What is the hype about CBD?
CBD, short for Cannabidiol, is a naturally occurring substance found in almost all varieties of cannabis plants. It’s produced in the aerial part of the plant (the stems and leaves that grow above the ground), but not in the seeds or roots.
While it is currently a hot topic, and being tested and experimented with widely, Cannabis was first reported to be used for pharmacological reasons around 2600BC in China. It more recently gained notoriety as a mind-altering drug, and it certainly was popular in the hippy era of the 60s and 70s as a recreational drug, something you dried, rolled in paper and smoked. This however is not the subject of this article.
Here we will look only at CBD, one of the approximately 100 naturally occurring chemicals in hemp and cannabis. And unlike THC (tetrahydrocannabinol), another naturally occurring chemical in cannabis, CBD has no mind-altering effects. It does however have psychoactive properties, which is what has made it so popular for treating a variety of symptoms including anxiety and stress.
CBD is in fact growing in popularity as natural therapy and the topic of numerous medical research projects. An ever-increasing number of people are trying it for themselves. While clinical studies are ongoing and have certainly proven that CBD is effective for a number of uses, in most cases it has only been tested on rodents – not people.
CBD is now legal to purchase in many countries around the world, though in some countries or states you may require a prescription, so do check before rushing out to order. It is available in many forms: mixed with oil to create a lotion to rub onto external areas for treatment, swallowed in soft gel capsules, sold as a vape for inhalation, mixed with alcohol to form a tincture that you can drop under your tongue and even made into gum ‘sweets’ for discreet consumption!
The most popular uses of CBD include using it to:
- Relax (it’s even incorporated into essential oils for spa therapies)
- Improve sleep
- Reduce stress and anxiety
- Treat acne
- Relieve pain and inflammation (in a variety of forms, muscle, joint, menstrual pain and migraine)
- Control nausea
- Lower high blood pressure.
You can even get gummy treats for your pets and coffee infused with CBD. It is important to note however that the sale of CBD is controlled, and it cannot legally be incorporated into drinks, foods or supplements without specifically and clearly stating that the item contains CBD, and even then, only if it contains less than 0.3 per cent THC.
Medical research has resulted in the US Food and Drug Administration (FDA) approving one prescription drug containing CBD for the treatment of two rare forms of childhood epilepsy. This means that it has been recognized as both safe and effective for the purpose of treating childhood seizures caused by these forms of epilepsy. Scientists have reported that they believe that CBD oil slows down messages sent to the brain, reduces the movement of calcium to the brain and decreases inflammation, thus suppressing the seizures.
Several countries have also approved a CBD and THC oral spray (with the addition of THCs) for the treatment of pain and muscle spasms related to multiple sclerosis.
There is a lot of debate about CBD possibly having cancer-fighting properties, but there is still ongoing research to work out exactly how effective it may be and whether it is safe for use for this purpose. Some of the side effects of cancer treatments include nausea, vomiting and pain, which are symptoms that many ordinary folks use CBD to alleviate, so there it makes sense that it could be of some value to cancer patients, whether or not it can actually ‘cure’ cancer.
Other areas of ongoing medical research include:
- antipsychotic effects, reducing the psychotic symptoms of schizophrenia and other mental disorders. It is even being studied as a potential answer to reducing the psychotic effects of smoking marijuana
- The reduction of morphine and heroin dependence by reducing drug craving
- The reduction and possible prevention of diabetes by reducing insulin resistance and moderating sugar in people who are not injected with insulin
- The prevention of the spread of certain cancerous tumours, particularly in the case of melanomas (skin cancer)
- Parkinson’s disease – the potential for tremor and psychosis reduction
- Alzheimer’s. They are looking at the potential ability to reduce inflammation, brain cell decline and oxygen build-up.
To date most of this research has been done on rodents and in test tubes, there have been very few conclusive human trials. However, the study results that have been published are certainly very promising, and it appears that there are a wide variety of symptoms and illnesses where CBD could provide an effective, natural alternative to the medications currently available.
It is important however that more medical research is done, particularly on humans, to confirm the safety of the use of CBD for the treatment of serious medical conditions. There are some very exciting research proposals in the pipeline, and numerous scientists are exploring different uses for CBD.
It is also important to speak to your doctor before starting to use CBD in any form if you are already on other medication. There is a possibility that CBD could interact with your current medication.
In the meantime though, it is being widely and legally used by the man in the street to deal with side a variety of side effects and symptoms of illnesses e.g. pain and nausea as well as stress and insomnia with varying degrees of success. The promise and varied potential of this once recreational drug in mainstream medicine are exciting.