What You Need To Know About CBD For Stress

By Jessica Hamlin

CBD seems to be everywhere lately. Health bloggers and websites are talking about it and some health food stores and dispensaries are selling it.

So what is CBD? Is it just marijuana or something more? And how can it help us handle stress?

Neuroscientist and author Dr. Michele Ross breaks it all down.

Ross knows about CBD not just from a scientific standpoint but also from personal experience. She previously suffered from bad panic attacks and tried various prescription medications before successfully using CBD regularly.


CBD is short for cannabidiol. Cannabidiol is one of many cannabinoids (chemicals) found in hemp and cannabis plants. These chemicals interact with your body to produce medicinal effects.

CBD is not addictive and, unlike THC, it doesn’t get you high.

Not every marijuana product has CBD in it and not every CBD product has THC in it.

You can buy CBD from a dispensary like cannabis, but you can also buy products online or in health food stores, depending on the marijuana laws in your state and if a CBD product contains THC (some do).


CBD works with your endocannabinoid system, the largest neurotransmitter system in your body. Neurotransmitters are the signals between two brain cells.

If your brain isn’t communicating correctly and not sending the right signals your brain chemistry can be out of balance and you may feel down or irritable, says Ross. For example, with depression your serotonin levels may be out of balance so people may take antidepressants to boost serotonin.

But sometimes medications don’t work or have unwanted side effects.

CBD helps boost levels of a “bliss protein” called anandamide that helps those brain signals and makes you feel good, relaxed and more resilient.

The effects of CBD usually last about 2-4 hours but it depends on the product and dose.


Our daily stressful lives can damage our endocannabinoid system. But CBD can help.

Think of it more as a vitamin than marijuana, Ross says. You don’t need a prescription but it can take the place of prescription drugs (just talk to your doctor first).

Speaking of vitamins, CBD is an antioxidant that’s more powerful than Vitamins C or E, says Ross. Acting as an antioxidant it can help remove inflammation from the body or brain and help you heal.

CBD has been shown to reduce anxiety and proven to reduce drinking, smoking and other substance abuse.

It can increase alertness and focus and can be effective in treating ADHD, according to Ross.

If that’s not good enough, it can also help relieve pain--even during that time of the month.


Think of it like choosing a vitamin, Ross says. Choose a good brand that is reputable and doesn’t have a lot of fillers.

Look for a company that’s been around at least a year and has a website you can check out, hopefully with lab testing results. You want a brand that is about health and science and as close to organic ingredients as possible (CBD isn’t FDA regulated yet so there’s no officially “organic” CBD).

Just like anything else you ingest, you want to stay away from heavy metals and pesticides.

Full-spectrum CBD vs CBD isolate

Sometimes CBD is sold by itself and sometimes it has other elements with it like THC that may help it work better or longer.

Depending on how CBD is extracted there are other chemicals in the hemp plant that may accompany that CBD.

Ross recommends taking a CBD with terpenes, various oils found in hemp or cannabis that have different medicinal benefits, such as anxiety relief. She also recommends looking for CBD with other cannabinoids (cannabis compounds) since even in small amounts they help your body absorb the CBD better.

You can take CBD isolate (just CBD by itself) but you’ll have to take a lot more for it to be effective.

How to read a label

So how do you know what you’re getting? Read the label and research anything you don’t recognize.

Some CBD products have THC in them, so if you’re trying to avoid it or want to try CBD with it, look at the product label.

A CBD product with THC should list a ratio of CBD:THC. That ratio could be anywhere from 1:1 (one part CBD, one part THC) to 20:1 (20 parts CBD to one part THC).

CBD helps give a sustained release of THC, Ross says, which can help the CBD work longer.

Some people may find a CBD product with a little THC works better for them for stress. Just be aware of THC’s psychoactive effects.


CBD comes in a variety of forms and products. Each form of CBD has a different dose and time until the effects are felt so figure out what works for you.

Pills and edibles

Pills and edibles are the most straightforward. CBD pills are usually swallowed and edibles can be anything from a CBD drink to CBD chocolate--talk about a delicious double whammy!


These are CBD products that go on your skin.

You can use a THC or CBD cream on your back for stress relief or during a massage. You can also apply before or after exercise to relax and ease sore muscles. For menstrual pain, Ross recommends applying a CBD cream to your pelvis.

Ross assures us you won’t get high from applying a THC cream.

You can apply CBD patches on your wrist for extended release. A transdermal pen can also be applied and it goes into the bloodstream.


This is CBD as a liquid extract. You drop a dose under your tongue and it works within 10 minutes. An hour later there’s also extended release relief.


Ross doesn’t recommend burning CBD and smoking it since that will create toxins that aren’t the best for your lungs.

But she says vaping is a great way to consume CBD. You are not burning the flower or concentrate, just releasing the healing cannabinoids from it. If you vape CBD, she suggests using a brand like dosist that has a good consistent quality and measured dose so you can track how much you need and take.


You can take CBD for stress whether you have chronic stress, a certain condition, or are just in an especially stressful season of life.

If you take CBD for anxiety, you want to manage your stress every day and not wait until things pile up, Ross says. So in some cases people need CBD daily. It can be taken before and during anxious events.

To combat PMS and period symptoms, Ross says to take CBD the week before your period. Your estrogen levels are linked to endocannabinoid levels (those brain signals we talked about). So taking CBD during that time of the month can help level you out.


Ross reminds us that no drug is for everyone. We all have different body and brain chemistries.

Also, CBD can affect some types of drugs you take. Talk to your doctor or a health professional if you’re on medication, especially one that says, “Do not take with grapefruit.”

The Feel Good Series is a series of community workshops presented by Savoir Collab and Do The Good Stuff offering IRL toolkits for owning how you feel and redefining what it means to take care. In our first workshop, The No Bullsh*t Guide to Finding Your Chill, we’re challenging the “stressed out” story with help from the experts and walking away with real solutions for managing stress and feeling good. We’re stressed, we get it. Now what?