The use of medical marijuana continues to be an emotionally and politically charged issue. Although cannabis oil preparations have been used in medicine for millennia, the concern over the dangers of abuse led to the banning of the medicinal use of marijuana in the 1930s.
Only recently, marijuana and chemically related compounds have come back to being considered of therapeutic value. A prominent compound found in marijuana or cannabis, CBD, or cannabidiol, has shown to treat numerous diseases. Researchers believe that in view of the very low toxicity and the generally benign side effects of CBD, neglecting or denying CBD benefits and its clinical potential is simply unacceptable.
What Is CBD?
CBD is one of over 60 compounds found in cannabis that belong to a class of ingredients called cannabinoids. Until recently, THC (tetrahydrocannabinol) was getting most of the attention because it’s the ingredient in cannabis that produces mind-altering effects in users, but CBD is also present in high concentrations — and the medical world is realizing that its list of medical benefits continues to grow.
CBD is the major nonpsychoactive component of Cannabis sativa. According to a 2013 study published in the British Journal of Clinical Pharmacology, CBD benefits including acting in some experimental models as an anti-inflammatory, anticonvulsant, antioxidant, antiemetic, anxiolytic and antipsychotic agent, and is therefore a potential medicine for the treatment of neuroinflammation, epilepsy, oxidative injury, vomiting and nausea, anxiety and schizophrenia. (1)
Research is beginning to show that CBD is different than other well-studied cannabinoids. All cannabinoids act as ligands, meaning they dock onto the binding site of a protein and have the ability to modulate a receptor’s behavior. CB1 receptors are widely distributed, but are particularly abundant in areas of the brain, including those concerned with movement, coordination, pain and sensory perception, emotion, memory, cognition, autonomic and endocrine functions. (2)
CB2 receptors are found mostly in the immune system, and they seem to reduce inflammation and certain kinds of pain. Although cannabinoids all have similar structures, they display a wide array of actions at each of the different receptors.
However, scientists are finding out that CBD has very little effect on CB1 and CB2 receptors, which probably explains why it doesn’t have mind-altering effects, unlike THC, which positively regulates the CB1 receptor. That’s why most marijuana grown for recreational purposes are typically very low in CBD and high in THC. (3)
8 Proven Benefits of CBD
1. Relieves Pain and Inflammation
Among common CBD benefits, natural pain relief tops the list for many. Evidence suggests that cannabinoids may prove useful in pain modulation by inhibiting neuronal transmission in pain pathways. A 2012 study published in the Journal of Experimental Medicine found that CBD significantly suppressed chronic inflammatory and neuropathic pain in rodents without causing analgesic tolerance. Researchers suggest that CBD and other nonpsychoactive components of marijuana may represent a novel class of therapeutic agents for the treatment of chronic pain. (4)
According to a 2007 meta-analysis conducted in Canada, the combination of CBD and THC buccal spray was found to be effective in treating neuropathic pain in multiple sclerosis, which can be debilitating for 50 to 70 percent of MS patients. (5)
2. Has Antipsychotic Effects
Research shows that CBD benefits include producing antipsychotic effects. It appears to have a pharmacological profile similar to that of atypical antipsychotic drugs as seen using behavioral and neurochemical techniques in animal studies. Additionally, studies show that CBD prevents human experimental psychosis and is effective in open case reports and clinical trials in patients with schizophrenia, with a remarkable safety profile. (6)
3. Reduces Anxiety
Studies using animal models of anxiety and involving healthy volunteers clearly suggest an anxiolytic-like effect of CBD. Cannabidiol has shown to reduce anxiety in patients with social anxiety disorder and researchers suggest that it may also be effective for panic disorder, obsessive compulsive disorder, social anxiety disorder and post-traumatic stress disorder. (7)
A 2011 study aimed to compare the effects of a simulation public speaking test on healthy control patients and treatment-native patients with social anxiety disorder. A total of 24 never-treated patients with social anxiety disorder were given either CBD or placebo 1.5 hours before the test. Researchers found that pretreatment with CBD significantly reduced anxiety, cognitive impairment and discomfort in their speech performance, and significantly decreased alertness in anticipation of their speech. The placebo group presented higher anxiety, cognitive impairment and discomfort. (8)
4. Helps to Fight Cancer
Several scientific reports demonstrate that CBD benefits include possessing antiproliferative, pro-apoptotic effects that inhibit cancer cell migration, adhesion and invasion. (9) A 2006 study published in the Journal of Pharmacology and Experimental Therapeutics found for the first time that CBD potently and selectively inhibited the growth of different breast tumor cell lines and exhibited significantly less potency in non-cancer cells. (10)
In 2011, researchers added light on the cellular mechanism through which CBD induces cell death in breast cancer cells. They showed that CBD induced a concentration-dependent cell death of both oestrogen receptor-positive and oestrogen receptor-negative breast cancer cells. They also found that the effective concentrations of CBD in tumor cells have little effect on non-tumorigenic, mammary cells. (11)
CBD behaves as a non-toxic compound and studies show that doses of 700 milligrams per day for 6 weeks did not show any overt toxicity in humans, suggesting that it can be used for prolonged treatment. Not only does the research show that CBD benefits including being effective in fighting breast cancer cells, data also suggests that it can be used to inhibit the invasion of lung and colon cancer, plus it possesses anti-tumor properties in gliomas and has been used to treat leukemia. (12)
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