Cannabidiol, or better known as simply CBD, has recently been receiving a lot of interest – from both the scientific community as well as the general public. This is because a growing body of evidence is showing that this naturally occurring compound found in the Cannabis Sativa plant is a safe, non-addictive compound with a range of potentially therapeutic benefits.
CBD has a long and rich history of use as a medicine, with the benefits of CBD oil having been studied, tested and confirmed extensively by researchers and clinicians around the world. One reason for this is that, unlike tetrahydrocannabinol (THC), CBD does not cause any of the euphoric effects usually associated with cannabis. So, although both CBD and THC have significant therapeutic benefits, for many people CBD is a better option, because CBD provides all the benefits of cannabis, but without the high.
The Multi-Purpose Nature of CBD
Much of the popularity of cannabinoids like CBD is because many people are moving away from pharmaceuticals, and seeking natural, yet effective, alternatives.
CBD is a multi-purpose molecule that can tap into the body’s own functioning through the endocannabinoid system (ECS) found in almost all living beings, that is a biological system made up of:
- Endocannabinoids (endo = inside), and so called because of their similarity to the cannabinoids found in the cannabis plant.
- Cannabinoid receptors with which cannabinoids and neurotransmitters interact with, and;
- Metabolic enzymes that break own excess cannabinoids
Phytocannabinoids (phyto = plant) like CBD and THC have the ability to interact with the body through the ECS and do so in a variety of ways, the main of which is by mimicking and augmenting the effects of the body’s own endocannabinoids.
The result is that these plant cannabinoids have the potential to not only provide relief for a variety of conditions ranging from conditions such as chronic pain and epilepsy, to things like ADHD, fibromyalgia and even acne.
CBD Oil for Pain
By far one of the most popular reasons people use CBD is for pain relief. Research into CBD oil for pain is also one of the most researched areas into the benefits of CBD. And for food reason.
Data from animal studies and clinical trials both show that CBD oil for pain does not only show potential for being a highly effective, non-addictive pain therapy, but that CBD’s analgesic effects are underpinned by various different mechanisms.
For instance, when CBD is consumed, it interacts with the ECS, activating the cannabinoids receptors found throughout the brain and body, resulting in the enhancement of anandamide signalling – an endocannabinoid also called the “bliss molecule” because of its pain relieving and mood boosting properties.
Similarly, CBD also controls pain via the CB-1 and CB-2 cannabinoid receptors, both of which are involved in the inhibition and control of pain. CB1 receptors are responsible for the suppression of pain signals, while CB2 receptors stimulate the opioid receptors in the brain to release natural painkillers. When CBD interacts with and activates these two cannabinoids receptors, it results in the suppression of pain processing, and ultimately, a reduction in pain.
Scientists have found that CBD has powerful pain relieving properties because it has the ability to regulate and mediate the activity of the pain receptors responsible for pain and inflammation. CBD can also decrease the activity of an called enzyme cyclooxygenase (COX), while at the same time helping to fight inflammation and its associated oxidative stress. Interestingly, these are the exact same mechanisms with which non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs like Ibuprofen and Naproxen reduce inflammation and pain.
CBD for Epilepsy
Another popular use of CBD is for epilepsy. In fact, the first and only FDA-approved use of CBD is for two types of epileptic conditions called Dravet syndrome (DS) and Lennox-Gastaut syndrome (LGS).
Epileptic seizures are essentially a malfunctioning of the brain, due to the “misfiring” of its neurons. And although scientists are not exactly sure of the exact mechanisms involved in seizures, they think it is because the there is an increase of calcium ions both inside, and outside the cells in the brain.
This interferes with the way that certain neurotransmitters (specifically adenosine, the brain’s own anti-epileptic chemical), neuroreceptors (specifically GRP55 receptors), and signalling channels (TRPV1 channels) send and receive their messages, ultimately causing a type of “electric storm” that results in seizures.
Preclinical evidence shows that CBD’s anti-epileptic properties is because it “blocks” these GRP55 receptors from releasing too much calcium ions outside the cell. And, because there is less calcium ions released outside of the cell, there is less potential for this electric storm to develop. CBD also stops adenosine from being reabsorbed that causes the brain to stop the seizures as they are happening, while at the same time desensitising the signalling channels responsible for carrying the electrical signals across the brain during epileptic seizures.
When all three of these mechanisms come together, the result is that CBD is very effective in reducing convulsions and seizure activity in people with epilepsy.
CBD for ADHD
Unfortunately, to date, there are no published data or randomised clinical trials that investigate the use of CBD specifically for the treatment of ADD/ADHD with most of what is known stemming from research on the use of smoked or ingested cannabis, and/or self-reported data. As such, there is also very little known about the mechanisms with which CBD may help people suffering from ADHD, although there is some tentative evidence showing it may help reduce symptoms.
For instance, in one small randomised controlled trial found that adults with ADHD treated with the cannabinoid medication Sativex (which contains THC and CBD) showed a reduction in ADHD symptoms with no cognitive impairments. Similarly, a study that investigated the oral use of CBD for the treatment of related symptoms and co-morbidities in children with Autism Spectrum Disorder found that there was an overall improvement in hyperactivity symptoms in these children.
CBD for Fibromyalgia
When it comes to cannabinoids and fibromyalgia, the majority of research looked at the effects of THC, or THC-CBD combinations for effective symptom management. However, for many people and for a variety of reasons, medical cannabis is not an option, and although the evidence is inconclusive, cannabidiol (CBD) may prove to be an effective alternative in helping to control certain symptoms.
For instance, fibromyalgia is characterised by inflammatory and neuropathic pain that is often severe and debilitating. As outlined earlier, CBD has the ability to significantly suppress chronic inflammatory and neuropathic pain via the spinal glycine receptors (GlyRs) – an important target for the treatment of inflammatory and neuropathic pain. Similarly, CBD has also been shown to reduce pain sensitivity in neuropathic pain conditions.
Further evidence also suggests that CBD can provide a “gentle pharmacological nudge” that may jump-start the ECS and restore homeostasis in the body that, in turn, may help fibromyalgia patients manage and reduce many of the diseases symptoms and co-existing conditions.
CBD for Acne
Another popular use for CBD is in the treatment of skin conditions such as acne. Because the skin contains cannabinoid receptors, CBD has been shown to benefit the skin in many ways, playing a role in both healing the skin, and helping it remain healthy.
One way in which CBD does this is by regulating oil production. CBD has profound sebostatic and lipostatic effects, working directly on the skin’s sebaceous glands to balance oil production and help manage dry skin. In addition, CBD is also a powerful anti-inflammatory that has the ability to not only down-regulate the genes involved in wound healing but also reduce skin inflammation and promote wound healing, and reduce scar formation.
CBD oil side effects
If you’re using CBD from organically grown hemp the side effects tend to be few and far between. Some people may experience some mild side effects that may include: Tiredness, dry mouth and dizziness.
In addition to the few benefits of CBD oil mentioned here, CBD can also provide relief for a variety of other ailments and diseases. Extensive research, much of funded by governments and academic institutions, has provided insights into CBD’s therapeutic potential, including autoimmune diseases, neurological conditions, metabolic syndromes, neuropsychiatric illnesses and even cardiovascular dysfunction.
The therapeutic benefits of phytocannabinoids like CBD are undeniable. And today, the key challenge for consumers being not IF they should try CBD, but rather WHAT, HOW and HOW MUCH of it they should try. The challenge for both the medical community and users alike is to figure out how to optimise the therapeutic use of CBD, or how to synchronise and merge its benefits with existing treatment plans.
However, despite the many potential benefits of CBD oil, it is important to remember that CBD is a molecule, not a miracle. And with the advent of CBD oils and extracts flooding a largely unregulated market, and a surge of consumer interest in all things CBD, it is easy to forget this.