Cannabis sativa is one of the oldest cultivated plant species. Scientists have identified more than 100 cannabinoids in the cannabis plant. One of them is cannabidiol, more popularly known as CBD. [R]
When extracted from the plant and diluted in hemp seed or coconut oil, CBD can be used as a natural remedy for common ailments.
Tetrahydrocannabinol, or THC, is another cannabinoid that has shown promise in reducing symptoms of various illnesses. Unlike CBD which is non-psychoactive, THC produces a sensation of getting "high" – the ugly side effect that gives cannabis its bad reputation.
Because CBD does not get people high, it has become an appealing option for those who are seeking medical relief without the mind-altering effects of marijuana or addictive nature of pharmaceutical drugs.
CBD as a treatment option continues to gain momentum in the health and wellness industry. The anecdotal evidence that previously hyped CBD is now backed by scientific studies confirming its possible health benefits.
Here are seven CBD benefits that have been proven by science.
Could provide pain relief
For centuries, cannabis has been used around the world to treat a variety of conditions. Ancient Chinese doctors who lived around 2900 B.C. had prescribed cannabis to patients who suffered from rheumatic pain, muscle spasms, and gout. In 1000 B.C. physicians in India started applying strong cannabis preparations as an analgesic, tranquilizer, antispasmodic, and anti-inflammatory agent. [R]
Modern technology has allowed scientists to look deeper into specific components of cannabis, including CBD, and explore their pain-relieving effects. What they discovered is a network of receptors in the human body called the endocannabinoid system (ECS). These neurotransmitters bind to cannabinoid receptors in the nervous system. The ECS is responsible for regulating a variety of functions including sleep, appetite, pain and immune system response. [R]
According to studies, CBD might be able to reduce inflammation that is associated with chronic pain. This happens when CBD interacts with neurotransmitters and induces endocannabinoid receptor activity. [R]
In a 2017 study, a post-operative rat model was injected with CBD to study its effects on surgical incision pain. The results provided evidence that CBD changed the way rats responded to pain. [R]
Another animal study found that oral administration of CBD significantly reduced inflammation and sciatic nerve pain. [R]
Several human studies have found that a combination of CBD and THC can be effective in reducing pain related to arthritis and multiple sclerosis. In fact, the oral spray Sativex is already approved in several countries for MS pain treatment.
A randomized, double-blind, parallel group study in 2006 treated 58 rheumatoid arthritis patients with either a placebo or Sativex over a period of five weeks. The results showed significant relief from pain during movement and pain at rest as well as improved sleep quality. [R]
In 2015, researchers studied 47 people who were diagnosed with multiple sclerosis. They were divided into two groups: one took Sativex and another took a placebo. After one month, those in the Sativex group reported a significant improvement in walking with less pain and muscle spasms. [R]
- Might help control anxiety, depression and other mental disorders
Anxiety and depression are becoming an epidemic. According to the World Health Organization, more than 300 million people worldwide suffer from depression – that's equivalent to 4.4 percent of the global population. Depression is the leading contributor to disability while anxiety disorders rank sixth. [R]
Mental disorders can have a devastating impact not just on the patient but to their loved ones as well. The most common method of treatment for anxiety and depression is pharmaceutical drugs, which unfortunately cause a number of side effects including headache, drowsiness, dry mouth, weight gain, agitation, insomnia, sexual dysfunction, and withdrawal symptoms. [R]
Benzodiazepines such as Xanax and Valium are often prescribed for anxiety and panic attacks. These can be addictive and may lead to substance abuse. [R]
CBD oil has shown promise as an alternative treatment for anxiety and depression – ideal for those who do not want the side effects of pharmaceuticals or the high of THC.
In one study in 2011, researchers compared two groups of patients with social anxiety disorder. The 24 respondents were either given a placebo or 600mg of CBD before a public speaking test. Those who took CBD exhibited less anxiety, discomfort, and cognitive impairment in their speech performance compared to those who took a placebo. [R]
A case report in 2016 examined the effect of CBD in a 10-year-old girl who was sexually abused and suffered from post-traumatic stress disorder. Her symptoms included anxiety, insomnia, outbursts at school, suicidal ideas, and self-destructive behavior. After taking CBD for five months, the patient was sleeping in her own room most nights and handling school with no difficulties. This case study provides clinical data that support the use of CBD oil as a safe treatment for reducing anxiety and improving sleep. [R]
Looking into the anti-psychotic properties of CBD, a 2015 review suggests that CBD might be able to help people who are suffering from schizophrenia and other mental disorders. [R]
- Known to have neuroprotective properties
Scientists believe that the ability of CBD to interact with the endocannabinoid system and neurotransmitters may provide benefits for patients who have been diagnosed with neurological disorders. This is why many researchers have dedicated their effort in looking into the effect of CBD in patients with epilepsy and multiple sclerosis. Although research in this area is still relatively new, the results have been promising.
Sativex, an oral spray that consists of CBD and THC, has been proven to be a safe and effective treatment for muscle spasticity – a common symptom of multiple sclerosis. A clinical study in Germany assessed 276 patients who had moderate to severe multiple sclerosis spasticity (MSS) that was resistant to other medications. After only one month, Sativex provided relief of drug-resistant MSS in 74.6% of patients. After three months, 55.3% of patients had continued to use Sativex and MSS decreased by 25% from baseline. Real-life data confirms that cannabidiol can be an effective and well-tolerated treatment option for resistant MSS in clinical practice. [R]
Two years later, another study examined 214 people who were already taking medication for severe, intractable, childhood-onset, treatment-resistant epilepsy. The patients were given oral cannabidiol at 2-5 mg/kg per day until intolerance or to a maximum dose of 25 mg/kg. The median monthly frequency of motor seizures was 30.0 at baseline and 15.8 over the 12-week treatment period. The average reduction in motor seizures was 36.5% per month. These findings suggest that CBD might reduce seizure frequency in children and young adults with highly treatment-resistant epilepsy. [R]
One more study in 2017 found that CBD significantly reduced seizure activity in children with Dravet syndrome. A complex childhood epilepsy disorder, Dravet syndrome is associated with drug-resistant seizures and a high mortality rate. In a double-blind, placebo-controlled trial, 120 children and young adults with Dravet syndrome and drug-resistant seizures were given 20 mg/kg of cannabidiol per day or placebo, in addition to standard antiepileptic treatment. After the 14-week treatment period, convulsive seizures per month decreased from 12.4 to 5.9 in the CBD group. There was a 50% reduction in convulsive-seizure frequency in 43% of CBD patients. Overall condition in the Caregiver Global Impression of Change scale improved in 62% of the CBD group. The percentage of patients who became seizure-free was 5% with cannabidiol and none with placebo. [R]
Researchers have also studied the effects of CBD on other neurological diseases such as Parkinson’s and Alzheimer’s.
- Can promote cardiovascular health
Hypertension is a significant risk factor for cardiovascular disease and mortality. According to the Global Burden of Disease report, one of the leading causes of death worldwide is ischemic heart disease. High blood pressure increases the risk of stroke, heart attack and metabolic syndrome. [R]
Recent studies have linked CBD to heart health – possibly supporting the circulatory system and controlling high blood pressure.
A randomized, placebo-controlled, double-blind, crossover study in 2017 treated nine healthy male volunteers with 600mg of CBD or placebo. Results showed that subjects who took CBD had lower resting systolic blood pressure and decreased stroke volume. There was minimal increase in heart rate following a standard stress test after only one dose of CBD. While CBD seemed to have a positive effect on blood pressure, further research is required to establish whether CBD can effectively treat cardiovascular diseases. [R]
One study in 2010 explored how CBD may help reduce cardiac dysfunction, oxidative stress, inflammation, cell death, and signaling pathways in diabetic cardiomyopathy. The findings suggest that CBD may have great therapeutic potential in preventing heart damage and diabetic complications. [R]
- Might help alleviate the side effects of chemotherapy
Chemotherapy treatment of cancer is often associated with three nasty side effects: nausea, vomiting and pain.
One study back in 2010 examined the effects of CBD and THC on cancer-related pain. The double-blind, randomized, placebo-controlled, parallel-group study included 177 people who did not experience relief from traditional pain medication. Twice as many patients taking the THC and CBD combination showed a pain reduction of more than 30% compared to those who took THC only or placebo. This study shows that CBD is effective in providing relief in patients with advanced cancer pain who are resistant to strong opioids. [R]
Nausea and vomiting are two adverse side effects of chemotherapy that can severely reduce the quality of life of cancer patients. Although there are drugs that help mitigate these distressing symptoms, anti-emetic chemotherapy regimens often fail to improve quality of life, which forces patients to seek alternatives. [R]
A pilot, randomized, double-blind, placebo-controlled clinical trial was conducted in 2010 to evaluate the tolerability and efficacy of whole-plant cannabis-based medicine (CBM) containing THC and CBD taken with standard therapies for chemotherapy-induced nausea and vomiting (CINV). After completing a chemotherapy session, seven patients were given CBM while nine patients took placebo. The mean daily dose was 4.8 oral sprays in both groups. Among those who had CBM, 71.4% experienced a complete response compared to 22.2% with placebo. The researchers concluded that CBM added to standard anti-emetic therapy was well tolerated and provided better protection against delayed CINV. [R]
- Could possibly slow down the growth or kill cancer cells
Scientists have recently been exploring the anti-cancer properties of CBD. A few test-tube studies have already shown promise in the ability of cannabidiol to induce cell death in breast cancer cells. [R]
In another study, CBD demonstrated a capability to significantly decrease Id-1 gene expression in metastatic breast cancer cells leading to the down-regulation of tumor aggressiveness. [R]
Although CBD has shown great potential in fighting cancer cells and reducing chemo-related symptoms, more human studies are needed to make conclusions.
- May prevent acne breakouts
Acne is a skin condition that affects more than 9% of the population – making it the eighth most prevalent disease worldwide. [R]
In 2014, researchers looked into the effects of CBD on human sebaceous gland function. CBD was able to prevent excessive secretion of sebum and stopped the activation of inflammatory cytokines. These findings suggest that with the combined lipostatic, antiproliferative, and anti-inflammatory effects of CBD, cannabidiol has the potential as a therapeutic agent for treating acne vulgaris. [R]
A study conducted two years later seemed to confirm that CBD may be an effective way to treat acne because of its remarkable anti-inflammatory properties. [R]
Talk to your doctor before taking CBD
Although CBD is generally considered safe, it can cause adverse reactions like nausea, diarrhea, dizziness and anxiety in some people. CBD is also known to interact with traditional pharmaceutical medications. Before you add CBD to your treatment regimen, consult your doctor first to ensure safety and prevent any harmful interactions.
Should you take CBD?
CBD is the most studied cannabinoid next to THC. Evidence keeps piling up as researchers discover the potential role of CBD in treating a plethora of health issues from neurological disorders to mental problems to heart, bone and skin diseases.
For those who are suffering from a chronic illness and have developed resistance to standard drug therapies, CBD might be able to provide a natural alternative for pain and symptom relief.