CBD, short for cannabidiol, is a compound that naturally occurs in cannabis plants. It has become popular in recent years because of its potential in treating medical conditions like epilepsy, Alzheimer’s disease, arthritis, cancer, and more.
CBD oil is extracted from strains of hemp that have high concentrations of cannabidiol and only trace amounts of tetrahydrocannabinol (THC). THC is the psychotropic compound that gives recreational marijuana users a euphoric high. Since CBD oil only has tiny amounts of THC, it does not get users high or affect their behavior in any way, which makes it safer and less controversial than other cannabis products.
CBD oil’s sudden rise in popularity is largely thanks to the 2013 CNN documentary Weed, which featured the story of Charlotte Figi: a toddler who went from 300 epileptic seizures a week to zero seizures for several days after taking her first dose of CBD oil.
Charlotte’s story opened the floodgates for research on the effectiveness of CBD oil for treating epilepsy and other medical conditions, and the results so far show a lot of promise. Here are 8 health benefits of CBD oil backed by current scientific research.
1. Anti-inflammatory agent
A decent amount of research has concluded that CBD is a potent anti-inflammatory agent, which makes it a promising treatment option for people living chronic inflammatory diseases like rheumatoid arthritis. One study(1) involving mice found that a daily oral dose of CBD oil stopped the progression of rheumatoid arthritis, but it’s still not clear if it can have the same effect in humans.
2. Improves appetite
Anecdotal reports from people with HIV/AIDS and cancer patients receiving chemotherapy suggest that CBD can help establish a healthy appetite and reduce feelings of nausea, particularly after surgery, a long illness, or injury. Researchers believe CBD interacts with the body’s endocannabinoid system, which controls hunger and satiety, and helps release hormones that trigger feelings of hunger.
3. Pain relief
Researchers think CBD’s anti-inflammatory properties can also offer pain relief. According to the National Institute on Drug Abuse (NIDA), pre-clinical research(2) has shown that CBD can relieve pain caused by conditions like arthritis, cancer, migraines, and multiple sclerosis. While more research is needed to test the effectiveness of CBD oil for treating pain, anecdotal reports from people with chronic migraines indicate that a small dose (10mg) of CBD oil a day can significantly reduce the occurrence of migraines.
4. Treats acne
Research published in the Journal of Clinical Investigation(3) found that CBD is highly effective at inhibiting the production of sebum on human skin. Sebum is an oily substance that keeps the skin hydrated, but too much of it clogs skin pores and causes acne. Topical creams containing CBD oil may one day help people with severe acne.
5. Manages anxiety
Several studies involving animals have shown that CBD can reduce stress and anxiety, and this effect may extend to people with social anxiety disorder. Researchers from the University of São Paulo(4) found that a dose of CBD oil can help people suffering from social anxiety disorder with public speaking. They think CBD changes the way the brain responds to serotonin, which is a chemical linked to mental health.
6. Reduces epileptic seizures
A number of studies published over the past two decades have reported that CBD oil can reduce the severity of seizures in animals. Since the success of Charlotte Figi’s treatment with CBD oil, there have been several anecdotal reports touting its effectiveness in treating children with drug-resistant epilepsy. But more research is needed before CBD oil can officially be considered an alternative treatment option for children with severe epilepsy.
7. Treats neurodegenerative diseases
Several studies are currently being conducted to see if CBD oil can treat neurodegenerative diseases like Alzheimer’s disease, Parkinson’s disease, multiple sclerosis, stroke, and neurodegeneration caused by alcoholism. According to NIDA(2), the botanical drug Nabiximols (trade name Sativex), which contains both CBD and THC, has been approved in Europe and several other countries to alleviate spasticity, pain, overactive bladder, and other symptoms of multiple sclerosis.
There have been limited clinical trials to assess the effectiveness of CBD in treating other neurodegenerative diseases, but a recent clinical trial(2) in patients with Parkinson’s found that it improved quality-of-life scores.
8. Cancer treatment
According to the National Cancer Institute(6), studies performed on mice and rats found that CBD may inhibit the growth of tumors by blocking cell growth and causing cell death without affecting healthy cells. However, the institute notes that research on the use of CBD to treat cancer in humans is still in its early stages.
Additional tips on CBD use
Don’t confuse CBD oil with the organic hemp oils sold in grocery stores. Hemp oil is pressed from hemp seeds. It’s a great nutritional supplement that contains good fatty acids, but it doesn’t have any of the health benefits of CBD oil.
The FDA has not approved the use of CBD oil for treating medical conditions. Products derived from the compound are also not legal in all 50 states. Make sure to check the legal status of CBD oil in your state before making a purchase.
Talk to your doctor before using CBD products. While its use–even in large quantities–doesn’t appear to have any major risks, some users have reported mild side effects like drowsiness, fatigue, and dry mouth. Using CBD oil to treat diseases is still a new practice and more research is needed to fully understand its risks and side effects.