Is CBD Scientifically Proven?

Bruno Eastman
May 28 · 14 min read
Photo by By r.classen on Shutterstock

This century the health and wellness industry has enjoyed a significant boost in the name of cannabis plant extracts. Well, a decade ago, few could identify themselves with using any form of cannabis. Cannabis products were highly disregarded and often had users stigmatized.

Thanks to a paradigm shift, people are rising to the occasion and taking up the benefits of medical cannabis. Research into the therapeutic potential of cannabis has been a major driving factor for casting cannabis extracts in a new light.

The rise of medical cannabis has also led to increased research on the benefits of cannabis. Compared to recreational cannabis, medical cannabis is going mainstream.

With CBD being associated with almost each and every disease, condition and symptom (including COVID 19), what does science have to prove about it? That is what this article is all about.

BUT FIRST… Let us all understand CBD.

What is CBD

For starters, CBD stands for cannabidiol, one of the many compounds sourced from the cannabis plant. The compound belongs to a select group known as cannabinoids. What are they and why the specialty?

There are over 100 cannabis cannabinoids (phytocannabinoids). CBD is one of the most abundant alongside THC. These compounds have a unique ability to interact with receptors in humans and all animals with a spinal cord. This is the basis of how cannabinoids work.

We shall look deeper into this as we move on. For now, let us get more interesting facts about CBD.

Cannabinoids bring about psychotropic effects (the high) whenever you smoke weed. You may wonder, is CBD part of the cannabis high? NO!

We use cannabidiol for its medical value thanks to it lacking psychotropic effects. Its sister cannabinoid- tetrahydrocannabinol (THC) is the culprit. But CBD exists alongside CBD, right?

CBD products come under either full-spectrum, broad-spectrum, or isolate. Here is what each of these means.

  • Full-spectrum CBD- it covers cannabis extracts that have all the cannabis compounds, including CBD and THC. Also, they contain essential phytochemicals like flavonoids, terpenes, and oils.

Now, the last thing you need to understand about CBD is that extractors get it from hemp and not marijuana. What are these two in the first place?

Hemp refers to cannabis plants that have less than 0.3% THC. The Farm Bill of 2018 legalized hemp farming in the US. That is why we legally extract CBD and other useful compounds to create potent health and wellness products. THC levels lower than 0.3% cannot lead to addiction or a cannabis high. You will not experience the high even with full-spectrum CBD as long as it comes from hemp.

Infact…

Full spectrum has a theoretical entourage effect. This is when all the compounds work synergistically to deliver a more reliable and long-lasting benefit. We can replicate the same in broad-spectrum but with lesser effectiveness. CBD isolate, despite being nearly 100% pure, lacks this very crucial phenomenon. But if you take regular drug screening, be opting for a broad spectrum; it lacks any THC yet gives a fractional entourage effect.

Marijuana is rich in THC- over 0.3% content. Marijuana is a schedule 1 drug under the US’s controlled substances thanks to its high potential of THC abuse and the ability to cause addiction.

Now that you understand what CBD is, let us move on to how it works before looking at the benefits in greater detail.

How CBD works

CBD works through the human endocannabinoid system. This is a system made up of cannabinoids, receptors, and enzymes. Its core function is helping with signalling for biological processes that maintain optimal physiological functioning.

Isn’t it exciting that there is a system named after the cannabis plant?

Cannabinoids, in this case endogenous cannabinoids (endocannabinoids), are produced in the body on an ad hoc basis. When they are released into direct circulation, they interact with receptors; a process which starts the functioning of the endocannabinoid system. The work of enzymes is to speed up or stop the functioning of endocannabinoids.

So, where does CBD, a phytocannabinoid, come in? The ECS is sometimes exposed to a deficiency in endocannabinoid formation. Remember that our body does not store endogenous cannabinoids for future use. Whenever their function is done, enzymes stop their role by destroying them.

Plant cannabinoids imitate the function of endocannabinoids. Scientists have found them to interact with some receptors to boost the operation of the endocannabinoid system receptors, even in low supply.

Now, why should you invest your time and money in cannabidiol (CBD) products?

Ten health benefits of CBD

We shall look at science-backed data and literature behind CBD’s effectiveness in providing relief in the following ten conditions or their symptoms.

1. Chronic pain

2. Insomnia

3. Seizures

4. Inflammation

5. Anxiety and depression

6. Cancer

7. Acne

8. Parkinson’s disease

9. Drug addiction and withdrawal

10. High blood pressure

Are you ready to pick up your microscope for the finer details? Here we go.

Pain

Millions of people suffer from different pain, even with the advancement in research and development of drugs. Pain can result from medical conditions such as arthritis, multiple sclerosis (MS), migraines, premenstrual syndrome (PMS), fibromyalgia, and even nerve damage. Also, pain can result from injuries like burns or fractures.

Thankfully, cannabidiol has shown great promise in being an effective pain reliever. In fact, we can attribute the use of cannabis for pain in ancient ages to the value of CBD. With an opioid crisis fuelled by increased numbers of people trying to live with chronic pain, can CBD be the solution?

CBD for arthritis

Arthritis is a medical condition that leads to swelled or tender joints. The most common types of arthritis are rheumatoid arthritis (RA) and osteoarthritis (OA). Normal wear and tear of the cartilages causes osteoarthritis in moving joints. Rheumatoid arthritis stems from an autoimmune disorder that attacks joint cartilages. These two lead to lots of pain in joints, mostly when movement occurs.

A study completed in 2016 investigated the potential of using CBD in treating arthritis in rats. In the study, rats exposed to arthritis received different doses of CBD, ranging from 0.6 to 62.3 milligrams for four days. Their conditions were checked to note any difference.

Rats that received a dose of 6.2mg per day showed a significant response to the CBD gel applied to their joints. Higher doses showed equivalent results to the 6.2mg, while lower doses proved lesser potency.

This is great hope for many people who use CBD for arthritis from day to day. More research in human beings would unearth even more reliable clinical data.

CBD for fibromyalgia

Fibromyalgia is more common in women and causes widespread musculoskeletal system pain. Currently, there is no definite treatment plan. However, several therapies certainly help manage the pain and other symptoms.

Cannabidiol could be one of these therapies. A 2011 study investigated the benefits of CBD for a group of 56 fibromyalgia patients primarily made of women. The group was split in half. One group received doses of cannabis in different amounts, while the other half abstained from cannabis.

The results were apparent two hours later. The group that used CBD showed signs of lessened pain and stiffness. Besides, they could sleep better.

Another study published last year concluded that medical cannabis has potential to help with fibromyalgia. However, the research did not definitively make direct associations between CBD and improved fibromyalgia symptoms.

CBD and premenstrual syndrome

In October 2015, former Trade Minister Peter Lilley argued that cannabis should be legalized based on the fact that Queen Victoria used it for Premenstrual syndrome (PMS).

While there is no detailed research or study into what CBD can do for PMS, the cannabinoid shows potential in alleviating the condition’s symptoms.

In an article by Harvard Health Publishing, CBD may ease pain from premenstrual cramps.

Insomnia

If you do not get sufficient sleep hours or even depth for a prolonged period, you may be dealing with insomnia. According to the Sleep Foundation, the condition affects 35% of adult Americans. Acute insomnia ranges from one night up to three weeks. Above that, it turns out to be chronic insomnia.

The effects of not getting enough sleep are much clearer with decreased quality of life. A 2019 study to find out whether taking CBD improved sleep in a clinical population proved fruitful. The study showed that CBD may have benefits to improve sleep patterns.

According to the Mayo Clinic, the causes of insomnia can be physical conditions such as pain. Also, mental disorders like anxiety, depression are some reasons for sleep deprivation.

Well, as we have already seen, CBD can help with pain. Later in this article, we shall also look at how cannabidiol extracts can help with anxiety and depression.

Seizures

The story of Charlotte Figi, the girl who changed how many people see cannabidiol today, is one to love and cherish and always comes up whenever talking about what CBD can do for seizures.

For greenhorns, Charlotte Figi had her first seizure as early as when she was just three months old. A physician later diagnosed her with Dravet syndrome, a rare form of epilepsy which caused her seizures. At five years of age, she started using medical CBD, and it proved to help her reduce seizure frequency.

Charlotte attracted the attention of CNN’s medical correspondent, Sanjay Gupta. His interview with Charlotte for his 2013 documentary took the world of CBD by storm, and soon many epilepsy patients took up the CBD benefits.

Charlotte Figi is not the only proof that CBD has the potential to improve the lives of those suffering from seizures. In fact, the FDA approved Epidiolex, a drug based on cannabidiol and other cannabinoids for two rare forms of severe epilepsy in children. We are talking about Dravet syndrome and Lennox-Gastaut syndrome.

A 2017 study published in the New England Journal of Medicine assessed CBD for drug-resistant forms of Dravet Syndrome. From the report, CBD resulted in a significant decrease in the frequency of seizures compared to a placebo. However, some adverse effects such as vomiting, diarrhea, fatigue and pyrexia were reported in the group of patients that were given high CBD doses.

Another double-blinded study dubbed “Effect of Cannabidiol on Drop Seizures in the Lennox–Gastaut Syndrome” in 2018 involved 30 centres. From the results, the frequency of LGS seizures dropped in both adults and children that used CBD alongside conventional medication for seizures.

Inflammation

Many times, we relate inflammation with pain. Which is true because pain is one of the cardinal signs of inflammation. However, we shall look at these two separately today because they can be independent of each other sometimes.

So, what is inflammation, and what causes it?

Inflammation occurs whenever the body releases antibodies to fight pathogens and foreign substances. Yes, it is a natural immune response. Inflammation can be as a result of illnesses or trauma to the body. Acute inflammation lasts for shorter periods, while chronic inflammation patients experience it for prolonged periods.

Many patients have found great relief from harnessing the anti-inflammatory properties of cannabidiol. That is why the compound has been significantly scrutinized in many studies aimed at how it works for inflammation relief.

Pubmed published an article in 2020 in a bid to explain the anti-oxidative and anti-inflammatory effects of cannabidiol. The article suggests the cannabinoid may directly enhance anti-inflammatory effects by suppressing the levels of pro-inflammatory cytokines.

A 2009 review article on PubMed dubbed, “Cannabinoids as novel anti-inflammatory drugs,” explains four mechanisms that cannabinoids present anti-inflammatory properties. From the review, cannabinoids work by inducing cell death, inhibiting cell proliferation, suppressing cytokines and finally inducting T-regulatory cells. The article further explains the benefits of CBD regarding immunosuppressive properties in cases of autoimmune disorders and inflammation.

Mental disorders

According to Our World In Data organization, over 792 million people suffered from various mental disorders in 2017 alone. This translates to a considerable number of people hooked on drugs treating depression, anxiety, and other mental illnesses.

A study in 2019 proved that cannabidiol could have some benefits over antidepressant drugs. We know antidepressants take some time before their effects manifest. Cannabidiol can be the answer as it provides immediate benefits according to the animal study. Also, cannabidiol presents lesser side effects that are common in patients taking anti-depression drugs.

Gallup in 2019 estimated that 14% of the US population uses CBD. 20% of the users do it for anxiety, while 2% say it helps them with depression. So, what does science say about CBD for depression?

Cannabidiol has the potential to treat mental disorders by impacting serotonin receptors in the brain. Serotonin is the happy chemical in our bodies responsible for our happiness and wellbeing. There is no sufficient evidence that CBD perfects serotonin production. Cannabidiol boosts the impact of serotonin even in low levels that are tied to depression.

In a review on CBD’s effects in neuropsychiatric disorders, cannabidiol was showed to have anti-stress values. From the review, cannabidiol presents anxiolytic, neuroprotective, and antipsychotic properties.

In another study done on a child of 10 years age, a victim of rape and negligence, cannabidiol offered a sustained decrease in her anxiety levels. The patient could afford quality and sufficient sleep.

Cannabidiol can also improve how your body expresses fear-induced anxiety. All these points point to one truth; ongoing and new clinical trials will unearth even more on CBD’s benefits in mental health.

Cancer

Cancer is one of the world’s biggest headaches with no cure once it gets to an advanced age. Being a chronic condition, cannabidiol proves to be of immense value in improving the quality of life of patients.

Despite CBD not curing cancer, several reports suggest that the cannabinoid is effective in alleviating some of the symptoms associated with cancer. It can also be used as a complementary treatment for cancer treatment side effects like chemotherapy and radiotherapy.

Here is what research confirms about CBD for cancer patients.

A 2019 review concluded that CBD could stop the worsening of some forms of cancer. The study was focused on how cannabidiol can be used in treating pancreatic cancer. The results found that CBD had significant anti-cancer properties. The cannabinoid can induce tumor cell death, slow down tumor invasion and growth.

In separate research in 2012, cannabidiol use can support programmed tumor cell death. It also proved that CBD makes glioblastoma cells susceptible to radiation. Glioblastoma cells lead to tumor growth along with the central nervous system.

Glioma cells were also studied concerning CBD use. Researchers conducted a systematic literature review of the antitumor properties of CBD on gliomas. From the research’s abstract, cannabinoids have antitumor properties in vitro and in vivo.

Skincare

It did not take long before cannabidiol infused products arrived in the skincare industry. In fact, when we started seeing CBD topicals in shop shelves, many underestimated its effectiveness. So, was it just marketing hype or there are CBD benefits for our skin?

Cannabidiol skin products come in the form of balms, oils, ointments, salves and even creams. We also have bath soaps and salts. Typically, they are all used on the skin surface.

CBD is related to providing significant relief for various skin conditions. One of the most common ones being acne. The condition caused by inflammation of sebum glands can be alleviated with CBD for the skin.

According to a publication in the Journal of Clinical Investigation, cannabidiol helps to stop some of the causative processes of skin acne. The publication suggests that cannabidiol can be used to inhibit excessive production of skin oils and provide anti-inflammatory benefits. This way, CBD can help in prevention and alleviating skin acne.

The journal of PeerJ Life & Environment published an article that suggested CBD receptors helped inhibit excessive growth of skin cells which causes psoriasis.

Cannabidiol being extracted as oil can also help you maintain a well-nourished and moisturized skin. It is not rocket science that applying oil to your skin enables you to achieve a well-hydrated skin, thus avoiding skin cracks and wrinkles.

Parkinson’s disease

You may ask, what is Parkinson’s disease? It is a neurological disorder that affects movement. Many times, the condition manifests itself in the old age of one’s life. The condition is progressive, meaning that it can only get worse with time.

Today, some patients living with the condition use CBD to help with some of its debilitating symptoms. The symptoms of PD include impaired standing or sitting, lacking facial emotions, shaking hands (tremors), slow movement and balance issues.

Parkinson’s disease has been linked to oxidative stress and degeneration of neurons. Luckily, CBD has shown neuroprotective properties that could come in handy for patients.

In one of the most recent studies concluded this year, cannabidiol helped PD patients reduce tremors and anxiety-induced through public speaking. Well, we all know that shaking and anxiety can set in at any time before going on stage for such a feat.

About 50% of people living with Parkinson’s disease experience psychosis as one of its symptoms. Psychosis potentially presents in the latter stages of the condition. A 2019 study confirmed that PD patients could use cannabidiol in alleviating psychosis cases.

Sometimes PD patients find it difficult to sleep. We have already covered how cannabidiol individually helps one beat insomnia. We could apply the same in such cases. In fact, there is a small study that shows how CBD could help people presenting with the condition to improve their quality of life.

Drug addiction and withdrawal

Many people use opioids as pain killers. According to the Center for Disease Control and Prevention, the number of deaths from prescription opioid overdoses in 2018 was as high as four times that in 1999. Getting hooked to drugs, especially prescription opioids, is not new.

Luckily, cannabidiol is a budding alternative to these potentially harmful prescription drugs. The icing on the cake is that cannabidiol might help with the addiction and help with the withdrawal symptoms.

Some of the withdrawal symptoms of drug addiction include nausea, appetite changes, and fatigue. In extreme circumstances seizures and hallucinations can occur.

The American Journal of Psychiatry reports that cannabidiol use helped decrease cue-induced craving for certain drugs. The research was conducted on 42 men and women who were heroin addicts in the past. They were exposed to cues related to heroin use after they were divided into two groups- one was given CBD while the second one received inactive placebos.

Currently, the FDA has approved several weak opioids for Medication-assisted treatment (MAT) used to tackle opioid use disorders. CBD being a non-opioid could prove to be a lot more effective in such a case. However, more research is needed in the use of CBD for opioid addiction.

What about other drugs like marijuana? But cannabidiol can be extracted from the same cannabis plant, right? Well, CBD can help with withdrawal symptoms associated with marijuana dependence.

In a study that involved a 19-year-old cannabis addict, daily doses of CBD helped ease her symptoms. In fact, she was clean regarding four checklists by the sixth day of CBD use. We are talking about the Marijuana Withdrawal Symptom Checklist, Withdrawal Discomfort Score, Beck Anxiety Inventory, and Beck Depression Inventory.

High blood pressure

High blood pressure (hypertension) is now amongst us more than ever. It is a lifestyle disease that can be chronic and fatal in some instances. If recent reports are nothing to go by, hypertension creates increased risk in patients with the COVID 19 disease.

Noticeably, an article published in 2017 showed how a single dose of cannabidiol helped reduce hypertension in volunteers taking part in a randomized crossover study.

One of the reasons why people develop high blood pressure is unchecked anxiety and depression. By CBD helping solve such cases, it acts as a preventive measure for high blood pressure.

Takeaways

The reason most people are interested in the cannabis plant is its cannabinoids, especially CBD. The cannabinoids have proved to be life-changers for many users. That is why we see governments interested in their medical and therapeutic value.

However, advanced research is required to unearth many of the benefits associated with CBD entirely and also add more weight behind those discussed above. Thankfully, considerable research resources are currently dedicated to the same course. It will not take long before we see CBD based drugs following the path of FDA approved Epidiolex.

What do you use cannabidiol (CBD) for?

Cannabidiolwriter

Everything legal cannabis!