It’s tempting to think of cannabidiol (CBD), a non-psychoactive compound in cannabis, as an herbal panacea. After all, it’s being touted as a potential treatment for asthma, obesity, drug addiction, acne, Alzheimer’s, migraines, PTSD and insomnia, just to name a few conditions.
But research into CBD’s healthful properties has largely been stifled in the United States, until recently. So, much of the evidence is either historical (“Napoleon’s troops probably used it!”), anecdotal (“My aunt swears by it!”) or based on lab studies of animals (the rat was unavailable for comment).
However, times are changing. The June 2018 decision by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration to approve a cannabis-derived CBD drug called Epidiolex for treating certain forms of epilepsy is a positive sign that barriers to cannabis research could soon be a thing of the past. When you consider 30 states plus the District of Columbia have approved some form of medical cannabis, the need for answers and more CBD research is obvious.
We do know that cannabidiol is a key chemical messenger in the body’s endocannabinoid system, which is responsible for maintaining homeostasis and other functions from head to toe. (And there are claims CBD topicals can help with dandruff, athlete’s foot and everything in between).
There is a growing body of CBD research exploring the anti-inflammatory, anti-anxiety, anti-cancer, anti-you-name-it properties of cannabidiol. There are few definitive results yet. But urgent health needs, plus hundreds of CBD products trying to answer them, have a way of putting public demand ahead of the research curve.
How might it help you? Here are just a few of the applications that show promise.
CBD and convulsive disorders: The medical journal Epilepsia notes that cannabis has been used to treat epilepsy for centuries. Even as research continues, patients are using CBD to limit or eliminate seizures—as seen in numerous reports, most famously CNN’s docu-series Weed.
CBD and cancer: Some of the strongest support for medical applications of cannabis comes from cancer research, as reported by The National Academies of Sciences, Engineering and Medicine in its sweeping 2017 review of 10,000 scientific abstracts. Cannabinoids are helping cancer patients deal with pain, general wasting and the nausea and vomiting that come with chemotherapy, according to the British Journal of Clinical Pharmacology. Studies suggest CBD and other cannabinoids may also play a role in limiting tumor growth.
CBD and acne: A study in The Journal of Clinical Investigation cites its effectiveness in corralling over productive sebaceous (oil) glands, and limiting the inflammation that causes “acne vulgaris.”
CBD and anxiety: In a research review published in the journal Neurotherapeutics, researchers said there is “considerable potential” for CBD as a balm for a wide range of anxiety disorders, including post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD), obsessive-compulsive behaviors and panic disorders.
CBD and addiction: Another Neurotherapeutics study makes the case for using CBD to limit “drug-seeking behaviors,” which is ironic, given how many times cannabis has been cited as a gateway to more dangerous drugs. Now, it’s being seriously considered as an “exit drug.”
CBD and smoking cessation: An Addictive Behavior study showed that tapping a CBD inhaler decreased the number of cigarettes users smoked by 40 percent.
CBD and pain: The Journal of Experimental Medicine reported that CBD therapy soothed both chronic inflammatory and neurophathic (nerve) pain. It’s important to note it was a rat study. But rats have feelings, too.
One cannabinoid quirk: Often the effects of cannabis are enhanced by what is known as the entourage effect—combining, say, CBD with THC and terpenes, the volatile organic compounds that give cannabis its distinctive fragrance. If you want the whole effect, you may need the whole plant.
Based on current and future findings, there may be a wave of CBD-related therapies coming soon … or even this afternoon, depending on the advice you get at a dispensary. Given the limits of current science, you’ll have to be your own research scientist and lab rat. But it beats waiting for the next issue of Neurotherapeutics to hit your mailbox.
Image source: Gotgot44 / Wikimedia Commons