A variety of medicinal marijuana buds in jars are pictured at Los Angeles Patients & Caregivers Group dispensary in West Hollywood, California U.S., October 18, 2016. REUTERS/Mario Anzuoni/File Photo
Cannabidiol, or CBD, is generating a lot of buzz in the medical marijuana movement. The benefits of the non-psychoactive ingredient in cannabis, or the other half of THC, have been shown to treat several ailments, from neurological disorders to cancer. Evidently, CBD has medical value, but what is it exactly and how does it work?
The “miracle compound” is one of more than 80 active cannabinoid compounds in the marijuana plant. CBD produces its effect by interacting with specific receptors on cells in the brain and body: The CB1 receptor, found on neurons and glial cells in various parts of the brain; and the CB2 receptor, found mainly in the body’s immune system. It does not bind to the CB1 and CB2 nerve receptors in the brain, meaning it won’t get us high. CBD levels can vary between plants. For example, marijuana plants grown for recreational use tend to be high in THC, and vary in amounts of CBD. Industrial hemp plants are very low in THC, while medical marijuana plants are high in CBD.
There is growing evidence that CBD acts on other brain signaling systems, and that these actions may be important contributors to its therapeutic effects.
Several scientific studies have explored the potential therapeutic effects of CBD on our health.
CBD has been found to be effective in reducing both behavioral and physiological measures of stress and anxiety. In a 2011 study, published in Neuropsychopharmacology, researchers investigated CBD’s effect on regional cerebral blood flow in patients with Social Anxiety Disorder. A single dose of CBD significantly reduced anxiety, cognitive impairment, and discomfort in their speech performance. This suggests a single dose of CBD can reduce the anxiety-induced fear brought on by public speaking.
2. Invention For Addictive Behaviors
Drug addiction is a disorder characterized by the compulsive and uncontrollable desire to use drugs. A 2013 animal study published in Addictive Biology found CBD inhibits the rewarding effect of morphine. CBD was able to block morphine’s addictive effect on the rats by reducing the pleasure the drug offered.
3. Combats Cancer Spread
CBD has been shown to reduce pain and nausea, and increase appetite during patients’ cancer treatments. There are also reports that show CBD’s anti-tumor effects. There has been a reduced cell viability, increased cancer cell death, decreased tumor growth, and inhibition of metastasis.
Researchers attribute these effects to to the antioxidant and anti-inflammatory properties of CBD. These findings have not yet been explored in human patients.
4. Alleviates Neuropathic Pain, Rheumatoid Arthritis, And Cancer Pain
The analgesic effects of nabiximols, a cannabinoid, on central and peripheral neuropathic pain, rheumatoid arthritis, and cancer pain, has been demonstrated in several studies. Currently, CBD is approved in Canada for the treatment of central neuropathic pain in MS and cancer pain unresponsive to opioid therapy. There is evidence that suggests the analgesic effect is mediated by THC; making it unclear whether CBD contributes to the therapeutic effects.
5. Reduces Seizures In Children
CBD has anti-seizure activity, reducing the severity of seizures in animal studies. Several case studies and anecdotal reports suggest CBD could be effective in treating children with drug-resistant epilepsy. However, these studies have been small, and need further exploration.
The world of science is just beginning to understand the potential of CBD — THC’s other half — in modern medicine.