CBD oil has been the star of 2018, at least when it comes to health (and beauty, for that matter). And the pandemonium is warranted. The natural, holistic remedy has real medicinal use spanning from stopping seizures to alleviating anxiety and helping insomniacs get some much-needed rest—with little to no side effects, according to the World Health Organization (WHO).
Cannabidiol, or CBD, is one of the two most abundant cannabinoid chemicals found in the cannabis (marijuana) plant. Whether in oil, vapor, candy, or coffee, CBD oil is growing in popularity for its effects on pain, chronic illness, inflammation, cancer, brain disorders, and so much more.
The other well-known chemical in cannabis is tetrahydrocannabinol, or THC. The main difference between the two, coming up. Read on to find out all about CBD. What are its effects on body and mind, how it’s made, how to take it, the legal stuff, and more.
THC vs. CBD: Getting High vs. Getting Healthy
Scientists have known about CBD for some time, over 60 years to be exact, but have generally ignored it in favour of its much sexier and spectacular cousin, THC, which is the main active ingredient in marijuana (cannabis) responsible for the “high” people experience when smoking it. However, as research into the plant advanced in the 1970s, scientists began to study CBD’s benefits more closely and realized that it was just as important as THC, if not more so in many ways. And furthermore, CBD was non-psychoactive, meaning that it doesn’t get you high.
For that reason, CBD oil is legal in all 50 U.S. states and in most places around the world (as long as the CBD oil is extracted from the hemp plant and not marijuana). A good way to think about it is THC gets you high and CBD doesn’t. The two are related but entirely different compounds existing in both the cannabis (marijuana) and hemp plants. They both work independently of each other and synergistically together to produce healing and health in the mind and body. However, CBD oil just makes you feel good—without any kind of intoxicating high.
So, CBD and pot aren’t the same thing, unless you’re a politician.
What is CBD Oil and its Effects on the Endocannabinoid System.
To say the science of the human brain is complicated is putting it mildly. The scientific community understands more about the most mind-blowing and complicated astrophysics than they do about how the human brain works. There is a growing body of research on how cannabinoids interact with the brain. Breakthroughs were made in the 1960s by a team of Israeli scientists led by Dr. Raphael Mechoulam. They were able to identify the chemical structures of CBD and THC. Since then, the endocannabinoid system has been discovered in the human body—the system these cannabinoids interact with. There is remarkable serendipity in humans (and other animals) evolving a biological system directly responsive to cannabis.
The endocannabinoid system has cannabinoid receptors throughout the human body. These are linked to the human nervous system, which itself is linked to the brain. Without getting into very complicated neuroscience, chemicals have different reactions with different kinds of receptors. In the case of CB1 and CB2 receptors, CBD may actually dampen their response. Other receptors will bind well with CBD and trigger a neural connection through synapses in the brain. The impact CBD has on other chemicals in the brain reveals much about its potential therapeutic applications.
What is CBD Oil
The 5-HT1A receptor is involved in serotonin neurotransmission. Serotonin regulates mood and this particular receptor may be linked to the mediation of anxiety and depression. CBD is thought to have anxiolytic properties which reduce anxiety. There may even be a compounding effect whereby CBD boosts the body’s own naturally-produced cannabinoids, known as endocannabinoids.
Non-cannabinoid chemicals are also impacted by CBD. There are signs CBD disrupts opioid receptors. This makes cannabis a promising treatment for opioid addiction by altering the brain’s reward mechanism. Dopamine, the chemical by which we feel a sense of reward, also interacts with CBD. Anandamide is another chemical discovered by Dr. Raphael Mechoulam. He named it after the Sanskrit word for bliss as he observed its impact on human joy. CBD however, seems to inhibit anandamide reuptake and breakdown, which increases endocannabinoid levels. CBD is also believed to stimulate the growth of neurons in the hippocampus. Enlarging the hippocampus, memory and anxiety management is improved.
What does CBD do? CBD Oil Benefits on Body and Mind
The ancient doctors and healers across the globe who prescribed cannabis thousands of years ago did so because they witnessed its medical benefits first-hand. In the last half century, modern science has begun to shed light on the biological processes behind the healing, where plant and animal chemistry work in concert.
So just what is so great about CBD oil’s benefits that are causing so much interest and research in both the scientific and medical communities? To understand that properly, it’s important to understand how CBD works in the body and mind.
CBD Can Relieve Pain
Marijuana has been used to treat pain as far back as 2900 B.C. More recently, scientists have discovered that certain components of marijuana, including CBD, are responsible for its pain-relieving effects. The human body contains a specialized system called the endocannabinoid system (ECS), which is involved in regulating a variety of functions including sleep, appetite, pain and immune system response.
The body produces endocannabinoids, which are neurotransmitters that bind to cannabinoid receptors in your nervous system. Studies have shown that CBD may help reduce chronic pain by impacting endocannabinoid receptor activity, reducing inflammation and interacting with neurotransmitters.
For example, one study in rats found that CBD injections reduced pain response to surgical incision, while another rat study found that oral CBD treatment significantly reduced sciatic nerve pain and inflammation. Several human studies have found that a combination of CBD and THC is effective in treating pain related to multiple sclerosis and arthritis. An oral spray called Sativex, which is a combination of THC and CBD, is approved in several countries to treat pain related to multiple sclerosis.
In a study of 47 people with multiple sclerosis, those treated with Sativex for one month experienced a significant improvement in pain, walking and muscle spasms, compared to the placebo group.
Another study found that Sativex significantly improved pain during movement, pain at rest and sleep quality in 58 people with rheumatoid arthritis.
CBD Can Reduce Anxiety and Depression
Anxiety and depression are common mental health disorders that can have devastating impacts on health and well-being. According to the World Health Organization, depression is the single largest contributor to disability worldwide, while anxiety disorders are ranked sixth. Anxiety and depression are usually treated with pharmaceutical drugs, which can cause a number of side effects including drowsiness, agitation, insomnia, sexual dysfunction and headache. What’s more, medications like benzodiazepines can be addictive and may lead to substance abuse. CBD oil has shown promise as a treatment for both depression and anxiety, leading many who live with these disorders to become interested in this natural approach. Check out our other post about CBD Oil and Anxiety.
In one study, 24 people with social anxiety disorder received either 600 mg of CBD or a placebo before a public speaking test. The group that received the CBD had significantly less anxiety, cognitive impairment and discomfort in their speech performance, compared to the placebo group.
CBD oil has even been used to safely treat insomnia and anxiety in children with post-traumatic stress disorder
CBD has also shown antidepressant-like effects in several animal studies. These qualities are linked to CBD’s ability to act on the brain’s receptors for serotonin, a neurotransmitter that regulates mood and social behaviour.
CBD Can Alleviate Cancer-Related Symptoms
CBD may help reduce symptoms related to cancer and side effects related to cancer treatment, like nausea, vomiting and pain. One study looked at the effects of CBD and THC in 177 people with cancer-related pain who did not experience relief from pain medication. Those treated with an extract containing both compounds experienced a significant reduction in pain compared to those who received only THC extract. CBD may also help reduce chemotherapy-induced nausea and vomiting, which are among the most common chemotherapy-related side effects for those with cancer. Though there are drugs that help with these distressing symptoms, they are sometimes ineffective, leading some people to seek alternatives. A study of 16 people undergoing chemotherapy found that a one-to-one combination of CBD and THC administered orally reduced chemotherapy-related nausea and vomiting better than standard treatment alone. Some test-tube and animal studies have even shown that CBD may have anti-cancer properties. For example, one test-tube study found that concentrated CBD induced cell death in human breast cancer cells. A 2012 study showed that animals treated with CBD were significantly less likely to develop colon cancer after being induced with carcinogens in a laboratory.
CBD Helps Maintain Brain Health and Create Resilience to Trauma and Degeneration
Cannabinoids are neuroprotective, meaning that they help maintain and regulate brain health. The effects appear to be related to several actions they have on the brain, including the removal of damaged cells and the improved efficiency of mitochondria. CBD and other antioxidant compounds in cannabis also work to reduce glutamate toxicity. Extra glutamate, which stimulates nerve cells in the brain to fire, causes cells to become over-stimulated, ultimately leading to cell damage or death. Thus, cannabinoids help protect brain cells from damage, keeping the organ healthy and functioning properly. CBD has also been shown to have an anti-inflammatory effect on the brain.
As the brain ages, the creation of new neurons slows down significantly. In order to maintain brain health and prevent degenerative diseases, new cells need to be continuously created. A 2008 study showed that low doses of CBD- and THC-like cannabinoids encouraged the creation of new nerve cells in animal models, even in aging brains. CBD also benefits the brain by helping to prevent other nerve-related diseases like neuropathy and Alzheimer’s disease.
CBD Protects against Bone Disease and Broken Bones
Cannabinoids are facilitative of the process of bone metabolism—the cycle in which old bone material is replaced by new at a rate of about 10 percent per year, crucial to maintaining strong, healthy bones over time. CBD in particular has been shown to block an enzyme that destroys bone-building compounds in the body, reducing the risk of age-related bone diseases like osteoporosis and osteoarthritis. In both of those diseases, the body is no longer creating new bone and cartilage cells. CBD helps spur the process of new bone-cell formation, which is why it has been found to speed the healing of broken bones and, due to a stronger fracture callus, decrease the likelihood of re-fracturing the bone (bones are 35–50 percent stronger than those of non-treated subjects).
Anti-inflammatory Benefits of CBD
Cannabinoids have been proven to have an anti-inflammatory effect in numerous studies. CBD engages with the endocannabinoid system in many organs throughout the body, helping to reduce inflammation systemically. The therapeutic potential is impressively wide-ranging, as inflammation is involved in a broad spectrum of diseases.
CBD can treat Clinical Depression and Mood Disorders
Clinical depression is a serious mood disorder characterized by persistent sadness and loss of interest, sometimes leading to decreased appetite and energy and suicidal thoughts. Commonly used pharmaceuticals for depression often target serotonin, a chemical messenger that is believed to act as a mood stabilizer. The neural network of the endocannabinoid system works similarly to the way that serotonin, dopamine, and other systems do, and, according to some research, cannabinoids have an effect on serotonin levels. Whereas a low dose of THC increases serotonin, high doses cause a decrease that could worsen the condition. In 2009 researchers concluded that there was substantial evidence pointing to endocannabinoid signalling as a target for the pharmacotherapy of depression. Authors of a 2016 study wrote that “CBD could represent a novel fast antidepressant drug, via enhancing both serotonergic and glutamate cortical signalling through a 5-HT1A receptor-dependent mechanism.”
CBD might especially be effective for depression related to chronic stress, which has been shown to cause a decrease in endocannabinoid levels.
CBD can help in Sleep Disorders (Insomnia, Sleep Apnea)
Several studies conducted between 2004 and 2008 demonstrated the variable effect of different cannabinoids on sleep. In one, 15 mg of THC appeared to have sedative properties, while 15 mg of CBD appeared to have alerting properties. Another tested the effects of CBD on animal models in both lights-on and lights-off environments and found that this non-psychoactive cannabis compound increased alertness with the lights on and had no discernible effects on lights-off sleep. The study’s authors concluded that CBD might actually hold therapeutic promise for those with somnolence, or excessive daytime sleepiness from a not-so-good night’s rest. Another study found CBD to be wake-inducing for most subjects, though some reported better sleep a few hours after taking it.
“Many of my patients report either better energy or sleepiness on the same high-CBD/low-THC plants,” Dr. Michael Moskowitz reported. “Most, however, feel more energy on high-CBD cannabis.”
In general, indica varieties of THC appear to work best as a sleep aid for most people. However, a significant number of people find THC, even indica strains, will make the mind more active. For these people, CBD oil can benefit them and tends to work well, providing the relaxation and calm for the mental as well as the physical body. For these people, CBD taken at night-time as part of a bedtime regime produces a restful sleep, not the alertness produced in the daytime. This bidirectional effect of CBD is the result of balancing the endocannabinoid system.
In relation to sleep apnea, a 2002 animal study observed the ability of THC to restore respiratory stability by modulating serotonin signalling and reducing spontaneous sleep-disordered breathing. In 2013 a trial using the pharmaceutical drug dronabinol, a synthetic THC mimic, noted improvements in fifteen out of seventeen study participants following twenty-one days of treatment.
CBD Could Benefit Heart Health
Recent research has linked CBD with several benefits for the heart and circulatory system, including the ability to lower high blood pressure. High blood pressure is linked to higher risks of a number of health conditions, including stroke, heart attack and metabolic syndrome. Studies indicate that CBD may be a natural and effective treatment for high blood pressure. One recent study treated 10 healthy men with one dose of 600 mg of CBD oil and found it reduced resting blood pressure, compared to a placebo. The same study also gave the men stress tests that normally increase blood pressure. Interestingly, the single dose of CBD led the men to experience a smaller blood pressure increase than normal in response to these tests. Researchers have suggested that the stress- and anxiety-reducing properties of CBD are responsible for its ability to help lower blood pressure. Additionally, several animal studies have demonstrated that CBD may help reduce the inflammation and cell death associated with heart disease due to its powerful antioxidant and stress-reducing properties.
CBD for Skin Ailments
As it is an anti-inflammatory, you may find CBD skin-care products helpful when applied topically. Some research even points to its efficacy as an acne treatment, since it may limit inflammation in the sebum-producing glands that can lead to breakouts. If you’re not having luck with traditional acne-fighting ingredients (like salicylic acid), it may be worth giving it a shot.
As for anti-aging beauty products (yes, there are anti-aging CBD products) such as serums, creams, cleansers—you name it—the jury’s out. Unfortunately, searches through medical archives yielded nothing substantial, but it can’t hurt to try. As always, consult with your dermatologist first.
Several Other Potential Benefits of CBD for Your Body and Mind
CBD has been studied for its role in treating a number of health issues other than those outlined above.
Though more studies are needed, CBD is thought to provide the following health benefits:
Antipsychotic effects: Studies suggest that CBD may help people with schizophrenia and other mental disorders by reducing psychotic symptoms.
Substance abuse treatment: CBD has been shown to modify circuits in the brain related to drug addiction. In rats, CBD has been shown to reduce morphine dependence and heroin-seeking behaviour.
Diabetes prevention: In diabetic mice, treatment with CBD reduced the incidence of diabetes by 56% and significantly reduced inflammation.
The Bottom Line
CBD oil has been studied for its potential role in treating many common health issues, including anxiety, depression, acne and heart disease. For those with cancer, it may even provide a natural alternative for pain and symptom relief.
Research on the potential health benefits of CBD oil is ongoing, so new therapeutic uses for this natural remedy are sure to be discovered. Though there is much to be learned about the efficacy and safety of CBD, results from recent studies suggest that CBD may provide a safe, powerful natural treatment for many health issues. So, CBD can be the ideal bodyguard of your body and mind.
Key Words: Cannabidiol, CBD, Body, Mind, Health, Benefits
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