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The benefits of CBD oil are only just being explored. It appears to be a remarkably useful chemical for a very wide range of applications. One thing is for sure, the CBD effects talked about here will only be some of the benefits people 10 years from now will know about.
In order to properly understand CBD effects, it helps to know about how it works. Nobody really knows, but there is enough evidence about how cannabinoids work that we can draw a fairly detailed picture of what CBD does in the human body. The lack of good data is very disappointing to many people who want a sound scientific basis for the things that they put in their bodies, and there is a long and distressing story surrounding the prohibition of cannabis and CBD. Millions of people died, a trillion dollars was spent, and now they are being legalized. That is a story for another time, however, this article will talk about CBD effects and how it benefits you.
Crucial to every CBD benefit is the endocannabinoid system (ECS). A vast array of cannabinoid receptors and agonists that are spread throughout the entire body, from the depths of the central nervous system to the very tips of the fingers. The ECS is an evolutionarily ancient system that has influence in many bodily functions, from the mood you are into the amount of glucose in your bloodstream, from how your personality formed to homeostasis (keeping your body working properly).
It is absolutely vital to the proper functioning of the body. The way it communicates and interacts is through cannabinoids, which act like regulators or neurotransmitters, passing signals or changing how signals are passed. If it is disrupted, the complications can be as varied as diabetes, heart disease, or irritable bowel syndrome. If you stop it working, you die.
Cannabis is full of cannabinoids. There are over 100 that have been isolated in the plant. At the time of writing, only a few have been properly investigated, and even then the knowledge of their effects is limited. Delta-9 tetrahydrocannabinol (THC) and cannabidiol (CBD) are two of the best known. THC because it is the main psychoactive ingredient in cannabis and millions of people have had their lives ruined for possessing or selling it. CBD because it has been (mistakenly) equated with THC, even though it has no psychoactive effects and a lot of beneficial properties.
Studying the endocannabinoid system has lagged behind the investigation into other parts of the nervous system partly because obtaining and studying cannabinoids, even for research, has been extremely difficult due to the illegality of cannabis.
At this point, you might be thinking that adding cannabinoids into this delicate system would be a bad idea. And to some extent you would be right, putting too many it will make you ill, but small quantities appear to help with some things.
How CBD affects the ECS is complicated. Cannabidiol is “pleiotropic”, meaning it has many different ways of interacting with the ECS. There have been over 65 identified so far and there will almost certainly be more. This very broad and plural way of interacting with the body makes it both very useful for many different things, but also very hard to study properly. As the complexity of the interaction increases, so too does the difficulty in understanding how it works. With so many different molecular targets, CBD is going to be hard to pin down.
The CB1 and CB2 receptors that are most well studied in the ECS are not actually targeted by CBD very much. It looks like cannabidiol modulates different receptors and ion channels, changing how they interact and behave. This results in the CBD effects that can be observed.
It is clear at this point that much more research needs to be done. A chemical like CBD that can have so many different ways of interacting with the brain has enormous potential not only for therapies but for understanding the processes of the brain.
Safety of CBD
The CBD effects might be good, but is it safe? The current scientific literature shows that CBD is a highly tolerable drug, even in high doses. The body has an effective way of digesting CBD, so it does not hang around causing ill effects. There are few side effects, but when they do occur they can include diarrhoea, nausea, a dry mouth, and weight change. Side effects like this are rare (usually less than 10% of people feel any ill effects from CBD) and usually go away when a patient gets used to the drug.
Long-term safety of CBD as an isolate has not been established, but the safety record of the marijuana plant from which CBD is isolated is well known. There are few long-term effects of marijuana use, but they can include impaired memory, cognitive difficulties, depression, and triggers for psychosis and schizophrenia. These effects are very rare, and it is not clear how involved CBD is with these problems. According to a recent review of the safety and side effects of cannabinol, the “the often described favourable safety profile of CBD in humans was confirmed and extended by the reviewed research”.
CBD seems to work more effectively in some cases when it is combined with THC. Unlike THC, CBD has no psychoactive effects. THC and CBD appear to regulate each other. There are over 100 other cannabinoids in the cannabis plant which have not been so well studied, so the combined effects and possibilities these combinations present is exciting for more precise and effective therapies.
CBD Effects – What are They?
CBD is being explored for its anxiolytic effects, or the ability to reduce the severity of anxiety. The most commonly prescribed antidepressants for anxiety are selective serotonin reuptake inhibitors, SSRIs, which increase the amount of serotonin in synapses, reducing the threshold for a signal to pass through and somehow resulting in people feeling less anxious. This seems to involve the 5-HT1A serotonin receptor, and CBD interacts with this receptor to produce antidepressant and anxiolytic effects. At the moment this is still being properly studied, but other clinical trials have shown a clear mood stabilizing effect from CBD.
The cannabinoid system is intimately involved in fear response learning, and research is being directed into helping activate this system to reprogram the fear response in people and reduce their anxiety.
As well as treating anxiety, CBD has antidepressant effects. Depression and anxiety go hand in hand a lot of the time, and the mechanism for CBD’s antidepressant effects seems to be the same as for anxiety, but this is far from clear at the moment. What is clear is that CBD is somewhat effective for some people with depression and because of the lack of side effects, is a much more tolerable choice for treating depression for some people.
Migraines are very common and have potentially lifestyle, career, and relationship ruining effects. Many of the drugs used to relieve them are not safe in the long run and can have many side effects that make them intolerable to some people. Full spectrum cannabis was tested on a group of migraine sufferers, almost half of whom reported that the frequency of their migraine attacks was reduced by at least 50%. Most reported that the drug was easier to take and had fewer side effects than other drugs. These are preliminary studies but they indicate that cannabis, and potentially CBD on its own, is one of the more tolerable and successful migraine drugs available.
Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD)
The role of the ECS in PTSD has been explored for some time. The ECS appears to be an important factor in mood regulation and basic psychological and physiological responses to stress and trauma. The circuits that are involved with instincts like fear. Current therapies for PTSD include “fear extinction”, or the reassociation of memories that produce fear responses. One study that investigated the role of cannabinoids (not just CBD) in the fear circuits of the brain found that “the findings suggest that the interaction between the cannabinoid and glucocorticoid systems is crucial in the modulation of emotional trauma.”. Adding cannabinoids into the brain with CBD or cannabis could be a way of helping the brain to find alternative connections and re-associate memories. Needless to say, it is a complex issue.
By far one of the most exciting CBD effects is the way that it can help some forms of previously untreatable epilepsy . It has been proven safe to use but it has yet to be licensed in countries like the UK. There were some small side effects, including diarrhoea and tiredness, but people who completed the study found an average of a 54% decrease in seizure frequency. It was only a small study, and more are being carried out at the moment.
There have been reports of children suffering from 80+ seizures a day, with each seizure being potentially brain-damaging or fatal, to being seizure free under the influence of CBD. This is largely anecdotal evidence, but it is clearly making a big difference in many epileptics lives.
CBD is an effective anti-inflammatory and has sebostatic effects, reducing the amount of sebum (skin oil) your skin produces. During puberty, the body is flooded with hormones that cause the production of sebum to increase. Sebum normally helps clean the skin and distribute nutrients, but when there is too much of it, it can cause pores to become blocked and filled with dead skin cells, perfect conditions for acne bacteria.
Working as both an anti-inflammatory and a sebum production inhibitor, CBD appears to be one of the more effective non-antibiotic treatments for acne. There is frustratingly little proper scientific evidence for its effectiveness on a large scale, but it does look hopeful from what we know.
Receptors called PPARs (peroxisome proliferator activated receptors) are involved in the spread of some forms of cancer cells, including lung cancer, one of the least-survivable forms of cancer. Initial studies have indicated that CBD can activate these receptors and has a demonstrable effect on cancer metastasis in the lab, reducing their spread and even inducing regression. More study is needed, but it is a hopeful sign.
The same PPARs that CBD activates to stop the spread of cancer are involved in Alzheimer’s disease. When PPARs are activated, they seem to help the Tau proteins that cause Alzheimer’s break down.
Parkinson’s Disease and Multiple Sclerosis
Neurodegenerative disorders like Parkinson’s and MS are currently incurable, but many people report that using cannabis or CBD can help reduce tremors and muscle spasticity, as well as helping them relax. Studies have backed this up, though in some CBD appears to be no more effective than a placebo. Many neurodegenerative diseases are related to the endocannabinoid system and using ECS agonists could be a good way of treating them.
CBD appears to be a mildly effective analgesic. It can reduce chronic neurological pain particularly well and is used by some people for herpes symptom reduction. The way CBD reduces pain appears to come from its strong anti-inflammatory effects on neurons. Reducing inflammation allows them to function more normally and reduce their sensitivity.
There is promising evidence showing that CBD effects can help reduce the severity of head injuries in sports players and soldiers. Early-Onset dementia caused by chronic head injuries is a massive problem, leading to violence and early deaths by drug abuse or suicide. CBD could be one of the ways of reducing this risk.
The CBD effects listed here are only some of the effects people believe it to have. These are the ones supported by at least some scientific evidence. Before you choose to use CBD, you should talk to your doctor about how CBD effects could be helpful to you.
The evidence is far from complete. Most of the studies are animal studies. It is therefore advised that the reader proceeds with caution, reads as much about their condition and the possible effects of cannabinoids on their body, and engages with treatment only in consultation with their doctor before trying any CBD product. The risks are small but they are present. It is legal in some states in the United States but not at a federal level.