Medical professionals and wellness practitioners considering the recommendation of hemp-derived cannabidiol (CBD) products to their patients and clients must take understanding the efficacy of such products as a professional responsibility.
Although the recent popularity of CBD products has gained the attention of everyone from consumers to doctors to acupuncturists, research on this molecule that was first discovered in 1940 has been underway since the early 1960s.
Science-backed Benefits of CBD
CBD has shown much promise for the conditions involving anxiety, addiction, and a host of inflammatory diseases.
One area where much credible research has been conducted is epilepsy—including rare but intractable variants such as Dravet Syndrome and Lennox-Gastaut syndrome—have been known to reduce and sometimes even eliminate the occurrence of seizure activity.
A 2017 research study entitled “Cannabinoids in the Treatment of Epilepsy: Hard Evidence at Last?” that was published in the Journal of Epilepsy Research concluded, “For the first time, there is now class 1 evidence that adjunctive use of CBD improves seizure control in patients with specific epilepsy syndromes.”
The study’s researchers reported, “CBD has been reported to exhibit a range of other activities which suggest potential utility in many other conditions, including anxiety, mood disorders, psychosis, fear, trauma-related conditions, tobacco and opioid addiction, inflammatory diseases, neurodegenerative disorders, and as a tool to counteract the undesired psychotropic effects of THC.”
More support for the efficacy of CBD comes from the fact that the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) has approved an isolate of CBD, Epidiolex, as a prescription drug for epilepsy and related seizure conditions.
Because it supports a reduction in anxiety and may play a role in producing a mild sedative effect, CBD may be an effective ancillary or complementary treatment for a wide variety of psychological conditions. CBD may be helpful as a primary or adjunctive support therapy in the treatment of Post Traumatic Stress Disorder, insomnia, social anxiety (suffered by nearly one out of three Americans), and Obsessive-Compulsive Disorder.
CBD, along with a long list of other cannabinoids and terpenes derived from hemp, exhibits powerful analgesic-like properties. Unlike many popular opioid-based painkillers, CBD offers few negative side effects, including no opportunity for addiction or withdrawal.
Minor side effects that have been noted in some users at particularly strong doses include “nausea, fatigue, and irritability,” according to Dr. Peter Grinspoon (when writing for Harvard Medical School).
“CBD can increase the level in your blood of the blood thinner coumadin and can raise levels of certain other medications in your blood by the exact same mechanism that grapefruit juice does,” wrote Dr. Grinspoon in 2018 in an article entitled “Cannabidiol (CBD): What We Know and What We Don’t” for Harvard Health Publishing.
The analgesic-like quality of CBD has been noted by many prominent medical practitioners, including Dr. Grinspoon. “CBD may offer an option for treating different types of chronic pain,” he wrote.
“A study from the European Journal of Pain showed, using an animal model, CBD applied on the skin could help lower pain and inflammation due to arthritis. Another study demonstrated the mechanism by which CBD inhibits inflammatory and neuropathic pain, two of the most difficult types of chronic pain to treat,” said Dr. Grinspoon.
CBD Research Studies
A multitude of studies have examined various aspects of the use of CBD for a variety of diseases and conditions resulting from them, including its safety profile and potential negative side effects in some patient categories.
A 2018 study entitled “Cannabidiol for Epilepsy: New Hope on the Horizon?” that was published in the journal Clinical Therapeutics examined the anticonvulsant efficacy of CBD for this seizure disorder that affects 50 million patients globally.
The study found that CBD operates “independent of the CB1 receptors and follows a bell-shaped dose-response curve,” indicating a biphasic response, and a need for medical professionals and their patients to pay careful attention to titration (dosing).
A 2016 human trial study entitled “CBD-enriched Medical Cannabis for Intractable Pediatric Epilepsy: The current Israeli Experience” and published in the journal Seizure involved 74 patients with intractable (untreatable with conventional drugs) epilepsy who consumed a cannabis oil extract for an average of six months.
The innovative study resulted in a significant reduction in seizure activity in 89 percent of study participants, with improvements in “behavior and alertness, language, communication, motor skills, and sleep.”
A 2011 research review study entitled “Cannabidiol as an Emergent Therapeutic Strategy for Lessening the Impact of Inflammation on Oxidative Stress” that was published in the journal Free Radical Biology & Medicine reported “Growing evidence suggests that the endocannabinoid system, which includes the CB₁ and CB₂ G-protein-coupled receptors and their endogenous lipid ligands, may be an area that is ripe for therapeutic exploitation.”
The researchers believe that CBD “offers promise as a prototype for anti-inflammatory drug development” and may be useful in the treatment of a wide range of conditions, including “rheumatoid arthritis, types 1 and 2 diabetes, atherosclerosis, Alzheimer disease, hypertension, the metabolic syndrome, ischemia-reperfusion injury, depression, and neuropathic pain.”
A 2010 study entitled “Cannabidiol Displays Antiepileptiform and Antiseizure Properties in Vitro and in Vivo” that was published in the Journal of Pharmacology and Experimental Therapeutics
examined the “antiepileptiform and antiseizure potential of CBD using in vitro electrophysiology and an in vivo animal seizure model, respectively.”
The study revealed what other researchers have identified: Unlike many other cannabinoids, CBD asserts relatively low binding affinity with CB1 cellular receptors located primarily throughout the brain and central nervous system.
More importantly, the research revealed the mechanism by which CBD inhibits seizure activity in those suffering from diseases such as epilepsy. Concluded the researchers, “Thus, we demonstrate the potential of CBD as a novel antiepileptic drug in the unmet clinical need associated with generalized seizures.”
A 2004 study entitled “Antitumor Effects of Cannabidiol, a Nonpsychoactive Cannabinoid, on Human Glioma Cell Lines” and published in the Journal of Pharmacology and Experimental Therapeutics to possess antitumor properties.
The researchers claimed to demonstrate, for the first time, that the antiproliferative effect of CBD was correlated to “induction of apoptosis” (pre-programmed cellular “suicide”). By triggering this genetic cellular mechanism, CBD triggered the cancer cells to cease their unnaturally fast rate of division and to kill themselves.
“CBD, administered…to nude mice at the dose of 0.5 mg/mouse, significantly inhibited the growth of subcutaneously implanted U87 human glioma cells. The researchers concluded that CBD “was able to produce a significant antitumor activity both in vitro and in vivo, thus suggesting a possible application of CBD as an antineoplastic agent.”