frequent crying spells, irritability, difficulty bonding with the baby, and, in severe cases, thoughts of harming oneself or the infant. Postpartum depression typically emerges within the first few weeks after childbirth but can develop up to a year later.

    Psychotic Depression

    Psychotic Depression is a severe form of depression characterized by the presence of depressive symptoms accompanied by psychosis. Psychosis includes experiencing hallucinations (false sensory perceptions) and holding delusions (false beliefs). Individuals with psychotic depression may find it challenging to distinguish between reality and the distorted perceptions caused by the psychosis.

    Premenstrual Dysphoric Disorder (PMDD)

    Premenstrual Dysphoric Disorder is a severe form of premenstrual syndrome (PMS) that affects some individuals during the luteal phase of the menstrual cycle. Symptoms of PMDD include severe depression, irritability, mood swings, fatigue, and physical discomfort. These symptoms typically improve after menstruation begins but can severely impact daily life in the days leading up to it.

    Atypical Depression

    Atypical Depression is characterized by mood reactivity, meaning that an individual's mood improves in response to positive events. Alongside mood reactivity, atypical depression may involve increased appetite, weight gain, excessive sleep, and a sense of heaviness in the limbs. This type of depression differs from typical depression, where mood remains persistently low regardless of positive experiences.

    Current Treatments for Depression

    The treatment landscape for depression typically involves a combination of therapies, medications, and lifestyle changes:


    Psychotherapies like Cognitive-Behavioral Therapy (CBT) and Interpersonal Therapy (IPT) help individuals address negative thought patterns and develop coping strategies.


    Antidepressants, such as Selective Serotonin Reuptake Inhibitors (SSRIs) and Serotonin-Norepinephrine Reuptake Inhibitors (SNRIs), are commonly prescribed to manage depression. They work by altering the balance of neurotransmitters in the brain.

    Lifestyle Changes

    Engaging in regular exercise, maintaining a balanced diet, getting adequate sleep, and reducing stress can all contribute to improved mood.

    CBD and Depression

    CBD is one of over 100 compounds found in the cannabis plant, known as cannabinoids. It has gained attention for its potential therapeutic properties, including its interaction with the endocannabinoid system (ECS). The ECS plays a vital role in regulating various physiological processes, including mood and stress responses.

    Serotonin Receptor Activation

    According to De Gregorio et al (2019), CBD interacts with serotonin receptors in the brain. Serotonin is a neurotransmitter associated with feelings of well-being and happiness. By influencing serotonin signaling, CBD may help regulate mood.


    Some research suggests that CBD may promote neurogenesis, the growth of new neurons in the brain. This could be relevant to depression, as reduced neurogenesis is associated with the condition.

    Anti-Inflammatory and Antioxidant Effects

    Chronic inflammation and oxidative stress have been linked to depression.Watt et al (2017) established that CBD has anti-inflammatory and antioxidant properties, which means it can mitigate these factors.

    Current Research

    While the potential mechanisms of CBD's antidepressant effects are promising, it's essential to note that research on CBD for depression is still in its early stages. Some studies and anecdotal reports have indicated positive outcomes, but larger-scale clinical trials are needed to establish its efficacy conclusively.


    Consult a Healthcare Professional

    If you're considering using CBD for depression, it's crucial to consult with a healthcare provider or mental health professional. They can provide guidance on dosage, potential interactions with medications, and monitor your progress.

    Quality Matters

    Ensure you use high-quality CBD products from reputable sources. The CBD market is largely unregulated, so it's essential to choose products that have undergone third-party testing for purity and potency.

    Start Low and Go Slow

    If you're new to CBD, start with a low dose and gradually increase it as needed. Everyone's response to CBD is different, so finding the right dosage may require some experimentation.

    Monitor Your Symptoms

    Keep a journal to track changes in your mood, sleep patterns, and overall well-being when using CBD. This can help you and your healthcare provider assess its effectiveness.

    A Holistic Approach to Mental Health

    Mental health is a complex tapestry of emotions, thoughts, and experiences that deserve comprehensive care. While traditional treatments like therapy and medication play a pivotal role in managing mental health conditions, a holistic approach can further enrich well-being. This holistic approach encompasses physical, emotional, social, and lifestyle factors and can be synergistically combined with CBD and other treatments for optimal mental health outcomes.

    Nutrition and Diet

    The gut-brain connection is a well-established link between the digestive system and mental health. A balanced diet rich in whole foods, lean proteins, healthy fats, and fruits and vegetables provides essential nutrients for brain health. Omega-3 fatty acids, found in fish and flaxseed, may particularly benefit mood.

    Exercise and Physical Activity

    Regular exercise has profound effects on mental health. According to Ivarsson et al (1998), it increases the production of endorphins, the body's natural mood lifters, and reduces stress hormones. Combining CBD with exercise can enhance its anxiety-reducing effects, creating a powerful synergy.

    Sleep Hygiene

    Quality sleep is crucial for mental health. Poor sleep can exacerbate symptoms of anxiety and depression. CBD may help improve sleep quality, especially when combined with sleep hygiene practices like maintaining a consistent sleep schedule and creating a relaxing bedtime routine.

    Mindfulness and Meditation

    Mindfulness practices promote self-awareness, emotional regulation, and stress reduction. CBD can complement mindfulness techniques by enhancing relaxation and focus. Integrating both can help individuals develop resilience against mental health challenges.

    Social Support and Connection

    Social isolation can contribute to mental health issues. Maintaining social connections, whether through friendships, family, or support groups, provides emotional nourishment. CBD can alleviate social anxiety, making social interactions more comfortable.

    Therapeutic Approaches

    Combining CBD with evidence-based therapeutic approaches, such as Cognitive-Behavioral Therapy (CBT) or Dialectical Behavior Therapy (DBT), can enhance their effectiveness. CBD may help individuals manage anxiety or emotional dysregulation during therapy sessions.

    Holistic Therapies

    Complementary therapies like acupuncture, yoga, aromatherapy, and massage can be integrated into a holistic approach to mental health. These practices promote relaxation and emotional balance, which can be further enhanced with CBD's calming properties.

    Nature and Outdoor Activities

    Spending time in nature, often referred to as ecotherapy, has been shown to reduce symptoms of depression and anxiety. CBD can amplify the sense of relaxation and connection with nature.

    Art and Creative Expression

    Engaging in creative activities such as art, music, or writing provides an outlet for self-expression and emotional processing. CBD may help individuals enter a state of flow and creativity.

    Setting Realistic Goals

    Setting and achieving small, realistic goals can boost self-esteem and a sense of purpose. CBD's potential to reduce anxiety can make goal-setting less daunting.

    Mind-Body Practices

    Practices like Tai Chi and Qigong combine physical movement, mindfulness, and deep breathing. CBD can enhance the relaxation and mental clarity experienced during these activities.

    Self-Care Rituals

    Incorporating self-care rituals into daily life, such as hot baths, journaling, or practicing gratitude, promotes emotional well-being. CBD-infused self-care products like bath salts or topical creams can enhance these rituals.

    The Legal Status of CBD

    The legal status of CBD (cannabidiol) is a multifaceted and evolving subject, characterized by significant variations across jurisdictions. One of the fundamental distinctions shaping CBD's legality revolves around its source – whether it is derived from hemp or marijuana, two different varieties of the cannabis plant. Hemp-derived CBD, extracted from cannabis plants containing less than 0.3% THC (the psychoactive compound in cannabis), is generally legal in many countries. In contrast, CBD derived from marijuana, which can have higher THC levels, is subject to stricter regulations and is typically only legally accessible in regions with legalized medical or recreational marijuana.

    United States

    The United States presents a complex legal landscape for CBD due to the interplay of federal and state laws. The 2018 Farm Bill marked a significant shift by federally legalizing hemp and its derivatives, including CBD, under certain conditions. These conditions primarily pertain to the THC content, which must be less than 0.3% in hemp-derived CBD. However, the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) retains regulatory authority over CBD products, including edibles, beverages, and dietary supplements. The FDA's evolving stance on CBD has led to varying enforcement actions and legal interpretations across states, contributing to some uncertainty in the market.

    European Union

    Within the European Union (EU), CBD's legal status varies from one member state to another. Generally, CBD extracted from EU-approved hemp strains with THC levels below 0.2% is considered legal. However, interpretation and application of these regulations can differ between member states, leading to variations in how CBD products are marketed and sold. EU countries are actively working to harmonize regulations regarding CBD.


    Canada, in October 2018, legalized the recreational use of marijuana, which includes CBD derived from marijuana plants. This legalization marked a significant shift in the legal landscape, making marijuana-derived CBD accessible for recreational purposes. Hemp-derived CBD has been legal for many years in Canada and is subject to regulation by Health Canada.

    Other Countries

    The legal status of CBD spans a wide spectrum worldwide. While some countries have fully legalized CBD, others have imposed strict restrictions or outright bans. It's imperative for individuals to diligently research and understand the specific regulations in their own country or state concerning CBD to avoid any legal complications.


    While CBD holds promise as a natural remedy for depression, it is not a replacement for evidence-based treatments like psychotherapy and medication. Instead, it can be considered as a complementary approach to managing depressive symptoms, especially for individuals seeking alternative options or experiencing treatment-resistant depression. As research on CBD and depression continues to evolve, individuals should work closely with healthcare professionals to explore its potential benefits as part of a comprehensive treatment plan for depression.


    De Gregorio, D., McLaughlin, R. J., Posa, L., Ochoa-Sanchez, R., Enns, J., Lopez-Canul, M., ... &Gobbi, G. (2019). Cannabidiol modulates serotonergic transmission and reverses both allodynia and anxiety-like behavior in a model of neuropathic pain. Pain160(1), 136.

    Ivarsson, T., Spetz, A. C., &Hammar, M. (1998). Physical exercise and vasomotor symptoms in postmenopausal women. Maturitas29(2), 139-146.

    Stewart, D. E., &Vigod, S. (2016). Postpartum depression. New England Journal of Medicine375(22), 2177-2186.

    Watt, G., & Karl, T. (2017). In vivo evidence for therapeutic properties of cannabidiol (CBD) for Alzheimer's disease. Frontiers in pharmacology8, 20.

    What is CBD?

    CBD, or cannabidiol, is a non-psychoactive compound found in cannabis plants, known for its potential therapeutic effects, including for mood disorders like depression.

    How does CBD help with depression?

    CBD is believed to help with depression by interacting with serotonin receptors in the brain, which play a key role in regulating mood and anxiety.

    Is CBD legal for treating depression in the UK?

    CBD is legal in the UK as a food supplement, but it is not officially approved as a treatment for depression. It should not be used as a substitute for prescribed medication without medical advice.

    How can I use CBD for depression?

    CBD can be used for depression in various forms, including oils, capsules, edibles, and vapes. It's important to choose a method that suits your lifestyle and preferences.

    Are there any side effects of using CBD for depression?

    CBD is generally well-tolerated, but some users may experience side effects like dry mouth, fatigue, changes in appetite, and diarrhoea.

    How long does it take for CBD to affect depression symptoms?

    The onset of CBD's effects on depression can vary. Some people may feel improvements within a few hours, while for others, it might take several weeks of consistent use.

    Can CBD be used with antidepressant medications?

    You should consult your doctor before combining CBD with antidepressants to avoid potential interactions and ensure safe and effective use.

    What is the recommended dosage of CBD for depression?

    There is no standard dosage for CBD for depression, as it varies based on individual needs and the product used. Starting with a low dose and gradually increasing is often recommended.

    Is there scientific evidence supporting CBD's effectiveness for depression?

    Some studies suggest that CBD has potential antidepressant effects, but more research is needed to fully understand its efficacy and safety for treating depression.

    Should I consult a doctor before using CBD for depression?

    Yes, it is essential to consult a healthcare provider before using CBD for depression to ensure it is safe and appropriate for your individual circumstances.

    Nicola Boulton
    Nicola Boulton

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