CBD: What is it Good For?
Proponents of CBD, or cannabidiol, oil and other CBD products claim that it can be used to treat conditions such as chronic pain, inflammation, migraines, epilepsy, autoimmune diseases, depression and anxiety. Research into some of these claims is ongoing, and there is still a lot about CBD that we don’t know but researchers are trying to find out.
What Is CBD?
CBD is one of the chemicals in cannabis-containing plants—such as marijuana and hemp. Most of the time, it comes from hemp. It also contains small trace amounts of THC, the psychoactive compound responsible for the “high” you get when using marijuana. The U.S. government has strict regulations on how much THC a hemp-derived product can have. This limit is no more than 0.3 percent.
Unfortunately, there is not as much research on CBD as we would like. Because of this, it is unclear how much CBD can help with specific symptoms and disorders. In addition to the lack of research, many studies we do have offer mixed results. But recently, the FDA approved a drug that uses CBD as the active ingredient for treating certain childhood seizure disorders. So, while we can still not make informed claims on a lot of the potential benefits of CBD products, more studies are being conducted to see what CBD can do.
Benefits of CBD Oil
Various studies have explored CBD’s potential benefits for treating symptoms of common conditions. Of course, we still need more research to know precisely what CBD does inside our bodies, but some of the most promising benefits of the oil are:
It May Assist in Relieving Pain
CBD works by interacting with the neurotransmitters in your central nervous system. This means it can potentially provide relief for pain related to arthritis, nerve damage or inflammation.
It May Help with Neurological-Related Disorders
So far, one FDA-approved drug contains CBD as the active component. This drug is called Epidiolex, an oral solution used to treat seizures. Other studies explore CBD’s ability to treat pain and spasticity in multiple sclerosis (MS) and inflammation in Alzheimer’s disease.
Many of the current studies have small sample sizes. Because of this, more research needs to be done into CBD’s effects on these disorders to know how (and if) CBD can be beneficial.
It May Help with Cancer-Related Symptoms
Many people get unpleasant side effects from cancer treatments such as chemotherapy. CBD may be able to help regulate these side effects—like nausea, weight loss and vomiting. The FDA has already approved three cannabis-related products for these symptoms. It is important to note, however, that these products all contain some level of THC and are not purely CBD.
Some studies also suggest that CBD may be able to help stop the spread of cancerous cells in breast cancer. More research into these claims is needed to make an informed claim, but more studies and trials are being conducted.
It May Help with Anxiety and Depression
CBD’s effect on anxiety and other mood disorders, like depression, is still relatively unknown. Realistically, it is still too early to know whether or not CBD can have lasting and actual effects on mood disorders. But several studies have explored this topic. For example, one study found that CBD effectively regulates anxiety and another found that individuals who took CBD before a public speaking test had reduced social anxiety.
Unproven Claims About CBD
Honestly, there are about a million and one different claims about what CBD oil does and does not do. Some claim it is a cure for insomnia, anxiety, cancer, pain relief and autoimmune diseases. The biggest claim that is entirely unproven is, of course, that CBD is a cure-all drug.
Even the potential benefits mentioned in the previous section are still going through trials and studies. So really, nothing (other than the FDA-approved seizure drug) is “proven” regarding CBD. The simple truth is CBD may help some people with these issues, and others may not see any change. We do not yet have enough research to make an informed decision about what the substance can do. A lot of the delay in research is because of the lack of government oversight when it comes to research into cannabinoids, like marijuana or hemp. Additionally, several federal laws make researching these substances extremely difficult.
The lack of research makes it hard for us to make any definitive claims about CBD—for both benefits and risks. Though some studies show possible benefits such as reduction of anxiety and pain, there is not a large enough study pool of research for us to say what CBD can do. For example, a study published in 2019 looked into the claim that CBD is a good solution for insomnia. While they did not find any definitive results that show CBD can help reduce insomnia, they found that just over 79 percent of the patients reported reduced anxiety scores throughout the study. But, as mentioned before, more studies are needed before more informed claims can be made about what CBD actually does.
Risks of Taking CBD
Like any other drug, CBD has risks and potential side effects. Some possible side effects of CBD include issues with coordination, fatigue or drowsiness, diarrhea and dizziness.
Realistically, though, the most significant risk when it comes to CBD is the product itself. Because CBD can be sold by a number of different vendors both in person and online, it can be challenging to know the purity of the CBD you are getting. Not all CBD products will be the same and some may be unsafe.
CBD can also negatively react with certain medications—primarily pain medications, antipsychotics and antidepressants.
Talk with your Provider
When understanding what CBD can and cannot do, we still have a way to go. More research is needed to accurately understand what CBD can be used for. This said, there have been several promising studies over the years that suggest CBD may be effective in treating symptoms of certain disorders.
If you are considering using CBD, speak first with your primary care physician first. CBD may not be safe for everyone, and it may not be able to provide the type of relief you are looking for.
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