Better known as CBD, cannabidiol is creating a stir in the world of medicine. Its staunchest advocates suggest that it is a natural ‘cure-all’, capable of eliminating the need for pharmaceutical drugs. Opponents suggest that there isn’t enough information relating to CBD to make any health claims whatsoever.
In this article, we analyze CBD oil and its uses/benefits, while pointing out some of the legal issues associated with the non-psychoactive cannbinoid.
What is CBD Oil?
CBD oil is a tincture containing cannabidiol, one of the best-known compounds in marijuana. It is more prevalent in some strains of weed than THC, and while they have plenty in common, there is enough to differentiate the duo to the point where their legal statuses are completely different.
THC, for instance, is known for the psychoactive high it produces, while CBD does not get you high at all (it actually counteracts the intoxicating effects of THC).
While THC is also extracted from the cannabis plant, CBD typically comes from the least processed form of the plant, also known as hemp. But if hemp and marijuana both come from the same plant (Cannabis sativa), why are they so different?
Well, “marijuana farmers” typically only grow and cultivate cannabis strains that have selectively been bred for high THC levels. In other words, they put the majority of emphasis on the mind-altering “high,” rather than the therapeutic effects.
Ideally, CBD is extracted from industrial hemp via CO2 extraction. This is the most efficient and safest way to extract CBD, and if done right, results in little or no THC, solvents, or chemicals.
How Does CBD Work on the Body?
CBD is capable of providing multiple health benefits because of the way it acts on our endocannabinoid system (ECS). The ECS was only discovered in 1992 but research suggests it plays a pivotal role in regulating our health. Like other cannabinoids, CBD attaches itself to specific receptors in the human body and this process is the reason why there are so many medical uses for it.
The ECS is made up of endocannabinoids and their receptors, which are found throughout the body (including in the glands, brain, and immune cells). The ECS works in different ways in various areas of the body with the goal of preserving homeostasis, also known as ‘internal balance’.
CB1 and CB2 are the names of the two cannabinoid receptors we know of; CB1 receptors are primarily found in the brain, with some “scattered” around the body. The receptors in the brain handle movement and coordination, mood and emotions, memories, and appetite.
CB2 receptors are primarily found in the immune system, and mostly impact pain and inflammation. Originally, it was believed that CBD acted on CB2 receptors, but recent research shows that it only acts indirectly and rather influences the body to use a greater number of its own cannabinoids.
What Are CBD’s Best-Known Health Benefits?
The list of possible health benefits associated with CBD runs into the dozens (and in fact probably into the hundreds), but here, we have narrowed it down to just ten:
1. Reduces Seizures Associated with Epilepsy
The case of Charlotte Figi is well-known to CBD aficionados. Charlotte is a young girl that suffers from Dravet’s Syndrome, and had hundreds of seizures a week. After taking a high-CBD marijuana strain later named Charlotte’s Web in her honor, the number of seizures was reduced to a couple per month.
A 2017 study published in the New England Journal of Medicine backed this ‘miracle’ up. The study involved the use of CBD on children with Dravet’s Syndrome, and it was found that CBD reduced the frequency of seizures by almost 23%!
2. Chronic Pain
With millions of Americans forced to use addictive painkillers and opioids, CBD’s capacity to reduce pain is significant, to say the least. It is especially useful for patients with pain stemming from fibromyalgia, cancer, and multiple sclerosis.
Sativex is an oral spray that contains CBD and THC. A 2006 study by Blake et al. compared this drug with a placebo in 58 patients over a five-week period, and found that those who used Sativex benefited from improved pain during movement and rest, along with improved sleep quality.
3. Anxiety & Depression
Up to 18% of Americans suffer from anxiety, while 6% live with depression. Research has shown that CBD reduces stress and anxiety in individuals with conditions such as OCD, social anxiety disorder, depression, and PTSD. CBD apparently reduces depression symptoms by increasing the rate of glutamate cortical and serotonergic signaling, which studies have shown that patients with depression are severely lacking in both.
CBD is fast becoming the anti-inflammatory of choice for Americans. Chronic inflammation is associated with a variety of non-infectious diseases including Alzheimer’s, heart disease, autoimmune disease, and cancer. Although diet and lifestyle are important players, CBD oil can help you with inflammation if you’re already optimizing your lifestyle by eating healthy foods and exercising regularly.
5. Inflammatory Bowel Diseases
Research suggests that CBD could help individuals with inflammatory bowel diseases such as Crohn’s disease and ulcerative colitis. A 2013 review published in Phytotherapy Research, for example, said that CBD is a “promising drug for the therapy of inflammatory bowel diseases (IBD).”
When the body produces its THC-like compounds, it increases the permeability of the intestines, allowing bacteria to get in. CBD oil blocks these cannabinoids and helps to prevent the permeability, ensuring that there is a tightened bond in the intestinal cells.
Millions of Americans fail to get enough sleep, and chronic insomnia is a growing issue. We can help ourselves by reducing late evening exposure to the ‘blue light’ emitted by electronic devices, and also by avoiding caffeinated drinks after 6 pm. However, CBD oil can relax your mind and body, resulting in a lower energy level. CBD is especially effective for sleep when combined with melatonin.
7. Cancer-Related Symptoms
There is evidence that CBD oil could reduce cancer-related symptoms and side effects of treatment, such as pain and vomiting. A 2010 study published in the Journal of Pain and Symptom Management analyzed the effects of CBD and THC on 177 patients with cancer-related pain, who did NOT derive any significant benefits from traditional pain-killing medicines. The research team discovered that patients who consumed both compounds enjoyed a significantly greater reduction in pain.
8. Better Heart Health
Did you know that CBD could have a range of benefits for your heart and circulatory system? A study published in JCI Insight in June 2017 found that a single dose of CBD reduced the blood pressure of healthy volunteers. Ten males took a single 600 mg dose of CBD oil, and experienced less of an increase in blood pressure after completing a stress test.
9. Diabetes Prevention
A study published in Autoimmunity in March 2006 administered doses of CBD to a group of non-obese diabetic mice, and discovered that there was a 55% reduction in diabetes among mice that consumed CBD. They also benefited slightly from decreased inflammation.
10. Acne Reduction
Try telling teenagers that this isn’t an exciting development! Acne is a skin condition that affects up to 9% of the population, and is probably caused by bacteria, genetics, the overproduction of sebum and underlying inflammation. The anti-inflammatory properties of CBD, and its ability to reduce sebum production, means it could be a safe and effective way to treat acne.
CBD’s Legal Status
At the time of writing, marijuana is legal for medicinal or recreational use in 29 states plus Washington D.C. Generally speaking, CBD sellers can ship their products to all 50 states if it is made from industrial hemp and contains less than 0.3% THC. 17 states have specific CBD laws, and each has its own limits on the level of THC that can be included. For instance in Tennessee, the limit is 0.9% while in Texas it is 0.5%.
Things are even less clear in certain states. In South Dakota for example, CBD is a Schedule IV controlled substance but is not included in the definition of marijuana. However, CBD must be a product approved by the FDA to be allowed for sale in the state. In Wyoming, you are allowed use a hemp extract of at least 15% CBD, and no more than 0.3% (but only when treating intractable epilepsy).
Final Thoughts on CBD’s Health Benefits
A lack of long-term data means that we’re not aware of many side effects or risks associated with CBD to date. However, an increasing body of research shows that it could help ease the symptoms associated with dozens of medical conditions. CBD is non-intoxicating, and children can safely use it for epilepsy.
If you are considering CBD as a method of alleviating the symptoms of a medical condition, speak to your healthcare provider to learn more about reputable sellers, local laws, and the right dosage. If in doubt, start with a small dose and wait to see if it has any positive impact. Increase as necessary until you get to the stage where effects become obvious. At that point, don’t increase the dose, because you have discovered the ‘minimum effective medical dose.’