Cannabidiol, commonly known as CBD, is a popular natural treatment that is used for a variety of health issues. CBD is just one of the 100+ chemical compounds known as cannabinoids found in the cannabis sativa plant.
Tetrahydrocannabinol, also known as THC, is another one of the common cannabinoids found in the cannabis sativa plant. This is the chemical that causes the intoxicated sensation that people often associate with cannabis. Unlike THC, CBD is not psychoactive.
Since CBD is not psychoactive, it is an enticing option for those who want relief from pain and a variety of other symptoms without the mind-altering effects associated with cannabis or side effects associated with pharmaceuticals.
CBD is found in a variety of health and wellness products, including oils, edibles, bath soaks, dietary supplements, and more. Over the years, it has surged in popularity in the health and wellness world. Some research indicates that it may treat various health conditions including anxiety and chronic pain. However, how do you know if it’s the best option for you?
In this article, we’ll explore 6 health benefits of CBD that are backed by science- as well as the potential side effects/safety concerns associated with CBD.
Is CBD Legal?
Before we explore the benefits and potential side effects of CBD, let’s consider it from a legal aspect. CBD products sourced from hemp with less than 0.3% THC are legal on the federal level, but illegal under some state laws. On the other hand, CBD products sourced from cannabis with more than 0.3% CBD are illegal under federal law, but legal in some states. Be sure to check the laws in your state and anywhere you may be traveling. Also, it’s important to note that non-prescription CBD products are not approved by the FDA and may not be accurately labeled.
6 Health Benefits Associated with CBD
Below, we will explore 6 of the most common health benefits associated with CBD.
Mental Health Disorders
Mental health disorders, such as anxiety and depression, can have a substantial impact on your overall health and well-being. Typically, physicians prescribe pharmaceutical drugs to treat mental health disorders. Unfortunately, these medications often come with a variety of side effects, including insomnia, headaches, drowsiness, sexual dysfunction, agitation, and more.
Additionally, some of the medications- such as benzodiazepines- have an increased risk of dependence, which may lead to a substance abuse disorder. Some research indicates that CBD is a natural approach that can be used to treat a variety of mental health disorders, including anxiety, which has led many who live with these conditions to become interested in it.
In one Brazilian study, 57 men were given oral CBD or a placebo an hour and a half prior to undergoing a simulated public speaking test. Researchers discovered that a 300 milligram dose was ideal for reducing anxiety during the test. Those who were given the placebo experienced little to no effect. The same was true for those who were given a 150-milligram dose or a 600-milligram dose of CBD.
There is some research indicating that CBD can safely treat anxiety and insomnia in children who have post-traumatic stress disorder, or PTSD, which is a type of anxiety disorder. One small study in 2019 indicated that CBD can also relieve symptoms, such as nightmares, related to PTSD in adults.
Some other studies indicate that CBD may effectively relieve symptoms related to social anxiety and other disorders related to anxiety. There are some who report that CBD improves symptoms related to depression. However, at this time, human studies related to this claim are limited. That being said, there is some indication that CBD may help reduce symptoms of depression in individuals who have a cannabis use disorder. Research exploring the effects of CBD on anxiety and depression is ongoing.
In fact, one study looking at the effects of 150 to 300 milligrams of CBD daily for a period of 12 weeks on the symptoms of anxiety and depression in patients with bipolar disorder should be wrapping up in April 2022.
According to research, CBD may improve symptoms related to anxiety. At this time, more research is being done related to the use of CBD as a treatment of other mental health conditions.
When we look back in history, cannabis has been used for pain relief as far back as 2900 B.C. More recently, researchers have learned that certain components of cannabis, such as CBD, are responsible for relieving pain.
There is a specialized system in the human body that is involved in a variety of functions, including immune response, sleep, pain sensation, and appetite, known as the endocannabinoid system.
Your body produces neurotransmitters known as endocannabinoids. These are neurotransmitters that attach to the cannabinoid receptors in your nervous system. The research we have available indicates that CBD may provide relief from chronic pain by altering the activity of endocannabinoid receptors, decreasing inflammation, and interacting with the neurotransmitters.
There is some research that indicates CBD may effectively treat certain types of pain, including back pain and nerve pain, when used alone. However, it does seem that CBD is most effective as a pain reliever when used with THC. In fact, there are several human studies that indicate a combination of CBD and THC effectively treat pain related to arthritis and multiple sclerosis, or MS.
Several countries have approved an oral spray known as Sativex, which is a 1:1 ratio of THC:CBD for treating pain associated with MS. In fact, one research study looked at 47 patients with MS who took Sativex for one month. They experienced decreased pain and muscle spasms along with an increase in walking ability. That being said, there was not a control group involved, so it’s impossible to rule out placebo effects.
In a review of some of the research, it was noted that Sativex may help patients who have neuropathic pain related to MS, as well as chronic severe neuropathic pain. Additionally, it was discovered that Sativex may help with relieving anxiety and stress, which are significant contributors of chronic pain.
In addition, some studies indicate that CBD may help with relieving symptoms of rheumatic conditions, including fibromyalgia. In fact, one study looked at survey information from over 2,000 patients with fibromyalgia. The results indicated that those who used CBD for pain relief typically reported a slight to significant improvement in their symptoms.
Results from rodent studies indicate that CBD may help relieve pain and inflammation related to arthritis. However, at this time, there is not enough information from human studies to confirm these findings.
While it is true that researchers are optimistic that CBD, especially in combination with THC, may help relieve some types of pain, more studies are needed to determine how effective it really is in pain management.
According to results from research studies, CBD – especially alongside THC- can effectively reduce symptoms, including pain, related to health conditions such as fibromyalgia and multiple sclerosis. However, we need more information to determine it’s potential for use in pain management.
There is some research that indicates that CBD is beneficial for heart health and the circulatory system. One of the things it does is lower blood pressure.
According to health experts, high blood pressure is associated with a variety of health issues including heart attack, metabolic syndrome, and stroke. Some studies indicate that CBD is beneficial for individuals with high blood pressure.
In one study, 9 healthy men were given 600 milligrams of CBD oil. This resulted in a reduction of their resting blood pressure, whereas a placebo showed no change. In this same study, the men engaged in stress tests that typically increase blood pressure. Those who had been given a single dose of CBD had a smaller increase in blood pressure in response to the tests than those who were given a placebo.
Another study involving 26 healthy male participants indicated that treatment with 600 milligrams of CBD for a period of 7 days resulted in significant reductions in blood pressure over the short term compared to the placebo group. However, after 7 days, the effect was lost. After repeated doses over time, the group that was given CBD did maintain lower blood pressure levels in response to stress compared to the placebo group. Results from this research also revealed that the group that was given CBD experienced improved blood flow as well as a reduction in arterial stiffness after repeated dosing, compared to the placebo group.
Overall, findings related to CBD and heart health are promising. However, in order to confirm these potential benefits of CBD on heart health, we need more information.
While it’s true that we need more human studies to confirm, early indications are that CBD is beneficial for heart health in a few different ways. Some of these benefits include reducing high blood pressure and improving arterial functioning.
There is some indication that CBD may provide relief for symptoms related to cancer as well as the side effects related to cancer treatments, including pain, nausea, and vomiting.
An older study looked at how CBD and THC affected 177 patients with cancer-related pain who did not get relief from traditional pain medication. Patients who were given a blend of CBD and THC experienced a substantial reduction in pain compared to patients who were given only THC. In one review of 5 studies, it was discovered that perhaps Sativex may reduce pain related to cancer in some patients.
That being said, results from studies exploring the effects of cannabis and cannabinoids, including CBD, on decreased appetite, nausea, and pain related to cancer have been mixed. For some cancer patients, CBD seems to be effective- but for others, it doesn’t seem to help. We need more research in this area to determine whether or not CBD should be used to manage the symptoms of cancer and side effects related to cancer treatments.
If you are a cancer patient and you wish to use CBD or other cannabis-related products, consult with your physician. They will be able to advise you on whether this is an appropriate treatment for you. After all, everyone is different and these products may not be a safe, effective, or appropriate method for every cancer patient.
While it’s true that research indicates CBD may help improve certain symptoms related to cancer in some patients, findings are mixed. In order to confirm the safety and effectiveness of CBD as a treatment for cancer-related symptoms, we need more research.
According to researchers, individuals with neurological disorders may benefit from using CBD due to its ability to act on the endocannabinoid system as well as other brain-signaling systems in the body.
In fact, one of the most researched uses for CBD is the treatment of neurological conditions, such as MS and epilepsy. While research is still fairly new in this area, the information we do have seems promising. As we’ve already mentioned, research indicates that Sativex is a safe, effective treatment for muscle spasticity in patients with MS. In fact, muscle spasticity was reduced in 75% of 276 patients with MS who did not respond to traditional medications.
In another study, 214 patients with severe epilepsy were given 0.9 to 2.3 grams of CBD per pound of bodyweight. Seizures were reduced by an average of 36.5%.
One other study looked at children with Dravet syndrome, which is a complex epilepsy disorder affecting children. Those who were given CBD oil experienced a significant reduction in seizure activity compared to those who were given a placebo.
That being said, it’s also important to note that some patients in both studies experienced adverse reactions including fatigue, fever, and convulsions.
Researchers are also looking at the effectiveness of CBD for treating other neurological conditions. There are several studies that indicate CBD may improve sleep quality as well as overall quality of life in patients with Parkinson’s disease. Unfortunately, at this time, there’s not enough high quality data to confirm these findings- which means there’s not enough evidence to support the use of CBD in the clinical treatment of Parkinson’s.
There is one CBD product that does have FDA approval for the treatment of several seizure disorders- Epidiolex. This is a prescription cannabidiol product that the FDA granted approval to in 2018 for the treatment of seizures related to two severe forms of epilepsy, Dravet syndrome and Lennox-Gastaut syndrome.
In 2020, the FDA granted approval to Epidiolex for the treatment of seizures due to tuberous sclerosis complex, which is a rare genetic disease resulting in benign tumors growing on the brain and other areas of the body.
Some research indicates that CBD is effective for treating seizures related to a few different health conditions. One prescription CBD product, Epidiolex, has been granted FDA approval for treating seizures related to rare conditions, such as Dravet syndrome, Lennox-Gastaut syndrome, and tuberous sclerosis complex.
Finally, CBD has been observed for its ability to treat a variety of other health issues besides the five we’ve gone over above. While we need more studies to confirm the findings, it is believed that CBD provides the following benefits to overall health and wellness.
- Antipsychotic effects: there are some studies that indicate CBD may reduce symptoms of psychosis associated with schizophrenia and other mental health conditions.
- Treatment for substance abuse: some studies indicate that CBD relieves anxiety and depression in individuals with a dependence on certain drugs, including heroin.
- Potentially extends the life of patients with glioblastoma: research on this use for CBD is limited at this time- but there is some indication that patients who have been diagnosed with glioblastoma, an aggressive form of cancer, may benefit from treatment with a combination of CBD and THC.
- Potentially improves sleep: there are some studies indicating that CBD is helpful for improving sleep in patients with certain sleep disorders- but more studies are needed to confirm these early findings.
According to some research on CBD, it may be beneficial for treating those with mental health disorders, substance abuse, certain cancers, and even sleep. However, findings in these areas are still new and more research is needed to confirm the findings.
Potential Side Effects Associated with CBD
According to the experts, CBD is considered safe and is typically well-tolerated by most people. However, there are a few adverse reactions that are possible. Some of the potential side effects discovered include:
- Changes in appetite
- Changes in weight
Some of the other side effects, such as abnormal liver functioning test results, pneumonia, drowsiness, and sedation have occurred in children with epilepsy. However, it is believed that these effects could be due to CBD interacting with other medication, such as clobazam.
In fact, researchers have discovered that CBD does interact with several medications, such as antidepressants, diabetes medications, pain medications, and seizure medications. Therefore, before you use CBD products, it’s important that you discuss it with your physician to determine its safety and efficacy with your condition and to avoid dangerous interactions.
Also, it’s critical to note that at this time, the market is saturated with CBD products. Many of these are low quality. You will find that CBD is added to body care products, foods/beverages, dietary supplements, and more. Often, they are marketed as a way to improve sleep and reduce stress and pain. However, this doesn’t mean that you need to add them to your diet or wellness routine.
Also, while there is some indication that CBD may help certain health conditions, dosing varies in research studies. Therefore, it’s difficult to determine the most appropriate dose for treating specific health conditions. Plus, many products contain a combination of ingredients- not just CBD.
For example, a supplement that contains CBD along with a combo of herbal ingredients may not be safe for everyone because there are many natural herbs that can interact with medications. Therefore, as we’ve stated before, be sure to consult with your physician before you add CBD to your routine. You will want to determine the best dosage- and feel free to ask any questions you might have.
If you do decide that CBD is appropriate for treating your health conditions, make sure that it has been third-party tested for potency, purity, and quality.
While experts indicate that CBD is generally safe and well-tolerated, like anything else, it does have the potential for causing adverse side effects including fatigue and diarrhea in some people. Additionally, it may interact with certain medications, which can be harmful and potentially fatal.
Researchers have studied CBD oil for its potential to treat a variety of common health conditions, including pain, mental health disorders, heart health, and more. There is also some indication that it could be beneficial for treating some neurological conditions.
Of course, it’s important to note that some of these benefits were discovered in studies that used a combination of CBD and THC. Therefore, research on the effect of CBD on specific conditions is ongoing and we still have a lot to learn about the benefits and uses of CBD.
If you are interested in using CBD to manage your health condition or support overall health and wellness, it’s important that you consult with a healthcare provider first. They will be able to evaluate you and determine if adding a CBD product- or using CBD in lieu of your current treatment- is appropriate and then help you find the best products for you.
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