The Benefits Of CBD
The interest and buzz around cannabidiol (CBD) oil is growing – fast. For someone who hasn’t heard much about it, or wants to know more, the main question they’ll ask is: “what’s the benefits of taking CBD?”
It’s hard to answer such a question in one concise sentence; the benefits appear to be far reaching and varied. Also, one person’s experience of CBD and its effect can differ from the next. And lastly, we must remember that a lot of research is still in early stages, so firm conclusions are still to be made in many areas.
What we do know is that early studies are showing promising results for various conditions, and anecdotes across the internet are highlighting the power CBD holds, easing people’s symptoms and improving lives.
Here, we’ll look at some well-documented benefits of using CBD oil and the evidence behind the claims.
1. Pain relief
One of the biggest benefits CBD oil holds is its pain-relieving qualities. There are many ongoing studies looking into its role of reducing pain and inflammation for various conditions, such as arthritis, multiple sclerosis (MS), associated cancer pain, chronic pain and muscle pain.
A medicine called nabiximols (Sativex), made from a combination of tetrahydrocannabinol (THC – the psychoactive ingredient in the cannabis plant) and CBD is actually already approved in the UK to treat MS pain. However, researchers are still unsure whether the CBD may be contributing more with its anti-inflammatory properties rather than by acting against the pain directly.
In terms of chronic pain, such as back pain or general MSK pain, many studies have concluded that CBD is an effective treatment. Researchers believe that CBD interacts with receptors in your brain and immune system. These tiny proteins are attached to your cells and receive chemical signals from different stimuli to direct your cell’s response. CBD is thought to act upon certain receptors to create anti-inflammatory and painkilling effects.
A 2008 review of research looked at studies conducted between the late 1980s and 2007 and concluded that CBD was effective in overall pain management, with minimal side effects. They also noted that CBD was beneficial in treating insomnia related to chronic pain
2. Reduces anxiety
Some studies have found that cannabis might help reduce anxiety. However, for some, using marijuana can make them more vulnerable to anxiety. What’s important is to look at research around CBD in isolation and not simply cannabis, which contains THC (the psychoactive substance that makes you feel ‘high’). Although there are some studies in this area, they are mostly at early stages.
In one small study of CBD for anxiety, brain scans revealed changes in blood flow to the regions of the brain linked to feelings of anxiety. Participants reported feeling better overall and less anxious after taking CBD oil.
More recently, a 2014 study found that CBD oil had anti-anxiety and antidepressant effects in an animal model. And a 2015 review of research concluded that CBD oil is a promising treatment for various forms of anxiety, such as social anxiety, panic disorder, OCD and post-traumatic stress disorder.
CBD may be able to help manage anxiety by changing the way your brain’s receptors respond to serotonin, a chemical linked to mental health. One study found that CBD helped people with social anxiety carry out a public speech. Other early studies suggest that CBD may help reduce anxiety by reducing stress hormones, slowing heart rate and promoting a feeling of wellbeing and relaxation.
The interest in cannabis-based products for the treatment of epilepsy has skyrocketed in recent years, with a main focus on CBD. Generally, the medical community believes that CBD offers hope for seizure disorders. Scientists are researching how much CBD is able to reduce the number of seizures in people with epilepsy, as well as how safe it is. The concern (and challenge) is the variety of epilepsy types that exist – the treatment of such disorders can’t be generalised.
To date, research is mainly positive, both in animal and human trials; and anecdotal stories of CBD use are often described as ‘life-changing’ for some.
For example, one study from 2016 looked at 214 participants who took oral doses of 2 to 5mg of CBD a day alongside their existing anti-epilepsy medications. They were monitored for 12 weeks, recording any side effects and making note of the frequency of their seizures. Overall, participants had over 35% fewer seizures per month. However, some adverse side-effects were recorded.
For some, CBD is already licensed to control seizures. In 2008, the US Food & Drug Administration (FDA) approved Epidiolex (a plant-based formulation of CBD) for the treatment of seizures associated with two epilepsy syndromes - Lennox-Gastaut syndrome and Dravet syndrome. This is the first ever FDA-approved medication to treat seizures in Dravet syndrome.
4. Combats insomnia
There has been some research to show that CBD can be a helpful antidote to insomnia. It’s thought that CBD’s ability to interact with serotonin receptors and GABA receptors in the brain can help promote sleep. Serotonin plays an important role in mood and anxiety, and GABA is a main neurotransmitter, meaning it can calm the brain’s activity if targeted by the right stimuli.
Although studies in this area are early, in general, CBD has the ability to reduce anxiety, which can therefore promote better sleep – in terms of dropping off quicker and less night-time wakes. CBD has also been shown to reduce insomnia in people who suffer from chronic pain.
5. Reduces symptoms of PMS
Monthly PMS symptoms, such as painful cramps, irritability, insomnia, depression and anxiety, can cause misery and upset for both the woman concerned and her partner or family.
Because CBD is well known for its anti-inflammatory effect, it’s certainly plausible that it could ease painful cramps and other inflammation associated with PMS, such as skin ache. CBD also acts as an antioxidant agent and a muscle relaxer, helping to decrease anxiety and have a calming effect.
Because PMS can cause both physical and emotional symptoms, CBD is being turned to by many women, with lots of success claims. Although CBD has not yet been specifically tested for PMS, studies have shown the benefits it can bring to those who suffer from depression and anxiety, as well as pain.
6. Improves skin conditions
Another benefit of CBD could be relief from certain skin conditions, such as eczema or psoriasis. With an outbreak of positive results from studies of CBD over the past decade, scientists anticipate that the anti-inflammatory properties of CBD can help tackle the symptoms of eczema, psoriasis and dermatitis.
Specifically, the University of Colorado has conducted trials of CBD oil on over 40 patients, all of who suffer with long-term skin problems, with encouraging results. The most promising role seems to be the reduction in itching. In one study, eight out of 21 patients who applied a cannabinoid cream twice a day for three weeks reported that their itchiness completely disappeared.
CBD is becoming an increasingly popular remedy for those who suffer with psoriasis outbreaks, with several studies showing possible effects on skin cells. On top of this, CBD has anti-inflammatory properties which therefore helps to soothe the itchiness, dryness and soreness of psoriasis.
Looking to acne, recent studies have shown that CBD reduces the formation of sebum in the sebaceous glands. Sebum helps protect our skin; however, it can mix with dead skin cells, dirt and other pollutants to clog pores and therefore cause acne.
Some people have found that CBD applied topically (directly to the skin) can reduce redness and severity of spots. Others have claimed that taking it orally has helped prevent outbreaks in the long-term.
7.Reduces muscle soreness
Every time we exercise or lift weights, there is an element of muscle fibres breaking down to build themselves back up. When this happens, it creates an immune response within our body, leaving us feeling sore and tired – a feeling you’ll be familiar with if you regularly go to the gym or play sports.
The endocannabinoid system (ECS) is a natural system that exists within us. One of its main roles is to maintain a constant environment, or balance, within the body – this is known as homeostasis. The ECS helps regulate sleep, digestion, pain, inflammation, memory and mood.
Cannabinoid receptors (which make up the ECS) include CB1, which are predominantly found in the brain, and CB2 receptors which are found on cells linked to the immune system. CBD has been shown to bind to these receptors, which has the desirable effect on inflammation.
Although research in humans, and specifically in the area of sports recovery, is limited, many studies demonstrate the anti-inflammatory effect that CBD holds. As it stands, little research has been done with athletes, but from the knowledge we have surrounding CBD and how it interacts with our internal ECS, it’s certainly plausible to suggest it could help aid recovery post-exercise.
What we are seeing though, are more and more anecdotal reports emerging from athletes and those who exercise regularly advocating the positive impact CBD is having on their recovery. Some individuals are hailing CBD as a breakthrough in exercise recovery, reporting faster recovery times, less soreness following heavy workouts and the ability to train again sooner.
8. Neuroprotective benefits
Some research suggests that CBD could be useful when treating neurological diseases because it protects neurons from degeneration. For example, in one study, CBD was seen to hinder and reduce the development of Alzheimer’s symptoms.
In general terms, as a ‘neuroprotectant’, CBD could help reduce damage to the brain and nervous system by encouraging growth and development of new neurons. Stress to cells and neurons caused by autoimmune and genetic disorders, or a trauma injury, can cause temporary or permanent neural damage. However, studies have shown that CBD may be able to protect against this damage and improve recovery.
Because of these findings, CBD could be beneficial for people who have experienced traumatic brain injuries, spinal cord injuries and strokes. CBD also has the potential to prevent and limit the progression of other neurological disorders, such as amyotrophic lateral sclerosis (ALS) and Parkinson’s disease. More much research is needed to investigate CBD’s potential promise in this area, but there is certainly evidence that cell damage could be reduce and regeneration encouraged.
This is still an understudied area, but CBD is starting to emerge as a substance that could benefit cancer patients. Over the last decade, mounting evidence has shown, and continues to show, that cannabinoids can slow cancer growth, inhibit the formation of new blood cells that feed a tumour, as well as help manage the side-effects of cancer (or cancer treatment) such as pain, fatigue and nausea. Studies have also shown how it may enhance chemotherapy agents, therefore having a role alongside conventional therapies.
Many promising studies have been undertaken looking at the effects of CBD in cancer, but most of these have been done in cell samples or animals. Larger human trials in cancer patients is the next step and there is certainly enthusiasm to move research forward.
CBD is being extensively researched and studies continues in all areas of health. The promise it holds is exciting and encouraging to scientists and patients alike, and already, millions of people are seeing and feeling the benefit CBD products can bring to their quality of life.