Enhancing Endocannabinoid Control of Stress with Cannabidiol

J Clin Med. 2021 Dec 14;10(24):5852. doi: 10.3390/jcm10245852.


The stress response is a well-defined physiological function activated frequently by life events. However, sometimes the stress response can be inappropriate, excessive, or prolonged; in which case, it can hinder rather than help in coping with the stressor, impair normal functioning, and increase the risk of somatic and mental health disorders. There is a need for a more effective and safe pharmacological treatment that can dampen maladaptive stress responses. The endocannabinoid system is one of the main regulators of the stress response. A basal endocannabinoid tone inhibits the stress response, modulation of this tone permits/curtails an active stress response, and chronic deficiency in the endocannabinoid tone is associated with the pathological complications of chronic stress. Cannabidiol is a safe exogenous cannabinoid enhancer of the endocannabinoid system that could be a useful treatment for stress. There have been seven double-blind placebo controlled clinical trials of CBD for stress on a combined total of 232 participants and one partially controlled study on 120 participants. All showed that CBD was effective in significantly reducing the stress response and was non-inferior to pharmaceutical comparators, when included. The clinical trial results are supported by the established mechanisms of action of CBD (including increased N-arachidonylethanolamine levels) and extensive real-world and preclinical evidence of the effectiveness of CBD for treating stress.

Keywords: AEA; CBD; N-arachidonylethanolamine; cannabidiol; endocannabinoid; hypothalamus–pituitary–adrenal axis; stress.

Publication types

  • Review