There’s still a lot we don’t know about the effectiveness of using CBD for depression. Here’s what the research says so far.

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CBD — short for cannabidiol — is a compound extracted from hemp and cannabis plants.

While it’s nonintoxicating, research suggests that it has multiple health benefits. One of those benefits may be to reduce depression symptoms.

Depression is one of the most common mental health conditions. The World Health Organization (WHO) estimates that more than 264 million people around the world live with it.

Many proven treatment options are available for depression, but scientists are still investigating new potential treatments. These treatments could provide relief to people who aren’t feeling supported by their current treatment. CBD might be one of these options.

One thing to note: CBD products don’t get you “high.” It’s a different compound from cannabis called THC, which does have this effect.

But most CBD products come from hemp, which is legal at the federal level — unlike cannabis. And CBD products contain minimal amounts of THC.

Here’s a good place to get started if you’re looking to learn more about the legality of cannabis products in your state.

Many people claim CBD eases feelings of depression. Some animal studies suggest that CBD might have antidepressant properties, but we’ll need more research before we know for sure.

One of the problems with research on CBD and depression is that we don’t have human data. For example, a 2019 study that involved looking at animals concluded that CBD had fast-working antidepressant-like effects in rodents.

A 2019 review of available research on CBD and depression noted CBD’s antidepressant-like effects have been recorded in many animal species. The authors emphasized that clinical trials are needed to verify whether we could use CBD to treat depression.

Why does CBD seem to help with depression? It’s not 100% clear, but it might have something to do with serotonin, often called the “happiness molecule.”

As this 2014 review points out, many studies suggest that CBD affects the 5-HT1A receptors, which are a kind of serotonin receptor. Low levels of serotonin are associated with anxiety and depression.

The 2019 review mentioned above suggests CBD could also cause an increase in brain-derived neurotrophic factor (BDNF). Low levels of BDNF have been linked to depression.

What’s more, a 2018 review concluded that CBD could have an anti-stress effect. Because stress can contribute to depression and other conditions, this effect might also be helpful.

Research also suggests CBD could have anti-anxiety effects. While more research is needed, this could benefit people who experience both depression and anxiety.

Still, we’ll need more robust human clinical studies to figure out whether CBD can help treat depression.

If you want to use CBD for depression, there are a few different options. CBD comes in the form of:

  • oils and tinctures
  • edibles
  • vapes
  • smokable CBD hemp flower
  • beverages
  • topicals, like lotions and body oils

When it comes to an internal condition like depression, it’s best to skip CBD topicals like creams, body oils, and lotion.

When you use CBD topicals, little to no CBD will enter your bloodstream. In general, CBD topicals are meant for skin conditions or superficial pain.

Because human studies on CBD and depression haven’t been done, there’s no clear research to suggest the best way to use CBD for depression. No evidence suggests one form of CBD is better than the other.

No matter what type of CBD you buy, it’s a good idea to get a high quality product from a reputable CBD brand.

There aren’t any guidelines on the dosage of CBD you should use for depression specifically.

Even if clinical trials have included humans, most clinical trials use high amounts of CBD, generally hundreds of milligrams a day. That’s much more than most of us could access or afford, notes the National Organization for the Reform of Marijuana Laws (NORML).

The general rule with CBD is to start with a small amount per day and gradually increase it. This allows you to explore the possible benefits while minimizing the risk of side effects.

Many CBD brands recommend starting with 10 to 20 milligrams per day. From there, you can gradually increase your dosage until you feel some relief or experience an intolerable side effect.

It’s always best to consult with a healthcare professional before using any new health product, including CBD products. A CBD-friendly doctor might be able to suggest a dosage.

Relatively little research compares CBD with other depression treatments. But one potential benefit is that CBD might work faster than most antidepressant medications.

One animal study found that CBD has a fast and sustained antidepressant-like effect. By comparison, antidepressants can take weeks to work.

In addition to this, CBD isn’t associated with some side effects of antidepressant medications. Common side effects of antidepressants include:

Although CBD does have some potential side effects, it hasn’t been connected to these issues.

Although CBD is considered safe for consumption, it might have the following side effects:

  • diarrhea
  • changes in weight or appetite
  • fatigue
  • nausea and vomiting

There’s no clear evidence to suggest CBD could increase feelings of depression. But since fatigue is associated with depression, it’s important to be aware of that potential side effect.

If you’d like to use CBD to treat depression, consider whether it could interact with medication you’re currently taking.

For example, if you take any medication with a grapefruit warning, CBD could worsen the side effects of that medication. Like grapefruit, CBD affects the liver in a way that can cause it to process some medications differently.

Many antidepressant medications do carry grapefruit warnings, including:

This isn’t to say you can’t combine CBD with the above medications. But if you want to use CBD alongside those medications, it’s important to talk with your doctor or psychiatrist first, as they’ll be best equipped to advise you.

It can be dangerous to replace, supplement, or discontinue antidepressant medication without looping in your treatment team. It’s a good idea to check with a healthcare professional before making any changes to your care plan.

CBD is an increasingly popular health product. Many people use it to help manage a range of conditions, including depression.

While animal research does suggest CBD has some antidepressant properties, human clinical studies are needed before we know whether CBD can be an effective treatment for depression.

CBD hasn’t been proven to treat depression, but many other treatment options have, including:

  • talk therapy (psychotherapy)
  • antidepressant medications
  • self-care strategies

You can learn more about research-backed depression treatment options here.

Before using CBD for depression, it’s important to talk with a healthcare professional. This may be especially key if you’re currently using antidepressant medication, as CBD can worsen certain side effects.