Vial of CBD oil. Photo credit: ElRoi.
There are nearly 100 different cannabinoids in cannabis and hemp plants. The two primary components are THC and CBD. As research into these compounds continue, more studies show their efficacy — particularly CBD — in treating a variety of conditions.
According to the Mayo Clinic, researchers conducted random trials of CBD oils. Results revealed that CBD’s medical applications are useful for muscle spasms, and nausea and vomiting. However, its main usage is to manage pain, inflammation, anxiety, and stress. As the science advances, research also shows it’s effective at relieving symptoms of conditions ranging from schizophrenia to insomnia.
In honor of National CBD month this January, we are examining a few studies which show just why CBD may replace some existing medications.
CBD for Pain
Our bodies have an endocannabinoid system (ECS) — its primary function is to promote homeostasis or balance in the body. This ECS has a variety of functions like controlling metabolism or mood. This system consists of CBD receptors, which bind to compounds in cannabis, including CBD.
According to research in The Handbook of Experimental Pharmacology, CBD also acts on receptors that regulate neurotransmission and affect the body’s pain perception. This may be why the cannabinoid has become a popular alternative treatment for pain instead of opioids, which have high rates of addiction.
Pain is something that plagues nearly everyone — for some, it’s chronic. In fact, one National Health Interview Survey reports that roughly 20% of adults in the U.S. struggle with chronic pain. Therefore, it’s not surprising that many are exploring CBD.
Scientific evidence seems to support the efficacy of CBD for pain management. For example, in a case study published on Cureus, a woman diagnosed with neurofibromatosis type 1 was recommended CBD oil after pain medication failed to reduce chronic pain from tumors on her body. She was given 4 mg of CBD twice a day over the course of three months. At the end of the study, she said the oil reduced her pain.
Overall, the study explains:
“[She] reported that her pain was significantly reduced (from an average of 6/10 down to 1/10). She reported being less emotional and feeling calmer. She said that her anxiety dropped from 9/10 down to 3 to 4/10 and that her mood had stabilized. Also, as an added benefit, she reported fewer [migraine] episodes per month (five per month down from 15 per month before starting the CBD oil) and that she was able to decrease her dependence on [over-the-counter] anti-inflammatory pills for pain relief.”
CBD for Schizophrenia
In addition to pain relief, research shows that CBD may also be an effective treatment for schizophrenia, according to recent research in the Schizophrenia Bulletin Open journal. In it, researchers reviewed a number of other studies where scientists treated schizophrenia patients with CBD. Results suggested that CBD may have antipsychotic properties.
In one these studies, researchers found CBD “[…] may improve the psychotic symptoms and cognitive impairments associated with schizophrenia by blocking the GPR55 receptor and causing a subsequent reduction in neuroinflammation and neuronal excitability.” GPR55 receptors, the research explained, “is involved in the pathogenesis of several [diseases] including schizophrenia, epilepsy, and Alzheimer’s disease, via promotion of neuroinflammation and increased neuronal excitability.”
Overall, the researchers noted, “the preliminary evidence suggests promising beneficial effects of CBD in those with schizophrenia, which at the very least warrants future research on the utility, safety, and logistics of CBD-based therapies for this disorder.”
In a seperate 2012 study, researchers compared the effectiveness of CBD to standard treatments for schizophrenia, including amisulpride — an antipsychotic medication. To do so, they gave schizophrenia patients 800 mg doses of CBD or amisulpride. The results showed that CBD performed the same as amisulpride for relieving the patients’ symptoms. However, patients who took CBD did not experience side-effects commonly seen in antipsychotic drugs, such as weight gain. This may make CBD to be a safer alternative for treating schizophrenia.
CBD for Anxiety
Multiple studies show that CBD is an effective treatment for different forms of anxiety. This includes conditions ranging from post traumatic stress disorder (PTSD), to generalized anxiety disorder (GAD), to social anxiety disorder (SAD), reports Healthline. More specifically, research shows that the cannabinoid helps treat symptoms like rapid heart rate and anxiety-induced insomnia.
In a case study of a 10 year old girl with PTSD, researchers explored a variety of treatment options for her anxiety and sleep problems. These initial doses of medication only gave temporary relief from these symptoms. However, when the girl took CBD oil over the course of five months, her sleeping time and anxiety gradually improved.
An important detail from the case study was that; “after 5 months, the patient was sleeping in her own room most nights and handling the new school year with no difficulties. No side effects were observed from taking the CBD oil.”
CBD for Insomnia
Another study, this one conducted by Scott Shannon, demonstrates that CBD is able to improve sleep. A total of 72 adults with poor sleep or anxiety were given 25 mg of CBD in capsules every day over the course of three months. During this time, sleep problem scores among the participants decreased gradually with only minor side effects like fatigue, which may be due to dosage. While it is not exactly clear why CBD affects insomnia, it seems to have less negative side effects than usual psychiatric prescriptions.
Several other studies have shown cannabis’ effect on sleep. For example, one Australian study revealed that, among chronic insomnia patients who used cannabis, symptoms improved by up to 36%.
CBD’s Antioxidant Properties
A study published in the Medicines journal examined the antioxidants among a selection of CBD and hemp seed oils. The researchers analyzed the amount of antioxidants and activity in the oils. Results showed CBD oils contain higher antioxidant properties than the hemp seed counterparts.
Antioxidants, which are in certain fruits like blueberries or acai berries, can counter free radicals. They do this by giving electrons to them, according to Harvard Health. Free radicals are atoms without a full ring of electrons, which damage our bodies by taking electrons from cells. Additionally, experts link these radicals to heart disease or certain types of cancer. Diets full of antioxidants can reduce the risk of these diseases.
This is just the tip of the iceberg in terms of CBD research. Though this early research is still developing, a plethora of studies are emerging which show CBD’s potential to treat a variety of conditions.