CBD has been touted for a wide variety of health issues, but the strongest scientific evidence is for its effectiveness in treating some of the cruelest childhood epilepsy syndromes, such as Dravet syndrome and Lennox-Gastaut syndrome (LGS), which typically don’t respond to antiseizure medications. In numerous studies, CBD was able to reduce the number of seizures, and, in some cases, stop them altogether. Epidiolex, which contains CBD, is the first cannabis-derived medicine approved by the FDA for these conditions.

Animal studies, and self-reports or research in humans, suggest CBD may also help with:

Anxiety 

Studies and clinical trials are exploring the common report that CBD can reduce anxiety. In a recent 2020 study, researchers evaluated CBD’s effects in 397 adults living in New Zealand. The study participants received medical CBD prescriptions for a variety of ailments, including non-cancer pain, cancer-related symptoms, neurological symptoms, and mental health symptoms.

All groups reported improvements in their overall quality of life after 3 weeks of CBD treatment. The individuals who received CBD treatment for anxiety or depression reportedly experienced improvements in their ability to perform daily functions and reduce pain and anxiety or depression symptoms.

70% of study participants reported some level of satisfaction with CBD treatment, ranging from good to excellent. Only 9.9% of participants experienced adverse side effects, such as sedation and vivid dreams. An even smaller portion of the study population (0.8%) reported worsening symptoms.

In a retrospective study, researchers evaluated the effects of CBD treatment in 72 adults with either anxiety or sleep problems.

The majority of study participants received one 25 milligram capsule of CBD once a day (mg/d). A few participants received 50 or 75 mg/d. One individual with a history of trauma and schizoaffective disorder received up to 175 mg/d.

After the first 2 months of CBD treatment, 78.1–79.2% of participants reported improvements in anxiety symptoms.

Insomnia – Studies suggest that CBD may help with both falling asleep and staying asleep.

Chronic pain – Further human studies are needed to substantiate claims that CBD helps control pain. One animal study from the European Journal of Pain suggests CBD could help lower pain and inflammation due to arthritis when applied to the skin. Other research identifies how CBD may inhibit inflammatory and neuropathic pain, which are difficult to treat.

Addiction – CBD can help lower cravings for tobacco and heroin under certain conditions, according to some research in humans. Animal models of addiction suggest it may also help lessen cravings for alcohol, cannabis, opiates, and stimulants.

When does CBD start working

Generally, you can begin to feel the effects of CBD within 15 minutes of using it sublingually. Edibles and topical products can take as long as an hour or two to kick in. Generally, the effects of CBD can last 2-6 hours.

Will CBD help with pain?

According to the National Centers for Complementary and Integrative Health (NCCIH), some evidence suggests that cannabis or CBD could have modest benefits for chronic pain.

A 2020 review reports that CBD could have benefits for relieving chronic pain, improving sleep, and reducing inflammation, but that these effects are condition-specific.

More evidence is needed to determine the therapeutic potential of CBD and to determine safe and effective dosages for pain.

Based on the current research, here are some possible benefits of CBD oil:

Neuropathic pain

Neuropathic pain is pain caused by damage to the nerves. This type of pain is common in diseases such as multiple sclerosis, injuries such as herniated discs, and infections such as shingles.

A 2017 review found that CBD helped with chronic neuropathy pain in humans. The researchers looked at 11 randomized controlled trials with 1,219 patients.

However, a 2018 Cochrane review concluded that the potential benefits of cannabis-based medicine might be outweighed by its potential harms.

This research looked into the effects of cannabis-derived medicines, including CBD, for chronic neuropathic pain. It looked at 16 studies and 1,750 participants.

More research is needed to understand the role of CBD in chronic neuropathic pain management, including the risks, benefits, and ideal dosages.

Arthritis pain

A 2016 study in the European Journal of Pain used an animal model to see if CBD could help people with arthritis manage their pain. Researchers applied a topical gel containing CBD to rats with arthritis for 4 days.

Their researchers noted a significant drop in inflammation and signs of pain, without additional side effects.

Multiple sclerosis

Multiple sclerosis (MS) is an autoimmune condition that affects the entire body through the nerves and brain.

Muscle spasms are one of the most common symptoms of MS. These spasms can be so strong they cause constant pain in some people.

One report found that short-term use of CBD oil could reduce the levels of muscle spasms a person feels. The results are modest, but many people reported a reduction in symptoms. More studies on humans are needed to verify these results.

Chronic pain

The same report studied CBD use for general chronic pain. Researchers compiled the results of multiple systematic reviews covering dozens of trials and studies. Their research concluded that there is substantial evidence that cannabis is an effective treatment for chronic pain in adults.

A separate study in the Journal of Experimental Medicine supports these results. This research suggests that using CBD can reduce pain and inflammation.

The researchers also found that subjects were not likely to build up a tolerance to the effects of CBD, so they would not need to increase their dose over time.

They noted that cannabinoids, such as CBD, could offer helpful new treatments for people with chronic pain.

Can CBD help with sleep?

A good night’s sleep is essential to your overall health and wellbeing. Experts recommend adults sleep seven to nine hours each night. Proper sleep ensures you feel well-rested and have energy for the next day. A good night’s rest also contributes to memory formation, helps grow and repair muscle and tissue, and prevents sickness.

Unfortunately, falling asleep or staying asleep can be difficult for certain types of sleepers. As many as 70% of Americans report not sleeping the recommended hours, and nearly one-third of American workers sleep less than six hours per night. Solutions for better sleep and avoiding sleep debt vary. Possible approaches include improved sleep hygiene, prescription sleep aids, and natural sleep aids.

One increasingly popular strategy for sleeping better is taking cannabidiol (CBD), a derivative of cannabis. CBD is commonly used to improve sleep and decrease anxiety. However, the regulation of CBD in the United States is limited, and much more research must be done to determine the exact effects CBD has on sleep and other physical and mental health concerns.

Anxiety and CBD

While not a sleep disorder itself, anxiety can contribute to poor quality sleep, insufficient sleep, and sleep disorders. Because CBD calms the nervous system, early research indicates that CBD can be used to treat anxiety-related disorders. One study showed that nearly 80% of participants who used CBD to treat their anxiety reported lower anxiety levels within a month. Sleep initially improved in more than 65% percent of participants, followed by fluctuating results.

Insomnia and CBD

People who suffer from insomnia experience difficulty falling asleep or staying asleep25 at night. This disorder affects daytime wakefulness, ability to concentrate, and mood. Because of their history of poor sleep, people with insomnia may suffer from anxiety about getting inadequate sleep, which can then increase sleeplessness at night.

Given the potential positive outcomes of CBD treating anxiety, it is speculated that CBD may also help reduce the anxiety associated with insomnia. Additionally, a new pilot study of CBD and THC use in humans with physician-diagnosed insomnia is underway. The results of the study will offer more insight into the effects CBD has on insomnia.

REM Sleep Behavior Disorder and CBD

In REM sleep behavior disorder, patients verbalize and make aggressive movements during their rapid eye movement (REM) stage of sleep. The disorder is most common in older patients with neurodegenerative diseases, such as Alzheimer’s disease and Parkinson’s disease.

In a limited study of four patients with Parkinson’s disease, CBD helped manage the REM sleep behavior disorder symptoms. Before taking CBD, the patients experienced disorder symptoms 2–7 times per week. After taking CBD, the symptoms occurred 0–1 times in a week. Further studies are necessary, but these initial results suggest CBD as a possible treatment for REM sleep behavior disorder.

Excessive Daytime Sleepiness Disorder and CBD

Those who have excessive daytime sleepiness disorder struggle to stay awake during typical daytime hours. One solution for waking up on time and staying awake may be CBD. Initial research on animals shows that CBD functions as a wake-inducing drug. However, other studies suggest CBD functions as a sedating drug. Further research is needed to determine what doses and methods of CBD use affect wakefulness and sleepiness.

Entourage effect

The “entourage effect”, is the suggested positive contribution derived from the addition of terpenes to the effect of cannabinoids. This means that the entirety of the effect is greater than the sum effects of its contributing parts. The entourage effect in Cannabis was first postulated by Mechoulam and Ben-Shabat. Their findings led them to the development of the hypothesis, that other inactive biological products, accompanying the primary endogenous cannabinoids, increase its activity. Russo described the concept of botanical synergy, in which a dominant molecule is supported by other plant derivatives – cannabinoids, terpenes, flavonoids, and other inactive substances, to achieve a maximal pharmacological effect. Russo reviews several studies, in which a whole plant extract had a superior effect to purified cannabinoids.

Can CBD lower blood pressure

Some research studies indicate that products containing CBD may help with lowering blood pressure.

A 2020 study found that CBD may have vasodilatory effects in human and rat arteries. The authors suggest that CBD may improve a person’s blood flow, as it widens their blood vessels.

Additionally, a 2017 study looked at the effects of a single dose of CBD oil in healthy participants. The authors found that it lowered blood pressure in individuals who were at rest and those under stress.

According to the American Institute of Stress, stress may cause blood pressure to rise. This is due to the heart pumping faster and stress hormones constricting the blood vessels.

Cbd and Parkinson’s/fibromyalgia/acid reflux/diabetes/restless leg/sciatica

  • Parkinsons

The FDA is aware that patients are frustrated that our understanding of how best to use CBD remains minimal because of the lack of clinical trials. In 2015, the FDA changed some of its regulations to make it easier to study CBD in clinical trials.

In one, an open-label study of CBD was conducted on six patients with psychosis. Psychotic symptoms decreased.

In a second trial, an open-label study of CBD was conducted on four patients with REM behavior sleep disorder. Symptoms decreased.

A third trial was conducted on 21 patients with PD and was double-blinded, meaning neither patient nor doctor knew who received treatment and who received a placebo. Motor scores did not improve, but the quality of life scores did.

  • Fibromyalgia

“CBD is less harmful than THC, as it is non-intoxicating and has less potential for abuse,” said Kevin Boehnke, Ph.D., a research investigator in the Department of Anesthesiology and the Chronic Pain and Fatigue Research Center. “If people can find the same relief without THC’s side effects, CBD may represent a useful harm reduction strategy.”

Boehnke and his team surveyed people with fibromyalgia about their use of CBD for the treatment of chronic pain.

“Fibromyalgia is not easy to treat, often involving several medications with significant side effects and modest benefits,” Boehnke explained. “Further, many alternative therapies, like acupuncture and massage, are not covered by insurance.”

For this study, the team focused on 878 people with fibromyalgia who said they used CBD to get more insight into how they used CBD products. 

The U-M team found that more than 70% of people with fibromyalgia who used CBD substituted CBD for opioids or other pain medications. Of these participants, many reported that they either decreased use or stopped taking opioids and other pain medications as a result.

“I was not expecting that level of substitution,” said Boehnke, noting that the rate is quite similar to the substitution rate reported in the medical cannabis literature. People who said they used CBD products that also contained THC had higher odds of substitution and reported greater symptom relief.

Yet the finding that products containing only CBD also provided pain relief and were substituted for pain medications is promising and merits future study, noted Boehnke.

The team noted that much of the widespread use of CBD is occurring without physician guidance and in the absence of relevant clinical trials. “Even with that lack of evidence, people are using CBD, substituting it for medication and doing so saying it’s less harmful and more effective,” he said.

Acid reflux

As soon as gastric acid from your stomach starts to flow back to the esophagus due to the irregular movement of the lower esophageal sphincter (LES), humans may normally feel the burning sensation. The constant flow back of the gastric acid may cause inflammation. These inflammations are usually the cause of acid reflux, leading to GERD. According to one study, CBD oil carries anti-inflammatory effects that can prevent heartburn or manage symptoms of acid reflux. Furthermore, some studies showed a link to how CBD works with the human endocannabinoid system’s receptors to bring out surprising effects. As such, it promotes the regulation of gastric acid production. To support the idea, a review of a study published in the Asian Pacific Journal of Medicine stated that cannabis extracts or using CBD can be the means to protect a Muna from mucosal damage. CBD reduces esophageal lining inflammation and reduces the danger of overburdening the gastroesophageal space.

  • Diabetes

Most studies of CBD’s effects on diabetes have been in mice or rats. This is a problem because laboratory conditions, differences between animals and humans, and other things can affect study results. Just because CBD works for them doesn’t mean it will work in humans.

In one study, researchers tested CBD on mice with less blood flow to the brain, a complication of diabetes for some people. They found that CBD:

Cut down hyperglycemia (high blood sugar)

Lowered cholesterol and “bad fat” levels

Upped insulin production

Other studies of CBD in mice or rats found it:

Eases swelling and pain from nerve damage.

One study showed CBD kept chronic inflammation and neuropathic pain at bay, which tends to affect the hands and feet of people with diabetes.

Lowers the risk of diabetes. Another study found CBD might ward off the disease.

Promotes “good fat.” CBD oil can help the body turn white fat into slimming brown fat. This can boost your body’s ability to use glucose.

  • Restless leg syndrome

While CBD does not constitute a cure for RLS, there are numerous ways in which it can help those living with the condition. For instance, RLS often leaves people feeling stiff and physically worn out. A CBD massage will help specific areas of the body to unwind, whilst also allowing the mind to enter a deep state of rest.

While RLS is defined mostly by its physical effects, we cannot discount how prolonged feelings of tension can take a toll on us mentally. CBD helps to ease not only the body but also the mind. Therefore, people with RLS may want to include CBD alongside a complete self-care ritual, be it a warm bath, yoga, or light exercise. This could help to calm any feelings of anxiety whilst also creating a more positive relationship with the body. Finally, CBD can help those struggling to get a peaceful night’s sleep. In fact, mild cases of RLS can be helped by adopting a healthy sleep cycle. Many of us create pre-bedtime rituals to help lull us to sleep, such as light stretching or even meditation. The alleviating effects of these rituals can be supported by CBD.

  • Sciatica

Despite limited research, many people have found pain relief with CBD. One Canadian woman who suffers from sciatica wrote an article for the Huffington Post titled, “Does CBD Really Help with Pain?” In the article, writer Fiona Tapp describes her life as a working mother who sits behind a desk all day and has been seeking relief for a long time. To address her sciatic pain, Tapp booked a massage in which the therapist used CBD oil to soothe her muscles. 

After the CBD massage, Tapp described, “That night, I happily realized that the usual pain I feel when trying to get comfy in bed was missing and I fell into a deep sleep by 9 p.m.”

Was Tapp’s pain relief linked to the massage, the CBD oil, or a combination of the two? The answer is debatable.

Written by Daniel Veilleux

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