Here’s What CBD Can Really Do—And The Research Backing It Up
There’s no better way to gain an appreciation of just what cannabidiol can do than taking a look at the exciting research behind it. This overview lists the major medical benefits of CBD, then explains the key studies backing them up.
CBD Can Stop Epileptic Seizures
One of the most important CBD studies ever published was a path-breaking study into the efficacy of using CBD as a treatment for epilepsy.
In 2012, researchers with the British Epilepsy Association published a paper called “Cannabidiol exerts anticonvulsant effects in animal models of the temporal lobe and partial seizures.” Their conclusion? “The evidence strongly supports CBD as a therapeutic candidate for a diverse range of human epilepsies.”
CBD Can Treat Serious Neurological Diseases Like Alzheimer’s, Multiple Sclerosis, and Parkinson’s
Researchers are still trying to figure out the exact mechanisms behind neurodegenerative diseases like Alzheimer’s. We know it has to do with a protein pathway, and that’s exactly the pathway this 2006 study investigates.
Taking a look down to the molecular level, researchers discovered that CBD can actually protect nerve cells from degenerative diseases. Scientists call this CBD’s “neuroprotective effect,” and it’s one of the most promising aspects of the cannabinoid.
CBD Can Relieve Pain
Medical cannabis is quickly becoming the go-to alternative to dangerous and addictive prescription painkillers, like the opioids that are causing an epidemic of overdose deaths in the United States.
A lot of weed’s pain-killing power stems from its psychoactive cannabinoid, THC. But cannabidiol is also a potent pain reliever. 2015 saw the most important study to uncover the pain-relieving effects of CBD. In that study, researchers compared cannabidiol to morphine.
To their surprise, CBD worked well in combination with morphine and counteracted the latter’s risky side effects. This means cannabidiol can help treat acute pain conditions, along with more long-term benefits.
CBD Can Fight Cancer
It sounds too good to be true. But indeed, pre-clinical trials have shown that cannabidiol has a powerful anti-tumor effect.
The most important study to reveal these powerful tumor-inhibiting effects came out in 2015. In fact, this study looked at a range of non-psychoactive cannabinoids, including, of course, cannabidiol.
In a landmark for medical cannabis research, this study concluded that “CBD slows the progression of many types of cancer, including breast, lung, prostate and colon cancer.”
How that works is pretty incredible. Cannabidiol actually makes it harder for cancer cells to grow. In some cases, this causes an increase in cancer cell death. No wonder stories abound about “miracle” CBD cures that shrink tumors.
CBD Can Reduce Inflammation
Cannabis is widely-valued as a treatment for inflammation. Credit goes to both THC and CBD in that regard, but cannabidiol has some special anti-inflammatory properties of its own.
Specifically, cannabidiol binds with the endocannabinoid system to produce a response that reduces nerve inflammation. This is another of its “neuroprotective” qualities and a major reason why CBD is such an effective treatment for neurological diseases.
What does CBD offer in Beauty products?
Topical CBD’s most enticing attributes are it's anti-inflammatory and analgesic (pain-killing) properties. Scientists are finding more evidence that it can treat dry skin, psoriasis, and eczema, which is why the ingredient is popping up in so many face creams, serums, and body lotions. “Inflammation is the root of all evil, whether that’s acne or the signs of aging,” says New York City dermatologist Dendy Engelman, who notes that while acne rates are increasing, there aren’t many new treatment options coming down the pike. (“Most often, they’re reformulating benzoyl peroxide, or a retinoid, or some kind of acid,” she says.) As it turns out, CBD might be the ticket to clear skin, too.
Acne is a pain in the ass to treat because of its many components: blocked pores, excess sebum, inflammation, and proliferation of bacteria. A 2014 study found that CBD helps suppress breakouts by regulating the oil production of the sebaceous glands. That could be good news if you’ve got acne and want to avoid drugs like Accutane and spironolactone. There’s more research to be done, of course, but skin doctors are intrigued by the potential of a new non-steroidal tool in their arsenal. If CBD can control inflammation and oil production, it would treat two parts of the acne-lesion formation. That’s a big deal because “currently, we’ve been doing that with retinoids,” says Engelman, which actually makes skin worse before it gets better. (As skin acclimates to the treatment, a process called routinization initially causes more inflammation in the form of redness, dryness, and peeling.)
Also, for people who can’t — or don’t want to — pop pain pills, topical CBD takes down the ouch level and reduces swelling. That’s why we’re seeing it in so many rubs and balms, used for achy joints or sore muscles before and after workouts, as a chicer alternative to Bengay. The same properties make CBD oil a heck of a massage lotion, too.
What’s the difference between CBD isolate and “whole-plant” or “full-spectrum” CBD?
CBD isolate is exactly what it sounds like — CBD with nothing else. Some users prefer it, feeling secure knowing that it won’t be affected by any other cannabis compounds. Conversely, some users believe in “the entourage effect” — that the myriad compounds in whole-plant cannabis work better together than alone. (A recent study from Israel showed that CBD isolate didn’t work as well for pain as whole-plant extract). Verity's Mata likens using whole-plant CBD to eating a whole-foods diet.
CBD Can Treat Mood Disorders
Post Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD) affects nearly 8 percent of all American’s during their lifetime. Women are twice as likely as men to suffer from it. Finding an affordable, safe, and reliable treatment for PTSD would profoundly impact the lives of millions of Americans every year.
Some people give CBD to their pets
When it comes to your furry friends, CBD is often preferred over THC because it has fewer side effects.
Some people feel uncomfortable giving their animal something that could make them high, but CBD offers medical benefits without the high.
Dr. Wendy Kramer, a B.C. veterinarian, explains: “If we use part of the cannabinoids that are involved with the plant, we get great benefits. It’s the THC… that makes them stoned.”
CBD products for pets target specific health concerns, like anxiety, epilepsy, joint pain, and skin problems.
CBD can affect your sleep-wake cycle
CBD has what is called a “biphasic effect” on sleep, meaning it has different effects depending on dosage. Small doses of CBD appear to increase wakefulness, while large doses are sedating.
CBD also appears to counteract the sleep-inducing effects of THC, which may explain why some strains of cannabis are known to increase alertness.