Many people are turning to cannabidiol (CBD) due to its potential benefits for both physical and mental conditions, as well as those looking for natural, non-pharmaceutical products. The overwhelming majority of individuals who regularly consume CBD say they take CBD specifically for a health condition*.
CBD is gaining a huge amount of momentum in the health and wellness world, with a plethora of scientific studies becoming available each year.
The most common reasons why people take CBD are the following:
- Chronic pain & inflammation, such as arthritis
- Sleep difficulties
- Anxiety & stress
While these 3 conditions are the most common reasons that elicit CBD use, the following are also common:
- to alleviate cancer-related symptoms
- neuroprotective properties (protect the brain)
- to reduce acne (hence why CBD is incorporated in many topical creams)
- to reduce epileptic seizures (currently the only approved CBD medications are called Epidiolex & Sativex, both used to treat two forms of epilepsy & pain related to multiple sclerosis)
- to relieve side effects caused by chemotherapy
1. Chronic pain & inflammation
Marijuana, which contains the psychoactive compound THC, has been used to treat pain for thousands of years so it's no surprise CBD is now the focus of many pain-related studies.
CBD interacts with the body via its endocannabinoid system, essentially a system that modulates several processes in the body, including pain regulation, sleep cycle, inflammation, appetite and immune system response among many others (1).
CBD binds to receptors in this endocannabinoid system, along with the naturally occurring, endogenous signals produced by the body. Binding of these receptors is linked to reduced pain and inflammation response (2).
Sativex, an oral spray containing CBD, is approved in many countries to treat pain related to multiple sclerosis. A preliminary study of 47 people with MS demonstrated improvements in pain, walking and muscle spasms, however control group was not included, hence "preliminary study" (3).
Rheumatoid arthritis is a common condition of those who take CBD due to the potential anti-inflammatory effects of CBD. One study found Sativex significantly improved pain during movement and while resting, as well as improved sleep quality (4).
A small randomized, placebo-controlled trial investigated the use of topical CBD oil on people with peripheral neuopathy of the legs. Participants received either 250 mg of CBD or a placebo. Researchers noted a statistically significant reduction in intense pain, sharp pain, cold and itchy sensations in those using CBD oil, with no side effects (20).
2. Anxiety and stress
According to the WHO, depression is the largest contributor to disability worldwide, while anxiety disorders are ranked sixth (5).
A problem with typical anxiolytics (anxiety medications) is their tendency to induce debilitating side effects, such as nausea, insomnia, drowsieness, sexual dysfunction and dizzieness. In addition, some medications are also addictive.
The reasons mentioned above are contributing factors to why people now explore CBD as a potential natural remedy to anxiety.
A study demonstrated that taking CBD prior to anxiety-inducing events may help relieve some of the anxiety that is associated with anticipating a fearful event. Participants took CBD before a public-speaking event, where they reported feeling less anxiety and discomfort (6).
CBD oil has also been shown to successfully treat insomnia and anxiety in children with post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) (7).
Cortisol is known as the body's stress hormone which is typically released in the morning. One study that examined the effects of CBD on cortisol release, researchers found that cortisol levels were significantly lowered after taking CBD oil (8). These results suggest that CBD may act as an anxiolytic and/or sedative.
As mentioned above, the body's stress hormone, cortisol, typically peaks in the morning, however for people with insomnia they can also peak at night. Nighttime awakenings are also associated with high levels of cortisol (9).
A recent study of 103 participants examined the effects of CBD combined with typical sleep medications (10). Following one month of CBD intake, 66.7% of individuals reported an improvement in sleep.
For our last study, CBD was compared with a placebo (11). A CBD dosage of
4. Neurological disorders - including Epilepsy, Multiple Sclerosis & Parkinson's Disease
The first CBD-based medications approved are called Epidiolex and Sativex. These medications are specifically approved for the treatment of two forms of epilepsy (Lennox Gastaut & Dravet's Syndrome). Sativex is also approved for spasticity related to multiple sclerosis (MS).
Researchers believe that CBD's ability to interact with the body's endocannabinoid system could be linked to the benefits above. Though research in this area is still relatively new, similar to all CBD research, several studies have shown promising results.
A large study demonstrated that 75% of patients with MS who were resistant to medicaiton reported reduced muscle spasms (12).
One more study found that CBD oil significantly reduced seizure activity in children with Dravet syndrome, a complex childhood epilepsy disorder, compared to a placebo (13). It is important to note that some participants experienced adverse reactions when treated with high concentrations of CBD.
There are several other neurological studies that demonstrate the potential of CBD as either a treatment, or add-on treatment. For example, patients with Parkinson's disease treated with CBD improved quality of life and sleep quality for people with Parkinson’s disease (14,15).
Additionally, animal and test-tube studies have shown that CBD may decrease inflammation and help prevent the neurodegeneration associated with Alzheimer’s disease (16).
5. Inflammatory skin conditions, acne & anti-aging
CBD is increasingly being used world-wide to treat a variety of dermatological conditions. Some experts believe that CBD can treat skin conditions because it has antioxidative and anti-inflammatory properties (21), hence why it is incorporated in skincare products.
A large literature review was published in 2019 on the pharmacology and use of cannabinoids in treating a variety of skin conditions including acne, atopic dermatitis, psoriasis, skin cancer, pruritus, and pain (17).
Cannabinoids have demonstrated anti-inflammatory, antipruritic, anti-ageing, and antimalignancy properties by various mechanisms including interacting with the endocannabinoid system of the skin.
One study demonstrates that CBD exhibits antiinflammatory actions while also preventing excess sebum production from sebaceous glands that contributes to acne (18, 19). Further research is needed before doctors can recommend its use.
Psoriasis is an autoimmune condition that causes cells to develop rapidly on the skin. Retinoids are a synthetic vitamin A compounds that can help slow the growth of skin cells, reduce discoloration, and soothe itching. Our Miracle Balm may be used to help psoriasis on the skin.
A 2019 study looked at the effect of CBD-enriched ointment in people with skin conditions, such as psoriasis. The researcher’s concluded that the product led to an improvement in the skin (22).
6. Side effects caused by chemotherapy
Doctors often recommend chemotherapy as a treatment for cancer. Chemotherapy uses drugs that kill dividing cancer cells and prevent them from growing.
Many chemotherapy drugs have adverse effects that can be severe, such as nausea, vomiting and pain. Though there are drugs that help with these distressing symptoms, they are sometimes ineffective, leading some people to seek alternatives.
A study of 16 people undergoing chemotherapy found that a one-to-one combination of CBD and THC administered via mouth spray reduced chemotherapy-related nausea and vomiting better than standard treatment alone (23).
In one human study,
Some test-tube and animal studies have even shown that CBD may have anticancer properties. For example, one test-tube study found that concentrated CBD induced cell death in human breast cancer cells (25).
Another study showed that CBD inhibited the spread of aggressive breast cancer cells in mice (26). Please note these are preliminary animal studies and require further human studies as well as clinical trials.
*Please note that CBD is a food supplement, not a medicine. It is not intended to diagnose, treat or cure any medical condition, and is not a substitute for a varied diet. Please consult your doctor before taking up a new food supplement routine.