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Does CBD oil really do anything?

Does CBD oil really do anything? CBD’s popularity has been exploding all across the US. And along with the rise in interest, mass media has produced a deluge of information about CBD. Unfortunately, not all of that information is accurate. But the scientific evidence for CBD’s efficacy at treating a number of medical conditions has been mounting.

You’ll find articles at both ends of the spectrum. Some will tell you that CBD oil is a cureall, while others will tell you that CBD oil is just a fad and advise you not to waste your money.

Many academics have been adopting a purely scientific point of view. They take the stance that there is not enough evidence to support the notion that CBD is both effective and safe to consume. 

At the other end of the spectrum are cannabis zealots who will point to real-world case studies. They’ll point to particular cases in which an individual has seen miraculous improvements in their medical condition after using CBD oil. 

And the ailments these folks claim are successfully being treated with CBD run the gamut from fairly benign conditions such as greying hair and itchy skin, to serious, life-threatening conditions including cancer, diabetes, Alzheimer’s, liver and kidney disease, heart disease, and much more. 

The conflicting news reports leave a lot of people scratching their heads and wondering if CBD really does anything at all.

Why is there so much conflicting advice and information about CBD? 

The answer is because the stakes and values of the various players in the game are also quite diverse. 

A marketer that is trying to sell CBD might spin the information in favor of CBD possessing medicinal benefits. 

An organization that is morally against the use of cannabis altogether might cite reputable data debunking the health benefits of cannabis.

So, what, exactly is the truth about CBD oil? Does CBD oil really do anything?

The answer is, “it’s complicated.” And because it’s complicated there are a number of variables that can greatly affect the outcome of the treatment.

8 reasons why CBD oil is so complicated:

  1. CBD oil is a natural, herbal supplement.
  2. CBD oil formulas can vary greatly from crop to crop and batch to batch.
  3. Each individual’s endocannabinoid system is different.
  4. Therefore, CBD oil affects each individual differently.
  5. Terpene content can alter the effects of CBD oil.
  6. The delivery method can alter the effects, potency, and onset time.
  7. The physical condition, age, and weight, of a patient can play a roll in determining CBD’s effects on that patient. 
  8. CBD has a bell curve response, meaning above and below a certain dosage its effectiveness can be reduced.

Don’t worry if you don’t understand all of this. We cover topics such as CBD oil formulations, the endocannabinoid system, terpenes, and delivery methods, in other articles.

For this article, this information is only important to provide a basic understanding of why there is so much diversity of opinion about the efficacy and safety of CBD oil. Depending on all of the above factors, while CBD might work miracles for some patients, it might not actually do anything at all for other patients. 

The good news is, for many of those who choose to try CBD oil, it oftentimes does quite a bit to provide relief from their symptoms.  

But don’t take our word for it. Let’s look at the evidence.

What do research studies suggest about CBD’s efficacy and safety?

There are two kinds of evidence to consider when determining if CBD actually does anything. There is scientific evidence. And there is anecdotal evidence which just means claims made by those who have used CBD oil or treated a patient using CBD oil. 

Granted, there are highly credible individuals presenting compelling stories about CBD’s health benefits. However, anecdotal evidence can sometimes be sketchy and doesn’t hold up well in a medical debate. Although there’s value in anecdotal evidence, let’s put that aside and take a look at a handful of CBD research reports in order to get a sense of whether or not the researchers involved in these studies believe that CBD oil actually does something.

Anti-Inflammatory Effects

One of CBD’s most impressive benefits is its indisputable ability to reduce inflammation. Heart disease, the number one cause of death in the US, is attributed to inflammation. Pain, swelling, rashes and other skin irritation, and even kidney and liver diseases are also attributable to inflammation. 

In a 2009 review of research entitled, “Cannabinoids as novel anti-inflammatory drugs,” authors write, 

“Overall, cannabinoids have exhibited significant potential to be used as novel anti-inflammatory agents and specific targeting of CB2 receptors holds the promise of mediating immunosuppressive effects without exerting psychotropic side effects.”

Translated into layman’s terms that simply means that CBD can help to reduce inflammation without getting you high.

Antioxidant Effects

Antioxidants are like molecular landmines that attach themselves to dangerous molecules called free radicals and render them harmless. Free radicals can damage cells and even DNA, resulting in sickness and possibly even cancer. 

Conditions that might be caused by oxidation include cardiovascular disease, stroke, Parkinson’s disease, Alzheimer’s disease, and arthritis. 

So, what are CBD’s effects on free radicals? 

A study published in 1998 found CBD to be a more powerful antioxidant than both vitamins C and E. The report entitled, “Neuroprotective antioxidants from marijuana,” researchers wrote:

“cannabinoids can act as an antioxidant… In a head to head trial of the abilities of various antioxidants to prevent glutamate toxicity, cannabidiol was superior to both alpha-tocopherol [vitamin E] and ascorbate [vitamin C] in protective capacity.”

Stress Reduction

Stress can be a major contributor to disease. In 2009, The British Journal of Pharmacology published findings from a Brazilian lab study on CBD’s effects on stress in a report titled, 

“5-HT1A receptors are involved in the cannabidiol-induced attenuation of behavioral and cardiovascular responses to acute restraint stress in rats… CBD can attenuate acute autonomic responses to stress and its delayed emotional consequences by facilitating 5-HT1A receptor-mediated neurotransmission.”

What they are trying to say is, CBD might help people react better to stress.

Depression and Anxiety

A review of the existing body of research into CBD’s efficacy in treating depression and anxiety was undertaken at the New York School of Medicine. The report, entitled, “Cannabidiol as a Potential Treatment for Anxiety Disorders,” concluded that “Overall, preclinical evidence supports systemic CBD as an acute treatment of GAD, SAD, PD, OCD, and PTSD.”

Among the most common targets of research into CBD’s effects are mood disorders such as anxiety and depression. Research results suggest that CBD might provide an effective remedy for a range of anxiety disorders and major depression. 

Frontiers in Pharmacology published a report by a group of UK and Brazilian researchers studying the effects of Cannabidiol on anxiety, fear, and trauma titled, “Bidirectional Effects of Cannabidiol on Contextual Fear Memory Extinction.” 

The lab study, involving mice that had been subjected to fear conditioning, showed that CBD “reduced contextual fear memory expression.”

Pain Reduction

Numerous research studies have demonstrated CBD’s efficacy in treating various types of pain.

In 2016, in a report titled, “Transdermal cannabidiol reduces inflammation and pain-related behaviors in a rat model of arthritis,” researchers wrote:

“These data indicate that topical CBD application has therapeutic potential for relief of arthritis pain-related behaviors and inflammation without evident side-effects.”

Before that, in 2011, in a report titled, “The abnormal cannabidiol analogue O-1602 reduces nociception in a rat model of acute arthritis via the putative cannabinoid receptor GPR55,” researchers concluded that CBD reduces inflammatory pain in rats.

Sleep Disorders

Many CBD users say they not only sleep better at night but give them more energy and alertness during the day. That claim is backed by research. 

A review of literature on the effects of cannabinoids on sleep disorders published in the journal Current Psychiatry states: 

“Medium- and high-dose CBD is sedating, and has been examined in the context of a number of sleep disorders including insomnia. Initial basic research has suggested that medium-/high-dose CBD is associated with an increase in the percentage of total sleep.”

Another report by researchers from the University of Colorado School of Medicine and the Wholeness Center concluded:

“Pharmaceutical medications provided partial relief, but results were not long-lasting, and there were major side effects. A trial of cannabidiol oil resulted in a maintained decrease in anxiety and a steady improvement in the quality and quantity of the patient’s sleep.”

Epilepsy/Seizure Disorders

In 1981, the Journal of Clinical Pharmacology published a paper in which the authors concluded: 

“The results of a study of the electrophysiological mechanisms of action indicate that cannabidiol produces some unique effects… The anticonvulsant nature of cannabidiol suggests that it has therapeutic potential in at least three of the four major types of epilepsy: grand mal, cortical focal, and complex partial seizures.” 

Even the US Food and Drug Administration has approved the use of CBD in the treatment of certain forms of intractable childhood epilepsy.

Hypoglycemia/Diabetes

Numerous scientific studies have been done which suggest that CBD may help regulate blood sugar levels. High blood sugar is the main culprit in a serious condition called diabetes. Diabetes can result in a range of problems from chronic nerve pain to life-threatening ailments such as kidney disease. 

A 2006 lab study report published in The Journal Autoimmunity, entitled, “Cannabidiol Arrests Onset of Autoimmune Diabetes in NOD mice,” reported, “CBD can inhibit and delay destructive insulitis and inflammatory Th1-associated cytokine production in NOD mice resulting in a decreased incidence of diabetes possibly through an immunomodulatory mechanism shifting the immune response from Th1 to Th2 dominance.”

And a 2013 lab study report entitled, “Cannabinoids Alter Endothelial Function In the Zucker Rat Model of Type 2 Diabetes,” came to similar conclusions, theorizing that CBD’s benefit for diabetics may be due in part to its ability to relax hypertension in arteries, decreasing the risk of developing diabetes.

So, yes, CBD really does something!

The studies mentioned above are just a few examples of the reams of research reports that point to the potential medicinal benefits of CBD oil. 

Keep in mind that due to federal restrictions, up until now, clinical trials involving CBD have been few and far between. Most of the studies related to CBD have been performed with animals or in a petri dish. 

However that all changed with the passage of the 2018 Farm Bill and the federal legalization of hemp and CBD. Research into medicinal uses of CBD is expected to ramp up considerably. 

Although the research into CBD’s safety and efficacy is not yet 100 percent conclusive, studies do suggest that CBD shows promise as a natural alternative to traditional pharmaceuticals, not only for the above-mentioned conditions, but also for many others including digestive system disorders, brain disorders, psychological issues, alcoholism and addiction, and even cancer

Another factor to keep in mind is that lawmakers in more than 30 US states have listened to hours and hours of testimony and read countless clinical reports and have come to the conclusion that CBD is, indeed, real medicine.

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