What is CBD? Uses, Health Benefits and What the Experts Say
CBD, or cannabidiol, is one of over a hundred cannabinoids in hemp and cannabis plants. The other well known cannabinoid in cannabis is tetrahydrocannabinol (THC), which is the active ingredient that causes a “high” when users consume cannabis products that have THC.
The psychoactive effects of THC do not have an effect when people use legal CBD cannabis products, which must have less than 0.2% THC. CBD oil and other CBD products are cannabis-derived products that come from industrial hemp.
It is grown for its fibers that can be used to make cloth, paper and other products. Industrial hemp has a low amount of THC but a high amount of CBD, which is perfect for the production of CBD extracts. Cannabidiol has been reported to have many potential health benefits with few negative side effects.
What is CBD used for?
A Gallup poll conducted in the United States shows that 14% of Americans are using CBD products. 40% of the CBD users want to manage chronic pain, 20% are using it to manage anxiety and 11% of users are fighting sleep problems.
CBD products are more well known and more used among younger groups of people and they are more commonly used in the Western United States. The use of CBD products is spreading, probably due to the many health benefits.
The health benefits of taking CBD
CBD interacts with our endocannabinoid system. The endocannabinoid system is a biological system in our bodies that uses neurotransmitters and receptors in our nervous system to regulate our appetite, sleep, mood, pain and more.
Our bodies produce endocannabinoids, substances similar to the cannabinoids found in cannabis plants. Because CBD interacts with the nervous system through the endocannabinoid system, it can have an effect on the regulation of a broad range of physical and emotional responses.
There are a number of conditions with serious symptoms that are positively affected by the use of CBD.
It could help epilepsy patients
Epilepsy is perhaps the most cited example of a chronic condition that is positively impacted by the consumption of CBD.
In particular, CBD can be helpful for two forms of epilepsy that affect children : Lennox Gastaut Syndrome and Dravet Syndrome. Lennox Gastaut Syndrome begins in childhood and usually continues into adulthood, and there is a 5% mortality rate in childhood cases.
The patients that have Lennox Gastaut Syndrome have daily seizures that are hard to control using typical seizure medications. Dravet Syndrome usually begins during the first year of life and is triggered by long periods of intense fevers.
Patients of both conditions also have cognitive impairments. Clinical trials of CBD have shown that the cannabis extract can significantly lower the number of convulsive seizures that children with epileptic conditions experience.
It could improve Mental Health
Though researchers don’t know the exact way CBD affects receptors in the brain, initial study shows that it might change serotonin signals.
Serotonin is a neurotransmitter, and low levels of serotonin have been linked to depression, anxiety, bi-polar disorder and other mood disorders.
CBD has been shown to lower general anxiety symptoms in rats. In studies on humans, there is evidence that CBD can help with social anxiety, insomnia, and PTSD symptoms.
In addition, there is some evidence that CBD might act as an antipsychotic and could be helpful in treating patients with conditions such as schizophrenia. CBD seems to take effect faster than most psychiatric medications that help stabilize mood and anxiety, and has a lasting effect.
It could lessen or delay neurodegenerative diseases
The symptoms of Alzheimer’s disease, Parkinson’s disease, Huntington’s disease and other neurodegenerative diseases can potentially be lessened or delayed with the use of CBD products.
These diseases are caused by the loss of neurons in different parts of the nervous system. The progressive nature of these diseases – the fact that they get worse over time – seems to be linked to inflammation.
It makes sense then to use an anti-inflammatory treatment strategy in the early stages of the disease to help slow its progression, and CBD is a quick acting and long lasting substance that has the potential to help.
Another study showed that both anxiety and tremors were lessened with the use of CBD in patients over the age of 60 who had Parkinson’s disease.
It could assist cancer treatment
While CBD oil can’t cure cancer, it may help slow tumor growth or reduce tumor size and it can help to relieve some of the side effects from cancer treatments such as chemotherapy.
Chemotherapy can make patients nauseous, lessen appetite, cause vomiting and neuropathic pain. CBD can be an effective complementary treatment to help with these negative side effects.
It could be a treatment for chronic pain
CBD also is touted for its potential as a treatment for chronic pain for people with arthritis, multiple sclerosis or with chronic pain from injury.
CBD is of particular interest because it has little to no potential for addiction or abuse, contrary to many of the most widely prescribed pain medications.
In the United States, the FDA (Food and Drug Administration) have approved a limited number of cannabis-derived medications that are only available with a prescription from a medical doctor.
While there aren’t any FDA approved CBD products available without a prescription right now, they are currently researching the potential health benefits and risks involved in using CBD and other cannabis-derived products.
In addition, the DEA (Drug Enforcement Administration) has significantly increased the number of registered researchers and growers for federally funded cannabis research.
The WHO (World Health Organization) has released their research on CBD (PDF) that indicates that beyond not being addictive, CBD has no serious side effects and is well-tolerated in both humans and animals.
Their initial results confirm the health benefits for epilepsy patients and show promise for many other illnesses or symptoms including psychosis, Alzheimer’s disease, Parkinson’s disease, cancer and others.
While some countries have changed their laws to allow the medicinal use of CBD oil and other CBD products, the United States Drug Enforcement Administration has kept CBD categorized as a Schedule 1 substance; a substance with a high probability for abuse and addiction.
Because there are a number of CBD and hemp products on the market now that do not have FDA approval, the quality of these products is not controlled and has the potential to be at risk of contamination from other active ingredients that could actually be harmful.
Always consult with your primary care physician before using any supplement or herbal remedy, because they can interact with medications your doctor has prescribed.