CBD is one of the most popular wellness trends of the moment, with more and more people turning to this natural remedy to help with a variety of issues. But what is CBD, and how does it work?
CBD stands for Cannabidiol, it is one of over 100 compounds found in cannabis plants that has a variety of potential health benefits and is the most often extracted from hemp plants. CBD does not have the same psychoactive effects as THC, the compound in cannabis that gets people “high.” This means that it will not make you high or alter your state of mind in any way.
CBD has been shown to have anti-inflammatory, anti-anxiety, and anti-seizure properties. It is also being studied for its potential to treat other conditions, such as chronic pain, arthritis, and cancer.
So, how does CBD work? It is believed by scientists to have the potential to help maintain balance in the human body. This is done by interacting with the endocannabinoid system, which is a system that helps control various bodily functions like appetite, mood, immune response, pain, and sleep. CBD can help to support a healthy endocannabinoid system, and in turn, may provide relief from a variety of issues.
- CBD and epilepsy. The article “Epilepsy and cannabidiol: a guide to treatment” by Alexis Arzimanoglou provides a comprehensive analysis of the use of cannabidiol in treating epilepsy. The possibility that cannabis-related products could be therapeutic has been suggested for many years. Interest in this topic has risen and fallen in recent decades, inline with people’s perceptions of cannabis and changes in legislation. The first CBD-based medication to receive approval in the USA from the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) was Epidiolex, synthetic CBD. Doctors prescribe Epidiolex to patients who experience seizures due to Lennox-Gastrault or Dravet syndrome, which are rare types of epilepsy.
Epidiolex underwent extensive human testing before the FDA approved it for the treatment of these two conditions. According to an article in Molecules, scientists are not sure exactly how CBD helps to control seizures. One theory suggests that CBD affects a receptor involved in seizure activity called transient receptor potential vanilloid (TRPV).
A review of completed and ongoing clinical trials showed that adding CBD to common antiepileptic drugs might be appropriate for treatment-resistant epilepsy in infants, children, and teenagers.
- Pain and inflammation. In 2020, researchers looked into the pain-reducing effects of CBD in a small, randomized, placebo-controlled trial. The trial studied the use of topical CBD oil on people with peripheral neuropathy in the legs. In this trial, 29 participants with peripheral noncancer neuropathic pain received either 250 milligrams (mg) of CBD total dissolved in 88ml of oil or a placebo. After 4 weeks, the researchers found that those using CBD oil reported a statistically significant reduction in intense pain, sharp pain, cold and itchy sensations. Participants did not report any side effects. Although the results of this small trial are positive, more investigations are needed to confirm the results.
Other research (Lynch ME, Campbell F. Cannabinoids for treatment of chronic non-cancer pain; a systematic review of randomized trials) has shown that a 1:1 combination of THC and CBD sprayed in the back of the mouth (a pharmaceutical product called Sativex) might be effective for treating chronic pain that is not related to cancer. However, the researchers are unsure which of the two compounds had the most impact. Additionally, the follow-up period for this study was only 15 weeks. Scientists must carry out additional research to confirm whether long-term pain control is possible. This spray that contained both THC and CBD may also have anti-inflammatory properties. An earlier study on people living with rheumatoid arthritis showed that Sativex reduced the Disease Activity Score-28, which is an indicator of a decrease in inflammation.
These studies show the potential effectiveness of CBD on pain and inflammation.
- Depression and anxiety. Many animal studies discussing the impacts of CBD on mood disorders showed promising results. A study published in Neuropsychopharmacology outlined how CBD could reduce anxiety caused by public speaking in humans. The participants took a CBD preparation prior to a public-speaking event. They claimed to feel less anxious and uncomfortable. Researchers recommend that CBD might help reduce anxiety related to the fear of an upcoming event. The subjects also displayed less negative self-evaluation during public speaking. Researchers hypothesise that serotonin receptors may be involved in the effects of CBD on anxiety. Currently, there is a dearth of human studies on the efficacy of CBD on depression. More research is needed before it can be used for this purpose.
- Addiction management and treatment. Some experts posit that CBD oil may assist people with addiction by reducing activation in the amygdala, a brain area implicated in addiction. Cravings for drugs are often triggered by exposure to particular cues. Therefore, reducing cravings during cues can help people abstain from heroin. A study published in the American Journal of Psychiatry (2019, Yasmin L. Hurd) explored CBD’s effect on cue-induced craving and anxiety in people with heroin use disorder. The researchers showed that compared to placebo, those who took CBD had lower cravings and anxiety. These results are encouraging and warrant further investigation.
- Inflammatory skin conditions. The endocannabinoid system (ECS) regulates various physiological processes, such as cutaneous cell growth and differentiation. Cannabinoids have displayed anti-inflammatory, anti-itch, anti-ageing, and anticancer properties in some studies, which are mainly featured in “The potential role of cannabinoids in dermatology” by Tabrez Sheriff. Some specialists believe that these effects arise when the medication interacts with the endocannabinoid system located in the skin.
Some skin conditions that may improve with CBD treatment include: acne, atopic dermatitis, psoriasis, skin cancer, itchy skin,pain.
Cell studies (Cannabidiol exerts sebostatic and anti-inflammatory effects on human sebocytes, Attila Oláh and others) showed that CBD prevented some of the functions of the sebaceous glands, which contributes to acne. Researchers need to confirm these results through human studies before doctors can recommend using CBD for this purpose.
- A piece in Molecules (Use of Cannabidiol in the Treatment of Epilepsy: Efficacy and Security in Clinical Trials) reports that animal research has demonstrated that CBD may provide neuroprotective benefits for several neurodegenerative disorders, such as: amyotrophic lateral sclerosis (ALS), Parkinson’s disease, Huntington’s disease, Alzheimer’s disease, multiple sclerosis (MS). The neuroprotective effects are likely due to the anti-inflammatory and antioxidant properties of CBD, as suggested by researchers. CBD is a more powerful antioxidant than ascorbic acid (vitamin C) or tocopherol (vitamin E). In some countries, doctors can prescribe Sativex, a drug that contains THC and CBD, to relieve spasticity in people with MS or Parkinson’s disease; however, the mechanism is still unknown to scientists.
- Chemotherapy side effect relief
An article in the British Journal of Pharmacology (Regulation of nausea and vomiting by cannabinoids) discusses the possibility that CBD’s effect on nausea and vomiting in animals is linked to its interaction with serotonin receptors. However, the article ultimately concludes that THC appears to be more effective than CBD in reducing nausea and vomiting.
The role of CBD in relieving nausea and vomiting has not been fully understood yet, as one human study (Cannabinoid Regulation of Acute and Anticipatory Nausea Erin M. Rock) showed that people with chemotherapy-induced nausea and vomiting experienced relief when taking Sativex, but it is unclear how much CBD contributed.