CBD – or Cannabidiol – is type of cannabinoid found in Cannabis Sativa. Recent studies have linked CBD supplementation with several health benefits with minimal adverse effects. A few of the benefits include pain relief, reducing inflammation and even assisting with the treatment of cancer.
Although CBD is becoming ever-increasingly popular within health, wellbeing and scientific circles, I still get asked time-after-time “what is CBD?” whenever it gets brought up in conversation with people don’t work in these fields. This is despite the medias recent efforts to increase aware after recently positive clinic trials, which link the compound: cannabidiol, with aiding individuals with epilepsy, anxiety, chronic inflammation and pain relief.
CBD is typically made for therapeutic purposes in the form of oil, which allows it to be both added to other, easy-to-consume products as well as having the ability to seamlessly alter the concentration. Common CBD prducts include CBD spray, CBD oil and CBD powder. CBD in the UK and US is typically sold in concentrations varying from 100mg to 3000mg per 10ml. With individuals coping with more severe symptoms opting for CBD products on the higher end of the ‘strength spectrum’.
The Science Of CBD
It was initially believed that in order for CBD oil to have its full effect on the body, it needed to bind with the cannabinoid receptors: CB1 and CB2.
CB1 receptors are mainly found within the brain and across the central nervous system, however can be seen in lesser numbers across the entire body. They are bound to sister compounds such as THC (delta-9 tetrahydrocannabinol) within the body and have influence over neurotransmitter production and consequently: co-ordinating movement, physical pain and emotional well-being and thought process.
CB2 receptors have influence on the body’s immune function, mainly relating to inflammation and subsequent sensation of pain.
These cannabinoid receptors can be seen as locks, only opened once an agonist engages them. The entirety of the cannabinois receptor and engagement network is known as the endocannabinoid system, or ECS.
Initially, scientists believed that CBD influenced CB2 receptors, leading to its evident beneficial effects. However, CBD doesn’t engage the CB1 or CB2 receptors, instead CBD works by activating other receptors within the body, including serotonin and adenosine receptors.
Another key effect of CBD is inhibiting the FAAH enzyme, which inhibits CB1 activation and therefore counter-balances the psycho-active properties of THC within cannabis. This is why cannabis strains are often manipulated for users seeking a high. Strains are produced using disproportionate ratios of the compounds, leading to amplification of psycho-active effects.
CBD’s interaction with receptors and enzymatic functions within the body lead to some profound physiological changes, which includes modifications to pain perception, reduction inflammatory response and anti-depressive effects.
THE DIFFERENCE BETWEEN CBD AND THC?
The most well known compound within the cannabis plant is THC (delta-9 tetrahydrocannabinol), marijuana is used – in many cases illegally – worldwide mainly with the intent of ‘getting high’ off the compound THC. That’s where the difference lies, CBD is a non-psychoactive compound, meaning it doesn’t cultivate a short term alteration to your cognitive state, whilst still showing promise of having some substantial health benefits.
There can be a difference in the source of where CBD and THC are derived from. Both CBD and THC are derived – in the rawest form – from cannabis sativa. CBD however can often be made using the hemp version of the plant, whereas THC typically comes from the leafy area of the plant (marijuana) strains of which are usually indica and sativa hybrids and yield THC which engages the CB1 receptors.
It’s often a wrongly made association between CBD and ‘THC like effects’ that leads to people shying away from trialing CBD oil in fear of ending up high and the social stigma associated to this. It’s important to recognise CBD and THC as being seperate from one another and compounds which have differing effects on the body.
HEALTH BENEFITS OF CBD
CBD AND EPILEPSY
CBD has been found to reduce the risk of seizure with individuals who suffer from epilepsy, with very low risk factors. A study in 2016 utilised epidiolex – a ‘drug’ comprised of strong CBD oil extract (99%) – to help treat people who suffer with epilepsy. The phase 3 part of this trial found that there was a stastical significance between Epidiolex treatment and placebo when administered to subjects. Consequently, epidiolex is now a prescription drug which physicians can prescribe to patients who suffer with epilepsy.
CBD AND PAIN RELIEF
When people experience trauma and subsequent pain, they’ll typically reach for over-the-counter anti-inflammatory products, such as ibuprofen or medicines such as diclofenac. However, if recent research is anything to go by, these products can potentially lead to some complicated health issues over time, if taken chronically.
A paper released in 2016 found that non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDs) such as ibuprofen and diclofenac can lead to increased risk of atrial fibrillation: a condition that causes elevation in heart rate and heart issues. Studies such as these have led to more people and scientists using and researching alternative medicines – such as CBD – for pain relief. Studies have since shown that CBD is an effective treatment for inflammation and pain (2). This has led to CBD being used as a therapeutic aid for conditions such as fibromyalgia.
CBD AND OVERCOMING ADDICTIONS
A study in 2013 suggests that CBD can help people overcome smoking addiction. Smokers who took part in the study reduced their nicotine addiction and smoked less cigarettes after consuming CBD through an inhaler. Other studies have also eluded to the benefits of CBD for overcoming addiction to opioids. The study found that those with substance addiction saw a decrease in key symptoms, including pain and anxiety, leading to less drug dependency.
CBD AND THE FIGHT AGAINST CANCER
CBD has been found to have anti-carcinogenic properties. Within a review pieced together by Paola Massi in 2013, it was noted that CBD not only prevents cancer cells from proliferating, but also instigates cancer cell death. These effects are similar to that of other cancer treatments currently in use, however with far less toxicity. More studies need to be conducted using CBD as a treatment intervention alongside existing cancer treatments, to see if there are synergistic benefits in combining treatment.
CBD AND ANXIETY
If you are someone who suffers from chronic anxiety (generalized anxiety disorder), then being able to differentiate between compounds THC and CBD is key, as THC can often elevate symptoms even further. However CBD appears to have the capability to alleviate symptoms of anxiety according to a recent review. The research suggests that CBD could be an effective means of treatment for people suffering with post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSO), social anxiety and generalized anxiety disorder (GAD).
SIDE EFFECTS OF CBD
Studies using CBD as a medicinal intervention have used a wide range of CBD doses and found no significant side effects, sufficient to cease the research.
The side effects that have been reported have been minor and infrequent, which includes tiredness, increased/reduced appetite and in some cases, diarrhea. However there currently aren’t any long-term studies that examine CBD side effects of longer term use.