If you believe all the hype, CBD oil cures everything. Chronic pain, depression, anxiety, epilepsy, acne, schizophrenia - you name it, the cannabidiol CBD allegedly treats it.
But is CBD all it is cracked up to be? Are these supposed health benefits valid and what are the possible side effects? After all, if something seems too good to be true, it probably is.
One reassuring ray of light is CBD research. While we are still at the very early stages of research, there are some promising reports out there that appear to vindicate the effects of CBD and the value of CBD products.
As Marcel Bonn-Miller, a researcher on CBD states, "we still do not fully understand all of the mechanisms involved in CBD's actions." He continues: "we know many pieces of the puzzle but not the whole story at this point. A lot of our understanding of the potential health benefits of CBD is rooted in work either on the cellular level or in preclinical models with rodents."
So then. Let us read more into these animal studies and human studies to see what CBD really does. There is a lot on the horizon for this promising wellness cure.
The cannabis Sativa plant (often referred to as the hemp plant) produces chemical compounds called cannabinoids. Of these the active ingredient CBD is just one. In fact, it is more likely that you are familiar with THC. This is the chemical responsible for getting you stoned - for want of a better word.
Scientists have been researching weed for decades upon decades. It was not until the early 90s that scientists uncovered the endocannabinoid system. Without wishing to get too technical, this is how the body actually reacts to the chemicals from cannabis and also produces its own chemicals which are similar to those in the plant. These are known as endocannabinoids.
Importantly, it turns out that this system also helps regulate the nervous system, the immune system and our body's vital organs. Researchers have revealed that THC plugs directly into the body's cannabinoid receptors - but CBD does things a little differently. Here's how.
CBD boosts the circulating levels of natural endocannabinoid in your body. These in turn interact with your cannabinoid receptors. Furthermore, CBD has been demonstrated to interact with serotonin receptors in your body. Serotonin is the body's pleasure chemical, and so CBD can have some positive effects on anxiety.
The same goes for pain. CBD reacts with the body's pain receptors, which may be why we are starting to see the effects of the chemical on pain and inflammation. Crucial is that CBD works indirectly. This affords it a much larger potential to treat mental and physical issues.
Although scientists do not yet know how cannabinoids address different diseases (such as epilepsy). There is a common belief that CBD does not appear to work with the same receptors that THC does. This explains, in part, why CBD does not give you psychoactive effects - that is, getting high - which are normally associated with the cannabis plant.
What CBD Helps With
This is what CBD definitely helps with: pediatric epilepsy (a rare and severe form of epilepsy in children). Indeed, this is the most officially proven medical use of CBD.
In 2018, the FDA (Food and Drug Administration) approved the US's first drug containing CBD. Epidiolex is an oral solution that can be used to treat seizures associated with two rare forms of epilepsy, Lennox-Gastaut syndrome and Dravet syndrome in patients two and older.
Before this approval happens, the manufacturer of the drug has to perform many randomized, placebo controlled trials on humans. These clinical trials studied how much children could take, what would happen in case of overdose and any possible side effects that would occur.
However, there is one thing to bear in mind. Just because research into CBD and epilepsy has shown anecdotal success, namely parents reporting that it helped their children. This does not necessarily mean that over-the-counter CBD will actually work.
CBD extracts that are purchased online or in dispensaries usually have a smaller dose of CBD in them. This will mean that it works differently and so has a different effect on your well-being and medical conditions. Bottom line: more study would be required before you could make these conclusions.
What CBD MAY Help With
There are also a whole host of things that CBD may help with. Only the relationship of CBD to epilepsy has been studied in-depth enough. The potential of CBD to great other medical conditions still warrants further study. But scientists are getting there.
There is a growing body of evidence that CBD along with medical marijuana can act as an antidepressant, antipsychotic, offer pain relief, assist with parkinson's disease, Alzheimer's disease, multiple sclerosis and act as an anti-inflammatory. Most of all, CBD is not habit-forming like alternative treatments, such as opioids.
The problem is that most of these studies are based on mice, not people. We are still waiting for large-scale cynical trials of CBD for anxiety to take place. This needs to be pursued.
At the same time, I am sure that you have seen instagrammers and athletes using CBD creams, lotions and topical CBD oils for their aching muscles or sore feet (blame the shoes). But does it actually help with pain management? And what about vaping? Does it really work?
CBD can be a powerful anti-inflammatory device, even more so than many steroids or other conventional remedies. Well that is what this research says anyway. Other studies also suggest that CBD oil can function as a nerve protectant and treat nerve injury pain. However, not all state laws are the same, which has made CBD a difficult thing to research.
CBD has drawn much attention due to its supposed abilities to treat skin conditions. Indeed, there is a lot of hype about this. Multiple uses of CBD such as improving inflammatory conditions, like eczema, wound healing, itchiness and pain, have been documented throughout the years. A rare blistering disorder of the skin has also been found to be susceptible to the healing powers of CBD.
Yet the same problem persists. CBD as a typical treatment for skin conditions has not received sufficient research to be said with 100% accuracy and validity. Most of its effects have not yet received mass human trials, which are essential to know the effects of the substance with certainty and confidence.
In contrast to the millions of dollars that top companies splash out on researching other locations and positions, CBD is still in its infancy. Compounding matters is that cosmetics are not as strictly regulated by the FDA. As a result manufacturers can make whatever claims they want - irrespective of their truth.
Nevertheless, there is much promise for CBD. Scientists still believe that it can deliver real, concrete cosmetic effects, especially as tinctures. One reason why is the CBD appears to be very safe to use, with very few serious side effects (although there are still some).
Despite the fact that more studies are required (and that is saying something), these clinical trials take vast amounts of time, money and effort on behalf of the medical community - that is, if they are to be done properly.
Medical practitioners can - and do - prioritize helping their patients if the evidence points that way and, of course, if the potential risks to patients are minimized. This being the case CBD offers a fantastic option for many people with long term and short term medical problems.
A Cautionary Note
The market for CBD products is new and, poignantly, unregulated. Some might say it is chaotic. Just look at how many types of gummies are on the shelf. This wild west nature can be most pressingly felt in regards to the federal regulatory body which has not yet imposed stringent rules and regs on CBD items.
What this means is that consumers can face a scarcity of knowledge. Sometimes they do not know exactly what they are buying when it comes to purchasing CBD oil. To prove this, one study found that over a quarter of CBD products contained a lot less CBD than was written on their label. This is problematic.
It means that the amount of CBD you need for an effective dose could vary drastically, not only from product to product, brand to brand, but even within the different items of the same product. Besides getting less bang for your buck, it might also affect your dosage.
Here is why. Often CBD companies create a product, analyze it and then create their packaging, which displays the given results of CBD content on the day. However, the main problem is that they never repeat these tests.
Especially with a natural product like CBD, which has huge variations from crop to crop, this means that you have no clear picture of whether a new batch is the same as an older batch. Everyone is different. Companies ought to test every batch they produce. But they don't. This is down to a lack of regulatory oversight.
When buying your CBD product, you can research to see if it is batch tested (and so will have an accurate labelling) or you can ask them directly. A well crafted email will suffice. Failing this, you can also send a sample of your CBD product to a testing facility yourself, especially if you are planning on using it to treat a serious illness.
These tests can additionally ascertain if the product contains any unwanted and potentially harmful chemicals, such as pesticides, heavy metals or toxins. However, a good, reputable CBD manufacturer should batch-tes their products and share with you their information.
In an ideal world, all companies would be mandated to fund their own research and testing to verify the labels on their products. Instead, at present, most claims and dosing recommendations on a CBD product are purely anecdotal. They are based on users' reported feelings and sensations.
While this is all well and good, getting people to self report on whether a product makes them feel better or not is not very scientific. Another problem is that the products we can buy in the shops are often different from what is used in medical trials.
If a scientific study found that anxiety can be reduced with certain doses of CBD, this does not mean that a dose of CBD will reduce anxiety. Far from it. In fact, CBD can easily generate the opposite effect: more anxiety.
The Dangers of CBD
This brings us to the risks of CBD. Good news is that most of the research done into CBD oil has demonstrated clearly that there are very few serious negative side effects. This should give users confidence.
Still, using the product is not without certain side effects. Let us refer back to the epilepsy trial quoted above. In this clinical trial, sedation was one of the most common side effects. Decreased appetite and diarrhea also occurred in other cases. Also important is the inter-relationship of CBD with other medicines. Depending on what the medicine is certain patients may need to exercise extreme caution and perform routine blood tests and to check on liver function.
Another big, big issue is the legality of CBD. Mostly, this makes it tricky to perform the wide-spread, mass trials that are needed to vindicate the chemical's healing properties. Hemp plants which contain less than 0.3% THC are legal in all 50 states of the US. The only problem is that once you start extracting CBD from the flowers of the hemp plant this can be considered redefining the plant as marijuana.
Conversely, CBD derived from marijunana is still classified as a Schedule I drug by the DEA. That is, it is defined as a drug with no currently accepted medical use and a high potential for abuse. Indeed, 5 years ago, the DEa said that all extracts containing more than one cannabinoid would remain classified as schedule one drugs. Although it should be noted that the approval of Epidiolex, the pediatric epilepsy drug, changed all this.
The long and short of it is that scientists can only obtain CBD from marijuna plants that are licenced by the National Institute on Drug Abuse. Until last year there was only one farm in the whole US which was owned by the University of Mississippi. As to why you would want CBD derived from marijunana plants there are some emergent ideas that THC might make the CBD more effective. Although such theories are yet to be confirmed and remain largely speculative.
The Final Word
There is no use wasting your money on an expensive ineffective product. Worse it might expose you to necessary side effects when other drugs would be more effective. However, if you buy high quality products, which are verified and label checked then CBD can actually have some decent effects. Indeed, if CBD has even 1% of the positive effects it is meant to have, then it is worth adding into your treatment plans. It may well be a creative tool in the fight against pain.