What evidence is there of CBD’s health benefits?
Cannabidiol (CBD) is all the rage in the media these days. The health benefits of CBD are touted for everything from anxiety to epilepsy. In this article, we’ll explore the extent to which these claims have been investigated by scientists and medical professionals. First, let’s start with some background.
What is CBD?
After tetrahydrocannabinol (THC), CBD is the second most prevalent active ingredient of the cannabis plant. Like THC, CBD binds with receptors in the endocannabinoid system (ECS), within the brain and nervous system. The ECS serves an important role in regulating physiological and cognitive processes. Unlike THC, because it is not compatible with the exact same cannabinoid receptors, CBD does not have any psychoactive properties.
CBD can be derived from either hemp or marijuana, two species of the cannabis plant. Hemp-derived CBD contains lower levels of THC than marijuana-derived CBD, typically less than 0.3 percent, too small of an amount to cause a “high.”
The World Health Organization issued a report on CBD in December 2017, in which it stated: “In humans, CBD exhibits no effects indicative of any abuse or dependence potential…. To date, there is no evidence of public health related problems associated with the use of pure CBD.”
The evidence of CBD’s health benefits
Most claims about the health benefits of CBD remain anecdotal and require additional research. Some, however, have already been strongly established. Numerous studies have found that CBD is effective in treating some of the most devastating childhood epilepsy syndromes, such as Dravet syndrome and Lennox-Gastaut syndrome (LGS). Both Dravet syndrome and LGS are typically resistant to anti-seizure medications.
Videos of the positive effects of CBD on children with Dravet syndrome and LGS spread like wildfire on social media. In June, the Food and Drug Administration approved the first cannabis-derived medicine, Epidiolex, which contains CBD, for the two conditions.
Additional studies, according to Harvard Medical School, have suggested that CBD may be an effective treatment for both anxiety and insomnia. The studies show that CBD helps patients fall asleep and stay asleep.
Using an animal model, a European Journal of Pain study concluded that CBD may also be an effective treatment for certain types of chronic pain. The study found that topical CBD applied to the skin could help lower levels of pain and inflammation due to arthritis. An additional study demonstrated that CBD inhibits neuropathic pain, one of the “most difficult types of chronic pain to treat,” according to Harvard Medical School.
Although the evidence so far is promising, the scientific and medical communities seem to agree that more studies must be conducted to substantiate CBD as an effective treatment for pain control.