After posting a beginner's guide to CBD (which you can read here) I got so many questions about CBD that I decided to write a follow-up post. This post leans more towards the science and studies behind using CBD. Enjoy!
The two most prominent cannabinoids that naturally occur within the Cannabis Sativa plant are Delta-9-tetrahydrocannabinol (THC) and Cannabidiol (CBD). Scientists believe there are over 100 naturally occurring cannabinoids found within this plant, most of which have yet to be identified.
Cannabis is not only a chemically complex plant; it’s a controversial one as well. Historically, cannabis was most known for its mind-altering effects. However, in the last century, scientists have conducted a number of studies exploring the many benefits of the second most prominent compound found in cannabis — CBD.
What’s the difference between THC and CBD?
THC and CBD are two entirely different compounds. THC is known for its mind-altering effects, whereas CBD offers a different experience.
THC and CBD both have very similar makeups. In fact, they appear almost identical when sketched out. However, the two are very different in the way they act upon our CB1 and CB2 receptors. Although these two receptors are found throughout our body, CB1 is found primarily within our nervous system and brain, whereas CB2 receptors are found in our immune system.
To understand how these two compounds affect the body, we first need to touch on a system that is naturally present within the body, the endocannabinoid system (ECS) –– a molecular system that helps maintain homeostatic balance within the body, keeping everything as it should be.
The ECS is constantly promoting health and maintaining balance physiologically, which means your body is making endocannabinoids all the time. Our body naturally knows how and when to make these cannabinoids which promote and balance our overall health. These endocannabinoids are our body’s natural way to stimulate or communicate to our CB1 and CB2 receptors.
So when we feel pain or have inflammation, our ECS communicates to our receptors through our endocannabinoids to bring our body back into homeostasis. Our endocannabinoids function much like the cannabinoids found in the cannabis plant.
For some, the endocannabinoid system may not be functioning at its optimal level. So by consuming phytocannabinoids like CBD or THC, the body’s ECS can continue to promote homeostasis even when we lack our own endocannabinoids (1).
When THC enters the body, it directly binds to and stimulates our CB1 receptors. This induces a nervous system response that ultimately causes a psychotropic effect. To a lesser degree, THC stimulates our CB2 receptors, inducing pain relief and an increased appetite.
CBD, on the other hand, slightly changes the structures of our CB1 receptors. This allows these receptors to be more susceptible to our natural endocannabinoids, specifically the ones that make you feel relaxed. And it’s with this change that CBD actually blocks the psychoactive effect that THC gives.
Basically, the purpose of CBD is to activate the production of our body’s natural endocannabinoids; and to give you all the positive effects of what the cannabis plant without any psychoactive effects (2).
What are the scientific backed benefits of CBD?
In the last decade, CBD has been on the rise for many people. More medical studies are being done, and many people are reporting amazing results in their health with the use of CBD.
To date, CBD has been used as a natural medicine for:
- Reducing inflammation
- Pain relief
- Reducing anxiety, depression, and stress
- Alleviating cancer-related symptoms
- Reducing seizures, and
- Improving an overall healthy lifestyle.
Here are just a few science-backed benefits of CBD.
CBD as an anti-inflammatory
Studies have shown that treating Rheumatoid Arthritis with 5mg/kg of CBD daily helps prevent the advancement of this painful inflammatory disease (3).
In another study backed by The Arthritis Society, CBD not only prevented acute inflammation, but it also blocked the pain in Osteoarthritis models. In this same study, researchers noted that applying topical CBD resulted in significant arthritic relief. Researchers also reported no side effects in the animal models with the use of CBD (4,5).
CBD’s anti-inflammatory properties have also helped people suffering from digestive problems such as IBS, Crohn’s and Colitis, which usually involves inflammation of the intestines.
For example, in one study, CBD was administered in Ulcerative Colitis patients. Once the study ended, the results showed that CBD remarkably reduced inflammation and abdominal damage. Scientists suggest, from these results, that CBD may be an alternative way to treat digestive diseases (6).
CBD as an anti-seizure
Seizures and epilepsy have been the main focus for scientific research, especially in children. CBD not only contains anti-inflammatory properties, but it also produces antioxidants which positively communicate with our neuro-receptors.
In a recent study, conducted by GW Pharmaceuticals, three placebo-controlled, double-blind trials involved patients suffering from Dravet and Lennox-Gastaut syndromes. CBD was administered to each patient, and by week 14 researchers saw a huge reduction of seizures in a number of patients (7).
Shortly after this study, the FDA approved the first cannabinoid-based, plant-derived, synthetic-free drug, Epidiolex –– an oral prescription drug for treating epilepsy and seizures, more specifically in children suffering from Lennox-Gastaut and Dravet syndrome.
CBD helps in lowering anxiety
Most people have seen the therapeutic effects CBD has in reducing stress and anxiety in their day-to-day life. Though more studies are being done, researchers have discovered how CBD affects the brain by using neuroimaging.
For example, a study was conducted on participants struggling with Social Anxiety Disorder (SAD). Through parametric mapping, and after CBD was administered, researchers saw a change in the blood flow of the limbic and paralimbic brain –– regions of the brain where we feel anxious. Scientists not only noticed an improvement in the participants’ overall well-being, but they also saw a physical change in the neuroimages of the participants’ brains as well (8).
Multiple scientific studies have also shown positive results in people who suffer or struggle with:
- PTSD (9)
- Schizophrenia (10,11)
- Depression (12,13)
- Sleep (14)
What’s the best way to consume CBD?
It’s clear that the empirical data on the multiple benefits of CBD continue to pile up. And as more studies are being conducted, new products are flooding the market. For first time CBD consumers, it can be a bit overwhelming to choose the CBD product that works best for you.
Thankfully, it’s easier than most people think.
Here are some of the most popular ways to consume CBD:
- CBD oil and tinctures–– designed for sublingual intake. Holding a small amount of oil under the tongue for a couple of minutes before swallowing. CBD oil can also be vaporized. However, CBD tinctures that contain alcohol cannot be vaporized.
- CBD edibles –– these are products infused with CBD and designed to be eaten. Edibles typically take longer to take effect, depending on the consumer’s metabolism.
- CBD pills –– again, depending on the individual's metabolism, CBD pills may take longer to take effect. However, CBD pills are a more discreet way to consume CBD.