CBD Oil has been in the news a lot lately for its many health benefits. More people than ever are turning to this natural oil to treat illnesses from anxiety to cancer. To understand why CBD oil has become so popular with the public, you need to understand what CBD oil is and how it works to improve health and relieve pain.
What is CBD Oil?
CBD stands for cannabidoil, which is an oil found in hemp and marijuana plants that affects the body in many ways. You may be familiar with THC, found in hemp and marijuana plants an responsible for making people feel “high.” CBD isn’t like that. It doesn’t make you high and is safe to use on a regular basis. Marijuana and hemp are basically the same plant, but marijuana strains are high in THC while hemp strains are higher in CBD and low in THC. CBD oils come from hemp plants grown to produce high quality cannabidoil with only trace amounts of THC. You do not need a prescription for CBD oil because it is not the same as medical marijuana. In fact, the Food and Drug Administration does not consider CBD oil a drug at all. It is a natural health supplement.
Brief History of CBD Oil for Health
The current interest in CBD oil for health first took off in the 1980s, but in ancient times CBD was used by many people for its health benefits. As long ago as 12,000 BCE, hemp was grown and used in Siberia and the surrounding area. China, Egypt and India all used cannabis to treat cramps, joint pain and infections thousands of years ago. Greeks and Romans used cannabis for pain relief, inflammation and some forms of epilepsy. A good track record!
In the modern world, cannabis and cannabidoil’s health benefits were largely forgotten until the 1940s, when Roger Adams, a Harvard graduate and researcher, isolated and identified cannabidoil. He noticed how it eased pain and continued his research, but the U.S. government banned marijuana as a “dangerous drug.” By the 1970s, a tincture containing CBD oil was available in the United Kingdom for pain relief. The U.S. was slower to embrace its use despite Dr. Raphael Mechoulam having proved that CBD could control seizures in children with epilepsy.
Today, CBD oil is available in pure oil form and in tinctures as over-the-counter supplements. It is not classified as a drug and is legal in all fifty states. In some states, CBD is legal only if it comes from hemp plants grown on licensed farms. In other states, CBD oil can be taken from either hemp or marijuana plants as long as the level of THC is low enough.
How Does CBD Affect the Body?
Cannabidoil affects two different important neurotransmitters – CB1 and CB2. It acts to block certain signals to these neurotransmitters by working with other receptors in the brain such as those that control the release of serotonin and certain ion channel blockers.
CB1 receptors affect the part of the brain that controls movement, mood, emotions and memories. CB2 receptors affect the immune system and the body’s response to pain and inflammation. When CBD works with these two receptors, it helps the body improve its response, reducing symptoms of pain and inflammation. CBD stops the transmission of pain across nerve paths and produces a soothing effect by increasing the body’s production of serotonin, the feel-good hormone that affects mood and your overall feeling of well-being. CBD also improves the function of adenosine receptors, which control anxiety and paranoia. Finally, CBD stimulates the vanilloid receptors that control both pain and inflammation. When vanilloid receptors are firing, pain and inflammation aren’t felt as strongly.
What are Some of the Health Benefits of CBD Oil?
There are many health problems that can be controlled or reduced by taking CBD oil. Daily use seems to be the best way to get the full benefits.
Anxiety is a feeling of fear or dread of the future that isn’t backed up by reality. People with anxiety worry a lot about things that aren’t real or things they can’t change. It can be crippling, interfering with daily activities and relationships and leading to agitation, insomnia and obsessive thinking. Some of the symptoms of anxiety can include panic, raised heart rate, nervousness, sweating, dizziness and inability to relax or stay calm.
CBD oil acts in the same way antidepressants work. It inhibits the brain’s absorption of serotonin so that it stays in the system longer and stabilizes mood, making you feel better. It also increases the levels of anandamide in the body. Anandamide is a mood regulator the gives you a feeling of calm. CBD blocks the enzyme that breaks down anandamide so your body has more of it for longer stretches of time.
Some studies suggest that CBD also increases the body’s production of nerve cells in the hippocampus. The hippocampus is the part of the brain that controls fear and anxiety. Over time, anxiety leads to shrinking of the hippocampus because fewer new cells are being made. CBD helps your brain make more nerve cells.
You can learn more about Treating Anxiety with CBD Oil in our deep-dive article.
Some of the same receptors that make you anxious can also lead to depression. By helping limit the brain’s absorption of serotonin, CBD oil helps smooth out a person’s mood and gives them a feeling of well-being. Anxiety and depression can be linked, and the effect of CBD on depression is the same as its effect on anxiety.
There are lots of antidepressants that limit serotonin absorption. These are called SSRIs (Selective Serotonin Reuptake Inhibitors), but they come with a long list of side effects like nausea, vomiting, tiredness, weight gain and headaches. They are also addictive, so when a person wants to stop taking it, they go through withdrawal. This can cause headaches, dizziness, flu-like symptoms and hallucinations. Withdrawing from SSRIs can be brutal. CBD oil is not addictive and has few or no side effects.
Recent studies show that CBD oil also works more quickly, giving many users relief in as little as week or less. Prescription antidepressants can take weeks before they are effective and have to be slowly moved up a dosage scale. Antidepressants have to be taken on a rigid schedule to be safe, while CBD oil can be skipped sometimes and the dosage can be adjusted without side effects.
Some studies show that taking small amounts of CBD oil before bedtime can make you more alert, but CBD oil is also recommended for treating insomnia and promoting better sleep. How is this possible? The answer lies in the way CBD works.
If lack of sleep or poor sleep is caused by anxiety or depression, treating these problems with CBD oil may be enough to let you get a good night’s rest. You may also get more rest as a side effect to using CBD oil as a pain reliever.
You should also take CBD oil earlier in the day so that you are alert during the day and will be ready to sleep at night. Too much napping during the day can throw your sleep cycle off, so being alert and able to get things done during the day can help you to sleep better at night. Using CBD oil a few hours before bedtime usually leads to longer, more restful sleep.
Pain and Inflammation Relief
CBD oil provides pain relief in two ways. It is an analgesic (it affects the way your brain perceives pain) and an anti-inflammatory (it reduces swelling and inflammation in joints). Cannabidoil’s effect on serotonin and anandamide levels in the brain reduces pain the same way it increases your sense of well-being and reduces anxiety levels.
But the pain relief occurs because of the way CBD affects the CB2 receptors in the central nervous system. CB2 receptors tied to the central nervous system run all through the body and affect the immune system, pain and inflammation. There is a change in CB2 function with almost every kind of pain-related disease. CBD binds to some kinds of CB2 receptors and indirectly turns on glycerin receptors so they block or reduce feelings of pain. CBD oil also contains several anti-oxidants, which help reduce inflammation in the body and reduce over-activity in the immune system.
One of the greatest benefits of using CBD oil for treating pain is the lack of major side effects. Many prescription pain relievers have side effects such as fogginess, nausea, vomiting, constipation and organ damage. There is also a risk of addiction with narcotic pain relievers, which isn’t an issue with CBD. The list of pain and inflammation related conditions that can be helped by use of CBD oil is long, including arthritis, MS, Fibromyalgia, injuries, post-surgical pain, headaches and more.
The profound effect that CBD oil has on some patients who suffer from epileptic seizures is the main reason a growing wave of states have approved medical marijuana. But many patients respond just as well to CBD oil, which is available without a prescription in most states and doesn’t get the patient “high.” It’s an alternative to more traditional seizure medications that often cause bad side effects.
Treating seizures is the one medical treatment that all sides of the CBD oil debate seems to agree on. More clinical tests have been done on the effect of CBD on seizures than any other medical condition and the scientific evidence is good. It does not work on all forms of seizures, but for patients with either Dravet syndrome or Lennox-Gastaut syndrome, CBD has been valuable. These disorders do not respond to drugs and CBD works well on them at low doses.
Cancer patients have known for years that marijuana use can ease the side effects of chemotherapy. It helps ease the nausea and vomiting and improves appetite, but you don’t have to smoke marijuana to get these benefits. CBD oil can reduce the nausea and vomiting from chemo without the high you get from marijuana.
Cancer is the growth of cells in the body that should have been killed. When a cell is damaged or has some kind of problem, it self-destructs if the body’s immune system is working right. This is called apoptosis, and CBD oil stimulates apoptosis in cancer cells. In laboratory and animal trials, it shrinks tumors and stops their growth. While human trials haven’t been done, there are many people who use CBD oil with other medical treatments.
Current research shows that CBD might help stop the spread of some cancers, including breast, lung, thyroid and ovarian cancer and leukemia, but human trials need to be done to confirm this. It is important to talk to your doctor about using CBD oil as part of your cancer treatment. It should not be used in place of other treatments, but can be added to them to improve how they work and relieve other symptoms.
Heart Health Benefits
Many studies have been done on how CBD affects blood pressure, heart rate and heart health. The results are good. CBD oil reduces blood pressure that goes up when you are stressed. It also seems to reduce resting blood pressure by about 6 points. CBD is also rich in Omega-3 fatty acids, which helps boost heart health and can help reduce cholesterol levels. By reducing high blood pressure, CBD oil can help reduce cardiovascular illness. The most recent studies have also noted that CBD acts as a vasodilator (it opens blood vessels for better blood flow), which can reduce your chance of having a stroke.
Immune System Support
A balanced immune system is important to good health. An overactive immune system can cause allergic reactions to harmless things such as grass and pets and lead to food sensitivities, asthma and sinus problems. It can also trigger immune related illnesses such as Lupus, Hashimoto’s disease, arthritis, Type 1 diabetes, Crohn’s disease, MS and more. An underactive immune system can contribute to cancer, HIV, hepatitis and shingles and leave people open to infections from molds, bacteria and viruses.
Recent evidence suggests that CBD oil aids in balancing immune system function and reduces the inflammation that causes damage and pain from diseases such as arthritis and Lupus. In MS patients, for example, the immune system is overstimulated and attacks the body’s central nervous system as though it is an invader. It damages nerve bundles and causes scarring, leaving nerves less able to react. Many patients lose motor function. CBD oil reduces this, restoring some movement to many patients.
For patients with diseases like HIV the effects of CBD are less direct. It seems to encourage the body to make healthy T cells, but it also improves overall health. By improving appetite and getting rid of nausea, CBD oil helps those with HIV stay healthier so they can more easily fight the illness. It also combats the depression, pain and anxiety that many HIV-positive people suffer.
Advantages and Disadvantages of CBD Oil
There are many advantages to using CBD oil as part of a healthy lifestyle. It is relatively inexpensive compared to most prescription drugs. If you have high blood pressure or anxiety and CBD oil helps, you can avoid having to take a pricey drug and you can easily adjust the dosage to meet your needs. For people who are undergoing expensive treatments, CBD oil may be a welcome alternative. It is also easy to get CBD oil without having to visit a doctor and fill prescriptions, making it convenient for busy people.
Easy to Use
CBD oil is easy to use. Just place drops of the oil under the tongue so it is absorbed quickly. If you don’t like the earthy taste of pure CBD oil, you can use CBD tinctures that have added flavors. No need to swallow pills! Adjusting the dose is easy to do and you can take CBD oil with you wherever you go.
Few Side Effects
Prescription drugs often have a long list of side effects. Some of these can be uncomfortable, others can be dangerous or even deadly. CBD oil has very few side effects and most people don’t have any side effects at all when using CBD oil. The most common side effects are fatigue, changes in appetite and mild diarrhea. These effects usually go away after a few days or weeks and happen in less than 5% of the people who use CBD oil. There are no known side effects that are dangerous or harmful.
Some drugs, including most narcotic pain relievers, can be addictive. CBD oil is not addictive and can be used for as long as necessary. You can stop taking it without going through withdrawal symptoms.
In rare instances, CBD oil may interact with some medications, making them less effective. If you are taking any medication, be sure to discuss using CBD oil with your doctor.
It is legal to sell CBD oil and other products from hemp plant in the United States according to the 2014 Agricultural Act. On the other hand, the Controlled Substances Act says it is illegal to cultivate and sell products from cannabis plants. This doesn’t take into consideration the difference between hemp plants (high in CBD, low in THC) and marijuana plants (high in THC). This makes the legal status of CBD oil a gray area, but it hasn’t affected the popularity of CBD oil and the government has not addressed the conflict. It seems the government is fine with CBD oil as long as it is from hemp and not marijuana plants. Most states have made CBD oil legal as long as it contains low THC values.
Future of CBD Oil
In June of 2018, the Food and Drug Administration approved Epidiolex to treat Dravet and Lennox-Gastaut, making it the FDA’s first ever approval of any form of medication from marijuana plants. It has opened the door to more research on the effects of CBD on other illnesses and conditions, including cancers, Parkinson’s, MS, epilepsy, migraines and various autoimmune diseases. As more uses are found for CDB and THC, the demand for DBD oil will only increase.
Because most states have already made CBD oil legal, the federal government is currently turning a blind eye to the sale of CBD oils. Every year, more scientists are doing research that confirms the value of CBD oil for good health. As these results roll in, the federal government is sure to follow the lead of states and recognize that marijuana and CBD from hemp are two different products. Formally legalizing CBD oil should be the next step.