Cannabidiol or CBD is a chemical compound found in the cannabis plant. When applied topically, smoked inhaled, or consumed, CBD interacts with neuroreceptors in the endocannabinoid system, which sends signals between cells to regulate movement, mood, homeostasis, and the immune system.
CBD is often extracted from the Cannabis sativa plant in oil form and mixed with a carrier oil, such as hemp seed oil, for consumption. The popularity of CBD oil has skyrocketed in recent years thanks to its alleged calming effects. It can now be found in a range of products, from simple oil tinctures to CBD-infused potato chips.
CBD research is also growing. Here are nine studies that suggest CBD oil could benefit your health.
Relieve anxiety and depression
The calming effects of CBD is perhaps its most popular effect and is the reason why it is so widely used. A 2017 study published in the Brazilian Journal of Psychiatry tested the anxiety levels of 57 men in a simulated public speaking test. Some received a placebo, while others received either 150 milligrams, 300 milligrams, or 600 milligrams of CBD before their speeches. Those who received 300 milligrams of CBD experienced a significant reduction in anxiety during the test compared to those who received the placebo. Interestingly, the participants who received either 150 or 600 milligrams of CBD were more anxious during the test than the 300 milligram group.
Meanwhile, at least one study in mice has shown that CBD has an effect similar to that of the antidepressant imipramine. However, human studies are needed to confirm that CBD can produce the same antidepressant response in our bodies.
Treatment of certain epilepsy syndromes
In some cases, CBD can be used to treat epileptic seizures.
In 2018, the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) approved the use of CBD under the brand name Epidiolex to treat seizures resulting from Lennox-Gastaut syndrome and Dravet syndrome -- two rare forms of epilepsy -- in patients at least 2 years of age years.
The FDA's decision is supported by three well-researched studies. In these studies, 516 patients with Lennox-Gastaut syndrome or Dravet syndrome received either Epidiolex or placebo. When Epidiolex was taken with other prescribed medications, the participants' seizure frequency decreased compared to placebo.
Relieve PTSD symptoms
In a small 2018 study published in the Journal of Alternative and Complementary Medicine, 11 people with post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) received CBD along with routine psychiatric treatment in a psychiatric outpatient clinic for eight weeks. Ten of the 11 people experienced a reduction in PTSD symptoms. CBD was generally well tolerated, the researchers write.
Margaret Rajnic, a doctor of nursing with experience in medicinal cannabis and CBD, emphasizes the importance of combining any type of cannabis or CBD with therapy for PTSD. "There is a certain level of therapy that is required for PTSD," she says. "But CBD may reduce anxiety a little bit."
Four other human studies from 2012 to 2016 suggest that CBD reduces PTSD symptoms, although some also contain THC, or tetrahydrocannabinol, the main mind-altering compound in cannabis. When THC and CBD work together, what is known as an “entourage effect” is created, where they complement each other in effect and potency. For example, taking the same dose of THC and CBD at the same time moderates the “high” of THC, while a little THC combined with more CBD enhances the effects of CBD.
treat opioid addiction
Some studies—both preclinical animal studies and human clinical trials—suggest that CBD could be used to treat people addicted to opioids.
In one such study, researchers administered CBD to people with heroin addiction. Over the course of a week, CBD significantly decreased trigger-induced craving, withdrawal anxiety, resting heart rate, and salivary cortisol levels in heroin users. No serious undesirable effects have been identified.
Other studies show that CBD reduces various psychiatric and medical symptoms such as anxiety, insomnia, and pain in patients with substance use disorders, suggesting that CBD could be an effective treatment for opioid addiction. However, more studies are still needed.
Relief of ALS symptoms
Amyotrophic lateral sclerosis (ALS) is a disease in which the nerve cells in the brain and spinal cord deteriorate, leading to a loss of muscle control that worsens over time. It is not yet known exactly why ALS occurs, although in some cases it can be hereditary. There is no known cure and there are only two FDA-approved drugs to treat ALS symptoms.
Research suggests that people with ALS may benefit from the entourage effect created by the combination of THC and CBD, similar to those with PTSD. In a 2019 study, patients received a combination of THC and CBD in varying doses based on their needs and preferences. Those with mild, moderate, or severe spasticity (muscle tightness and stiffness) from ALS reported high levels of treatment satisfaction, and those with moderate to severe spasticity reported higher satisfaction rates than those with mild spasticity.
Relieve unmanageable pain
In 2005, Canada approved the use of Sativex, an oromucosal (taken through the mouth) spray containing equal parts THC and CBD, for the treatment of central neuropathic pain associated with multiple sclerosis. In 2007, Canada again approved the drug's use for cancer pain unresponsive to other drugs.
Meanwhile, more studies in the US are suggesting that CBD is effective in treating chronic, non-cancer pain. In a 2020 study, researchers gave CBD to a group of patients with symptomatic peripheral neuropathy (a result of damage to the nerves in the brain and spinal cord), while another group with the same condition received a placebo. The results showed a significant reduction in intense, stabbing pain and cold, itchy sensations in those using the topical CBD compared to those taking the placebo. None of the participants reported any adverse side effects.
When applied topically, CBD oil does not have any effects on the body as it would if it went directly into the bloodstream. Instead, the CBD oil acts more locally, treating the pain in a specific area. Being more direct, it can have a more pronounced effect.
Relief of diabetic complications
When tested on human cells, CBD was found to reduce the effects of high glucose levels on other cells in the body, which typically precedes the development of diabetes and various complications. Researchers concluded that with further studies, CBD could have significant benefits in patients with diabetes, diabetic complications, and plaque buildup in the arterial walls.
In another small study, 13 patients with type 2 diabetes not treated with insulin were given both CBD and a placebo (instead of insulin). Researchers found that CBD lowered levels of resistin (which causes resistance to insulin, the protein that regulates blood sugar levels) and levels of the glucose-dependent insulinotropic peptide (a hormone that ensures adequate release of insulin from digested food) in the body increased compared to baseline before the start of the test. These results suggest that CBD could be a natural treatment for diabetes by helping the body regulate insulin-related hormone levels.
Protection against neurological diseases
Preclinical and clinical studies show that CBD has antioxidant and anti-inflammatory properties. Researchers believe that these properties may provide significant neuroprotection, or protection against a variety of pathological disorders.
Several preclinical studies suggest that CBD may have positive effects on Parkinson's disease, Alzheimer's disease and multiple sclerosis. Huntington's disease and cerebral ischemia have also been tested, but there were no significant positive results. More clinical studies are needed to confirm the benefits of CBD in treating these diseases.
inhibit arthritis symptoms
Arthritis causes the tissues in and around the joints to deteriorate. There are different types of arthritis, and symptoms include pain, stiffness, and restricted movement. Arthritis treatment is usually aimed at reducing pain and improving joint function.
A 2006 study found that Sativex — a CBD-based herbal medicine approved in the UK in 2010 — showed statistically significant improvements in sleep quality, pain on movement, and pain in patients with rheumatoid arthritis compared to a placebo effected in peace. It was the first controlled study of Sativex for the treatment of rheumatoid arthritis, involving 58 patients. CBD has been found to have pain-relieving effects and can suppress disease activity.
In 2018, in a localized treatment study, researchers administered a synthetic CBD gel at a dosage of 250 or 500 milligrams daily or a placebo to patients with knee pain due to osteoarthritis. The patients also stopped taking any other anti-inflammatory drugs or pain relievers (with the exception of paracetamol) before and during the study period.
The results were interesting, if not entirely conclusive. On the one hand, the pain in the patients treated with CBD did not change significantly compared to the placebo patients. On the other hand, there were statistically significant differences between the 250-milligram dose group and the placebo group when measuring mean weekly improvement in worst pain scores and WOMAC (Western Ontario and McMaster Universities Arthritis Index) physical function scores. Also, men seemed to benefit more from CBD than women in this test.