Cannabidiol is a well-known natural remedy for a variety of ailments.
CBD, or cannabidiol, is one of over 100 chemical compounds known as cannabinoids found in the cannabis plant, Cannabis sativa (1).
Tetrahydrocannabinol (THC) is the main psychoactive cannabinoid found in cannabis, which causes the high sensation that is commonly associated with cannabis. CBD, unlike THC, is not psychoactive.
Because of this, CBD is an appealing option for those seeking relief from pain and other symptoms without the mind-altering effects of cannabis or the other side effects associated with some pharmaceutical drugs.
CBD oil is created by extracting CBD from the cannabis plant and diluting it with a carrier oil such as coconut or hemp seed oil. CBD can be found in a variety of products, including dietary supplements, bath soaks, drinks, and food, both online and in stores.
It's gaining traction in the health and wellness world, with some scientific studies finding that it can help with symptoms of conditions like chronic pain and anxiety. Is it, however, the best option for you?
This article discusses the six evidence-based health benefits of CBD, as well as potential side effects and safety concerns associated with CBD products.
Attention: Is CBD legal to use?
CBD products derived from hemp (with less than 0.3 percent THC) are legal on the federal level but remain illegal under some state laws.
CBD products derived from cannabis are illegal at the federal level but are legal in some states.
Check the laws of your state as well as the laws of any country you visit. Also, keep in mind that non-prescription CBD products are not FDA-approved and may be labelled incorrectly.
1. May alleviate pain
Since 2900 B.C., cannabis has been used to treat pain (2).
Scientists have recently discovered that certain components of cannabis, including CBD, are responsible for its pain-relieving properties.
The endocannabinoid system is a specialised system in the human body that regulates a variety of functions such as sleep, appetite, pain sensation, and immune system response (3).
Endocannabinoids are neurotransmitters produced by the body that bind to cannabinoid receptors in the nervous system.
CBD has been shown in studies to help reduce chronic pain by influencing endocannabinoid receptor activity, decreasing inflammation, and interacting with neurotransmitters (4).
Some research suggests that when used alone, CBD may be effective for certain types of pain, such as nerve pain and back pain. It appears to be most effective when combined with THC (5, 6).
Several human studies have found that combining CBD and THC is effective in treating pain associated with MS and arthritis.
Sativex (nabiximols), an oral spray containing a 1:1 mixture of THC and CBD, is approved in several countries to treat pain associated with MS.
A study involving 47 people with MS looked at the effects of taking Sativex for a month. The participants' pain, walking ability, and muscle spasms all improved (7).
However, because the study lacked a control group, placebo effects cannot be ruled out (7).
According to one review, Sativex may help people with MS-related neuropathic pain and chronic severe neuropathic pain. The review also discovered that Sativex may help relieve anxiety and stress, both of which are major contributors to chronic pain (8).
Furthermore, some research suggests that CBD may help with the symptoms of rheumatic diseases like fibromyalgia.
A survey of 2,701 people with fibromyalgia found that those who used CBD for pain relief reported a slight to significant improvement in symptoms (9).
Furthermore, preclinical evidence from rodent studies suggests that CBD may be beneficial for arthritis pain and inflammation, but human studies are lacking (10).
Although researchers are cautiously optimistic that CBD may be useful in the treatment of certain types of pain, particularly when combined with THC, more high-quality studies are needed to determine its efficacy in pain management.
CBD, particularly when combined with THC, may be effective in reducing pain associated with conditions such as MS and fibromyalgia. More research is needed to investigate its potential application in pain management.
2. Could alleviate symptoms associated with some mental health disorders
Anxiety disorders and other mental health disorders can have serious consequences for one's overall health and well-being.
Pharmaceutical drugs are frequently used to treat mental health disorders, which can result in drowsiness, agitation, insomnia, sexual dysfunction, and headaches (11).
Furthermore, medications such as benzodiazepines have the potential for addiction and may result in substance use disorder.
CBD oil has shown promise as a treatment for some mental health disorders, such as anxiety disorders, which has piqued the interest of many people who suffer from these conditions.
In a Brazilian study, 57 men were given either oral CBD or a placebo 90 minutes before a simulated public speaking test. The researchers discovered that a 300-mg dose of CBD reduced anxiety significantly during the test (12).
There was little to no effect reported in those who took the placebo, a 150-mg CBD dose, or a 600-mg CBD dose (12).
CBD oil has been shown to be effective in treating insomnia and anxiety in children suffering from post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD), a type of anxiety disorder (13).
A small 2019 study also discovered that CBD was effective for reducing PTSD-related symptoms in adults, including nightmares (14).
Several other studies have discovered that CBD may be beneficial for people suffering from social anxiety and other anxiety-related disorders (15).
Despite the fact that some people report that CBD alleviates depression symptoms, human evidence of CBD's potential antidepressant abilities is currently lacking (15).
Several studies, however, suggest that it may help reduce depressive symptoms in people with cannabis use disorders (15).
CBD is currently being studied for its effects on anxiety and depression symptoms.
In fact, a study examining the potential efficacy of 150–300 mg of CBD per day for 12 weeks on anxiety and depression symptoms in people with bipolar disorder is set to be completed in April 2022. (15).
CBD use has been shown to alleviate some symptoms associated with anxiety disorders. CBD is currently being studied by researchers for its potential use in the treatment of other mental health disorders.
3. May help with certain cancer symptoms
CBD may help alleviate some cancer-related symptoms and side effects, such as nausea, vomiting, and pain.
An older study examined the effects of CBD and THC in 177 people suffering from cancer-related pain who had not found relief from pain medication.
Those who received an extract containing both compounds reported significantly less pain than those who received only THC extract (16).
A review of five studies found some evidence that Sativex may help some people with cancer-related pain (17).
However, research on the effects of cannabis and cannabinoids like CBD on cancer-related nausea, pain, and decreased appetite has yielded conflicting results (18).
Although CBD may be beneficial for some cancer patients, more research is required to determine whether CBD should be used more frequently in cancer symptom management.
If you have cancer and want to use CBD or other cannabis-derived products, you should talk to your doctor first. These products may not be suitable, safe, or effective for all cancer patients.
While CBD may help some people with cancer-related symptoms, research findings are currently mixed, and more research is needed to determine its effectiveness and safety.
4. It is possible that it has neuroprotective properties.
CBD's ability to act on the endocannabinoid system and other brain-signalling systems, according to researchers, may provide benefits for those suffering from neurological disorders.
Indeed, one of the most researched CBD applications is in the treatment of neurological disorders such as epilepsy and multiple sclerosis. Even though research in this area is still in its early stages, several studies have yielded promising results.
Sativex has been shown to be a safe and effective treatment for MS-related muscle spasticity.
It reduced spasms in 75% of 276 people with MS who were experiencing medication-resistant muscle spasticity (19).
In another study, 214 people with severe epilepsy were given 0.9–2.3 grammes of CBD oil per pound (2–5 grammes per kg) of body weight. Their seizures were reduced by 36.5 percent on average (20).
Another study discovered that CBD oil, when compared to a placebo, significantly reduced seizure activity in children with Dravet syndrome, a complex childhood epilepsy disorder (21).
However, some participants in both studies experienced adverse reactions to CBD treatment, such as convulsions, fever, and fatigue.
CBD has also been studied for its potential efficacy in treating a variety of other neurological diseases.
Several studies, for example, have found that CBD treatment may improve quality of life and sleep quality in people with Parkinson's disease (22).
However, the researchers point out that there is currently a scarcity of high-quality data. That is, there is insufficient evidence to support the use of CBD in the clinical treatment of Parkinson's disease (22).
However, the FDA has approved one CBD product for the treatment of several seizure disorders.
The FDA approved Epidiolex, a prescription cannabidiol product, in 2018 for the treatment of seizures associated with two severe forms of epilepsy, Lennox-Gastaut syndrome and Dravet syndrome.
Epidiolex was approved by the FDA in 2020 to treat seizures caused by tuberous sclerosis complex, a rare genetic disease that causes benign tumours to grow in the brain and other areas of the body (23).
CBD may be useful in treating seizures caused by a variety of medical conditions. Epidiolex, a prescription CBD product, has been approved by the FDA to treat seizures caused by rare seizure conditions such as Dravet syndrome.
5. May be beneficial to heart health
Some research has linked CBD to a variety of heart and circulatory system benefits, including the ability to lower high blood pressure.
High blood pressure has been linked to an increased risk of a variety of health problems, including stroke, heart attack, and metabolic syndrome (24).
CBD appears to be beneficial for people with high blood pressure, according to research.
In a small study, nine healthy men were given 600 mg of CBD oil. When compared to a placebo, the CBD treatment reduced resting blood pressure (25).
The men also participated in stress tests, which normally raise blood pressure, in the same study. Surprisingly, a single dose of CBD caused the men to have a lower blood pressure increase than usual in response to these tests (25).
Another study involving 26 healthy men discovered that taking 600 mg of CBD for 7 days resulted in significant reductions in blood pressure in the short term when compared to a placebo group. The effect, however, was lost after 7 days (26).
After repeated doses, the CBD group had lower blood pressure levels in response to stress than the placebo group.
The researchers also discovered that when compared to the placebo group, the CBD group had reduced arterial stiffness and improved blood flow through their arteries after repeated CBD dosing (26).
Overall, these findings are encouraging, but more research into the potential benefits of CBD treatment on heart health is needed.
While more human research is needed, CBD may benefit heart health in a variety of ways, including lowering blood pressure and improving artery function.
Other potential advantages
CBD has been studied for its role in treating a variety of health issues in addition to those listed above.
Though more research is required, CBD is thought to have the following health benefits:
- Antipsychotic properties. CBD may help people with schizophrenia and other mental health conditions by reducing psychotic symptoms, according to research (27).
- Treatment for substance abuse. CBD may be beneficial in treating anxiety and depression in people who are addicted to drugs such as heroin (28, 29).
- Glioblastoma patients may have their lives extended. Recent research suggests that combining CBD and THC may help some people with an aggressive form of cancer called glioblastoma live longer lives, but research is limited (30).
- Potentially improved sleep. Some studies suggest that CBD may help people with certain sleep disorders sleep better, but more research is needed (31, 32).
SUMMARY Some research suggests that CBD may aid in the treatment of substance abuse disorders, mental health disorders, and certain types of cancer. However, more human research is needed to learn more about these potential effects.
CBD products' potential side effects
Though CBD is generally well-tolerated and considered safe, some people may experience negative side effects.
The following side effects have been reported in studies (33, 34):
- appetite and weight changes
In childhood epilepsy studies, other side effects such as abnormal liver function test results, drowsiness, sedation, and pneumonia have been reported. However, these effects could be caused by CBD interacting with other medications, such as clobazam (34).
CBD does, in fact, interact with a variety of medications, including pain relievers, antidepressants, seizure medications, and diabetes medications. Discuss CBD oil with a healthcare professional before using it to ensure safety and avoid potentially harmful interactions (35, 36).
It's also worth noting that the market is currently oversaturated with CBD products, many of which are of poor quality.
CBD is added to foods, beverages, dietary supplements, and body care products, and these products are frequently marketed as a way to alleviate stress, pain, and sleep problems.
This is not to say that you should incorporate any of these foods into your diet or wellness routine.
Although some evidence suggests that CBD may be beneficial for certain aspects of health, dosing in research studies varies greatly. It is difficult to determine which dose is best for treating specific health problems.
Furthermore, many products contain a combination of ingredients, not just CBD. Dietary supplements containing CBD and a blend of herbal ingredients, for example, may not be suitable for everyone, as many herbs have the potential to interact with commonly prescribed medications.
Before using a CBD product, consult with a healthcare professional about appropriate dosing and any other concerns you may have.
If you do decide to use a CBD product, make sure it has been tested for quality and purity by a third party.
On their websites, NuLeaf Naturals and Bluebird Botanicals sell CBD products that have been tested by accredited third-party laboratories and have batch reports.
Although CBD is generally thought to be safe, it can cause diarrhoea and fatigue in some people. It may also interact with certain medications, resulting in potentially harmful side effects.
CBD oil has been studied for its potential role in alleviating the symptoms of a variety of common health conditions, including anxiety and neurological disorders. Furthermore, it may benefit heart health and aid in the relief of certain types of pain.
Keep in mind that some of these health benefits are associated with the use of CBD in conjunction with THC, rather than CBD alone.
CBD research into the effects on specific conditions is ongoing, and there is still much to learn about the potential uses of CBD.
If you want to try CBD to manage a health condition or improve your overall health, consult with a healthcare professional first. They can advise you on whether adding a CBD product to your routine is appropriate and assist you in selecting the best product.
Even though CBD is generally considered safe for most people, you should consult with a healthcare professional before incorporating any CBD products into your routine, especially if you are taking any medications.