CBD Oil: The uses, the risks and benefits.

Among what seems like a tsunami of different natural remedies championed and in vogue today, cannabidiol certainly deserves its “celebrity” status. Though many know it by its abbreviation – CBD, not its full chemical name.

CBD is a substance naturally found in the cannabis (.a.k.a. marijuana) plant. Unlike tetrahydrocannabinol (THC), the main chemical which causes the “high” associated with smoking marijuana, CBD has no psychoactive effects. Moreover, it is completely legal and is used for a number of applications.

Cancer-related pain relief, anti-anxiety and anti-depression effects, among others, are just but a few of the uses people and medicine have found for this compound.

CBD is usually distributed in the form of CBD oil. This oil is a mixture of purified CBD combined with a “buffer” oil such as hemp seed or coconut oil.

So, what is all the fuss about the benefits of CBD oil? Have there been any scientific papers about its health effects? Why are people advocating for its effectiveness during a number of health conditions? These are just a few of the questions we’ll be answering in this article.

CBD oil can be used for pain relief

The cannabis plant has been used in folk and traditional medicine since ancient times. Historically it’s uses were mostly related to relieving pain and promoting good health. The question that now bothers us is this – is there any scientific evidence linking CBD to pain relief?

Among the various internal systems regulating our body functions, a relatively new and less researched one is the endocannabinoid system (ECS). This system is involved in regulating sleep, pain, appetite and immune responses (everyone who has ever used marijuana can attest to sleepiness and increased appetite!). To put it simply, our bodies produce substances resembling those found in the cannabis plant and these substances function to control a number of bodily responses.

Numerous animal studies have shown, that CBD has the ability to reduce pain sensation by working on the ECS. Studies of pure CBD oil effect on human pain are pending but a number of medications, which usually use a combination of CBD and THC, have been approved outside the US to treat pain related to cancer and certain neurological diseases.

Evidence points to the helpfulness of CBD oil for the control of chronic pains and aches, such as found in rheumatoid arthritis and osteoarthritis.

It has numerous positive psychiatric effects

Mental health has been increasingly brought forward as a public health issue recently. The World Health Organization (WHO) has pronounced depression by far the largest cause of disability worldwide. Anxiety is lower on the list, but nonetheless is an unpleasant part of life for many and is absolutely debilitating for some.

Modern medicine has many effective methods for dealing with these disorders. Medications such as antidepressants, benzodiazepines and psychostimulants are all used in the effort to combat anxiety and depression. The caveat being, that these pharmaceuticals can be otherwise dangerous to a person’s health (antidepressants being most common in this category) , or can be a source of addiction (benzodiazepine dependence is a worsening problem worldwide).

It is therefore unsurprising that people with these conditions would look for a less toxic approach. CBD oil has become an interesting choice for those favoring natural remedies. CBD has been found to relieve performance-related anxiety in a number of studies, while also having a positive effect on mood disorders.

The effects of CBD oil on mood and anxiety is directly related to the brain concentrations of a neurotransmitter called serotonin. In both anxiety and depression there is a shortage of this neurotransmitter within the central nervous system and pharmaceuticals are usually directed towards correcting that imbalance. CBD has also been found to act on serotonin receptors and increase serotonin concentrations within key areas of the human brain, partially explaining its positive effects during mood and anxiety disorders.

Studies show CBD oil benefits in cancer patients.

While it is nowhere close to being a “cure” for cancer, CBD oil has nonetheless shown positive effects in mitigating some of the symptoms of cancer, while also reducing the harmful effects of chemotherapy.

Combinations of THC and CBD have been found to relieve cancer-related pain in patients resistant to pain-medication. In fact, CBD has played a more important role in these studies as patients treated with THC alone did not experience as much pain relief as those treated with a combination of the two.

Cancer chemotherapy has a number of harmful side- and toxic effects. Not the least from these is the nausea and vomiting associated with these pharmaceuticals. While there are medications meant to combat these, some patients still experience significant nausea during their treatment. CBD oil has been found to reduce nausea and decrease vomiting frequency in patients resistant to standard medications. CBD and THC combinations have even demonstrated better efficacy at controlling these symptoms than standard agents!

The anti-cancer effects of CBD are, on one hand, documented in animal studies (mice), but are contested and untested in humans. While there are a handful of studies demonstrating that CBD can kill cancer cells in the laboratory setting, there is no guarantee that this is also true within the human body. What works in the lab, does not always work in real life. More studies are warranted before coming to a conclusion on this matter.

CBD oil can help with acne symptoms

We all remember our teenage years, we’ve all had that friend who had terrible acne, we even might have been that friend! Acne vulgaris is a very common skin condition usually caused by a combination of sebum overproduction and bacterial infection. It has numerous predisposing conditions such as nutritional imbalances and naturally oily skin and it affects people both cosmetically and psychologically.

New research has disclosed the ability of CBD oil to reduce sebaceous gland activity and reduce inflammation, thereby eliminating the conditions required for acne to develop. Though these studies have so far been confined to the laboratory setting, human research is already on the way!

A CBD product has already been approved by the Food And Drug Administration.

Scientists have been fascinated by the endocannabinoid system and its properties for a while now. Numerous studies have been performed, although the results were mixed one firm conclusion has been made – CBD can be beneficial for certain neurological diseases.

Epidiolex (trade name) is a CBD product recently approved by the food and drug administration for the treatment of two very severe epilepsy syndromes (Dravet syndrome and Lennox-Gestaut syndrome). It has been found to reduce seizure frequency, while only having minor adverse effects on use.

Other CBD products such as Sativex (THC and CBD combination), has been found to be a helpful in treatment of the muscle spasms associated with multiple sclerosis.

Research is still underway for a number of CBD applications. Findings point to usefulness for sleep disorders in patients with Parkinson’s disease and the improvement of memory in Alzheimer’s, but whether it will find widespread use, only time will tell.

The risks of CBD use

CBD oil is usually quite safe to use. Minor side effects include:

  • Diarrhea
  • Insomnia or excessive sleep
  • Fatigue
  • Decreased appetite

On a more serious note, CBD does interfere with the liver’s ability to process other medications. The cytochrome P450 (CYP450) system is a protein complex which helps us break down many medications. CBD directly inhibits this system and can thus slow the breakdown and metabolism of many medications, especially when taken together with grapefruit juice and other citrus products.

Liver toxicity has been reported in certain CBD studies and the FDA has announced a warning regarding this issue. However, the research backing this decision was also conducted in mice and significant cases of liver failure/toxicity in humans has yet to be reported.

Legality and final thoughts

The legality of CBD products depends on a number of factors. Firstly, the origin of the CBD – hemp-derived products are legal on a federal level, but might be illegal on the individual state level, whereas marijuana-derived CBD is illegal on a federal level. Be sure to check the state laws when travelling. Note that nonprescription CBD products are not FDA approved. Effects of CBD may vary from product to product, make sure to select one which is suitable for your needs.

There is still much to be learned about the properties of cannabidiol, but the recent liberalization of state policies towards these products will undoubtedly spur further research into this field. For the time being, it is a natural product which might aid people suffering from numerous serious health conditions and is progressively being recognized by mainstream medicine. The outlook seems bright.