Unfortunately, it’s not always easy to determine what’s true and what isn’t on the internet. In the natural health scene, most people have good intentions but sometimes go overboard when stating the therapeutic benefits of plants (like cannabis). This can be due to confirmation bias, which breeds an “it must work because it worked for me” mentality.
Cannabidiol (CBD) is a non-psychoactive cannabinoid creating plenty of noise right now. The cannabis compound is claimed to have a wide range of medicinal properties which can help us both physically and mentally.
While it’s perfectly possible and even likely that CBD does boast many of these benefits as a regulator of the endocannabinoid system (ECS), high barriers to cannabis research over recent decades has restricted the progress of researchers.
However, as medical cannabis – and especially CBD – becomes more accepted, there is more potential than ever for valuable cannabinoid research. Studies into CBD’s effects on the body are now flooding in, rather than just trickling in.
Here are five science-supported therapeutic properties of CBD.
1) CBD is Anti-Inflammatory
Inflammation is a problem for many, because of the immune system’s volatility.
Furthermore, regulating immune system response is notoriously difficult, and while there are drugs that successfully combat inflammation (e.g., NSAIDs), these can cause other problems, such as stomach pains and ulcers.
Hence, the demand for a more precise anti-inflammatory that doesn’t cause nasty side effects is high.
Studies have shown that CBD can do this by influencing the CB2 receptors in the ECS. These receptors are present on white blood cells, which help to protect from infections and invaders. CB1 receptors are sometimes found on these cells, albeit in lower quantities. Cannabinoid receptors help to regulate the release of pro-inflammatory proteins called cytokines.
However, CBD is a CB2 receptor antagonist and therefore does not have a direct immunomodulatory function.
In 2018, the peer-reviewed Journal of Pharmacology and Experimental Therapeutics published a study showing that CBD elevates levels of anandamide. This endocannabinoid is a partial agonist of the CB2 receptor. CBD may also increase concentrations of another endocannabinoid, 2-Arachidonoylglycerol (2-AG), which is a full agonist of the receptor.
The anti-inflammatory properties of CBD products may help with the treatment of inflammatory bowel disease (IBD), acne, rheumatoid arthritis and more.
2) CBD Reduces Anxiety
The World Health Organization estimates that 3.6 percent of the global population is affected by anxiety, a mental health disorder which causes worry, fear, and general uneasiness. Anxiety is a natural reaction when faced with a pressure situation, like a job interview, but some suffer to such an extent that it affects them from living a good quality of life.
Worst-case scenario thinking is typical among anxiety patients, and these negative thought processes can make somebody feel like they are living in a psychological prison.
However, modern science has shown us that anxiety is not all in the head and the result of physical changes in the brain. Feelings of anxiety can arise when neuronal circuity in the amygdala, a region of the brain responsible for emotional processing becomes hyperactive.
This excitation, and therefore anxiety, can be reduced by promoting gamma-Aminobutyric acid (GABA), an inhibitory neurotransmitter.
In 2017, a study revealed that CBD and 2-AG are positive allosteric modulators of GABAA receptors. Increasing the binding affinity of these receptors allows for more GABA to become active in the brain, which explains CBD’s anxiolytic properties.
Anxiety patients are best-served by medicine which works quickly to suppress panic attacks – CBD vape oil and e-liquid offers the fastest delivery of all cannabis-based products.
3) CBD Improves Memory In Long-Term Cannabis Users
Heavy cannabis use has been linked to long-term memory impairment. The increase in cases documenting this effect is likely a result of the loss of balance between CBD and THC in cannabis strains, as recreational growers attempt to enhance the psychoactive effects.
The impact of this on the cannabinoid profile of a strain is not just an increase in THC levels, but a decline in CBD.
While this can have a detrimental effect on memory, a 2018 study featured in Cannabis and Cannabinoid Research showed that CBD could reverse damage to the hippocampus caused by long-term exposure to THC.
The hippocampus, which is situated in the temporal lobe and makes up part of the limbic system is associated with memory, motivation, and emotion.
The study concluded that prolonged CBD treatment could restore volume loss in the hippocampus, although cautioned that a more extensive, placebo-controlled trial would be needed to confirm this effect. However, the findings did back up earlier research which showed CBD and cannabichromene (CBC), another non-psychoactive cannabinoid, to stimulate hippocampal neurogenesis.
Beyond treating hippocampal damage due to extended cannabis use, CBD may also help to treat Alzheimer’s, a neurodegenerative disease that causes memory loss.
4) CBD Has Anti-Depressant Effects
Depression is a complex mood disorder, and not everybody is affected in the same way. This can make it difficult to treat, as has become apparent with selective serotonin reuptake inhibitors (SSRIs), the most commonly prescribed class of antidepressants.
Depressive symptoms are often characterized as “chemical imbalance,” although we now know this to be an over-simplification.
We know that CBD can boost anandamide levels, a chemical with profound antidepressant properties, which are realized when the endocannabinoid binds with the CB1 receptor. Exercise also increases anandamide, which is why we tend to feel great after working out.
CBD is also an agonist of the 5-HT1A receptor in the serotonin system, which is implicated in depression.
However, an animal study conducted at Sao Paulo State University by Brazilian and Danish scientists found that CBD could initiate neuronal circuitry repair in the prefrontal cortex, which helped to alleviate symptoms of depression. The prefrontal cortex is involved in decision making, personality, and advanced cognitive behavior.
Moreover, the rats were still benefiting from the CBD treatment for up to a week after the researchers stopped dosing them.
The logical next step is to repeat the study on humans with depression – results from neurological studies on rodents are not always replicated in humans but are often a great guide.
5) CBD Suppresses Nausea and Vomiting
Nausea and vomiting can be caused by many factors, such as food poisoning, infection, migraines, infection and as a side effect to chemotherapy – indeed, chemotherapy patients are regularly prescribed cannabis to relieve symptoms.
Research published in the British Journal of Pharmacology back in 2011 attested to the anti-emetic properties of cannabinoids, including CBD. The cannabinoid may do this by indirectly activating 5-HT1A receptors, as a previous study showed that the anti-emetic properties are not associated with the CB1 receptor.
Low doses of CBD help to treat vomiting and anticipatory retching, however, larger doses seemed not to provide this benefit, an indication of CBD’s biphasic nature.
Concluding Thoughts | Science-Supported Properties of CBD
The non-psychoactive status of CBD sets it apart from other forms of medical cannabis, which contain THC – this is not necessarily bad as THC has crucial therapeutic properties, but many potential users are uncomfortable about its psychoactive effects.
The maximum medicinal value of non-psychoactive cannabis may come from full-spectrum CBD products, as these are made with the entire extract of hemp plants.
More obscure, non-intoxicating cannabinoids, like CBC, also offer some important health benefits.