CBD oil, is a popular natural remedy that is often suggested for use in common ailments. The main active ingredient is CBD also known as cannabidiol – though CBD is available in many other forms such as CBD flower, gummies, capsules, vapes etc.
Cannabinoids, which are more commonly referred to as CBD, includes over 100 chemical compounds that are found in and derived from the cannabis or marijuana plant, Cannabis sativa.
Tetrahydrocannabinol, known as THC, is the main psychoactive cannabinoid found in cannabis, and is the chemical associated with the “high” when using marijuana. CBD, however, is not psychoactive, despite deriving from the same plant.
It is the very lack of the psychoactive experience that has made CBD an appealing possible alternative for different conditions, coupled with it potentially offering an alternative to other pharmaceutical drugs, particularly those that have extensive side effects and dangers on their own.
While CBD is extracted from the same cannabis plant as THC, in an oil form, it is further diluted with other oils, such as coconut oil or hemp seed oil.
Despite limited scientific studies confirming it may ease symptoms and side effects of many conditions, and scientific research is ongoing, it has been gaining momentum in the health and wellness world of holistic and naturopathic practices that have begun to go mainstream, especially as it relates to ailments such as chronic pain and anxiety, and the increasing acceptance of the concept of medical marijuana as a treatment option.
Human Endocannabinoid System and the impact of CBD
It was in the 1990s that researchers discovered cannabis-like molecules that are produced by the human body. They began studying how they worked within the body and found it’s main function is to maintain homeostasis, the harmony of the whole body biologically, as it changes to respond to the environment. De Laurentiis A, Araujo HA, Rettori V. Role of the endocannabinoid system in the neuroendocrine responses to inflammation. Curr Pharm Des. 2014;20(29):4697-4706. Further research found that other mammals have this system as well, the Human Endocannabinoid System, and it has evolved over 500 million years ago. (McPartland JM, Matias I, Di Marzo V, Glass M. Evolutionary origins of the endocannabinoid system. Gene. 2006;370:64-74.doi:https://doi.org/10.1016/j.gene.2005.11.004.)
In studying this system in humans, the scientists found that the endocannabinoid receptors were only in the brain and nerve, but they were eventually discovered to exist throughout our body. Mackie K. Cannabinoid receptors: where they are and what they do. J Neuroendocrinol. 2008;20 Suppl 1:10-14. doi:10.1111/j.1365-2826.2008.01671.x. From this research we can now see how this system affects all the systems in our bodies and bodily function. It is this research that has led to further understanding of how the use of cannabidiol is used to supplement and assist our own body’s systems to improve reactions, to regain biologic homeostasis. Alger BE. Getting High on the Endocannabinoid System. Cerebrum Dana Forum Brain Sci. 2013;2013. Maccarrone M, Bab I, Bíró T, et al. Endocannabinoid signaling at the periphery: 50 years after THC. Trends Pharmacol Sci. 2015;36(5):277-296.doi:10.1016/j.tips.2015.02.008.
Based on this initial research, science has been finding some evidence that backs up the claims that there ARE some conditions that showing progress in with the use of CBD oil.
1. CDB and Pain Relief
CBD, especially in combination with THC, may be effective in reducing pain associated with diseases like multiple sclerosis and rheumatoid arthritis.
Marijuana has been used to treat pain as far back as 2900 B.C. (NIH).
Although it was used then, the scientific evidence isn’t available from them to support that. However, recently scientists have been researching cannabis and CBD and have found there are components within it that are helpful in the relief of pain.
As noted above, the endocannabinoid system (ECS) is involved in regulating several body functions, one of those includes the immune response and pain systems. Naturally the ECS receptors appear to demonstrate the reduction in inflammation and therefore affecting the interactions with neurotransmitters. Adding CBD to this has been suggested to help further reduce pain by increasing the endocannabinoids in the body, thereby increasing the receptor activity.
Studies in rats has shown that rats who received CBD injections after incisions reduced the pain reactions, while another showed that rats receiving oral CBD also reduced sciatic nerve pain and reduced inflammation.
There have been human studies as well, which have found that a combination of CBD and THC has been effective in reducing reported nerve pain levels as well as in the reduction in inflammation, specifically as it relates to nerve pain associated with multiple sclerosis and arthritis pain. As a result, there is a tested pharmaceutical oral spray, Sativex, which is a combination of CBD and THC, that is used in several countries for the treatment of pain in MS, although it has not been approved yet in the US.
The clinical trials showed that showed MS patients in the trial (it was not a placebo/control study) reported a reduction in pain and muscle spasms, which also improved their ability to walk, within one month. Another similar study showed a significant reduction in pain during movement as well as at rest and resulting improved sleep quality in patients with rheumatoid arthritis.
2. CBD Potential Benefits for Anxiety and Depression
Using CBD has been shown to reduce anxiety and depression in both human and animal studies.
Two of the most common mental health disorders today include anxiety and depression, both of which have devastating effects on the health, daily life, and well-being of individuals. And these aren’t just in the US, the World Health Organization ranks depression as the single largest contributor to disability worldwide. They further show that anxiety related disorders ranked sixth. It’s no surprise then that there is an interest in finding ways to manage and cope with these disorders.
Typically these conditions are treated in a number of ways, including behavioral health as well as pharmaceutical options. Side effects of pharmaceutical treatments often include drowsiness, agitation, insomnia, weight gain, sexual dysfunction issues, and more. As you can imagine, these side effects often not only further impact the anxiety and depression itself, but also lead to seeking alternative options. Too often this leads to self-medication, which can lead to substance abuse. Since science does not fully understand all the mechanisms and biology associated with mental health disorders, there isn’t usually an effective treatment pharmacologically that doesn’t further contribute to the underlying condition.
This is perhaps why there is so much public interest in homeopathic and naturopathic options, including CBD oil, which has been reported by many to offer some relief from depression and anxiety, without the compounding side effects.
There have been several studies around the globe, many anecdotal, that do support the purported benefit of CBD in managing and controlling anxiety and depression.
A study in Brazil of 57 men included giving oral CBD or a placebo a hour and a half before they were required to take part in an exercise including public speaking. The results showed that using a 300mg dose significantly reduced anxiety during this exercise. This result was compared to those who received a placebo, a 150mg dose, or a 600mg dose. Of these groups, only the 300mg dose appears to show any effect, reduction, on the anxiety levels reported.
It is because of results such as these, as well as others, that CBD is now being reviewed, studied, and tried as a method to help with other anxiety-related conditions such as insomnia, PTSD, and other mood disorders that have been typically treated with pharmaceutical options that affect the serotonin levels in the brain.
3. CBD Use for Cancer-Related Symptoms
Though CBD has been shown to help reduce symptoms related to cancer and cancer treatment, and may even have cancer-fighting properties, more research is needed to assess its efficacy and safety.
For many years we’ve all heard that a significant side effect in the treatment of cancer has been the exponential effects of nausea and vomiting. This side effect is particularly debilitating for any medical treatment as it reduces the body’s ability to take in energy to keep the body fighting. Beyond that it further deprives the body of existing energy, and negatively impacts other system effects throughout, ranging from immune response depression, exhaustion, depression, weakness, and more. In addition, another side effect of cancer is pain, both from the disease itself as well as to the treatment. To combat these we’ve also heard for years of patients making use of medical marijuana as a option to manage that side effect and assist them in regaining optimal fighting health.
But marijuana is not legal federally, and many doctors continue to be reluctant to prescribe medicinal options until recently. So the risk of treatment included further personal risks as patients sought alternative access, while also risking the potential addition of THC to their body, the stigma using causes, and raised concerns about substance abuse.
That’s one of the main areas under review by scientists across the globe using cannabinoids in the treatment of the side effects and the symptoms. Using different combinations, studies have shown positive potential in the treatment of cancer-related pain that weren’t able to get relief from traditional pain medication. They found that in those patients who received a combination of CBD and THC has better outcomes relating to pain relief than those who received THC alone.
Studies have also found that CBD, even without THC, the combination which is typically tested as an oral spray and has shown success and been approved for this use internationally, showed promise and success in reducing the nausea and vomiting side effects of chemotherapy and other cancer treatment protocols.
Further studies on cancer treatment directly have begun, and studies have shown some positive results in animals that have indicated there may be success in the direct treatment of cancer using CBD. Several studies have shown promise in CBD possibly inducing tumor cell death in breast cancer cells, both in test tube studies and in mice. This research continues, and we are all hopeful that the continued studies expands and soon begins in humans. It gives us all hope that, but further research is required before any reliable claims can be made
4. Acne and CBD
CBD may have beneficial effects on acne due to its anti-inflammatory qualities and its ability to control the overproduction of sebum from the sebaceous glands.
As we all know, acne is a big concern for people, affecting more than 9% of the population. There are a number of contributing factors to the incidence of acne, including genetics, bacteria, and an overproduction of oil by the sebaceous glands resulting in inflammation.
It’s this last one that shows promise with the use of CBD oils. CBD may help in the reduction of the underlying inflammation, due to the nature of it’s anti-inflammatory behaviors with the endocannabinoid system discussed earlier in this article, by reducing the oil production in the glands.
Early scientific studies, including those in test tubes, have demonstrated that CBD oil has, in fact, prevented the glands from secretive excessive oil as well as prevented and/or reduced inflammation by preventing the activation of inflammatory cytokines, which are considered “pro-acne” agents. Additional studies continue to replicate findings that CBD may also be effective as a treatment for acne due to it’s anti-inflammatory factors.
Obviously these are exciting possibilities, and more studies and information is needed to confirm and understand the implications and efficacy, as well as longer term effects.
5. The Neuroprotective Potential of CBD
Though research is limited at this time, CBD has been shown to ease symptoms related to epilepsy and Parkinson’s disease. CBD was also shown to reduce the progression of Alzheimer’s disease in test-tube and animal studies.
As we noted earlier in this article, the endocannabinoid system, in conjunction with other neurotransmitters and systems, play a role in managing the neurological system. As such, they also play a role in those with disorders of this system.
Neurologic disorders include, but are not limited to, epilepsy, Alzheimer’s and dementia, as well as the effects of other diseases, including diabetes, multiple sclerosis, and some types of arthritis. There is an understanding among scientific researches that CBD may influence and impact the endocannabinoid system as well as other neurotransmitters, to provide additional benefits in both the diseases and the symptoms of these disorders.
Internationally a product called Sativex, an oral spray that includes both CBD and THC, has already been approved and is in wide use for the treatment of muscle spasticity in those patients suffering from multiple sclerosis. While not currently approved in the United States, the research has shown promise that in addition to this use, the results have prompted researchers to further review the impact of CBD on other neurological disorders, with the highest interest and research being conducted on both multiple sclerosis and epilepsy.
- One study found that Sativex reduced spasms in 75% of 276 people with multiple sclerosis who were experiencing muscle spasticity that was resistant to medications.
- Another study gave 214 people with severe epilepsy 0.9–2.3 grams of CBD oil per pound (2–5 g/kg) of body weight. Their seizures reduced by a median of 36.5%.
- One more study found that CBD oil significantly reduced seizure activity in children with Dravet syndrome, a complex childhood epilepsy disorder, compared to a placebo.
Despite the promising outcomes, there have been several side effects that have been associated with the treatment in these vulnerable patients, including fever, fatigue, and more severely, convulsions. Further studies are required to understand the relationship of the underlying disorders and the side effects, but the progress is promising. As such CBD is also being studies to treat other neurologic disorders such as Parkinson’s, both for the underlying disorder as well as it’s impact on quality of life and sleep quality in those patients.
Of particular interest to many is the interest in studies on the effects of CBD on Alzheimer’s disease. Early animal test tube studies have shown a decrease in inflammation which may indicate an effectiveness of preventing neurodegeneration, a hallmark of the debilitating disease. Another study has shown promise in CBD and the delay of onset of Alzheimer’s in pre-disposed mice, indicating it did show initial results indicating it helped prevent cognitive decline.
The future of the research and testing of CBD in this area could mark a huge advancement in the treatment and care of individuals prone to and suffering from a number of neurological disorders.
6. How CBD might play a role in Heart Health
Though more human studies are needed, CBD may benefit heart health in several ways, including by reducing blood pressure and preventing heart damage.
The most common health conditions faced across the world relate to the heart, including the circulatory system. From clogged arteries to high blood pressure, stroke and heart attacks, the function of the cardiovascular system is the biggest area of interest to health researchers, medical professional, and individuals.
As such, there has been an interest by all in the potential benefits of CBD oil for cardiovascular health, with the most common being an interest in the lowering effects of CBD and high blood pressure. Since high blood pressure is linked to other cardiac risks, such as stroke, heart attack, and other metabolic disorders, it’s no wonder that this area is a focus.
Preliminary outcomes of research, while anecdotal and not a clinical trial, indicate that it may, in fact, be beneficial. A very small study of healthy men was done, comparing a 600mg dose of CBD oil with a placebo. The outcome showed that those receiving CBD oil showed a reduction in the resting blood pressure compared to the placebo. It also tested the outcomes using a stress test. This outcome showed that those who received the CBD oil showed a lower increase in blood pressure during the stress test than those who received the placebo.
The initial insights from the researchers attributed the results to potentially relate to the potentially antioxidant and anxiety- and stress reducing effects of CBD.