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Since its recent legalization in Canada, the use of marijuana and related products has exploded, to the point where government-approved dispensaries are out of product three days out of seven. Marijuana and its constituents have been used medicinally over decades and now with increased access, people of all walks of life are turning to the marijuana plant for a number of potential health benefits.
What is CBD? Cannabis contains over 100 chemicals known as cannabinoids, of which cannabidiol (CBD) is one. The two most well-known compounds are CBD and tetrahydrocannabinol (THC). THC is the component responsible for creating the “high” one experiences when using marijuana, whereas CBD does not. CBD can be extracted from the flowers and the buds of either marijuana (high THC content) or hemp (low THC content).
How does CBD work? Our bodies naturally make substances that have a similar structure to cannabinoids, called endocannabinoids. The human nervous system and many other tissues in the body have receptors that bind with these endocannabinoids (referred to as the endocannabinoid system, or ECS), as well as cannabinoids. While THC directly binds with both CB1 and CB2 receptors, CBD works by preventing the reuptake body’s own endocannibinoids, thereby increasing their concentration.
The legal status of the marijuana plant, until recently, prevented it being studied for its medicinal effects. Yet, there are numerous health benefits of CBD, which is validated by ongoing new scientific research. Here are five areas where it shows promising therapeutic potential.
1.Anxiety. CBD has been shown to decrease anxiety at a dose of around 300 mg per day. ¹, ² It is important to note that doses higher or lower than 300 mg have been shown to have no effect, or even worse, increase anxiety.³ Some people have experienced an exacerbation at any dose. It works by regulating the receptors involved in the fear response and anxiety related behaviours.
2. Cancer. Medical marijuana has often been used to alleviate the nausea and pain caused by conventional cancer treatments. For some, the effects of THC are not tolerated or desired. Fortunately, CBD on its own, offers similar relief as well as affects the underlying disease process. CBD has been shown to decrease cell division, increases the process by which the body cleans out cellular debris and damaged cells (autophagy) as well augmenting the effects of chemotherapy.⁴,⁵,⁶
3. Pain and inflammation. Chronic pain can be notoriously difficult to treat. Fortunately, CBD appears to be have an effective role in pain management. Based on the research, not only does it act as an analgesic, but also blunts the perception of pain, making it more tolerable. ⁷, ⁸ The different types of pain studied include osteoarthritis ⁹, ¹⁰ nerve pain, and post-surgical pain. ¹¹, ¹²,¹³
4. Post-traumatic Stress Disorder Post-traumatic stress disorder affects approximately 10% of people at some point in their life. It manifests differently in different people – symptoms include sleep disturbances, mood changes, changes in emotion, reduced social skills and changes in cognition (reliving the trauma). Emerging research indicates that CBD oil exhibits effective treatment option for this condition, with its considerably fewer side effects than its pharmacological counterparts. ¹⁴
5. Seizures It has long been known in the scientific community that the ECS is involved in seizures. Consequently, there has been extensive research of the therapeutic applications of cannabinoids for seizures disorders. ¹⁵
One study gave 214 people with severe epilepsy 0.9–2.3 grams of CBD oil per pound (2–5 g/kg) of body weight. Their seizures reduced by a median of 36.5%. ¹⁶
Another study found that CBD oil significantly reduced seizure activity in children with Dravet syndrome, a complex childhood epilepsy disorder, compared to a placebo. ¹⁷
CBD potentially inhibits seizures and is generally regarded as causing fewer adverse effects than traditional anti-epileptic drugs.
Due to its increasing popularity, CBD products are popping up all over the marketplace. However, despite the fact that CBD induces no psychoactive effects, it is still strictly regulated in Canada. Only licensed producers may make it, and only registered retailers may sell it. It is subject to the same regulations as its marijuana counterpart – the official legalization of marijuana on October 17, 2018 did not change its status. ²⁰ Unregulated CBD products on the market can range in quality and may not even contain the compound in the concentration stated, if at all. All licensed producers are required to meet standards for quality and consistency.
Though there is still much to be investigated regarding its efficacy and safety, the results of recent studies suggest that CBD may offer many beneficial effects for a number of health conditions. If you are considering using CBD therapeutically, inform your health care provider to ensure there are no interactions with your current medications and only use products that are regulated to contain the dosage you need.