If you haven't heard about CBD Oil, then I can only assume you've been living under a rock. While we've all heard the hyper surrounding CBD Oil - fans claim it does everything from boosting nutrition to curing cancer - it's difficult to know what's true.
We've spent some time combing through claims, myths and studies to figure out what's realistic and what's smoke and mirrors.
Before we begin, let's be clear about what we are discussing. CBD Oil is different than medical marijuana. CBD is the shorthand reference for Cannabidiol, one of the many chemical compounds found in cannabis. Most of us are more familiar with THC - tetrahydrocannabinol - the psychoactive compound that gives you that high feeling. Unlike THC, CBD is not psychoactive at all. The oil isn't used to chill out, get high or anything else you might normally associate with cannabis use.
CBD Oil Health Benefits
Since there's no psychoactive properties to CBD, it is often legislated and regulated differently than medical marijuana. As a result, many states which do not protect marijuana use still sell CBD Oil. In fact, many CBD Oil products are sold through online shops such as Amazon and eBay. The oil itself is made by extracting Cannabidiol from the cannbis plant and diluting it with a 'carrier oil' such as hemp seed oil. It can be rolled on, rubbed in or taken orally.
So what can it do?
1. Chronic Pain Relief
One of the biggest markets that has seen a surge in CBD Oil use is pain relief. Patients with chronic issues such as arthritis, fibromylagia and sciatica have been vocal about wanting a more natural form of relief. Traditional medications to treat these conditions often come with a host of side effects or a danger of opiate addiction.
While cannabis has been used for pain relief since roughly 3000 BC, it's only recently that scientists have begun to understand why it's so effective. Studies have recently shown that the CBD compound contributes to the plant's efficacy thanks to the human body's endocannabinoid system.
The endocannabinoid system (ECS) is made up of neurotransmitters which bind to cannabinoid receptors. The ECS is a part of the central nervous system and peripheral nervous system which means it plays a role in a number of functions including sleep, appetite, pain and immune system response.
Studies also showed a combination of THC and CBD was effective in reducing pain associated with Multiple Sclerosis. In addition to pain relief, the treatment also improved patients' walking ability and lessened muscle spasms. Many patients also have hope that treatment will be found to help with Parkinson's Disease as well. Supporters point out there have been studies linking CBD to an improvement in the quality of life and reduction of tremors. As of 2019, the jury is still out on the plant's efficacy for Parkinson's.
2. Anxiety and Depression
People have been using substances to self-medicate depression and lubricate social interaction since just about forever. Plenty of cannabis users can attest to its efficacy when it comes to easing social situations and brightening their perspective.
Currently, the use of selective serotonin reuptake inhibitors (SSRIs) like Prozac and Zoloft are the go to treatments for anxiety and depression. These drugs are effective and have changed the lives of many people for the better. At the same time, they come with a host of side effects ranging from the inconvenient to the counterproductive. Common side effects for SSRIs include:
- Dry mouth
- Blurred vision
- Nervousness and agitation (which is kind of ironic)
- Reduced sex drive
- Sexual performance problems
CBD works in a way similar to SSRIs in that it boosts signals in serotonin receptors. More specifically, CBD has been found to enhance 5-HT1A, a sub-type of serotonin receptor. A 2016 study in Spain found that "CBD could represent a novel fast antidepressant drug, via enhancing both serotonergic and glutamate cortical signalling through a 5-HT1A receptor-dependent mechanism." The bottom line? CBD could provide faster and more effective relief than SSRIs and without all the side effects.
3. Blood Pressure
In addition to working with the central nervous system, CBD also works well with the circulatory system. In one study, researchers gave volunteers 600mg of CBD or placebo in a randomized, double-blind study. Cardiovascular data was monitored using a finometer and laser Doppler. Their findings revealed a "single dose of CBD reduces resting blood pressure and the blood pressure response to stress, particularly cold stress, and especially in the post-test periods.
This may reflect the anxiolytic and analgesic effects of CBD, as well as any potential direct cardiovascular effects." While encouraged by the results, researchers were quick to point out more study was needed before it could be considered as a routine option. "Further research is also required to establish whether CBD has any role in the treatment of cardiovascular disorders such as a hypertension."
Acne is almost a rite of passage for teenagers but extreme cases can be harmful both physically and mentally. The cycle of irritated skin, infection and the healing process can leave people with chronic pain.
Acne is caused by a number of things, including genetics, underlying inflammation and the overproduction of sebum. Sebum is a naturally occurring oil secreted by the sebaceous glands in order to keep skin hydrated. Too much, however, clog pores and trap dirt, leading to intense acne flare-ups. CBD has been shown to have potential in treating extreme or chronic acne thanks to its anti-inflammatory properties and its ability to reduce the production of sebum.
5. Comfort for Cancer Patients
The hunger inducing effects of cannabis are well-known so cancer patients were one of the first groups to be granted access to medical marijuana. Since then, we've learned that CBD - in some cases paired with THC - can do even more.
The use of has been shown to not only improve hunger and appetite but also to cut nausea in patients undergoing chemotherapy. Being able to maintain healthy nutrition can go a long way in improving a patient's quality of life as well as their ability to battle the disease. It has also been shown to relieve pain in patients who had not experienced relief from traditional pain medications. One study found that patients given the combination of CBD and THC experienced greater pain relief than those given THC alone.
6. Cancer Weapon
In addition to bringing some level of comfort to cancer patients, CBD may also be a weapon in the fight against cancer. A study conducted by the Division of Experimental Medicine at Beth Israel Deaconess Medical Center found that CBD might induce cellular death. "Our study revealed," the researched concluded, "an intricate interplay between apoptosis and autophagy in CBD-treated breast cancer cells and highlighted the value of continued investigation into the potential use of CBD as an antineoplastic agent."
Other studies have found that CBD inhibits the gene expression of aggressive breast cancer, as well as treatment for pancreatic cancer and melanoma. Cancer is a complex and aggressive disease. The fact that researches have found CBD to be effective across multiple forms of cancer leads many to believe it could play an important role in treating or even curing various forms of cancer.
7. Substance Abuse
The current opioid crisis has highlighted just how powerful addiction can be. People from every walk of life are susceptible to addiction. Race, class, wealth, education, religion - none of it matters when addiction takes hold. It's something that plagued people since the dawn of recorded history and has recently become mainstream news fodder.
A 2015 study carried out in Canada offers some hope with the use of - you guessed it - CBD Oil.
The team combed through studies and papers published on MEDLINE and PubMed, the two main sites for publishing scientific papers. They pulled anything related to how CBD would be used to treat addiction in order to find links across all the studies. In the end, they found evidence to support not only the efficacy of CBD Oil in treating addiction, but also the need for further study.
In their conclusion, the authors reported
"[a]nimal studies have shown the possible effects of CBD on opioid and psychostimulant addiction, while human studies presented some preliminary evidence of a beneficial impact of CBD on cannabis and tobacco dependence. CBD has several therapeutic properties on its own that could indirectly be useful in the treatment of addiction disorders, such as its protective effect on stress vulnerability and neurotoxicity. […] The importance of this area of research is emphasized by an increasing number of studies that are currently being conducted in the United States regarding the effects of CBD on cannabis and opioid addiction and there is one ongoing Canadian study on cocaine addiction. The dreadful burden of substance-use disorder worldwide, combined with the clear need for new medication in the addiction field, justifies the requirement of further studies to evaluate the potential of CBD as a new intervention for addictive behaviors."Source
8. Neurological Improvement
Scientists have long believed CBD's ability to interact with the endocannabinoid system could make it a game changer when it comes to neurological disorders. As a result, disorders like epilepsy and multiple sclerosis are among the most studied when it comes to cannabis research.
Muscle spasms are a frustrating, painful part of Multiple Sclerosis. Patients have tried taking a number of different medications - including powerful muscle relaxers - in an attempt to lessen them. A 2014 study of an oral medication found that their mix of CBD and THC "reduced spasms in 75% of 276 people with multiple sclerosis who were experiencing muscle spasticity that was resistant to medications".
Other studies have found similar results in different forms of neurological illness. Over the past several years, researchers have found:
- Reduction of seizure episodes in patients with the epilepsy disorder Dravet syndrome.
- A drop in seizures by 36.5% for 214 patients with severe epilepsy.
- Improvement of sleep for Parkinson's Disorder patients.
- Measurable improvement for the Quality of Life of Parkinson's patients
- The potential to prevent Alzheimer's Disease in those predisposed to the condition.
With so much promising research, it's clear to see why researchers are so excited to see what CBD, THC and other cannabis compounds may be able to do for patients.
9. Decreases Inflammation
Inflammation is one of the most common and most troublesome conditions. It is at the root of everything from an aching back and sore muscles to diseases borne out of chronic inflammation such as arthritis and even some forms of cancer. There are a lot of over the counter medications for inflammation as well as natural remedies and diets meant to reduce inflammation. These measures have helped people improve the quality of their life as well as being used to combat certain diseases.
There have been several studies regarding the role CBD and cannabis can play in reducing inflammation. One study out of the University of South Carolina found that "Cannabinoids suppress inflammatory response and subsequently attenuate disease symptoms" and that they "may also be beneficial in certain types of cancers that are triggered by chronic inflammation."
The use of CBD to treat epilepsy is one of the more well-researched applications of the plant. In fact, it was the focus of many commercials in states where marijuana legalization was up for debate. In 2018, the FDA approved the use of CBD in the form of name brand Epidiolex. This medication is used to treat Lennox-Gastaut syndrome (LGS) and Dravet Syndrome (DS), two rare disorders characterized by seizures.
This development has been a breakthrough with families coping with these disorders. For a long time, few medications - if any - were effective in controlling the seizures. The drug is approved for children as young as 2 and, younger than that patients simply need to work with a pharmacist to determine safe dosage.
CBD Oil - So What's the Catch?
Reading through this list, you might think that CBD Oil is a magic cure for just about anything. While it is clear there are plenty of worthwhile applications, the oil does come with some warnings and a potential for side effects.
CBD Oil is generally well tolerated but several studies have found the following side effects:
- Changes in appetite
As with any treatment, CBD Oil also has the potential to interact with other pharmaceutical drugs or natural supplements. Before using CBD, it is wise to consult with a doctor or pharmacist in order to identify any potential problems.
The bottom is that CBD Oil can make a huge difference in the lives of people coping with myriad problems, disorders and even acute issues. For year it's been understudied and underutilized. However, thanks to recent cultural and scientific advances, the view of cannabis is changing. As this continues, we can hope for a future that understand and uses this amazing plant to its full potential.