August 27, 2021 5 min read

You’ve heard the old stoner adage “smoking helps my anxiety,” but the truth is it’s a lot more complicated than that. While it’s true that some people report anxiety relief from smoking cannabis flower, we now know that traditional THC can also make anxiety worse for some people.

Luckily, the cannabis industry has evolved to include a wide variety of specific and targeted cannabinoid formulations that may be even more useful for managing anxiety. Delta-8 and CBD for anxiety are at the forefront of this movement towards more natural remedies, but what’s the difference? And which one is best? We’ll help you decide in this quick breakdown:

Table of Contents:
How Cannabinoids Impact Anxiety
CBD for Anxiety
Delta-8-THC for Anxiety
Delta-8 vs CBD for Anxiety
The Beauty of Both
Conclusion
Resources

Key Takeaways

  • Cannabinoids interact with our neurological systems, which means that they may have an impact on mood, anxiety, stress, and other regulatory functions. 
  • Both CBD and Delta-8-THC may have this impact, but their effects vary. 
  • Delta-8-THC is psychoactive, while CBD is not, but both are federally legal and highly accessible without a prescription.
  • Choosing the one that works best for your anxiety is a matter of preference, but understanding the difference between the two is a good place to start. 

A hemp flower, the natural source of both CBD and Delta-8-THC

How Cannabinoids Impact Anxiety

Cannabinoids interact with the body through a neuromodulating system called the Endocannabinoid System. Cannabinoids from cannabis, called phytocannabinoids, are almost identical to endocannabinoids, a type of neurotransmitter that is naturally produced by the body. That means that phytocannabinoids can mimic or alter the effects of natural neurotransmitters similarly to some medications.

Clinical studies have shown that the Endocannabinoid System plays a direct role in anxiety, and that different cannabinoids can manipulate the Endocannabinoid System in a way that modifies the anxiety response.

The Endocannabinoid System includes two primary neuroreceptors, the CB-1 and CB-2 receptors. CB-1 is the primary endocannabinoid receptor located in the brain and is responsible for the psychoactive effects of some cannabinoids, like THC. CB-2 is primarily found in the immune system.

Researchers believe that both receptors play an important role in anxiety modulation. Different cannabinoids, including CBD and Delta-8, impact the Endocannabinoid System in different ways. That’s why CBD and Delta-8 each have a unique impact on anxiety, though most research is still preliminary.

We need more research to understand the full anxiolytic potential of either cannabinoid, but here’s what we know for now:

  • An expansive 2015 review declared CBD as a potential treatment for anxiety disorders, citing its ability to reduce anxiety due to a variety of conditions including Generalized Anxiety Disorder, Social Anxiety Disorder, Obsessive Compulsive Disorder, and Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder.
  • A 2011 study found that patients diagnosed with Social Anxiety Disorder experienced a significant reduction in anxiety symptoms after taking CBD compared to the placebo group.
  • A 2012 study evaluated the effects of various cannabinoids on obsessive-compulsive behaviors and found that CBD inhibited these behaviors in a time-dependent manner. More information is needed about CBD for OCD.
  • A 2018 study found that CBD may help with PTSD both as a standalone treatment and in addition to certain therapeutic routes, like cognitive behavioral therapy.
  • In addition to reducing anxiety, a 2019 study found that CBD improved sleep quality in patients with anxiety.

Delta-8 for Anxiety

Delta-8-THC also interacts with both CB-1 and CB-2, but it’s thought to act directly on the receptor sites. That means that it occupies the receptor and produces specific and direct effects. Because Delta-8-THC is a psychoactive substance that binds with the CB-1 receptors in the brain and central nervous system, it produces intoxicating effects (similarly to Delta-9.) Delta-8 and Delta-9 are, of course, slightly different from each other, and Delta-8 produces milder effects.

There isn’t much research regarding Delta-8-THC specifically, but THC is known to impact anxiety, sleep, and mood. One study in particular suggests that Delta-8-THC may have a significant advantage over traditional THC products. The 1995 review aimed at evaluating Delta-8-THC’s ability to control nausea and vomiting in the case of pediatric cancer (spoiler: it was 100% effective). Most significantly (within the scope of this article, at least), the researchers found Delta-8-THC to be much less likely to induce anxiety in children compared to Delta-9-THC, even at high doses.

It’s also worth noting that the National Cancer Institute recognizes Delta-8-THC as an "anxiolytic" substance. Because Delta-8 is less potent, it’s thought to help manage anxiety in the same way that it works for people who microdose Delta-9-THC for anxiety.

Delta-8 vs CBD: Which is Best for Anxiety?

If you’re still feeling a little confused with the difference between Delta-8 and CBD for anxiety after reviewing the research above, no worries! Here’s a side by side comparison to help you choose which natural anxiety relief is right for you.

A woman measuring a small dose of CBD as part of her anxiety relief regimen.

Delta-8-THC

  • Mildly psychoactive
  • Directly impacts neuroreceptors that modulate anxiety.
  • Quickly induces relaxation and may help improve sleep
  • May trigger a positive drug test
  • Not suitable for use at times where you need to drive, operate machinery, or do other tasks where mild intoxication would inhibit you.

CBD

  • Not psychoactive
  • Indirectly impacts neuroreceptors to change the way that your natural neuroreceptors interact
  • Highly unlikely to trigger a drug test
  • Not as suitable for immediate relief, but works best when taken daily.
  • Suitable for daytime or nighttime use, not inhibitory
  • More thoroughly researched as an anxiety remedy

The Beauty of Both

Although either cannabinoid will produce powerful endocannabinoid balancing effects on it’s own, there may be some benefits to using CBD and Delta-8-THC together to help combat anxiety.

First, CBD works best when taken everyday, and may not provide it’s full benefits after only a single dose. Delta-8, however, takes effect quickly and provides an immediate impact (depending on the dosing style) that can help offer quick, targeted relief.

Taking CBD daily can help realign the endocannabinoid system, which may help fight stress and mood imbalances at their source. Delta-8 is a great solution for spot treatments, or for unwinding after work or catching some much needed sleep.

Conclusion

There’s some evidence that both CBD and Delta-8-THC can help relieve anxiety, but more research is needed before either cannabinoid can be established as an anxiety treatment. Still, anecdotal evidence shows that both can be a useful tool for relaxation and stress relief, and with far fewer side effects than most prescription medications used to combat anxiety.

As far as choosing either Delta-8 or CBD for anxiety, it really depends on your personal preference. One major determining factor is the possibility of Delta-8 triggering a positive drug test, which makes it unsuitable for people who are subject to drug tests for employment.

If this isn’t a concern, you may want to consider designing a wellness routine that includes a daily CBD dose and a supplementary Delta-8 dose for the moments you need it most.

Ready to get started? Check out our Vitality CBD Collection and our Elev8 Delta-8-THC Collection to find edibles, tinctures, hemp flower, and more that are 100% Farm Bill compliant and third-party lab tested.

Vida Optima Elev8 Tincture

Resources

  1. “Delta-8-Tetrahydrocannabinol (Code C61312)” National Cancer Institute, https://ncit.nci.nih.gov/ncitbrowser/ConceptReport.jsp?dictionary=NCI_Thesaurus&ns=NCI_Thesaurus&code=C61312
  2. “An efficient new cannabinoid antiemetic in pediatric oncology” https://druglibrary.net/olsen/HEMP/IHA/iha02210.html
  3. “Cannabidiol in Anxiety and Sleep: A Large Case Series” https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC6326553/
  4. “Cannabidiol as a Therapeutic Alternative for Post-traumatic Stress Disorder: From Bench Research to Confirmation in Human Trials” https://www.frontiersin.org/articles/10.3389/fnins.2018.00502/full
  5. “Plasma and brain pharmacokinetic profile of cannabidiol (CBD), cannabidivarine (CBDV), Δ⁹-tetrahydrocannabivarin (THCV) and cannabigerol (CBG) in rats and mice following oral and intraperitoneal administration and CBD action on obsessive-compulsive behaviour” https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/21796370/
  6. “Neural basis of anxiolytic effects of cannabidiol (CBD) in generalized social anxiety disorder: a preliminary report” https://journals.sagepub.com/doi/10.1177/0269881110379283
  7. “Cannabidiol as a Potential Treatment for Anxiety Disorders” https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC4604171/
  8. “The Endocannabinoid System and Anxiety” https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/28061971/

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