Simply pushing CBD as “the miracle cure” without merit and proof is not an area we want to venture into. Therefore, it is important to consider actual medical and academic research – the kind of information that Doctors typically rely on when making their decision whether to recommend CBD cannabidiol as a treatment.
What claims are there about CBD and are they backed up?
It is claimed that CBD has a long list of health benefits such as healing of the digestive tract, epilepsy, neurodegenerative diseases, autoimmune diseases, stress, depression, anxiety, sleep disorders, pain (both chronic and acute), premenstrual syndrome, perimenopausal problems, inflammation, anorexia, high blood pressure and heart disease. These are not empty claims since there are real people who are enjoying the benefits of CBD and there are research findings that confirm its efficacy for treating many health conditions.
Science-Backed Findings on CBD
Cannabis has been used as a medicine for thousands of years in Africa, India and the Far East. As far back as 2900 BC the Chinese emperor Fu Hsi referred to marijuana as a medicine. By 1500BC marijuana was included in the Chinese pharmacopeia. (1). For a long time, conventional medicine used it for a variety of ailments including pain relief until it was criminalised in the US and in and other countries when allotropic medicines took over in the mid-20th century. Still, research on cannabis has been going on for decades. In the West it was hampered by laws that prohibited clinical research but in Israel and other countries research went on, leading to the discovery of more than one hundred cannabinoids including CBD. Because of its prevalence in hemp plants and its total lack of psychoactive effects, CBD is receiving a lot of attention from scientists.
Below we will share 14 substantial research findings on CBD:
1. Research Found CBD is Safer than Pharmacological Drugs
Researchers reviewed the side effects that CBD has on users by focusing on literature published on 132 studies that focused on epilepsy and psychotic disorders. They found that CBD can be safely used at high doses and it can be tolerated when taken for a long time. They also found that it does not induce catalepsy (trance or seizures characterised by rigidity of body). Nor did they find any alteration in body temperature, blood pressure and heart rate. They also did not find any adverse effects on the digestive tract, and food intake. However, they found that CBD may have side effects such as diarrhoea, tiredness and changes in appetite and weight but it had a better side effect profile compared to drugs that are commonly used for these conditions. (2).
2. Research on the Use of CBD for Epilepsy
A study was conducted in which 15 patients with epileptic syndromes that are difficult to control were given CBD over a period ranging from 1 month to 12 months. The scientists collected data such as patient information, caregiver information, changes observed in the seizures, neuropsychological effects after taking CBD, side effects and what the families perceived overall as a result of taking CBD. For 27% of the patients, the seizures stopped completely. For 40% of them the frequency of attacks went down while 60% of the patients gained control over half of their seizures. All patients reported improved mood, 60% reported language improvement, 73% reported behavioural improvement, half reported better sleep and 43% reported better eating habits. Drowsiness and fatigue were the most reported side effects. The scientists concluded that CBD is possibly beneficial for controlling seizures and improving brain function in patients with refractory epilepsies. (3).
3. Animal Research on the Effects of CBD on Alzheimer’s Disease
A study on mice with Alzheimer’s disease published in the Journal of Alzheimer’s Disease in 2014 found that CBD reversed cognitive deficits and social recognition problems in the mice. The effect was not linked to any alterations in amyloid load or oxidative damage. The scientists discovered that CBD caused positive but subtle changes in cholesterol, neuroinflammation, and phytosterol retention. This was the first evidence that CBD has potential to prevent or treat Alzheimer’s disease. (4).
4. Scientists Find that CBD Reduces Blood Pressure
CBD may be the answer for the now prevalent problem of high blood pressure. In a randomized, placebo-controlled, double-blind crossover study, 9 healthy men were given either 600mg of CBD or placebo. The scientists found that resting blood pressure went down in those who took CBD. The same study performed stress tests that are known to increase blood pressure and the men who received CBD experienced a smaller BP increase than placebo. (5).
5. CBD Found to be Good for Acute and Chronic Pain
Cannabis has been used for pain relief for thousands of years and now CBD is being studied for its effects on pain. Researchers have now confirmed that it reduces chronic pain by reducing inflammation and interacting with neurotransmitters. A review was performed on 18 trials of which 15 indicated that CBD had a noteworthy analgesic effect compared to placebo. At the end of two weeks of taking CBD, over 30% of the participants reported a 43% reduction in pain intensity compared to 21% in placebo. There were mild to moderate side effects such as nausea, dry mouth, vomiting and drowsiness which were generally well tolerated by participants in the trials. (6).
6. Research on Cancer Treatment with CBD
As people suffer a lot from the effects of chemotherapy and as chemotherapy is being found to be ineffective in many cases, people are looking towards nature for solutions. CBD is being credited with relief from cancer by both consumers and scientists. So far there is evidence that it may be very effective for preventing the growth of cancer cells. One study confirmed death of human breast cancer cells. (7). Other studies found that a combination of CBD and THC reduced the pain associated with cancer while another study found that CBD helped to reduce nausea and vomiting that result from chemotherapy. (8).
7. CBD Found to Have Potential to Reverse Type 1 Diabetes
Type 1 diabetes is the inability of the pancreas to produce insulin due to the destruction of the insulin-producing beta cells by the autoimmune reaction in conjunction with inflammation. At one time it was believed that type 1 diabetes cannot be reversed but CBD is indicating otherwise. In an animal study, scientists administered CBD to mice that were in early stages of inflammation of the pancreas. It was found that CBD reduced the markers of inflammation in the microcirculation of the pancreas. (9).
8. Research into the Treatment of Heart Conditions with CBD
There is a lot of evidence from users and some research that CBD reduces high blood pressure, the main culprit in heart diseases. It also reduces stress which is known to contribute to high blood pressure. Thirdly, CBD is a powerful antioxidant and anti-inflammatory which reduces inflammation and damage to heart cells. Another way that it works is to reduce irregular heartbeats. In these four ways it combats heart diseases. These and the side effects that are mild compared to pharmaceutical drugs are the reasons why many heart patients are turning to CBD. For example, in one study involving mice, scientists found that CBD reduced oxidative stress, cardiac dysfunction and inflammation and prevented damage to heart muscles. (10).
9. Research Confirms that CBD Can Treat Acne
Acne is a common problem that is believed to be caused by genes, overproduction of sebum, bacteria and underlying inflammation. CBD has been found to be effective in the treatment of acne due to its ability to reduce sebum production and its anti-inflammatory properties. In a test-tube study, CBD managed to prevent over-secretion of sebum, prevented activation of inflammatory cytokines and exerted its anti-inflammatory powers. (11).
10. CBD Found to Have Neuroprotective Properties
Neurodegeneration is quite common and it causes health problems such as childhood developmental problems, addiction, eating disorders, multiple sclerosis, schizophrenia, Parkinson’s disease, dementia, and other degenerative conditions. The causes of neurodegeneration are not yet known but environmental toxins and other toxins are suspected to be major contributing factors. Epilepsy is also known to cause injury and degeneration of the nerves, and psychiatric disorders. Scientists are looking at CBD as a solution for safe and effective treatment of these problems. So far, they believe that it has neuroprotective effects based on its antioxidant and anti-inflammatory properties. So far it has demonstrated noteworthy effects in preclinical trials for neonatal ischaemia, Huntington’s disease and Parkinson’s disease when used alone or with other cannabinoids such as THC and THCV. (12).
11. CBD Found to Have Potential to Enhance Digestive Health
Scientists have discovered a relationship between the gastrointestinal tract and the endocannabinoid system. Any imbalance in the digestive tract may result in poor digestion, poor elimination of wastes, poor absorption of nutrients, and poor synthesis of certain vitamins. Damage to the intestinal walls may lead to autoimmune reactions. Any imbalance in the microbiome may lead to poor digestion, low immunity, mental health problems and a tendency to catch infections. Digestive health is therefore very essential to overall health.
Research has found that CBD restores the health of the digestive tract by decreasing the permeability of the gut in cases of leaky gut syndrome. It also reduces inflammation and that way brings relief from problems such as leaky gut syndrome. Through its anti-cancer action, it may reverse or prevent colorectal cancer. It also restores balance in the microbiome, that way improving immune system function, digestion and mental health. (13).
12. Research into the Use of CBD for Depression
In initial studies, CBD has shown potential as an effective and safe treatment for depression. Current treatment of depression involves the use of pharmaceutical drugs that have undesirable side effects such as insomnia, sexual dysfunction and mood swings. That is why people are looking for safer natural alternatives and CBD is becoming popular for that purpose. Studies in the past three decades have looked at the efficacy of CBD for depression relief. In one study, 14 trials were reviewed in which CBD was used in its isolated state. In a number of animal studies, CBD was found to have an anti-depressant effect on depressed rats that is as good as that in some commonly used drugs. It also reduced anxiety, the effects of stress, tendency to freeze out of fear and the tendency to flee. The scientists also found that CBD seemed to interact positively with serotonin receptors in the brain which may improve the emotional state. The researchers concluded that CBD is an effective, safe and versatile treatment that did not affect the mobility or the cognitive functions of the animals. (14).
13. Scientists Confirm that CBD is Effective for Sleep Disorders
Preliminary research indicates that CBD has potential to treat insomnia and other sleep disorders. Since sleep time is the body’s opportunity to repair itself and flush out toxins, sleep disorders lead to poor health. Pharmaceuticals help to combat one problem but they tend to create new problems because of their side effects. Therefore, safer and more effective alternatives are being sought and CBD is one of the natural remedies that are being studied for the treatment of sleep disorders. So far, scientists have found that CBD can calm the mind and the body and promote better sleep by dealing with problems that cause sleep disorders such as restlessness, anxiety, stress and general imbalances in the body. More research is called for to confirm this. (15).
14. CBD Found to Stop Cigarette Smoking
Smokers normally find it difficult to quit. They generally need a safer substance that can help them to stop smoking and CBD is being studied for that purpose. In one double-blind pilot study involving 24 subjects who smoked at least 10 cigarettes per day, 12 people were given an inhaler with CBD while the other 12 were given an inhaler with placebo. After one week of reporting cravings, etc. the people who inhaled CBD smoked 40% less cigarettes and the reduction for those who inhaled placebo was minimal. However, both groups went back to their initial habits after 21 days. The authors of the study concluded that CBD had potential to effectively help to reduce smoking and other substance abuse but that larger scale studies for longer periods where needed. (16).
- ProCon.org. History of Marijuana as Medicine – 2900 BC to Present.
- Iffland K & Grotenhermen F. (2017, July 1). Cannabis & Cannabinoid Research. An Update on Safety and Side Effects of Cannabidiol: A Review of Clinical Data and Relevant Animal Studies.
- Pesantez-Rios G. and others. (2017, Aug 16). Revista de Neurologia. Cannabidiol: its use in refractory epilepsies.
- Cheng D. and others. (2014). Journal of Alzheimer’s Disease.Long-term cannabidiol treatment prevents the development of social recognition memory deficits in Alzheimer’s disease transgenic mice.
- Jadoon KA. and others. (2017, Jun 15). JCI Insight. A single dose of cannabidiol reduces blood pressure in healthy volunteers in a randomized crossover study.
- Darkovska-Serafimovska, M and others. (2018, Apr 23). Journal of Pain Research. 2018; 11: 837–842. Pharmacotherapeutic considerations for use of cannabinoids to relieve pain in patients with malignant diseases.
- Shrivastava A and others. (2011, Jul). Molecular Cancer Therapeutics. Cannabidiol induces programmed cell death in breast cancer cells by coordinating the cross-talk between apoptosis and autophagy.
- Rock EM and others. (2012, Apr). British Journal of Pharmacology. Cannabidiol, a non-psychotropic component of cannabis, attenuates vomiting and nausea-like behaviour via indirect agonism of 5-HT(1A) somatodendritic autoreceptors in the dorsal raphe nucleus.
- Lehmann C and others. Clinical Hemorheology and Microcirculation. Experimental cannabidiol treatment reduces early pancreatic inflammation in type 1 diabetes.
- Mohanraj R and others. (2010, Dec 14). Journal of American College of Cardiology. Cannabidiol attenuates cardiac dysfunction, oxidative stress, fibrosis, inflammatory and cell death signalling pathways in diabetic cardiomyopathy.
- Oláh A. (2014, Sep). Journal of Clinical Investigation. Cannabidiol exerts sebostatic and anti-inflammatory effects on human sebocytes.
- Fernández-Ruiz, J. and others. (2012, May 25). British Journal of Pharmacology. Cannabidiol for neurodegenerative disorders: important new clinical applications for this Phyto cannabinoid?
- Kalaydina RV, Qorri B, Szewczuk MR. (2017). Adv Res Gastroentero Hepatol. Preventing Negative Shifts in Gut Microbiota with Cannabis Therapy: Implications for Colorectal Cancer.
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- Babson K.A, Sottie J. and Morabito D. (2017, Apr). Current Psychiatry Reports. Cannabis, Cannabinoids, and Sleep: A Review of the Literature.
- Morgan CJA and others. (2013, Sep). Addictive Behaviour. Cannabidiol reduces cigarette consumption in tobacco smokers: Preliminary findings.