You’ve likely heard of CBD oil and its touted benefits , especially if you live in one of the states where medical or recreational cannabis use is legal.
Known in science as cannabidiol, CBD is one of the many compounds that are naturally found in the cannabis sativa plant.
Along with tetrahydrocannabinol (THC), CBD is one of the most well-known members of a class called cannabinoids — natural compounds that are believed to have wide-ranging medicinal effects.
As with THC, users of CBD can consume it in a variety of ways:
- smoking dried cannabis buds
- inhaling cannabis vapor or aerosol
- absorbing a tincture, cream or concentrated oil
- cooking cannabis into foods
However, there is an important distinction between THC and CBD: while THC is the active ingredient responsible for the high that cannabis use can create, CBD does not create a high, and is thus not considered a psychoactive drug.
But both CBD and THC molecules act very similarly to what is naturally produced by the human body, and they can create many therapeutic benefits.
Let’s take a close look at what CBD is, how CBD works and which types of health conditions CBD might help treat.
A Quick Class on Cannabis
First, let’s see how CBD relates to the various parts of a cannabis plant and what CBD does when it gets to the body.
Even for regular consumers, it can be challenging to understand how CBD connects the plant to the body to provide health benefits.
Here is a useful glossary of terms for the use of cannabinoids.
- Cannabis: the name for the cannabis sativa plant and its close relatives.
- Marijuana: a cannabis product which contains high levels of THC, and can thus get you high.
- Hemp: a non-psychoactive variety of cannabis sativa that contains virtually no THC (no high here), but moderate to high CBD content. Hemp is the source of many CBD oils and extracts.
- Cannabinoid: one of several chemical compounds found in cannabis sativa which creates medicinal effects.
- Tetrahydrocannabinol (THC): the cannabinoid responsible for much of the high, the appetite stimulation and the pain control in cannabis products.
- Cannabidiol (CBD): a non-psychoactive cannabinoid that can create several therapeutic effects: controlling inflammation, mood, anxiety, appetite, pain, movement and psychological reward.
- Endocannabinoid: cannabinoids that are naturally produced by the body’s nervous system, which transmit messages between nerve cells. The most well-known endocannabinoids are anandamide and 2-AG. In the body, THC acts like anandamide, and CBD acts like 2-AG.
- Cannabinoid receptor: docking sites for both endocannabinoids and cannabinoids throughout the body. These docks allow the cannabinoids to get the access they need to create their effects. The most well-known of these docks are called CB1 and CB2, and they are found virtually everywhere within the body.
Since CBD is so versatile and useful, and works without getting you high, scientists have keen interest in the compound. Commercial products like CBD oil have also become increasingly accepted by the general public and the scientific community.
As a result, a large number of commercial CBD products have become available since the late 2000s, and researchers are investing time, energy and money into understanding the benefits of this cannabinoid.
What are the benefits of cbd?
Though scientists have known about CBD since the 1940s, a growing amount of research on the effects of CBD has taken place since the early 2000s.
No one knows exactly how CBD works, but it is known to scientists as a type of dimmer switch for systems in the body which appear to have lost direction or control. That quality means that CBD shows immense potential to:
- Reduce anxiety symptoms
- Curb depression
- Modulate pain
- Control appetite
- Decrease severity of movement disorders
- Quell inflammation
- Treat addiction
- Manage epilepsy
The reason CBD is believed to have these properties is because of its effects on the docking sites — the endocannabinoid receptors CB1 and CB2. CB1 is the receptor found mostly in the brain.
That is where both THC and anandamide go to work; these molecules create improved mood, increased appetite, increased awareness and other effects (the word “anand” is a Hindi word for “bliss”).
CBD appears to have the ability to productively direct these effects, like an air traffic controller guiding planes to safe landings. This is why CBD is believed to have antipsychotic, anti-seizure and antidepressant effects.
The CB2 receptor, on the other hand, is found in the peripheral nervous system and the immune system. It is thought to be involved in many disease processes that involve inflammation and in diseases that have a broken feedback loop, like addiction. CBD also directs traffic at this receptor, and is thus believed to have anti-addiction, anti-cancer and anti-inflammatory qualities.
The best-quality scientific studies on the benefits of CBD are still on their way.
Let’s look at the benefits that have been the most effectively established in the scientific community.
In 2018, the United States Food and Drug Administration approved CBD for the treatment of two forms of seizure disorders, which mainly occur in childhood. In these conditions, CBD is combined with conventional medications to reduce the amount and duration of seizures, as well as their lingering after-effects.
CBD is known to have appetite suppressant qualities. In this regard, CBD acts in the exact opposite way of THC, which is well known for increasing appetite. Researchers are working to understand how CBD creates this effect. What they know is that CBD exerts delicate control over the CB1 endocannabinoid receptor, which is, in part, responsible for creating a sense of hunger. Researchers believe that this control allows CBD to prevent overeating. Several studies show that products high in CBD content have strong appetite suppressant effects.
The drug rimonabant, a synthetic pharmaceutical which acted like a much less delicate form of CBD, was extremely effective in curbing appetite and showed promise in reducing addictive cravings, but it was discontinued due to the presence of side effects that CBD does not possess. As a result, CBD is of intense interest to researchers on addiction and appetite control.
In 2014, a study showed that CBD has significant anxiety-reducing properties, primarily because of its interactions with serotonin. Experienced consumers often use strains or oils with high CBD content to address anxiety.
Addressing symptoms of depression
Emerging research appears to show that CBD has usefulness in treating depression, through its effects on both CB1 and CB2, as well as its ability to promote serotonin. A 2018 Washington State University study showed that the strains of cannabis that were most likely to be able to treat symptoms of depression were the ones with high levels of CBD and relatively low levels of THC.
Research suggests that CBD has been shown to reduce cravings for substances in individuals with a history of addiction. One recent study from the American Journal of Psychiatry found that CBD reduced cravings and anxiety in individuals with opioid use disorder who were abstinent from heroin.
Like THC and other cannabinoids, CBD has strong anti-inflammatory properties, and these properties seem to be able to create many therapeutic effects. CBD does this by the same mechanism that a parent might guide a teenager: it has been shown to help keep wayward cells in line by setting limits on a cell’s behavior, reducing unhealthy influences on cells and rewarding positive behavior.
That parental guidance has led to CBD being studied to — speaking of teenagers — reduce acne, as well as to reduce pain and the impact of autoimmune diseases. Nearly all published studies report that CBD shows promise in the treatment of these conditions.
The anti-inflammatory properties of CBD appear to be able to, at least in studies, help stop the spread of cancer. Cancer uses the body’s natural process of inflammation to grow itself, recruiting new cells, blood vessels and nutrients. Both THC and CBD have shown the ability to stop this process and reduce cancer spread, or even kill cancer cells. One study showed that in a controlled lab environment, CBD is able to kill breast cancer cells.
The regulating effects of CBD seem to extend to its ability to help direct movement. This appears to be the reason why CBD appears to improve movement and function in multiple sclerosis, and it may be helpful in other movement disorders as well.
Modulating THC Effects
THC and CBD appear to have a largely yin and yang relationship, with each tempering and regulating the effects of the other in the body. This relationship allows creators of CBD products to tailor them to specific needs of consumers. For example, a consumer who experiences high levels of depression might opt for strains of cannabis with high CBD and THC content, whereas a consumer seeking improved appetite might prefer a product with low concentrations of CBD and high concentrations of THC.
CBD side effects and other concerns
Perhaps the greatest benefit of all for CBD products is that they are naturally low-risk and potentially high-reward. Even with much emerging research on the way CBD works and what CBD might be able to treat, there is much evidence already that CBD is safe to consume.
Since CBD does not cause overdose and its side effects (if any) are mild, CBD has been taken successfully by millions of consumers. If you’re ready to consider whether CBD might be appropriate for you, we invite you to consider our products.