The Benefits of Cannabidiol (CBD)

CBD oil has been become increasingly popular lately with people claiming that it has a variety of health benefits for both healthy individuals and for those with a diagnoses. Where did this traction start? Is it simply a result of the recent legalization of recreational marijuana in certain states and the push for more legalization/decriminalization? These are important questions to ask if you’re truly interested in learning about the efficacy of CBD objectively. I’m sure that the political aspect has had some influence on the public’s interest in CBD, but scientific research is also supporting the validity of health-related CBD claims. At my recent visit to Paleo f(x), CBD was all the rage, and there are some pretty warranted reasons for this. So let’s dive right into the details of this seemingly new trend.

What is CBD?

Cannabidiol (CBD) is one of many phytocannabinoids found in the cannabis sativa plant. It is most known for its NON-psychoactive effects, unlike delta-9 tetrahydrocannabidiol (THC). Recreational marijuana is usually used for the psychoactive effects of THC, which are what allows a user to feel “high”. CBD on the other hand does not have this effect when taken on its own, meaning that it allows the user to carry on with business as usual.

CBD and THC affect us through what scientists call the endocannabinoid system (ECS), which is found in the human body. Two major components of this ECS are the cannabinoid receptors CB1 and CB2, which are concentrated mostly in our brains and central and peripheral nervous systems. Interestingly, our bodies actually produce their own cannabinoids–commonly referred to as “endogenous cannabinoids”–which also bind to and activate our CB1 and CB2 receptors, in the same way that CBD and THC do. The difference between the effects of CBD and those of THC are the receptors that they affect. THC binds mostly to a person’s CB1 receptors, which are found in high densities in the brain, particularly in parts that modulate memory, emotion, pain, and movement. This is why it is so commonly used for pain management. CBD on the other hand binds to the CB2 receptors, which are found in much higher quantities in immune cells rather than the central nervous system. It is because of this that CBD has anti-inflammatory properties without the psychoactive effects.

Recent studies have been uncovering the laundry list of benefits that CBD can have on individuals with a diagnosis as well as those without. It may help with issues related to fertility and hormonal balance, inflammation and immunity, mental illness, sleep disorders, metabolic function, neurodegenerative disease treatment and prevention, cancer treatment and prevention, and pain management.

CBD benefits chart

CBD & Gut Integrity

As mentioned before, our CB2 receptors are found in higher concentrations in our immune cells, which is the main reason why CBD has been shown to have such powerful anti-inflammatory and antioxidant effects. This takes place because CBD stimulates the release of the anti-inflammatory prostaglandin PG E2 and also helps to regulate the COX and LOX enzymes, which are involved in the inflammatory process. This has been particularly true for the GI tract as well. CBD ingestion can help reduce inflammation in the gut, which is a condition that is very prevalent in the western world. In this way, CBD can reduce intestinal hyperpermeability (i.e. leaky gut), protect the balance of the gut microbiome as well as the integrity of the intestinal lining, reduce nausea and vomiting, and even inhibit the development/progression of colorectal cancer.

CBD & Neurodegenerative Diseases

Neurodegenerative illnesses tend to affect people as they age. One of the main culprits of these illnesses is glutamate, an excitatory neurotransmitter. Abnormally high glutamate levels in the brain can lead to over-excitation of the nerve cells, which can then result in cellular damage and/or death. Fortunately, CBD has been shown to aid in the prevention of glutamate toxicity, which means that it may serve as an effective treatment and/or prevention of illnesses such as Alzeihmer’s disease, Parkinson’s disease, Lou Gehrig’s disease, and Hunington’s disease. Although there is the need for more human-based research on how CBD can aid in treating neurodegenerative diseases, a significant amount of animal studies have demonstrated neuronal protective effects from CBD. In fact, some experimental research on humans with multiple sclerosis (a disease of the central nervous system) have indicated that CBD-based medication is more effective at treating MS-related pain when compared to other medications.

CBD & Pain Management

Studies done on the efficacy of CBD-based medication for treating neuropathic pain in patients with multiple sclerosis have shown it to be useful in reducing MS-related pain, especially when combined with THC. The use of THC plus CBD has also been effective at treating intractable cancer-related pain not fully relieved by strong opioids. It has also been shown to reduce chemotherapy-induced neuropathic pain without having any psychoactive effects, as opposed to morphine. CBD has also worked well for patients with chronic pain not related to MS nor chemotherapy/other cancer treatments. Patients with rheumatoid arthritis have also experienced pain reduction with the use of CBD/THC for treatment.

CBD & Cancer

CBD shows some potential at being effective at treating/preventing certain types of cancer. Studies have demonstrated that cannabinoids have the ability to inhibit tumor growth by aiding in the induction of apoptosis (the normal cellular death that occurs in living organisms). The mTOR pathway is responsible for regulating cellular growth, motility, survival, protein synthesis, and autophagy. Ideally, mTOR should be maintained at lower levels for the sake of cellular repair and maintainance. Conversely, high mTOR can lead to cancer development and progression. CBD has the ability to inhibit or reduce mTOR to the healthy levels that stimulate cellular repair and maintenance. Clinical studies on patients with glioblastoma multiforme (a type of brain tumor) have shown a higher survival rate with the use of a combination of CBD and THC compared to those in placebo groups.

CBD & Mental/Mood Disorders

CBD has been shown to have anti-anxiety, anti-depressant, and anti-psychotic effects. This is most likely to due to its ability reduce neuroinflammation and neurodegeneration. CBD’s influence on CB2 receptors has also shown some positive effects at treating post concussion syndrome and post traumatic stress disorder. Also, human studies have shown that CBD is effective at reducing anxiety and depression in patients suffering from PTSD. This makes CBD a potential alternative to antidepressants and anxiolytic pharmaceutical drugs, which may come with unwanted side effects. A clinical trial compared the efficacy of CBD with that of amisulpride (an antipsychotic medication) in treating psychosis in schizophrenic patients, and found that CBD was just as effective at reducing psychosis without producing the side effects that came with amisulpride (weight gain and sexual dysfunction).

These are only a few of the benefits that research studies have uncovered regarding the use of cannabidiol. Of course, there still remains much more to learn about the benefits of CBD use, and more studies are suggesting that it may have therapeutic effects in other areas including metabolic issues, fertility issues, and sleep disorders. You can also find plenty of anecdotes regarding how CBD supplementation has helped certain individuals with their own issues involving anxiety, depression, sleep, digestion, acne, and even THC-induced anxiety. Some people even use it to reduce their pets’ anxiety, although I do not recommend you do this without first doing your own research and consulting with a veterinarian. If you are interested in testing it out for yourself, just as with any other supplement, I recommend that you choose a reputable brand that displays integrity and is transparent about their quality and sourcing. My personal favorite brand, the only one that I trust and use for myself is Ned. You can click here to check out their products, and be sure to use the code “WWV10” for 10% off your first order!

If you have any questions, comments, or feedback, I’d love to hear from you in the comments section below!

References
Fine, P. G., & Rosenfeld, M. J. (2013). The Endocannabinoid System, Cannabinoids, and Pain. Rambam Maimonides Medical Journal, 4(4), 2076-9172, E0022. doi:10.5041/RMMJ.10129
Johnson, J. R., Burnell-Nugent, M., Lossignol, D., Ganae-Motan, E. D., Potts, R., & Fallon, M. T. (2010). Multicenter, Double-Blind, Randomized, Placebo-Controlled, Parallel-Group Study of the Efficacy, Safety, and Tolerability of THC:CBD Extract and THC Extract in Patients with Intractable Cancer-Related Pain. Journal of Pain and Symptom Management, 39(2), 0885-3924, 167-197. doi:https://doi.org/10.1016/j.jpainsymman.2009.06.008
Leweke, F. M., Piomelli, D., Pahlisch, F., Muhl, D., Gerth, C. W., Hoyer, C., . . . Koethe, D. (2012). Cannabidiol enhances anandamide signaling and alleviates psychotic symptoms of schizophrenia. Translational Psychiatry, 2, E94. doi:10.1038/tp.2012.15
Lynch, M. E., & Campbell, F. (2011). Cannabinoids for treatmentof chronic non-cancer pain;a systematic review ofrandomized trials. British Journal of ClinicalPharmacology, 163(1), 735-744. doi:10.1111/j.1365-2125.2011.03970.x
Maroon, J., Bost, J., & Mathyssek, C. (n.d.). Nutritional & Medical Applications for Cannabidiol: Hemp Heath Benefits Without THC. In Anti-Aging Therapeutics (Vol. 17, pp. 98-108). Chicago, IL.
Maroon, J., & Bost, J. (2018). Review of the neurological benefits of phytocannabinoids. Surgical Neurology International. doi:10.4103/sni.sni_45_18
Rao, C. V. (2007). The Molecular Targets and Therapeutic Uses of Curcumin in Health and Disease (Vol. 595, 0065-2598). doi:10.1007/978-0-387-46401-5_9
Shannon, S., Lewis, N., Lee, H., & Hughes, S. (2019). Cannabidiol in Anxiety and Sleep: A Large Case Series. Perm J, 23, 18-41. doi:doi.org/10.7812/TPP/18-041

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