Cannabidiol (CBD): What we know and what we don't
Cannabidiol – CBD – is often labelled as an add-in booster to your post-workout smoothie or even morning coffee. But what exactly is CBD? And why is it so popular?
How is cannabidiol different from marijuana, cannabis and hemp?
CBD, or cannabidiol, is the second most prevalent active ingredient in cannabis (marijuana). While CBD is an essential component of medical marijuana, it is derived directly from the hemp plant, a cousin of marijuana, or manufactured in a laboratory.
One of hundreds of active components found in marijuana, CBD however doe not a “high”. According to a report from the World Health Organization -In humans, CBD exhibits no effects indicative of any abuse or dependence potential. There is no evidence of public health related problems associated with the use of pure CBD, to date.
The evidence for cannabidiol health benefits
CBD has been touted for a wide variety of health issues, but the strongest scientific evidence is for its effectiveness in treating some of the cruelest childhood epilepsy syndromes, such as Dravet syndrome and Lennox-Gastaut syndrome (LGS), which typically don’t respond to antiseizure medications.
In numerous studies, CBD was able to reduce the number of seizures, and, in some cases, stop them altogether. Epidiolex, which contains CBD, is the first cannabis-derived medicine approved by the FDA for these conditions.
Animal studies, and self-reports or research in humans, suggest CBD may also help with:
- Anxiety – Studies and clinical trials are exploring the common report that CBD can reduce anxiety.
- Insomnia – Studies suggest that CBD may help with both falling asleep and staying asleep.
- Chronic pain – Further human studies are needed to substantiate claims that CBD helps control pain. One animal study from the European Journal of Pain suggests CBD could help lower pain and inflammation due to arthritis when applied to skin. Other research identifies how CBD may inhibit inflammatory and neuropathic pain, which are difficult treat.
- Addiction – CBD can help lower cravings for tobacco and heroin under certain conditions, according to some research in humans. Animal models of addiction suggest it may also help lessen cravings for alcohol, cannabis, opiates, and stimulants.
Is CBD safe?
Side effects of CBD include nausea, fatigue and irritability. CBD can increase the level of blood thinning and other medicines in your blood by competing for the liver enzymes that break down these drugs. Grapefruit has a similar effect with certain medicines.
People taking high doses of CBD may show abnormalities in liver related blood tests. Many non-prescription drugs, such as acetaminophen (Tylenol), have this same effect. So, you should let your doctor know if you are regularly using CBD.
CBD and Mental Health
CBD has shown promising results as a potential treatment for a wide range of mental and physical ailments, including epilepsy, anxiety, opioid addiction, insomnia, schizophrenia, and chronic pain.
Can CBD help with insomnia?
Cannabis has a long history as a sleep aid, reducing the time it takes to fall asleep and increasing time spent asleep. CBD specifically may also been found to help people fall asleep and stay asleep. The compound also eases anxiety, which may be another route that it can improve sleep.
Can CBD help with anxiety?
CBD can relieve symptoms of anxiety, research suggests, and it may therefore help treat conditions such as generalized anxiety disorder, social anxiety disorder, and post-traumatic stress disorder. But scientists still don’t understand how exactly CBD affects the brain to deliver those benefits.
Can CBD help with addiction?
CBD holds promise for treating addiction by dampening drug cravings, according to a clinical trial of individuals addicted to heroin who took CBD once a day. The benefits lasted for a week after the last dose of CBD. The compound may also help with addiction by easing anxiety and stress.
Can CBD help with schizophrenia?
Early research suggests that CBD might help treat schizophrenia down the road. A few small trials have found that CBD led to lower levels of psychotic symptoms, such as hallucinations, and improved cognition for those with schizophrenia. But another trial with lower doses of CBD found no difference in symptoms, so more research is necessary.
Can CBD help with seizures and epilepsy?
The FDA approved CBD to treat severe forms of childhood epilepsy, Lennox-Gastaut syndrome and Dravet syndrome, through the drug Epidiolex. The drug can be an effective treatment option to reduce seizures, sometimes with a combination of anti-seizure medications.