Cannabidiol or CBD has become increasingly popular as a health and wellness product. Its positive effects on the body have been backed by scientific research. CBD has medicinal benefits for treating pain, inflammation, anxiety, epilepsy, and several other illnesses and diseases.
What is CBD?
CBD is a natural compound (phytocannabinoid or plant-based cannabinoid) found in Cannabis plants. Along with delta-9-tetrahydrocannabinol, better known as THC, CBD is one of the most common parts of the active ingredients found in Cannabis. Higher percentages of CBD are found in hemp than in marijuana.
How does CBD affect the body?
The use of Cannabis in medicine dates to ancient Egyptians, Greeks, Chinese, and other civilizations. Only recently, in the 1960s, research into the makeup of Cannabis revealed that CBD was the main reason why marijuana had been effective as a medicine. This is because the human body has an internal or endocannabinoid system that regulates several functions such as movement, memory, sleep, appetite, pain, and inflammation. There are two endocannabinoid receptors found in humans: CB1, which controls memory, perception, and movement, and CB2, which influences the immune system and inflammation. Thus, external plant-based cannabinoids like CBD can have significant benefits for functions that are managed by our internal cannabinoid system. Hence, CBD has been praised as a natural option for reducing pain and inflammation.
Various studies show the positive effects of CBD to treat (inflammatory) pain.[i] In as little as two weeks, patients in clinical trials experienced a reduction of pain symptoms with the use of Sativex, which contains equal doses of CBD and THC. Sativex is approved in the European Union and has successfully reduced pain in sufferers of multiple sclerosis, rheumatoid arthritis, and peripheral and chronic pain.
In terms of pure CBD, Shannon et al. (2019) carried out a case study to prove if it improves sleep and anxiety.[ii] In a sample of 72 adults, 79.2% experienced less anxiety during the first month of the study. CBD improved the sleep scores in 66.7% of the participants within the first month. Only three subjects reacted badly to the CBD treatment. The study showed that CBD can be helpful to treat anxiety-related illnesses, but more clinical trials are still needed.
Clinical trials in the United States, however, have shown that CBD can be used to treat epilepsy.[iii] Prescription CBD under the name of Epidiolex is approved by the US Food and Drug Administration (FDA) to reduce epileptic seizures.