EducationExploring the potential benefits of CBD for PTSD

Exploring the potential benefits of CBD for PTSD

8 min read

Sam North

Exploring the potential benefits of CBD for PTSD

Living with post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) can be a nightmarish existence for sufferers, and often is. While every individual’s experience is unique, the symptoms of this condition can be far-ranging and have a profound impact on daily life.


Stress of all kinds can have a substantial and long-lasting effect on the body, and this is especially true of post-traumatic stress. When we are affected by a frightening, distressing or prolonged traumatic experience, it can be extremely difficult for the mind and body to process the trauma. As such, symptoms can last for many months or even years in the wake of a traumatic event.

Fortunately, complementary therapies like cannabidiol (CBD) may help to mitigate the symptoms of PTSD and aid the process of healing in the wake of a traumatic event. Here, we’ll look at how CBD may benefit those impacted by post-traumatic stress, and how it can be incorporated into a holistic approach to recovery.

CBD and PTSD: Understanding the endocannabinoid system

How does CBD potentially help ease the symptoms of PTSD?

The key to understanding this lies in getting to know the endocannabinoid system (ECS). This intricate system of signalling molecules and receptors is a fairly recent discovery, which did not come about until the late 1980s. Nonetheless, the ECS is the largest receptor system in the body, and is responsible for regulating a wide range of systems necessary for homeostasis including immune function, the reproductive system and mood.

In the wake of a traumatic event, people may develop dysfunctional responses to the trauma, resulting in a variety of symptoms. These may include:

  • Flashbacks or nightmares that cause one to relive traumatic events
  • Emotional numbness, depression, and social withdrawal
  • Mood swings or irritability
  • Difficulty focusing and short-term memory loss
  • Difficulty sleeping
  • Physical sensations including nausea, chest and stomach pains, cold sweats or shaking

A 2021 US study identified the endocannabinoid system as a potential therapeutic target for the symptoms of PTSD, as it plays a key role in managing the bodily functions that are impacted by stress. The study also points out the shortcomings of pharmaceutical treatments for PTSD, alluding to inefficacy and side effects that may reduce patient compliance with treatment.

The study does, however, mention medicinal CBD application as a promising treatment for the symptoms of PTSD. CBD is a cannabinoid found in the cannabis plant that can affect brain activity in ways that may mitigate PTSD symptoms.

A 2021 rodent study demonstrated that CBD appears to exhibit an anxiolytic activity in stressful situations, with specific reference to the effects of PTSD.

Does THC help with PTSD?

Of course, CBD is not the only cannabinoid in the cannabis plant. There are hundreds of chemical compounds within this plant species, each with its own potential medicinal properties. Arguably, the most well known of these is tetrahydrocannabinol (THC). This is the psychoactive, intoxicating compound in cannabis, and is therefore responsible for both the ‘high’ associated with the plant and much of the stigma surrounding its medicinal use.

Nonetheless, THC may also have medicinal properties that could potentially aid those with PTSD. There is evidence to suggest that THC, in combination with CBD and other cannabinoids, may aid relaxation and sleep, possibly alleviating insomnia associated with PTSD. However, THC can also create feelings of anxiety and paranoia that may exacerbate PTSD.

When considering medicinal cannabis administration for the first time, it is important to find a strain with the correct CBD and THC balance for your individual symptoms, as well as a terpene profile that can enhance the desired effects of the cannabinoids while also reducing the risk of unwanted side effects.

This is one of the key reasons why reaching out to a doctor that is not only qualified and registered to prescribe medicinal cannabis, but also highly experienced in doing so, is imperative before making any changes to current treatment plans. This should be done in conjunction with advice from the clinical team that is helping the patient overcome the scourge of PTSD.

CBD and psychiatric care: The importance of a holistic approach

It is essential to note that CBD is neither advertised as, nor intended to be, a cure for PTSD. PTSD stems from unresolved trauma, which takes a toll on the mind and body. Neither pharmacological nor complementary therapies are capable of curing PTSD on their own.

CBD should be considered part of a holistic approach to psychiatric care, alongside other therapies such as counselling or cognitive behavioural therapy (CBT). Also, the importance of a healthy diet and an active lifestyle cannot be underestimated in promoting healing and recovery after a traumatic event.

The potential benefits of CBD for PTSD

Having looked at the biological mechanisms that make CBD effective, let’s explore the possible benefits that may come from CBD therapy for those living with PTSD.

Reduced anxiety

PTSD often results in periods of extreme anxiety. A 2015 review of studies demonstrated a link showing that CBD may reduce anxiety in human participants with anxiety disorders, with daily doses of 300-600 mg yielding the best results.

Fewer intrusive thoughts

Those with PTSD may experience intrusive thoughts in the form of flashbacks, where they are forced to relive past trauma at unexpected moments. These intrusive thoughts can be triggered even when in benign surroundings and situations. A 2020 study of 400 participants who self-identified as having PTSD yielded a 62% reduction in the severity of intrusive thoughts.

Better sleep

PTSD can frequently leave one in a state of hyperarousal, feeling as though one is in a state of near-constant physical danger. Needless to say, this can curtail the kind of restful sleep necessary to enjoy good mental and physical health. Studies have shown that CBD may be effective in the treatment of insomnia by restoring hormonal balance and easing anxiety.

Reduction in inflammation

PTSD, like all forms of stress, can trigger the body’s inflammatory response as readily as any other external stimuli. This can lead to a broad range of health issues including an increased risk of heart disease, diabetes, obesity, Alzheimer’s, and other serious conditions.

The good news is that CBD has shown amazing potential as a natural anti-inflammatory, and may be effective in the reduction of numerous inflammatory autoimmune conditions, from arthritis to Crohn’s disease.

Easy to integrate

Another benefit of CBD is that it is extremely easy to integrate into even the busiest lifestyle, reducing the risk of missed doses. There are many CBD-dominant applications of medicinal cannabis available, many of which contain zero THC and therefore have no intoxicating effects.

CBD oil can be vaped, administered in sublingual drops or added, to food or drinks, and there are many edibles on the market containing CBD oil.

How to take CBD for PTSD

Before taking CBD, it’s important to ensure that you purchase a CBD product that’s of good quality. Look for full or broad-spectrum CBD which uses all of the plant rather than a CBD isolate. Clean extraction is also critical, as it ensures there will be no traces of butane, alcohol, or other harsh chemicals in the product.

Although one study has shown a 300-600 mg dose to be optimal, keep in mind that your experience may vary. It is always best to start out at a very small dosage and gradually increase it over time. It is also worth keeping a journal to monitor your progress, making a note of any reduction in symptoms, length, and quality of symptoms etc.

If you are interested in the potential that CBD may hold in reducing the symptoms of PTSD, or any other mental health disorder, then it is imperative that you discuss your specific case with a doctor that is experienced, qualified, and fully registered to prescribe medicinal cannabis. Only they will be able to provide individual and precise dosing advice.

It’s important to note that bioavailability will depend on how you consume CBD. Digesting CBD tends to have a relatively poor bioavailability rate of around 19%, whereas sublingual drops tend to have much greater bioavailability due to the large number of capillaries under the tongue. Vaporising CBD flower also delivers CBD in a highly bioavailable form.

How we help subscribers with PTSD

At Releaf, we understand the importance of matching the right balance of cannabinoids and terpenes for each individual’s needs and symptoms. We stay in touch throughout the process, keeping abreast of any changes in symptoms and making adjustments to the subscription as and when they are needed.

PTSD is a complex disorder, and one that rarely comes with easy answers. Current research is showing the potential that CBD may hold as one part of a holistic, varied treatment regime.

If you require an alternative approach to manage your health condition, Releaf is here to help. Our monthly packages are based on your cannabis prescription, and we offer specialist consultations for medical cannabis and a unique medical cannabis card for protection.

It is important to seek medical advice before starting any new treatments. The patient advisors at Releaf are available to provide expert advice and support. Alternatively, click here to book a consultation with one of our specialist doctors.

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Sam North, a seasoned writer with over five years' experience and expertise in medicinal cannabis, brings clarity to complex concepts, focusing on education and informed use.

Our articles are written by experts and reviewed by medical professionals or compliance specialists. Adhering to stringent sourcing guidelines, we reference peer-reviewed studies and scholarly research. View our editorial policy.

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