Cannabidiol (CBD) has been receiving an increasing amount of buzz lately for its potential health benefits. Part of the appeal is that CBD is a natural product, and does not have the same mind and mood-altering effects as marijuana.
Up to now, much of the evidence for CBD’s clinical use has come from animal research and from very small, short-term human studies. Recently, however, a number of larger clinical studies and trials have demonstrated that CBD is effective at treating a wide range of conditions.
Here, we round up some of the most promising recent CBD research.
Demonstrating what CBD does not do
In 2017, the World Health Organization published a report finding that CBD has no potential for abuse or dependency, and is relatively safe to use. The WHO also concluded that CBD may be a useful treatment for a number of medical conditions, including epilepsy.
One concern is that earlier studies showed that CBD can convert to THC. A group of researchers in São Paulo put this to rest within 2017 with a study that concluded the earlier studies had been misinterpreted. While CBD can be converted to THC, this does not happen in the body – it can only occur under artificial conditions. The researchers also found that CBD cannot bind to the same receptors in the brain as THC, so it cannot cause a mood-altering high.
Researchers at Wageningen University took this one step further with a study that demonstrated that CBD also does not lead to the munchies. The test involved giving volunteers chocolate milk and CBD, THC, or a placebo. Researchers then examined how the volunteers perceived the sweetness of the milk. The users of the THC found the milk sweeter and wanted more, while the CBD and placebo users were satisfied with what they were given. Good news for dieters wanting to use CBD.
Anti-anxiety: Afraid of public speaking? CBD could help
Many people have experienced glossophobia (fear of public speaking) at some point in their lives. But for people whose careers depend on public speaking, the condition can have a serious impact. To see if CBD could help with glossophobia, researchers at the University of São Paulo conducted a double-blind study in 2017.
The subjects randomly received either a placebo, CBD, or the anti-anxiety medication clonazepam. Participants then gave a speech in public and had their anxiety levels measured. Although the prescription drug clonazepam was the leader in reducing anxiety, a dose of 300mg of CBD was shown to significantly reduce anxiety.
Panic disorder is an even-more debilitating form of anxiety than glossophobia. Here again, recent studies show that CBD might be able to help.
Panic disorder is a psychiatric condition that affects around 5 percent of the worldwide population. That is around 355 million people. A 2017 study published in Current Neuropharmacology consolidated previous CBD studies that examined the compounds’ effects on anxiety and panic.
The authors concluded that CBD is a promising treatment for panic disorders. This makes CBD a promising alternative to prescription antidepressant drugs like benzodiazepines.
Fighting drug use and abuse
One of the reasons for the rampant abuse of opioids is their use as prescription pain medication. Several studies are now in the works that aim to explore whether CBD can provide effective pain relief.
A 2018 paper in the journal Neuropsychopharmacology found that CBD could reduce cravings in drug-addicted rats. CBD was given to rats with a history of alcohol or cocaine abuse. After using CBD for a week, the rats stopped looking for drugs, and behaved normally. An earlier clinical trial at the Addiction Institute at the Mount Sinai School of Medicine found CBD prevents relapses in opioid use.
The Albert Einstein College of Medicine and Montefiore Health System is also beginning the first long-term study into whether CBD can reduce opioid use among adults with chronic pain. This is the first long-term study of this question and could eventually pave the way for CBD to replace opioids for treatment of some types of pain.
Epilepsy in children
One of the most exciting developments is the use of CBD for reducing epileptic seizures. Numerous studies have shown CBD can reduce the frequency and severity of epileptic seizures. One of the most recent, in 2018, found that 39 percent of epileptic children who used CBD had a reduction in their seizures, and 10 percent became seizure-free.
A similar study found that CBD could also help children with Dravet Syndrome. This is a rare genetic epileptic disorder that is very difficult to treat with current seizure medications. The study found some types of seizures decreased by almost half. It reported around 60 percent of those taking CBD saw their condition improve.
The results of these studies are so promising that in April, 2018, a panel FDA advisors recommended approval of pharmaceutical grade CBD – Epidiolex – to treat seizure disorders in children.
Help for high blood pressure
According to the American Heart Association, more than 100 million U.S. adults have high blood pressure. In 2017, British researchers conducted a study into the use of CBD for reducing blood pressure.
In a randomized, placebo-controlled, double-blind study, male volunteers took either 600 mg of CBD or a placebo and then were monitored for changes in their cardiovascular system. Then, administered stress tests to raise their blood pressure.
The study found that CBD lowered blood pressure in response to stress, and reduced resting systolic blood pressure. The need for research continues. But, CBD may become a future treatment for high blood pressure.
Hope for schizophrenia sufferers
Treating schizophrenia usually requires high doses of antipsychotic medications just to cope with everyday life. These drugs can have very severe side effects and are difficult to maintain for long periods.
A group of researchers at the Illawarra Health and Medical Research Institute, University of Wollongong recently conducted a systematic review of schizophrenia treatments that also looked at the use of CBD as a possible alternative treatment. The authors looked through 27 papers spanning the past 26 years.
The review concludes CBD’s anti-inflammatory and anti-psychotic characteristics can treat schizophrenia and Alzheimer’s. A 2018 study in the UK, Poland, and Romania found CBD did, in fact, reduce psychotic symptoms in those suffering from schizophrenia.
The studies highlighted here are just the tip of the CBD iceberg. Other studies explore CBD use for Inflammatory Bowel Disease, cancer, brain damage caused by stroke, and liver damage.
It is clear that researchers are beginning to take the potential benefits of CBD seriously. Recent studies provide rigorous, peer-review research into the uses and pharmacology of CBD.
These studies reflect the vast potential of CBD as an alternative treatment for a number of serious disorders. Research, trials, and studies continue to determine the long-term effects and benefits of these treatments. It is clear CBD has a future.