While scientists have explored the ability of cannabinoids, extracted from the cannabis sativa plant to treat many medical conditions, Cannabidiol (CBD) use exploded in popularity after a 2013 CNN documentary demonstrated the compound’s success in dramatically reducing seizure activity in a young child with Dravet Syndrome, a form of epilepsy. Rapid research to investigate other treatment applications with CBD soon followed.
History of CBD Medicinal Use
The use of cannabinoids for medicinal purposes dates beck to 2900 BC. In around 1000 BC we know that Egyptians used cannabinoids to treat inflammation, and as an anesthetic when combined with other elements.
It is thought that the cannabis plant had its original roots in a mountain region near the Himalayas. In the 1600’s English settlers brought the cannabis plant to North America for use in the treatment of depression, other mental health issues, headaches, insomnia, and menstrual cramps.
CBD was also historically used as treatment for gout, rheumatism, malaria, pain, and fever. At that time, mainstream western medicine embraced the compound, utilizing it in many different ways.
In the era of alcohol prohibition in the early 1900’s, some states prohibited the cannabis plant however. In the 1950’s, the nation as a whole began to classify cannabis as an illegal substance. This lead to the criminalization of cannabis under the Controlled Substances Act in 1970. In the 1990’s however, after preliminary research, some states began to legalize cannabis once again for medical use, primarily to help control side effects from chemotherapy.
What is CBD and CBD Oil?
Cannabidiol (CBD) is just one of 80 cannabinoids, or chemical compounds found in high concentrations in the cannabis plant. It is not an intoxicant like that of tetrahydrocannabinol or THC that produces a “high” in individuals. CBD oil is a light liquid made from CBD compounds extracted from the cannabis plant. While concentrations generally vary for therapeutic usage these natural substances act on the body’s central nervous system and immune system. Unlike the central cannabinoid, “THC” that alters mood and consciousness, CBD (cannabidiol) has been used to help relieve pain, decrease inflammation, and reduce anxiety. Some studies have also demonstrated cannabinoids’ efficacy in combatting nausea, vomiting, and loss of appetite. Because of this, the mainstream medical community has begun to embrace cannabidiol for therapeutic uses.
How is CBD Delivered?
In general, cannabinoids can be delivered topically, orally, by inhalation, or by spray under the tongue and are sold in oil, capsules and powders. CBD is not very water-soluble or easily absorbed by the human body unless combined with another agent such as turmeric.
Healing With CBD and CBD Oil
CBD acts on specific receptors and neuropathways in the brain creating many positive, therapeutic opportunities.
CBD may be effective for epilepsy treatment in children who do not respond favorably to medication. In 3 out of 4 small, randomized clinical trials with children, decreased seizure frequency resulted. Further, more in-depth university research is underway at The UAB Epilepsy Center at the University of Alabama at Birmingham and the University of Mississippi Medical Center to substantiate efficacy for treatment of epilepsy.
Neuroprotective and Anti-Inflammatory Effects
CBD may have neuroprotective effects on many neurodegenerative diseases such as, Alzheimer’s, stroke, glutamate toxicity, multiple sclerosis, Parkinson’s disease, and neurodegenerative effects of alcohol due to alcohol abuse.
CBD has been used as a treatment for addiction according to some case studies, including 5 conducted on humans and 9 involving animals. A 2015 review found that cannabinoids associated with CBD act on neurotransmitters involved in tobacco and cannabis dependence. Individuals in the study reported less anxiety after stopping substance use, though more studies in this area are needed.
CBD may play a role in pain management, in part because of its natural anti-inflammatory properties. Combination therapies that use CBD along with pharmaceuticals may be considered for this use.
CBD in animal cell culture has been found to reduce cancer cell viability, decrease tumor growth, and inhibit metastasis. This may be due to both CBD’s anti-oxidant properties, and anti-inflammatory effects. Numerous human clinical trials are underway in the U.S.
CBD may reduce psychotic symptoms in individuals with psychosis due to schizophrenia or other mental health conditions. More clinical trials are needed to investigate this use.
CBD has shown promise in treating anxiety and stress in individuals with social anxiety disorders and PTSD. This may be associated with specific serotonin receptors and memory pathways affected by cannabidiol.
Other therapeutic uses for CBD include treatment for obesity, anorexia, emesis, muscle pain, nerve pain, pain modulation for neuropathic pain, multiple sclerosis, Parkinson’s disease, Huntington’s disease, Tourette’s syndrome, Alzheimer’s disease, possible cancer treatment, and fibromyalgia.
Current research is ongoing to explore the efficacy in individuals with HIV-associated neuropathic pain and painful spasms with HIV.
Side Effects of CBD
In multiple studies individuals have been known to tolerate CBD well
in doses as high as 1,500 mg/day (orally) or 30 mg with i.v. use. In a study where daily doses of 700 mg of CBD was administered for 6 weeks in treatment for Huntington’s disease no toxicity was induced in patients. Some individuals have experienced mild diarrhea in response to CBD use.
Legal Issues Surrounding CBD and CBD Oil
Laws surrounding CBD and CBD Oil can be a bit murky. They very much depend on the original plant source CBD is derived from and the state in which an individual lives.
To date, CBD extracted from industrial hemp plants containing 0.3% THC content or less is legal in all 50 states. That said, in some states where marijuana is not legal, hemp is lumped in with all cannabis and its derivatives, making CBD laws unclear. Hemp is from a strain of the cannabis sativa plant specifically grown for industrial use for its fiber. Raw material used for textiles, biodegradable plastics, rope, construction materials, food and biofuel are commonly made from it.
The federal government exempts certain parts of cannabis plants to include hemp stalks, fiber, oil and cake made from hemp seed, as well as sterilized hemp seed itself. Industrial hemp grown overseas often sources CBD products this way.
While smaller amounts of CBD for personal use is generally not a legal problem, it may still be important to check state laws on distribution and use.
Ongoing CBD Research
The National Institute of Health, The National Institute on Drug Abuse, The National Institute of Neurological Disorders, and the National Institute on Mental Health all recognize the need for advanced research involving CBD, and its possible therapeutic effects. Currently a number of university and government-sponsored studies are underway in the U.S.
1National Center for Natural Products Research, pharmacy.olemiss.edu/ncnpr/research-programs/cannabis-research/.
2Abuse, National Institute on Drug. “The Biology and Potential Therapeutic Effects of Cannabidiol.” NIDA, 24 June 2015, www.drugabuse.gov/about-nida/legislative-activities/testimony-to-congress/2016/biology-potential-therapeutic-effects-cannabidiol.
3“Cannabis and Cannabinoids.” National Cancer Institute, www.cancer.gov/about-cancer/treatment/cam/hp/cannabis-pdq.
4Gorelick, Kerry. “UAB Cannabidiol Program.” UAB – The University of Alabama at Birmingham – Home, www.uab.edu/medicine/neurology/research/uab-cannabidiol-program.
5Kogan, Natalya M., and Raphael Mechoulam. “Cannabinoids in health and disease.” Dialogues in Clinical Neuroscience, Les Laboratoires Servier, Dec. 2007, www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC3202504/.
6Welty, Timothy E., et al. “Cannabidiol: Promise and Pitfalls.” Epilepsy Currents, American Epilepsy Society, 2014, www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC4189631/.