Cannabidiol (CBD) is a naturally occurring compound found in cannabis plants. When used in products like oils, edibles or topicals, CBD can have various effects on the human body. CBD interacts with receptors that are part of the endocannabinoid system, which helps regulate functions like sleep, mood, immune response, and more. Unlike the cannabis compound THC, CBD is non-psychoactive, meaning it does not produce a “high.” Research on CBD has increased in recent years due to its potential therapeutic benefits for conditions like anxiety, chronic pain, epilepsy and more. However, more human studies are needed to fully understand the effects and applications of CBD. Overall, CBD is becoming an increasingly popular wellness supplement, though its long-term effects require further study.
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1. Alleviating Stress and Depression with CBD
CBD’s ability to induce a sense of calmness is one of its most widely recognized effects, contributing to its widespread use. In a 2017 study published in the Brazilian Journal of Psychiatry, the anxiety levels of 57 men were assessed during a simulated public speaking test. Participants were given either a placebo or varying doses of CBD—150 milligrams, 300 milligrams, or 600 milligrams—prior to their speeches. The results showed that individuals who received 300 milligrams of CBD experienced a significant reduction in anxiety compared to the placebo group. Interestingly, those who received either 150 or 600 milligrams of CBD reported higher anxiety levels during the test than the 300 milligrams group.
Furthermore, a study involving mice suggested that CBD had effects similar to the antidepressant imipramine. However, it is crucial to conduct human trials to confirm whether CBD can elicit a similar antidepressant response in our bodies. Continued research into the potential benefits of CBD for mental health holds promise for addressing anxiety and depression.
2. Managing Specific Epilepsy Syndromes with CBD
CBD has demonstrated efficacy in the treatment of certain types of epileptic seizures.
In 2018, the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) granted approval for the use of CBD, marketed as Epidiolex, to address seizures associated with Lennox-Gastaut syndrome and Dravet syndrome. These two conditions represent rare forms of epilepsy and typically affect patients who are at least 2 years old.
The FDA’s decision was supported by three well-conducted studies involving 516 patients diagnosed with Lennox-Gastaut syndrome or Dravet syndrome. Participants in these trials were administered either Epidiolex or a placebo, in addition to their prescribed medications. The results indicated that Epidiolex, when used in conjunction with other prescribed drugs, led to a significant reduction in the frequency of seizures compared to the placebo group. This milestone approval marked a crucial step in recognizing CBD’s potential in managing specific epilepsy syndromes.
3. Alleviating PTSD Symptoms with CBD
A small-scale study conducted in 2018, published in the Journal of Alternative and Complementary Medicine, explored the impact of CBD on individuals with post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD). In this study, 11 participants underwent an eight-week trial receiving CBD alongside routine psychiatric care in an outpatient psychiatric clinic. Remarkably, 10 out of the 11 individuals reported a reduction in their PTSD symptoms, and the researchers noted that CBD was generally well tolerated.
Dr. Margaret Rajnic, a doctor of nursing practice with expertise in medical cannabis and CBD, underscores the importance of combining therapy with the use of cannabis or CBD for treating PTSD. She emphasizes, “There is an amount of therapy that is needed for PTSD,” adding that CBD can provide a valuable reduction in anxiety.
Additionally, findings from four other human trials conducted between 2012 and 2016 also suggest that CBD has the potential to reduce PTSD symptoms. It’s worth noting that some of these trials involved THC (tetrahydrocannabinol), the primary psychoactive component in cannabis. When THC and CBD are combined, they produce what is known as an “entourage effect,” where the benefits and potency of each compound complement each other. For instance, taking the same dose of THC and CBD together can moderate the psychoactive effects of THC, and a small amount of THC paired with a higher concentration of CBD may enhance the therapeutic effects of CBD.
4. Addressing Opioid Addiction with CBD
Emerging evidence from both preclinical animal studies and human clinical trials suggests that CBD may hold promise in aiding the treatment of individuals dependent on opioids.
In a notable study focusing on heroin use disorder, participants were administered CBD over the course of a week. The results indicated that CBD significantly reduced cue-induced cravings, withdrawal anxiety, resting heart rate, and salivary cortisol levels among heroin users. Importantly, no serious adverse effects were reported during the study.
Additional research has explored the broader applications of CBD in mitigating various psychiatric and medical symptoms associated with substance use disorders, including anxiety, insomnia, and pain. These findings suggest that CBD could be a potential and effective treatment for opioid addiction. However, it is crucial to note that further studies are needed to thoroughly understand the extent of CBD’s efficacy in addressing opioid dependence. Continued research in this area holds promise for providing new and innovative approaches to combating the opioid crisis.
5. Easing the Challenges of ALS with THC and CBD
Amyotrophic lateral sclerosis (ALS) is a progressive disease that leads to the deterioration of nerve cells in the brain and spinal cord, resulting in a gradual loss of muscle control. The exact cause of ALS is not fully understood, and while it can have hereditary factors, there is no known cure. Currently, only two FDA-approved medications are available to address ALS symptoms.
Research has indicated that individuals with ALS may find relief through the combined effects of THC and CBD, known as the entourage effect, similar to those with PTSD. A 2019 study explored the use of a combination of THC and CBD in varying doses tailored to individual needs and preferences. Participants experiencing mild, moderate, or severe spasticity (muscle tightness and stiffness) due to ALS reported high levels of satisfaction with the treatment. Notably, individuals with moderate to severe spasticity reported even higher satisfaction rates compared to those with mild spasticity.
These findings suggest that the synergistic effects of THC and CBD could play a valuable role in alleviating the symptoms associated with ALS. While there is currently no cure for ALS, research into alternative treatments, including cannabinoids, offers hope for improving the quality of life for individuals affected by this challenging condition.
6. Alleviating Intractable Pain: The Role of THC, CBD, and CBD Topicals
In 2005, Canada made a groundbreaking move by approving Sativex, an oromucosal spray with equal proportions of THC and CBD, for the treatment of central neuropathic pain associated with multiple sclerosis. Following this approval, in 2007, Canada again authorized the use of Sativex for cancer pain that did not respond to other medications.
Concurrently, ongoing studies in the United States have indicated the effectiveness of CBD in managing chronic, non-cancer pain. A 2020 study focused on administering topical CBD to a group of patients with symptomatic peripheral neuropathy, a condition resulting from damage to brain and spinal cord nerves. Another group with the same condition received a placebo. The results revealed a significant reduction in intense, sharp pains and cold, itchy sensations among those who used topical CBD compared to the placebo group. Importantly, none of the participants reported adverse side effects.
When applied topically, CBD oil targets localized pain without affecting the systemic issue as it would if introduced directly into the bloodstream. This localized approach allows for a more pronounced effect in the specific area of application. The findings underscore the potential of THC, CBD, and CBD topicals as valuable tools in addressing unmanageable pain, offering alternative and effective solutions for individuals dealing with various forms of chronic pain.
7. Addressing Diabetic Complications with CBD
Research has uncovered promising insights into the potential benefits of CBD in mitigating the effects of high glucose levels on cells—a precursor to the development of diabetes and associated complications. Tests conducted on human cells indicate that CBD can play a role in reducing the impact of elevated glucose levels on various cells in the body. Researchers posit that with further investigation, CBD may offer significant advantages for individuals with diabetes, diabetic complications, and plaque buildup in artery walls.
In a small-scale study involving 13 patients with type 2 diabetes who were not undergoing insulin treatment, participants were administered both CBD and a placebo (as a substitute for insulin). The results demonstrated that CBD led to a decrease in resistin levels—a protein associated with insulin resistance—and an increase in glucose-dependent insulinotropic peptide levels. This hormone plays a crucial role in ensuring an adequate release of insulin from digested food. The observed changes suggest that CBD could serve as a natural treatment for diabetes by aiding the body in regulating insulin-related hormone levels.
While these findings are promising, additional research is needed to delve deeper into the potential therapeutic effects of CBD for diabetes and related complications. Continued exploration in this area may unveil new avenues for managing and alleviating the challenges associated with diabetes.
8. Safeguarding Neurological Health: The Potential of CBD
Extensive preclinical and clinical investigations have unveiled the antioxidant and anti-inflammatory properties of CBD, positioning it as a potential agent for neuroprotection against various pathological disorders.
A multitude of preclinical studies indicates that CBD holds promise in exerting beneficial effects against neurological conditions such as Parkinson’s disease, Alzheimer’s disease, and multiple sclerosis. While trials involving Huntington’s disease and cerebral ischemia were conducted, noteworthy positive outcomes were not observed. The findings from these preclinical studies underscore the need for further clinical investigations to validate and elucidate the potential benefits of CBD as a treatment for these specific neurological disorders.
The antioxidant and anti-inflammatory qualities of CBD are believed to play a crucial role in shielding the nervous system from harm, paving the way for potential therapeutic applications. As researchers delve deeper into understanding the intricate mechanisms at play, CBD emerges as a compelling candidate for neuroprotection, offering hope for the development of innovative treatments for neurological diseases in the future.
9. Mitigating Arthritis Symptoms with CBD
Arthritis, characterized by the degeneration of tissues around joints, manifests with symptoms such as pain, stiffness, and loss of motion. Traditional arthritis treatments primarily focus on alleviating pain and enhancing joint function.
A noteworthy 2006 study explored the efficacy of Sativex, a CBD-based botanical drug approved in the United Kingdom in 2010, in treating rheumatoid arthritis. The controlled trial involved 58 patients and revealed statistically significant improvements in quality of sleep, pain during movement, and pain at rest for those using Sativex compared to a placebo. This marked the first controlled trial assessing Sativex’s potential as a treatment for rheumatoid arthritis, highlighting CBD’s pain-relieving effects and its ability to suppress disease activity.
In a more localized approach, a 2018 study investigated the use of a synthetic CBD gel in daily doses of either 250 milligrams or 500 milligrams on patients with knee pain due to osteoarthritis. During the study period, participants discontinued other anti-inflammatory medications or painkillers, except for acetaminophen.
While the results were not entirely conclusive, interesting observations emerged. CBD-treated individuals did not experience significant changes in pain compared to the placebo group. However, statistically significant differences were noted between the group receiving the 250 milligram dose and the placebo group when measuring the average weekly improvement in their worst pain levels and their WOMAC (Western Ontario and McMaster Universities Arthritis Index) physical function rating. Notably, the study suggested that men may benefit more significantly from CBD than women in this context.
As research in this field progresses, CBD continues to show promise as a potential avenue for mitigating arthritis symptoms, providing hope for improved pain management and enhanced quality of life for individuals dealing with this challenging condition.