The hype around cannabis is quite daunting. It is nearly impossible to find a publication, in print or online, that doesn’t talk about some aspect of cannabis. You will find everything from the financial impact of the cannabis industry on our states and the nation to sometimes wild claims made about the cannabinoids, especially cannabidiol (CBD), generated by cannabis. So, what’s true and what’s hype?
We are going to focus on CBD derived from hemp in this discussion. Hemp and its byproducts were made legal by the US Agricultural Improvement Act of 2018 (referred to as the Farm Bill). With this change in status for hemp, the availability of hemp-based products became widespread, virtually overnight, throughout the United States. So, what are the benefits of using these hemp-based products?
To understand the benefits, you first need to understand where the benefits originate. The phytocannabinoids of the hemp plant (usually shortened to cannabinoids) interact directly with the body’s endocannabinoid system. The endocannabinoid system, discovered in the 1990s, is the body’s complex cell-signally system. Research into the endocannabinoid system has shown its influence on regulating a whole host of bodily functions. The diagram below shows some of the major areas and the associated functions impacted by the endocannabinoid system.
From: “Cannabinoid Receptors and the Endocannabinoid System: Signaling and Function in the Central Nervous System”, Zou and Kuma
Since the cannabinoids from the hemp plant directly interact with the body’s endocannabinoid system, they can impact those functions regulated by that system.
Let’s delve into what that means. First, most research into the benefits of cannabinoids is in its infancy. At the same time, that research is focused on areas that have plentiful anecdotal evidence of benefit. I do want to be clear that I am going to discuss the areas of research that are ongoing. I will also include some personal observations on the benefits of CBD after discussing the research areas.
While just one of many cannabinoids, CBD it is the predominant cannabinoid in most strains grown today. Research into CBD is focused in these areas (shown alphabetically).
NOTE: There is A LOT of research regarding CBD (and all of the cannabinoids) ongoing. There is no way to site it all. Those that I cite below are representative. There is also research into other avenues of efficacy for cannabis that are just too new to cite. Therefore, this is not an all-inclusive list. It does, however, show the potential for CBD. Hopefully, the scientific data will grow to support the anecdotal data.
In a review of studies performed prior to 2015, the authors state “Cannabidiol (CBD), the second most abundant component of cannabis, is thought to modulate various neuronal circuits involved in drug addiction.” While stating further study is required, the authors do state “A limited number of preclinical studies suggest that CBD may have therapeutic properties on opioid, cocaine, and psychostimulant addiction, and some preliminary data suggest that it may be beneficial in cannabis and tobacco addiction in humans.”
Published in The American Journal of Psychiatry, this article states “Acute CBD administration, in contrast to placebo, significantly reduced both craving and anxiety induced by the presentation of salient drug cues compared with neutral cues. CBD also showed significant protracted effects on these measures 7 days after the final short-term (3-day) CBD exposure. In addition, CBD reduced the drug cue–induced physiological measures of heart rate and salivary cortisol levels. There were no significant effects on cognition, and there were no serious adverse effects.”
2. Alzheimer’s Disease
A study published in Molecular Pharmacology points to CBD’s neuroprotective properties potential to allow Alzheimer’s patients to learn and remember.
An article published in the Journal of Alzheimer’s Disease discusses “Impairments in cognitive ability and widespread pathophysiological changes caused by neurotoxicity, neuroinflammation, oxidative damage, and altered cholesterol homeostasis are associated with Alzheimer's disease (AD). Cannabidiol (CBD) has been shown to reverse cognitive deficits of AD transgenic mice and to exert neuroprotective, anti-oxidative, and anti-inflammatory properties.” They further conclude “Our findings provide the first evidence that CBD may have potential as a preventative treatment for AD with a particular relevance for symptoms of social withdrawal and facial recognition.”
An article published in Behavior Pharmacology states “The phytocannabinoid cannabidiol (CBD) possesses neuroprotective, antioxidant and anti-inflammatory properties and reduces amyloid-β production and tau hyperphosphorylation in vitro. CBD has also been shown to be effective in vivo making the phytocannabinoid an interesting candidate for novel therapeutic interventions in AD, especially as it lacks psychoactive or cognition-impairing properties. CBD treatment would be in line with preventative, multimodal drug strategies targeting a combination of pathological symptoms, which might be ideal for AD therapy.”
A Queensland research chemist, Mark Blaskovich, presented his findings on CBD as an antibacterial at ASM Microbe 2019. He concluded that “Cannabidiol possesses surprisingly effective activity as an antibiotic, comparable to widely used antibiotics for Gram-positive infections such as vancomycin and daptomycin, but with retention of activity against bacteria that have become resistant to these drugs. Given cannabidiol’s documented anti-inflammatory effects, extensive safety data in humans, and potential for oral delivery, it is a promising new antibiotic. The combination of inherent antimicrobial activity and potential to reduce damage caused by the inflammatory response to infections is particularly attractive.”
Another article discusses CBD as an effective helper compound in fighting Gram-positive bacteria. The article observes that “the combination of CBD and BAC (bacitracin) is suggested to be a putative novel treatment in clinical settings for treatment of infections with antibiotic resistant Gram-positive bacteria.”
4. Anxiety and Sleeplessness
One study found evidence that CBD may change the way the brain’s receptors interact with serotonin and concludes that repeated treatment with CBD may induce anti-panic effects.
The National Cancer Society lists a number of benefits of using CBD to treat the symptoms of cancer, including “A small case series found that patients who inhaled Cannabis had improved mood, improved sense of well-being, and less anxiety. In another study, 74 patients newly diagnosed with head and neck cancer who were Cannabis users were matched to 74 nonusers. The Cannabis users had markedly lower anxiety or depression and less pain or discomfort than the nonusers. The Cannabis users were also less tired, had more appetite, and reported greater feelings of well-being.”
In an article in Neuropharmacology, the authors evaluate the effects of CBD on fear memories. They conclude “the present results suggest the CBD disrupts the consolidation of different fear memories via anandamide-mediated activation of DH CB1 and CB2 receptors.”
The National Cancer Institute lists the “potential benefits of medicinal Cannabis for people living with cancer include the following:
Antiemetic effects (anti-nausea)
An article published in the British Journal of Clinical Pharmacological states “Besides its beneficial effects in the treatment of pain and spasticity and other CNS pathologies, several reports demonstrated that CBD possesses antiproliferative, pro‐apoptotic effects and inhibits cancer cell migration, adhesion and invasion.” This article goes on to discuss CBD’s potential benefit in fighting breast cancer, glioma, leukemia/lymphoma, lung cancer, endocrine tumors, and colon cancer. “Interestingly, the anticancer effect of this compound seems to be selective for cancer cells, at least in vitro, since it does not affect normal cell lines. The efficacy of CBD is linked to its ability to target multiple cellular pathways that control tumourigenesis through the modulation of different intracellular signaling depending on the cancer type considered. The most common effect of CBD is the increase in ROS production that seems to be determinant for triggering its beneficial action in all the considered cancer cell types.”
One report referenced in a recent issue of Forbes discusses the studies of a pair of Canadian researchers. “After looking at the research done on cannabis and COVID by other scientists, they were able to determine that cannabis, a special strain in particular, could potentially block COVID-19 from entering a person’s body to begin with.”
Forbes also published an article on the potential benefit of CBD on Lung Inflammation brought on by COVID-19. In it, they state “researchers from the University of Nebraska and the Texas Biomedical Research Institute are recommending more research into how cannabis-derived CBD might help treat dangerous lung inflammation from the novel coronavirus. The authors detailed the evidence for how cannabis’ anti-inflammatory powers may help in a peer reviewed article in this month's issue of Brain, Behavior, and Immunity.”
One study published in the Journal of Dermatological Science concludes “Our results show that cannabinoids inhibit keratinocyte proliferation, and therefore support a potential role for cannabinoids in the treatment of psoriasis.”
Another study published in La Clinica Terepeutica concluded that “The topical administration of CBD ointment, without any THC, is a safe and effective non-invasive alternative for improving the quality of life in patients with some skin disorders, especially on inflammatory background.”
8. Heart Health and Blood Pressure
New research this year has indicated that CBD may be an effective, natural treatment for lowering high blood pressure. The study, published by the American Society for Clinical Investigation, states “One study revealed that using CBD oil reduced resting systolic blood pressure and stroke volume in subjects who were exposed to stress. Researchers concluded that the anxiety regulating properties of CBD were responsible for the decrease in blood pressure, which ultimately supported heart health. The anti-oxidant and anti-inflammatory properties in CBD oil can also help to prevent heart-related illnesses.”
9. Pain and Inflammation
An article in Current Pharmaceutical Biotechnology investigates the effectiveness of CBD when used as a topical application. The authors found a “reduction in intense pain, sharp pain, cold and itchy sensations” when study participants used a topical CBD versus a placebo. They conclude “Our findings demonstrate that the transdermal application of CBD oil can achieve significant improvement in pain and other disturbing sensations in patients with peripheral neuropathy. The treatment product was well tolerated and may provide a more effective alternative compared to other current therapies in the treatment of peripheral neuropathy.”
The authors of an article in Neurobiology of Disease state “our findings highlight the anti-inflammatory effects of CBD in this viral model of MS and demonstrate the significant therapeutic potential of this compound for the treatment of pathologies with an inflammatory component.”
Another article focuses on pain from arthritis. The authors conclude “These data indicate that topical CBD application has therapeutic potential for relief of arthritis pain-related behaviours and inflammation without evident side-effects.”
In an article in the British Journal of Pharmacology, the authors look at the effects of CBD (combined with trace amounts of THC) on chemotherapy-induced neuropathic pain. They conclude “CBD may be potent and effective at preventing the development of chemotherapy-induced peripheral neuropathy, and its clinical use may be enhanced by co-administration of low doses of THC. These treatment strategies would increase the therapeutic window of cannabis-based pharmacotherapies.”
10. Psychiatric Disorders
This article discusses the various means in which CBD helps to lessen the effects of psychiatric disorders. CBD’s potential benefits include antidepressant effects, anti-compulsive effects, and lessening of aversive memories.
11. Seizure Control
A study published in Molecules reviews the dozens of clinical trials that have concluded and/or are in progress to quantify the effectiveness of CBD in controlling seizures.
FDA approved the prescription drug Epidiolex which is a prescription form of CBD used to treat seizures associated with Lennox-Gastaut syndrome (LGS) and Dravet syndrome in patients 2 years of age and older.
Another article published in the Journal of Epilepsy Research documents the use of cannabis and its byproducts, including CBD, over four millennia. The author's closing is especially encouraging. “These are exciting times for research in cannabinoids. After almost four millennia of their documented medical use in the treatment of seizure disorders, we are very close to obtaining conclusive evidence of their efficacy in some severe epilepsy syndromes. The era of evidence-based prescription of a cannabis product is within our sight.”
Exciting times indeed!
NOTE: I have cited (and quote from) research into cannabinoids. It’s important to understand the potential benefits of CBD and the other cannabinoids. Please review the articles referenced here (or the abstracts of the articles). Make your own judgment.
1. I suffered from a condition called Morton’s Neuroma. One of the nerves that runs between the bones leading to the toes in my foot had swelled. It felt like I was always walking with a large rock in my shoe. I had been to the doctor to treat the condition and had progressed through the steps up to the point of surgery. Before making that decision, I decided to start using a tincture daily and a topical directly on the affected area. Within 3 weeks, the swelling had decreased, and I no longer feel as though there is a rock in my shoe. Surgery averted!
2. I use a couple of gummies at night when I have trouble sleeping. The added boost of cannabinoids allows me to “turn off my brain” and get to sleep.
I have also talked to so many people since entering this industry and heard their stories. The results, at times, seem unbelievable. Pain relief, anxiety relief, help sleeping… perhaps, their stories will be material for a later post! I will tackle the other cannabinoids in a subsequent post (or posts – there is so much research right now, it's hard to narrow the scope, even when discussing just one cannabinoid!). Next up will be cannabigerol (CBG) - one of the new stars of the cannabinoid universe.
If you have questions, please leave a comment, or contact us. We are happy to help!
Stay safe and healthy!