CBD first started gaining mainstream recognition when Charlotte Figi’s story hit the news. Charlotte, who sadly passed away earlier this year at the age of 13, was diagnosed with Dravet Syndrome when she was only three months old. This rare form of epilepsy is resistant to most drugs, which is why Charlotte’s parents sought out alternative options.
They were able to connect with the Stanley Brothers in Colorado. In 2011, the brothers bred cannabis with industrial hemp to create a low-THC, high-CBD strain they named Charlotte’s Web in her honor.
Before CBD, Charlotte was experiencing 300 grand mal seizures per week, with some lasting two hours at a time. She was confined to a wheelchair, unable to speak, and experiencing repeated cardiac arrests. Once she started taking CBD oil, her seizures dropped down to only two to three per month. Her story inspired and helped thousands of people and opened the door for medical cannabis legislation throughout the United States.
What is CBD?
CBD, or cannabidiol, is the second most abundant compound found in cannabis after THC. Unlike THC, it isn’t psychoactive, which makes it an ideal solution for children and people prone to addiction.
CBD is anxiolytic, anti-inflammatory, antiemetic, and antipsychotic. Studies suggest it has therapeutic value for a wide range of conditions, including epilepsy, chronic pain, anxiety, depression, neurodegenerative diseases, tumors, cancer, diabetes, addiction, high blood pressure, and heart disease, just to name a few. As more jurisdictions have legalized medical marijuana, more studies are being done on CBD and are sure to report more promising results as time goes on.
In a comprehensive review of 132 original studies, the safety of CBD is emphasized. CBD does not alter blood pressure, heart rate, or body temperature. Psychological and psychomotor functions, gastrointestinal transit, and food intake are not affected. Overall, chronic use and high doses of up to 1,500 mg per day are tolerated well by humans.
CBD and Your Brain
While THC interacts directly with the endocannabinoid system in our brains, CBD actually blocks THC from activating the CB1 receptor. This is why cannabis strains with high CBD levels are not as intoxicating as their low-CBD counterparts.
CBD has been shown to activate opioid, serotonin, and dopamine receptors in the brain. CBD’s relationship with these receptors could be the reason studies have shown CBD to be useful in treating drug addiction.
Opioid receptors are known for their role in pain regulation and are targeted by prescription painkillers such as morphine, heroin, and fentanyl. Dopamine receptors play an important role in regulating behavior and cognition, such as motivation and reward-seeking behavior. CBD’s ability to activate the serotonin 1A receptors can prove to be therapeutic for a wide range of disorders, including anxiety, depression, neuropathic pain, opioid dependence, nausea, vomiting, and schizophrenia.
Much of the current CBD research has been tested in animal studies and is prompting scientists to do further research in human trials. The following studies have shown a lot of promise for many debilitating conditions.
CBD and Epilepsy
Charlotte Figi’s success in using CBD to treat her epilepsy is backed up by science. Studies have repeatedly shown that CBD successfully reduces the frequency of seizures in medication-resistant populations.
A 2016 study gave 214 epilepsy patients a 2-5 mg dose of CBD in addition to their current medication and monitored them for 12 weeks. The doses were increased over the course of the study until the patients reached their own tolerance level, or a maximum dose of 25 mg/day. The results showed patients had 36.5 per cent fewer seizures per month. Overall, the study found CBD to be safe and effective for treating epilepsy, even for minors. This study was funded by GW Pharmaceuticals, who developed the drug Epidiolex, a prescription-grade CBD medication that was approved by the FDA in 2018.
Read also: Can Cannabis Treat Epilepsy?
CBD and Pain
Animal studies have provided evidence that CBD is helpful in treating multiple types of chronic pain. A 2018 study gave oral doses of CBD oil to dogs with osteoarthritis and found there was a significant decrease in their pain levels without any noticeable side effects.
Another study from the European Journal of Pain showed a substantial benefit to applying CBD topically in animals with arthritis, without any side effects.
Sativex, another cannabis-based drug from GW Pharmaceuticals, was approved for use in the United Kingdom in 2010 to treat neuropathic pain, multiple sclerosis, spasticity, and overactive bladder. Sativex is a nasal spray that delivers a dose of 2.7 mg THC and 2.5 mg CBD in each spray.
Anxiety and Depression
Some people may be able to manage their anxiety and depression with CBD instead of medication. Low serotonin levels are common in those suffering from anxiety and depression. CBD interacts with serotonin receptors and induces antidepressant effects similar to the drug imipramine, a tricyclic antidepressant.
A 2011 study examined the effects of CBD in people who suffer from social anxiety disorder. They gave participants a 400 mg oral dose of CBD or a placebo. Researchers found that participants who received the CBD had an overall reduction in anxiety levels.
A 2018 study gave 57 male participants a dose of CBD before undergoing a simulated public speaking test. They found that those that received a 300 mg dose had significantly reduced anxiety levels. The dose seemed to be important. Participants who received 150 mg and 600 mg did not see such dramatic results.
A 2019 study investigated whether CBD could induce rapid and sustained antidepressant-like effects in rodent populations after just one dose. They found that it did, in fact, have dramatic results, which may be related to rapid changes in synaptic plasticity. Their findings supported using CBD as a fast-acting antidepressant drug.
Read also: Top Five Strains High in CBD
In a 2018 review of the neurological benefits of phytocannabinoids, researchers highlighted their therapeutic value in treating malignant brain tumors, Alzheimer’s disease, Parkinson’s disease, multiple sclerosis, and strokes. Research in animal and human models show many therapeutic properties in brain function and protection through its effect on the endocannabinoid system and by influencing endogenous cannabinoids. According to their review, “CBD decreases the production of inflammatory cytokines, influences microglial cells to return to a ramified state, preserves cerebral circulation during ischemic events, and reduces vascular changes and neuroinflammation.”
Early models found that people with multiple sclerosis have fewer relapses when smoking cannabis. More recent models lend support to that finding by showing that stimulation of CB1 and CB2 receptors are beneficial against the inflammatory process.
In tests with CBD treatment in rats, the antioxidant mechanism of CBD has been shown to attenuate Parkinson’s-related dystonia, but not tremor.
In patients who have experienced strokes, CBD has potential as a protectant against cerebrovascular damage by decreasing blood pressure.
CBD has been shown to increase the brain’s adenosine levels by reducing adenosine reuptake, which is associated with neuroprotection and decreased inflammation after brain trauma.
Risks of CBD
Although most people don’t have any side effects when using CBD oil, it is possible for some people to experience depression, dizziness, hallucinations, and low blood pressure.
A more likely risk is a bad interaction between CBD oil and prescription drugs you may take. If you take a medication with a grapefruit warning, you should consult with your doctor before adding CBD oil to your regimen. Drugs with grapefruit warnings include antibiotics, antihistamines, anticancer medications, antiepileptic drugs, blood pressure medications, blood thinners, cholesterol medications, corticosteroids, erectile dysfunction medications, GI medications, heart rhythm medications, immunosuppressants, mood medications, pain medications, and prostate medications. If you can’t take CBD oil orally due to taking one of these medications, you should be able to use CBD oil topically without any negative side effects.
The reason CBD oil can potentially have negative reactions with these drugs is because CBD can inhibit your body’s ability to metabolize your other medications as quickly as it normally would, leading to increased levels of those medications in your bloodstream over time.
You will also want to be aware of potential contaminants in CBD products. Because there is a lack of regulation in CBD products, make sure to read labels and product reviews carefully. Choose products that have been lab-tested to avoid harmful contaminants.
How to Use CBD Oils
If you have consulted your doctor and think that CBD would be a good fit for your situation, there are a few different ways to use CBD oil. You can vape high-CBD cannabis oil, use it topically for pain, or ingest it orally by eating it in candy, taking it in a capsule or putting the oil under your tongue.
To determine your ideal dose, start small and work your way up until you find what works best for you. Studies have shown that too much or too little seems to negate the positive effects, and each person tends to have their own ideal dosage. This can depend on a person’s body weight, metabolism, and body chemistry. It can take up to 90 minutes to feel the effects if you are taking CBD orally, so be patient.
CBD has the potential to help treat a wide variety of ailments. If you think it may benefit you, check with your doctor and give it a try. You may find it can replace your other treatments and improve your health with little to no side effects.