Can CBD Help With Public Speaking Anxiety?
While researching how CBD works with social anxiety, we came across a fascinating study on CBD for public speaking fear and panic attacks.
You can’t get a better proxy for social anxiety than public speaking.
It’s called Glossophobia officially.
What percentage of the population has this?
Oh, just 73%!
It’s the most common fear ahead of death.
It makes sense since rejection by our tribe a few 1000 years ago was probably akin to death (eventually).
We’ve looked at many facets of general anxiety and CBD across multiple articles but let’s dive deeper into public speaking since it shares many aspects with social anxiety.
- Fear of rejection by others
- Fear of making a mistake
- Fear of being judged
I’m getting a little panicky just listing it off.
Interestingly, these different “fears” require a very distinct brain area to exhibit their peculiar effects.
We’ll look at how CBD affects that.
Throw in the general anxiety circuit and voila. acute anxiety from public speaking!
Let’s get into it.
- What causes public speaking panic attacks
- What is the best way to overcome fear of public speaking
- The endocannabinoid system and public speaking
- The study on CBD and public speaking
- Will CBD affect my ability to speak publicly
- Best dosage for public speaking
- What type of CBD to take for public speaking
Let’s get started.
What causes public speaking panic attacks?
There’s a thorough investigation of what’s happening during public speaking at our CBD and social anxiety article.
Of course, the familiar anxiety and panic attack circuit is at play.
This the Amygdala – Prefrontal Cortex
The Amygdala is an almond-shaped organ that is part of our old “reptilian” brain.
It’s the seat of emotional response including fear.
It operates very quickly upon any perceived threat and our fight or flight response to danger depends on this.
If you’re about to be hit by a car, there’s no time to analyze the situation and jump out of the way.
That’s the Amygdala’s role!
There’s a host of physical changes that it initiates:
Heartbeat spikes, breathing quickens, muscles tense up.
These are all important for jumping out of a car’s way!
Not so much on stage in front of a group of people.
Worse yet, the other part of this circuit called the prefrontal cortex which then provides the voice of reason to the Amygdala is partially shut down or quieted during a panic response.
The signal gets there and ideally, it responds back to say whether the perceived threat is real or if the body should stand down and relax.
The prefrontal cortex is the newest member of the block evolutionary speaking and sits right behind the forehead.
It’s really the part of the brain that makes us human (separate from other animals).
Planning, rational thought, organization, and a host of higher thinking skills happen there.
To make things worse, during acute anxiety or panic attacks, the brain gives more power to the Amygdala (make the important life-saving decisions for now) and gives less sway to the pre-frontal cortex.
By the way, guess what brain area is heavily relied on for all the planning, remembering, thinking, and verbal expression that a good speech requires.
The prefrontal cortex!
That’s why it’s not uncommon to go completely blank when faced with public speaking.
This cross-talk between the Amygdala and Prefrontal cortex is the general circuit for anxiety in all forms.
Anxiety’s not all bad.
You need it to keep you from doing dangerous or destructive things.
There’s a reason that evolution conserved this basic circuit in all of us.
The question is why so many of us have public speaking anxiety?
Two theories and an interesting new brain area.
The first rational theory (obviously a result of the prefrontal cortex) is evolutionary.
Remember that fear of public speaking is greater than the fear of death!
There may be a good reason there.
Back in the day when we operated in smaller bands of people, rejection by the group probably meant eventual death.
This fear of rejection or judgment is a very powerful motivator and cause of anxiety in general.
The intense focus of public speaking intensifies this very basic fear.
That effect may be magnified by the so-called “illusion of transparency” which states that people tend to overestimate other people’s ability to understand their mental state.
That speaks to feeling emotionally naked or laid bare when in front of people publicly.
Once the circuit is triggered, you feel that the audience can know how you feel internally which just furthers that circuit along.
The second theory is one of happenstance.
Why public speaking?
Yes, this is a form of performance anxiety but it’s very distinct.
We are not going to get physically hurt from public speaking. There’s no risk to life. physically anyway.
There’s a unique area of the brain called Pregenual Anterior Cortex
That’s a mouthful but stick with us. it’s very interesting for social anxiety issues such as public speaking.
Think of the anterior cortex as a translator between our old primitive brains (amygdala, hippocampus, etc) and the shiny, modern, thinking brain (prefrontal cortex).
A lot of the peculiar thinking abilities that make us human are the result of these “middlemen” or circuits.
The pregenual anterior cortex is really interesting.
Among other things, it’s the seat of:
- Social evaluation
- Social rejection
Combine this with an active amygdala and you have fear of being rejected, judged, and more.
It’s really the seat of self-conscious feelings!
Ding ding ding. Fear of public speaking and performance in general.
Yes, there may be an evolutionary aspect (fear of rejection from the small tribe was genuinely dangerous) but the nonsensical reaction to public speaking that 3/4rds of us have may just be a glitch in the system.
Again, it wasn’t going to kill our ancestors. just embarrass them.
So. what does CBD have to do with any of this?
The study on CBD and public speaking anxiety
Let’s walk through the specific study on CBD and public speaking.
There were three main groups of people in a double-blind experiment:
Placebo was given 1 hour prior to public speaking test
600 mg of CBD given 1 hour prior to public speaking test
The group was given nothing prior to public speaking test
The people were also separated further into people without anxiety issues and those with known anxiety issues.
Results were given in three different categories:
- Visual Analogue Mood Scale (VAMS) – how the person appears to the researchers
- Negative Self Statement Scale (SSPS-N) – the test subject’s view of their state
- Physiological criteria – blood pressure, heart rate, skin conductance
The results were impressive.
Pretreatment with CBD significantly reduced anxiety, cognitive impairment, and discomfort in their speech performance, and significantly decreased alert in their anticipatory speech.
The SSPS-N scores evidenced significant increases during the testing of the placebo group that was almost abolished in the CBD group.
This means that the stress people experienced with the placebo virtually disappeared with CBD.
The SSPS-N is a self-stated analysis of a person’s own internal state.
Remember. this is at the heart of social anxiety or fear of public speaking. an internal exaggeration of how we feel others are viewing us.
Subjective at its core.
The increase in anxiety induced by the SPST on subjects with SAD was reduced with the use of CBD, resulting in a similar response as the HC.
To translate, the use of CBD basically brought the stress response and fear of public speaking in people with anxiety down to the “health control” group.
You know. those people out there who are able to speak publicly without losing it!
Some other interesting notes came out of the study.
First, roughly 30% of people with anxiety experience control through current medications.
See our CBD versus anxiety medications for more detail on this.
Secondly, many people use cannabis for anxiety relief but anxiety is also a side effect of cannabis (with THC).
We’re not surprised by this.
THC has been shown to cause anxiety not to mention the whole histamine and anxiety effect here.
The original meaning of the “entourage effect” was how CBD would offset the negatives of THC such as anxiety.
You can read all about CBD’s effects here:
Did CBD affect the speaker’s abilities beyond removing the anxiety?
Will CBD affect my ability to speak publicly?
CBD does not appear to impair cognitive function across different studies as well as the public speaking one above.
This is obviously important for such a verbal task.
CBD is not:
- Psychoactive – does not distort the sense of reality
- Sedative – slows mental processing
- Stimulative – speeds up mental functions and behavior
This makes it very different from benzodiazepines (generally sedative), SSRI’s (can be psychoactive), or other meds.
The beta-blockers operate more on the physiological effects of public speaking anxiety but that’s a big hammer to swing for these effects.
We’re talking about pretty intrusive heart medication.
In the public speaking and CBD research above, cognitive impairment was listed as comparable to “healthy controls”. way below those with placebo.
Best CBD dosage for public speaking
In the study, 600 mg of CBD was given before the public speaking test.
That’s a high amount
The researchers noted that they had studied levels at 400 mg which give anti-anxiety effects.
They chose to go higher since public speaking is one of the most anxiety-causing tests to give a person.
The safety profile for the group was fine even at those high levels.
In other studies, anxiety-reducing effects were found at 1.45 x pounds in body weight.
For example, a 100-pound weight person might look at 145 mg of CBD.
It’s important to test CBD first on your system at about 20-30 mg and work your way up.
Check out our quick start guide for helpful hints on how to get the most out of what you take.
What type of CBD to take for public speaking
Have you ever experienced an allergic reaction where you literally feel like you’re coming out of your skin?
That’s the result of histamine release which can be tied to anxiety.
For this reason, we want clean CBD isolate to avoid the very excitatory histamine release.
Stress itself can increase histamine release and public speaking is definitely in the “stressful” category.
We specifically crafted IndigoNaturals for anxiety and histamine response.
Keep in mind that the same calculus applies to performance anxiety in general.
Always work with a doctor or naturopath with any supplement!
The information provided here is not intended to treat an illness or substitute for professional medical advice, diagnosis, or treatment from a qualified healthcare provider.
How To Use CBD To Help Alleviate Anxiety
Dr. Bindiya Gandhi is an integrative medicine physician with expertise in functional and holistic medicine based in Atlanta, Georgia.
Commissions we earn from partner links on this page do not affect our opinions or evaluations. Our editorial content is based on thorough research and guidance from the Forbes Health Advisory Board.
Table of Contents
- CBD for Anxiety
- How to Use CBD for Anxiety
- CBD Dosage for Anxiety
- Potential Risks and Side Effects
While delta-9-tetrahydrocannabinol (THC) can have a bad rap for being intoxicating and anxiety-inducing, cannabidiol (CBD) can actually be used to relieve anxiety. Research supports this benefit, with several studies reinforcing the positive effects CBD can have on various anxiety conditions. In fact, 51% of U.S. adults who use CBD do so to help alleviate their anxiety, according to a recent Forbes Health survey of 2,000 U.S. adults conducted by OnePoll.
CBD isn’t yet legally cleared as an anxiolytic, or anxiety relief medication. Therefore, it’s up to you—and, ideally, a doctor who specializes in cannabis administration—to determine whether CBD is a safe treatment for your anxiety.
Here’s what the science says regarding CBD’s anxiolytic properties, along with experts’ dosage guidelines and advice on how to take CBD safely.
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CBD for Anxiety
The Food and Drug Administration (FDA) has yet to approve any CBD-based medications for anxiety. However, many studies indicate the substance can be an effective anxiolytic.
CBD for Generalized Anxiety
In 2011, a small trial-tested CBD on participants with generalized social anxiety disorder (SAD) and healthy control patients undergoing a simulated public speaking test (SPST), which is a common anxiety testing method  Bergamaschi MM, Queiroz RH, Chagas MH, et al. Cannabidiol reduces the anxiety induced by simulated public speaking in treatment-naïve social phobia patients. Neuropsychopharmacology. 2011;36(6):1219-1226. . Compared to a placebo, CBD significantly reduced anxiety and discomfort in the participants with SAD. In fact, their reduced anxiety levels were comparable to those of the control participants.
Eight years later, a 2019 test compared the efficacy of three CBD doses (150 milligrams, 300 milligrams and 600 milligrams) and a placebo in men taking an SPST  Linares IM, Zuardi AW, Pereira LC, et al. Cannabidiol presents an inverted U-shaped dose-response curve in a simulated public speaking test. Revista brasileira de psiquiatria (Sao Paulo, Brazil : 1999). 2019;41(1):9-14. . Compared to a placebo, 300 milligrams of CBD significantly reduced participants’ anxiety during the speech, but the 150-milligram and 600-milligram doses did not. These results highlight how dosage can be highly variable and that more CBD isn’t necessarily more effective.
Meanwhile, another 2019 study tested CBD in much lower doses than most other clinical studies—some participants consumed 25 milligrams a day while others consumed 50 milligrams or 75 milligrams a day  Shannon S, Lewis N, Lee H, Hughes S. Cannabidiol in Anxiety and Sleep: A Large Case Series. Perm J. 2019;23:18-041. . Researchers thought higher doses might be too expensive for participants to maintain in their normal lives and that low doses would still prove effective. Indeed, anxiety decreased within the first month for most participants and remained low. Sleep quality also improved, although it fluctuated more than anxiety. Only three patients reported side effects.
CBD for Anxiety and Depression
In 2020, researchers tested the effects of CBD oil at varying doses across 397 patients with a variety of ailments  Gulbransen G, Xu W, Arroll B. Cannabidiol prescription in clinical practice: an audit on the first 400 patients in New Zealand. BJGP Open. 2020;4(1):bjgpopen20X101010. . Participants with non-cancer pain or mental health-related symptoms experienced significant improvement in anxiety and depression, as well as in their abilities to complete their usual activities. The use of CBD oil suggested significant pain relief in these groups as well.
CBD for PTSD and Phobia Therapy
A small 2019 study of 11 patients found that, when consumed orally and administered alongside routine psychiatric care, CBD decreased patients’ posttraumatic stress disorder (PTSD) symptom severity  Elms L, Shannon S, Hughes S, Lewis N. Cannabidiol in the Treatment of Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder: A Case Series. J Altern Complement Med. 2019;25(4):392-397. .
Other studies suggest CBD can reduce PTSD symptoms when consumed with THC  Bitencourt RM, Takahashi RN. Cannabidiol as a Therapeutic Alternative for Post-traumatic Stress Disorder: From Bench Research to Confirmation in Human Trials. Front Neurosci. 2018;12:502. . When taken together, the two compounds create what’s known as the “entourage effect,” where THC enhances the effects of CBD as CBD tempers the effects of THC, resulting in a more well-rounded experience  Ferber SG, Namdar D, Hen-Shoval D, et al. The “Entourage Effect”. Terpenes Coupled with Cannabinoids for the Treatment of Mood Disorders and Anxiety Disorders. Curr Neuropharmacol. 2020;18(2):87-96. .
Some studies also suggest CBD can enhance the effects of exposure therapy—which assists patients in dissociating certain cues with a fear response—and cognitive behavioral therapy  Das RK, Kamboj SK, Ramadas M, et al. Cannabidiol enhances consolidation of explicit fear extinction in humans. Psychopharmacology (Berl). 2013;226(4):781-792.  Blessing EM, Steenkamp MM, Manzanares J, Marmar CR. Cannabidiol as a Potential Treatment for Anxiety Disorders. Neurotherapeutics. 2015;12(4):825-836. .
How to Use CBD for Anxiety
Without clear FDA guidance, optimal CBD use for anxiety varies from person to person. You may find one method works better for you over another. You can consume CBD in the following forms:
- Oils and tinctures, which come in dropper bottles and are consumed by mouth
- Gummies, which are chewable, sweet and often fruit-flavored
- Sprays, which come in bottles with a nozzle to be sprayed in the mouth
- Capsules, softgels or tablets, which are taken individually by mouth like a pill
- Vapes, which heat CBD oil without igniting it, resulting in an inhalable vapor
- Flowers, which are dried hemp plants that are typically ignited and smoked
- Creams and gels, which introduce CBD topically (through the skin) as a more localized treatment
You may have to try different forms to determine what works best in addressing your anxiety. For instance, when it comes to the absorption of CBD in your bloodstream, vaping and smoking are more effective than edibles like gummies.
CBD Dosage for Anxiety
You also have to find the right CBD dosage for your anxiety. Experts suggest starting small and working your way up depending on how your body reacts.
Many clinical trials jump right to testing high doses. Successful doses evaluated for anxiety relief specifically include:
- 600 milligrams in patients with SAD in a speech simulation  Bergamaschi MM, Queiroz RH, Chagas MH, et al. Cannabidiol reduces the anxiety induced by simulated public speaking in treatment-naïve social phobia patients. Neuropsychopharmacology. 2011;36(6):1219-1226.
- 300 milligrams in male patients in a speech simulation  Linares IM, Zuardi AW, Pereira LC, et al. Cannabidiol presents an inverted U-shaped dose-response curve in a simulated public speaking test. Revista brasileira de psiquiatria (Sao Paulo, Brazil : 1999). 2019;41(1):9-14.
However, other trials suggest much lower doses are also quite effective in treating anxiety.
- 25 to 75 milligrams for generalized anxiety and/or sleep problems  Shannon S, Lewis N, Lee H, Hughes S. Cannabidiol in Anxiety and Sleep: A Large Case Series. Perm J. 2019;23:18-041.
- 33 to 49 milligrams a day for PTSD, in addition to routine psychiatric treatment  Elms L, Shannon S, Hughes S, Lewis N. Cannabidiol in the Treatment of Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder: A Case Series. J Altern Complement Med. 2019;25(4):392-397.
Another study involving hundreds of patients noted success with doses from 40 milligrams to 300 milligrams a day, further supporting the idea that CBD dosage varies significantly, depending on a person’s symptoms and physiology.
Potential Risks and Side Effects
The World Health Organization deems CBD a safe and generally well-tolerated substance. Studies report very few adverse effects, if any.
However, taking CBD while on other medications may pose a risk, as these substances may interact and cause unwanted effects, such as weight gain, drowsiness, upset stomach and change in appetite.
Cheryl Bugailiskis, M.D., a cannabis specialist at Heally, a telehealth platform for alternative medicine, also warns people with preexisting liver injuries and people taking medications that can cause liver injuries should practice caution when using CBD.
Afraid of Public Speaking? Try CBD Hemp Oil.
I heard somewhere that people are more afraid of public speaking than they are of dying.
This never made sense to me because I always liked public speaking. I am scared of plenty of things but public speaking isn’t one of them.
Giving a speech, especially on a topic I am passionate about, really charges me up.
I realize I am an exception. Most people do not like public speaking.
And like it or not, you will have to give a speech at some point be it for a college class, a presentation at work, or your best friend’s wedding.
You are going to have to speak publicly!
Before you freak out, we may have a little tool to help make your public speaking experience a little easier.
CBD Oil for Anxiety
Researchers have been studying the anxiolytic (anti-anxiety) effects of CBD for many years now.
Researchers are super interested in CBD because it doesn’t seem to have any negative side effects, even at really high doses!
CBD (cannabidiol) is the non-psychoactive cannabinoid in cannabis plants. It doesn’t get you high. That’s THC’s job.
A lot of people like to smoke high percentage THC containing marijuana because the high it brings calms them down.
They like getting high because it helps them relax.
If THC works for you, we are all for that!
But if you are like me, the THC in marijuana actually makes your more anxious.
THC doesn’t calm me down, it makes my mind race too much. It makes my thoughts over active and unorganized.
That’s why I don’t use marijuana very much anymore.
Researchers first became interested in using CBD for anxiety when they noticed that CBD was decreasing the high brought on by THC.
The researchers thought: “Hmmm…if CBD kills the psychoactive effects of THC, maybe CBD could kill the anxious thoughts and increased psychoactivity of people suffering from anxiety!”
Logical, for sure.
And definitely worth studying, especially because CBD has far fewer negative side effects than most of the commonly used anti-anxiety medications prescribed by doctors.
This is what the researchers did:
Volunteers for the study were told to prepare a 4 minute speech on a topic from a course they had taken that year.
They were told the speech would be filmed for later analysis by a psychologist.
Each volunteer gave the speech while viewing themselves on a video monitor.
Their anxiety levels were measured using something called the Visual Analogue Mood Scale (VAMS).
The VAMS test measures anxiety, physical sensation, mental sedation, and feelings of interest.
These factors were tested at five distinct time points: baseline (before the start of the speech), right before instructions were given, right before giving the speech, in the middle of the speech, and right after the speech.
Researchers also measured the heart rate and blood pressure of the volunteers.
The volunteers were randomly given one of four drugs: 300 mg of CBD, 5 mg of isapirone (research chemical for depression/anxiety), 10 mg of diazepam (Valium), or a placebo.
The results were fantastic in showing how good CBD can be for anxiety!
Volunteers who received CBD, diazepam (Valium), and isapirone all showed a decrease in anxiety and systolic blood pressure.
Volunteers who got the diazepam (Valium) experienced feeling physical sedation.
Volunteers who got CBD and isapirone did not experience physical sedation, mental sedation, or other negative side effects.
The study confirmed that CBD can be an effective way to manage anxiety without negative side effects.
What would you rather take: Valium (could make you foggy or sleepy and requires a perscription), isapirone (I don’t even know if you could easily get your hands on this one…plus it’s hard to pronounce!), or CBD (an all natural, over the counter plant medicine which has been used since before Christ’s time)?
I know which one I would pick.
I would always rather go with a plant based medicine over a synthetic chemical with negative side effects.
All the good, without the bad
If you’re like most people and you get anxious about public speaking, give CBD a try.
It may just be the best tool in your kit for delivering some kick ass presentations.
The volunteers who participated in the study were given a 300 mg oral dose of CBD.
While CBD has been proven to be safe in very high doses, that’s still a much bigger dose than we would recommend you take.
At least don’t start with a dose that high.
We always recommend that you start low and work your way up.
No matter what kind of dose you take, make sure you get your CBD from a quality source.
Go with a full plant extract made from the high resin flowers of a hemp plant grown specifically for CBD extraction.
That way you won’t be getting just the CBD, you’ll get all the other beneficial cannabinoids, flavonoids, and terpenes contained in a full plant extract of CBD hemp oil.