CBD is becoming a very popular natural remedy for a vast range of ailments. You may be wondering how CBD actually works and what benefits it can have when we take it. The list of afflictions that CBD can help with is so long, but how can a chemical from one plant do so many different things? It may sound unbelievable, and maybe a bit like snake oil, but you have to understand how CBD works to fully understand how it can have such an array of therapeutic properties.
How Does CBD Affect the Endocannabinoid System?
Humans produce endocannabinoids that affect the endocannabinoid systems (ECS) in our bodies. This system plays a role in regulating a variety of physiological functions including appetite, pain, memory, inflammation, and mood. Phytocannabinoids, meaning those produced in plants, will affect our cannabinoid receptors in much the same way as our natural endocannabinoids and can help our endocannabinoid system regulate health.
Endocannabinoid receptors are found in the brain, gastrointestinal system, immune system, connective tissues, glands, and various organs. This far reaching network regulates the countless physiological processes that we experience every day. When the endocannabinoid system is not functioning correctly, it can affect numerous aspects of our health.
What Are the Therapeutic Benefits of CBD?
The benefits and effects of CBD are still being researched but it has been shown to help with an incredibly wide range of issues. Unlike so many other supplements, chemicals, and pharmaceutical drugs, CBD doesn’t just remove a symptom or cure a single ailment. It can impact many different systems in our bodies and promote balance in a wide range of physiological processes.
CBD has been found to exhibit anticonvulsant, antiemetic, analgesic, antioxidant, antidepressant, antipsychotic, and anti-inflammatory properties, making it an incredibly well-rounded source of relief. Many diseases come with a variety of symptoms that are all treated with a barrage of different medications each designed to affect different physiological systems. CBD influences so many of these systems that it can at times replace the need for multiple medications.
While CBD does have an impressive resume of therapeutic properties, it can trigger side effects in some people, such as anxiety, changes in appetite, changes in mood, diarrhea, dizziness, drowsiness, dry mouth, and nausea. The use of CBD oil could also increase production of liver enzymes which could be a marker of liver damage.
*While side effects may be minimal or not typical, it’s good to be aware of all potential reactions.
With that being said, here are a list of 10 benefits of using CBD oil to improve your health:
1. Effects on the Immune System
The endocannabinoid system is responsible for maintaining homeostasis within our bodies and that includes modulating the immune system. Researchers have speculated that CBD use can help your body know when there is an incorrect autoimmune response happening and stop your immune system from attacking your body’s own tissues. This can be very helpful in treating autoimmune disorders such as HIV/AIDS, multiple sclerosis, lupus, and rheumatoid arthritis.
2. Reducing Stress, Depression, and Anxiety
CBD can assist in creating feelings of calm and relaxation. Unlike THC, CBD does not bind directly to your CB1 receptors to create a psychoactive high. Instead, it can inhibit the enzymes that break down your endocannabinoids, such as anandamide, which is known as the bliss molecule. CBD can indirectly affect serotonin and dopamine levels which can help to stabilize mood, and alleviate anxiety, stress, and depression.
One study showed a significant reduction in anxiety, cognitive impairment and discomfort in patients with Generalized Social Anxiety Disorder. A double-blind public speaking experiment was done with 24 patients with this disorder and the results showed evidence of the anxiolytic effects of CBD.
3. Get a Better Sleep with CBD
CBD’s calming effects on stress and anxiety can lead to improved quality of sleep and can reduce sleeping difficulties and insomnia. CBD itself does not usually cause drowsiness, in fact, it can increase daytime alertness and improve focus, but by regulating other aspects of mood and hormone production, it can promote healthy, natural sleep.
A study measuring CBD’s effects on anxiety and sleep showed that sleep scores improved for a majority of the patients within the first month of the study. Anxiety levels, which can often be a cause for many sleep disorders, decreased in almost 80% of the patients.
4. Effects on the Central Nervous System
CBD can promote neurogenesis, the growth and development of neurons, which can reduce or prevent the deterioration of cognitive functions. It also possesses anxiolytic properties than can ease the mind. These properties make CBD highly beneficial to the treatment of many neurological disorders and mental health conditions such as PTSD, OCD, ADD, ADHD, Parkinson’s disease, traumatic brain injury, memory loss, stroke, and Alzheimer’s disease.
5. CBD's Anti-Inflammatory Properties
CBD has been shown to have anti-inflammatory properties, making it useful for treatment with arthritis, colitis, Crohn’s disease, inflammatory bowel disorder, and irritable bowel syndrome. The use of CBD can lessen inflammation throughout the body which can reduce the symptoms of these diseases. By decreasing the inflammation, the pain associated with it is often decreased as well.
6. Cancer Treatment
Cannabis and CBD is commonly used in conjunction with chemotherapy treatment to relieve the side effects of pain and nausea, but promising research is being done using CBD to do more than help just the symptoms alone. Recent studies with lab grown cancer cells have shown that CBD can slow the growth or kill certain types of cancer cells.
This National Cancer Institute has done a complete overview of the effects of cannabis and cannabinoids in relation to cancer treatments. It references many clinical trials that have shown a wide range of positive results, some of which involve pain management, antitumor attributes, antiemetic effects, and appetite stimulation.
7. Epilepsy and Seizures
The anticonvulsant properties of CBD and its effects on epilepsy and seizures have been trialed through extensive research. The FDA approved Epidiolex in June of 2018, making it the first prescription pharmaceutical of highly purified cannabidiol. Epidiolex is used to treat seizures associated with Lennox-Gastaut syndrome and Dravet syndrome, two very severe forms of epilepsy.
The effectiveness of Epidiolex was studied in three double-blind, placebo-controlled trials involving 516 patients. The FDA news release regarding Epidiolex states that the patients receiving the drug experienced a significant reduction in their seizure frequency compared to the placebo test group.
8. Acne and Skin Conditions
Thanks to the anti-inflammatory properties of CBD, it can be used for treating acne by reducing redness and preventing breakouts. It also has antioxidant properties which can counteract free-radical damage, making it valuable ingredient in skin creams and anti-aging serums.
One study shows that CBD has the potential for treatment of acne by normalizing excessive sebum (oil) production and demonstrating anti-inflammatory actions on the sebaceous glands.
9. Metabolism, Appetite, and Weight Loss
CBD can regulate appetite and metabolism to help with weight management and diabetes. It can stimulate the proteins involved in breaking down fat and can increase mitochondria activity which boosts your ability to burn calories. These processes will convert white adipose tissue into brown adipose tissue, an action known as “fat browning”, which can lead to improved glucose tolerance and lowers the risk of diabetes.
10. Addiction and Alcoholism
CBD can be can be used to treat addiction and alcoholism on many different levels. It can disrupt opioid receptors, reducing the brain’s reward response to these substance and thus reducing the potential for addiction. It can also indirectly affect glutamate activity, the main excitatory neurotransmitter, reducing the intensity of any possible cravings.
This review from the US National Library of Medicine states that CBD could be useful in the treatment of addiction disorders and has a beneficial impact on tobacco and cannabis dependence.
The antioxidant and anti-inflammatory properties of CBD can have regenerative effects on the brain damage that long term drug and alcohol use can cause. The antiemetic and pain managing properties of CBD can also help with physical withdrawal symptoms. Some of the previously discussed afflictions, such as anxiety and depression, can contribute to the use of drugs and alcohol. As CBD eases these issues, the likelihood of substance abuse can be decreased as well.
The Future of Using CBD Oil for Health Improvement
Because laws around cannabis and CBD are only recently changing, research into the therapeutic benefits of CBD has been limited in the past. The use of cannabis and CBD in medical treatments is becoming increasingly common and much more widely accepted, allowing more mainstream research to be done on the benefits of this chemical compound. Many of the current medications being used to treat these diseases can often come with too many adverse side effects. CBD is becoming more popular as a treatment because the side effects associated with it tend to be rare, mild, or altogether non-existent.