There has been quite a rave about CBD, especially since CBD regulation loosened up. The substance has been vigorously promoted as helpful for a myriad of conditions such as chronic pain, anxiety, seizure disorder, and some even going as far as recommending CBD for asthma.
Some of these claims, however, seem sparsely substantiated by sufficient scientific evidence at the moment. Nonetheless, there is an undeniable increase in the number of scientific studies on CBD for its medical benefits, mainly because of its seeming lack of abuse/dependence qualities and relatively lesser side effects.
This article seeks to shed some light on the scientific perspective on CBD’s health benefits and examine what is known, what is not, and what is uncertain about CBD.
WHAT IS CBD?
Cannabidiol (CBD) is a chemical compound from the cannabinoid family naturally found in the cannabis Sativa plant. CBD is the second most prevalent active ingredient in the cannabis plant. It is important to note that CBD oil in the US is only legal if extracted from hemp, rather than marijuana. This means that the extracted CBD oil would have lesser amounts of delta-9-tetrahydrocannabinol (THC), which is the intoxicating ingredient in cannabis.
CBD, on its own, is a non-psychoactive substance as opposed to THC. A report from the World Health Organization stated that CBD does not exhibit any effects indicative of substance abuse or dependence in humans. This essentially portrays just how distinct CBD is from THC, despite sharing the same source family.
WHAT DOES SCIENCE SAY ABOUT CBD?
It might be necessary to lead with the fact that CDB regulation has grossly restricted the progress of scientific studies on CBD. This restriction comes in the form of the federal government’s decision to maintain CBD classification as a Schedule 1 drug, which makes it difficult to conduct decent research on the compound. Despite this restriction, though, there have been many decent scientific studies that have helped demystify CBD.
Here are some of the things science says about CBD’s interaction with the body and its supposed health benefits:
1. HOW CBD INTERACTS WITH THE BODY
CBD interacts with the body through the endocannabinoid system, a relatively recent discovery (the 1990s). The endocannabinoid system is made up of three components: Cannabinoid Receptors, Endocannabinoids, and Metabolic Enzymes. These components all work together to maintain homeostasis, which is a process of maintaining an equilibrium in the body to enable other systems to function optimally.
CBD interacts with the endocannabinoid system by acting as an inhibitor to certain enzymes like FAAH that degrades anandamide. Anandamide is the body’s natural endocannabinoid. As such, an increase in its concentration results in several health benefits that we associate with CBD, such as its anti-inflammatory effects, which may advance CBD’s use for asthma patients. More research still has to be done about some of these ‘health benefits,’ though.
2. CBD’S POTENCY IN MANAGING SEIZURE DISORDER
This is probably the finding with the most concrete scientific evidence backing it. In 2018, the US Food and Drug Agency (FDA) approved Epidiolex – a purified CBD product developed by GW pharmaceuticals in Histon, UK – as a medication for seizure disorders that are difficult to treat, as Lennox-Gestact Syndrome and Diavet Syndrome. According to the FDA, to approve the drug, Epidiolex’s effectiveness was studied in three randomized, double-blinded, placebo-controlled clinical trials involving 516 patients with either Lennox-Gestact Syndrome or Diavet Syndrome. The drug was found to be effective in reducing the frequency of seizures.
To further contextualize how significant this approval was to scientific studies on CBD, note that CDB remained classified in Schedule 1, which according to the government, means “it had no medical value.”
3. CBD MIGHT BE HELPFUL WITH SLEEP DISORDER & ANXIETY
Through its anxiolytic effects, CBD has been promoted by some studies as helpful in managing anxiety disorder and anxiety-induced sleep disorder. One such study is a case study published in The Permanente Journal titled “Effectiveness of Cannabis Oil for Pediatric Anxiety and Insomnia as part of Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder.”
The case study was based on a 10-year-old patient diagnosed with PTSD and related issues like anxiety and insomnia. Having tried other medications over three years, CBD oil was recommended as an additional treatment. An examination of the patient over five months of taking CBD oil revealed significant improvement with the patient’s anxiety and sleep disorder.
The finding of this study that CBD oil can be an effective compound to reduce anxiety and insomnia secondary to PTSD is corroborated by a couple of animal studies that show that CBD may block anxiety-induced sleep alteration via its anxiolytic effect on the brain.
4. CBD’S EFFECTS ON ADDICTION MANAGEMENT
A 2015 review of studies published in Substance Abuse suggests that CBD oil may benefit people with drug addiction. The review was an analysis of 14 published studies, only five of which involved humans. The scientists at the University of Montreal concluded that CBD showed promise in treating opioid, cocaine, or psychostimulant addiction. CBD however, had varying effects on each addiction type, showing the least effectiveness with opioid addiction. In contrast, CBD seemed more effective in reducing drug-seeking behaviors in users of cocaine, methamphetamine, and other psychostimulant drugs.
Generally, the studies’ findings were termed “preliminary at best” by the review, indicating that much more research would be required to arrive at any definite conclusion.
5. SIDE EFFECTS OF CBD
CBD has indeed been found to be well tolerated in humans, with high doses only producing minimal side effects. Despite this, there are still noteworthy side effects that are caused by CBD. These effects include diarrhea, reduced appetite, drowsiness, and fatigue.
Also, CBD has been found to interact in different ways with certain drugs. For instance, CBD inhibits the CYP450 enzyme (cytochrome P450), which some drugs use for metabolization. Thus, CBD could either increase the toxicity or decrease the effectiveness of these drugs. Some other drugs that could be impacted by CBD include; anti-arrhythmia drugs, anticonvulsants, migraine medications, antifungal drugs, and so on.
From the limited scientific studies at our disposal, we can say that CBD does hold potentials for several uses. However, it is not a miracle drug or a cure-all drug as some marketers promote it. As more research works are completed soon, we will be sure to get more definite answers to many of the questions and doubts surrounding CBD.