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CBD Oil: The Science-Backed Game Changer for Pain, Anxiety, Cancer & More

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CBD benefits - Dr. Axe

As the hype over CBD oil continues, maybe you’ve found yourself on the very long list of “canna-curious” consumers who are looking for more information about its potential health benefits and uses.

Although the use of medical marijuana continues to be an emotionally and politically charged issue, more and more research is pointing to the amazing health benefits of CBD, and Americans are beginning to take notice.

Cannabis oil preparations have been used in medicine for millennia, but the concern over the dangers of abuse led to the banning of medicinal marijuana in the 1930s. Well, we’ve come a long way since then and the science is pointing us in this new direction.

Only recently, marijuana and chemically-related compounds have come back to being considered of therapeutic value. A prominent compound found in marijuana or cannabis, CBD, or cannabidiol, has been shown to treat numerous diseases. Researchers believe that in view of the very low toxicity and the generally benign side effects of CBD, neglecting or denying CBD benefits and its clinical potential is simply unacceptable.


What Is CBD Oil?

CBD is one of over 60 compounds found in cannabis that belong to a class of ingredients called cannabinoids. Until recently, THC (tetrahydrocannabinol) was getting most of the attention because it’s the ingredient in cannabis that produces mind-altering effects in users. But CBD is also present in high concentrations — and the medical world is realizing that its list of medical benefits continues to grow.

CBD is the major non-psychoactive component of Cannabis sativa. According to a 2013 study published in the British Journal of Clinical Pharmacology, CBD benefits include acting in some experimental models as an anti-inflammatory, anticonvulsant, antioxidant, antiemetic, anxiolytic and antipsychotic agent. It serves as a potential medicine for the treatment of neuroinflammation, epilepsy, oxidative injury, vomiting and nausea, anxiety and schizophrenia.

Research is beginning to show that CBD is different than other well-studied cannabinoids. All cannabinoids act as ligands, meaning they dock onto the binding site of a protein and have the ability to modulate a receptor’s behavior. CB1 receptors are widely distributed, but are particularly abundant in areas of the brain, including those concerned with movement, coordination, pain and sensory perception, emotion, memory, cognition, autonomic and endocrine functions.

CB2 receptors are found mostly in the immune system, and they seem to reduce inflammation and certain kinds of pain. Although cannabinoids all have similar structures, they display a wide array of actions at each of the different receptor sites.

However, scientists are finding out that CBD has very little effect on CB1 and CB2 receptors, which probably explains why it doesn’t have mind-altering effects, unlike THC, which positively regulates the CB1 receptor. That’s why most marijuana grown for recreational purposes are typically very low in CBD and high in THC.

THC does come with a long list of health benefits too, but the clinical use of this cannabis compound is often limited by its unwanted psychoactive side effects. For this reason, interest in non-psychoactive phytocannabinoids, such as CBD, has substantially increased in recent years. In fact, CBD is being used to reduce the intoxicating effects of THC, such as paranoia and memory impairment.

CBD also appears to counteract the sleep-inducing effects of THC. This is what makes CBD so appealing to the medical community, as the cause of psychoactive side effects has been a major barrier in the acceptance of medical marijuana. While THC is known to cause anxiety and paranoia in some people, CBD works to counteract those side effects. For this reason, CBD benefits extend to being used in clinical trials on young children with epilepsy.

Types of CBD Oil Products

As the CBD oil market continues to grow, more and more products are being sold online or in your local health food stores. You can find many types of CBD and each one is used in a different way. The most common types of CBD available include:

  • Tinctures: Tinctures are the most popular way to use CBD oil, likely because you can easily gauge exactly how much CBD you are ingesting. A tincture is usually extracted using pressurized CO2 gas or a solvent. With a tincture, you use a dropper and place the drops under your tongue. These tend to be the most pure products. Sometimes, manufacturers will use carrier oils, natural flavors or fatty oils.
  • Concentrates: Like tinctures, CBD concentrates are ingested by placing drops under your tongue. But concentrates are typically much stronger doses of CBD. The high potency isn’t ideal for beginners who should start with a low dose and see how they react.
  • Capsules: Like any other type of capsule, CBD capsules or pills can be taken with water. This is a convenient way to use CBD, but it gives you less control of the dose. Typically, capsules will contain 10–25 milligrams of CBD.
  • Topical solutions: Topical CBD products include lotions, salves and lip balms. They are meant to benefit skin,  joint and muscle health, and work when they are absorbed into the skin and through the dermal layers. CBD patches are also available for topical delivery of the compound. This allows the cannabinoids to be delivered directly to your bloodstream.
  • Edibles: CBD edibles, including chocolates, coffees, baked goods, gums and candies containing the compound, are becoming popular. Although this may be a satisfying way to use CBD oil, it can be more difficult to measure exactly how much CBD you are ingesting and the results may be inconsistent.
  • Vape oil: CBD vape oil is used for vaping CBD. This requires the use of an e-cigarette or vape pen, which can have side effects when chemicals are heated to high temperatures. There are also CBD waxes available that are used for dabbing the cannabis compound. This also requires heating a small amount of the wax and using a dabbing pen. This isn’t recommended for beginners, as it’s usually a higher concentration of CBD.
  • Sprays: Sprays are another product for using CBD internally. The CBD concentration is usually lower in sprays. Read the label for the exact dosage, but usually you spray the solution into your mouth 2–3 times.

CBD Oil vs. Hemp Oil

You may notice that some CBD products are made with hemp oil, which can be confusing. What exactly is the difference between CBD oil and hemp oil? CBD is a compound that’s extracted from the cannabis plant. Hemp and marijuana both come from the Cannabis sativa species, but it’s the amount of THC present in the plant that makes them different.

Hemp oil (also called hemp seed oil) is extracted from the hemp seeds of the hemp plant and it contains very little or no THC. Marijuana, on the other hand, has THC levels above 0.3 percent (usually between 5-35 percent). Because of its low THC levels, you can use hemp oil without feeling “high” afterwards. Hemp is typically grown for industrial purposes, as it’s used to make clothing, paper, ropes, carpets, construction materials and plastic composites.

Although the hemp plant contains little or no THC, oils extracted from the resin glands of the plant do contain CBD. Most CBD oil products are made this way and come from what’s referred to as “industrial hemp.”

Industrial hemp naturally contains very low levels of THC and high levels of CBD. It is legal to purchase CBD oil that comes from the hemp plant because it contains less than 0.3 percent THC. This is good news for consumers who are looking to purchase CBD oil legally and for farmers who can now profit from hemp. In fact, hemp is much easier to grow than marijuana, as it requires less water, no pesticides and minimal care — plus it’s adaptable to most climates.

The hemp seed oil in your local grocery store is extracted from the seeds of the plant and can be used for adding flavor to a range of recipes. Hemp seed oil is also popular because it serves as a source of important nutrients, including polyunsaturated fatty acids, terpenes and proteins. Plain ole’ hemp seed oil doesn’t contain CBD or THC.

But the hemp oil extracted from the resin plants does contain CBD oil, so when you are buying CBD oil products legally, that’s exactly where they’re coming from.

CBD Oil vs. Cannabis Oil

What about cannabis oil? Well, unlike both CBD oil and hemp oil, cannabis oil does contain THC and it is psychoactive. Cannabis oil comes from the Cannabis sativa plant that’s bred for its trichomes. These trichomes are tiny, hair-like crystals that cover the leaves and buds of the cannabis plant. Trichomes produce the hundreds of known cannabinoids that can be found in marijuana.

Cannabis oil contains both THC and CBD in different ratios, depending on the plant variety. Research shows that cannabis oil has therapeutic value, as it works to improve sleep disorders, relieve anxiety, improve appetite, reduce pain, boost heart health and maybe even help to prevent cancer. But unlike CBD oil made from the hemp plant, cannabis oil is not legal across the United States. You can only purchase cannabis oil legally in certain states and each state has specific laws addressing how and when you can obtain cannabis oil.

And because cannabis oil does contain THC, there are more potential side effects associated with its use. It may decrease your ability to concentrate and think, lead to short-term cognitive impairment, and there have been reports of adverse effects of vaping cannabis oil with concentrated THC levels.

Is CBD Oil Legal?

At the federal level, CBD is classified as a Schedule 1 drug in the U.S. because it is one of the many cannabinoids present in marijuana. However, CBD products that are derived from industrial hemp are being sold legally, but only under the strict regulations of the 2018 Farm Bill. Under the new bill, legal hemp-derived CBD products must contain less than 0.3 percent THC and can only come from licensed hemp growers.

So, as you can see, the legality of CBD can be a bit a tricky and the laws regarding the compound continue to change. To add to the confusion, each state has specific requirements and conditions that need to be followed in order to use CBD derived from marijuana legally.

As of 2018, you can purchase CBD derived from the marijuana plant legally in 46 states (and 3 territories) with a prescription for medicinal usage. The laws for each state is different, especially when it comes to how much THC can legally be present in the product. The four states where marijuana-derived CBD is completely illegal include Idaho, Kansas, Nebraska and South Dakota.


CBD Oil Benefits

1. Relieves Pain and Inflammation

Among common CBD benefits, natural pain relief tops the list for many. Evidence suggests that cannabinoids may prove useful in pain modulation by inhibiting neuronal transmission in pain pathways. A 2012 study published in the Journal of Experimental Medicine found that CBD significantly suppressed chronic inflammatory and neuropathic pain in rodents without causing analgesic tolerance. Researchers suggest that CBD and other nonpsychoactive components of marijuana may represent a novel class of therapeutic agents for the treatment of chronic pain.

According to a 2007 meta-analysis conducted in Canada, the combination of CBD and THC buccal spray was found to be effective in treating neuropathic pain in multiple sclerosis, which can be debilitating for 50 percent to 70 percent of MS patients.

2. Has Antipsychotic Effects

Research shows that CBD benefits include producing antipsychotic effects. It appears to have a pharmacological profile similar to that of atypical antipsychotic drugs, as seen in using behavioral and neurochemical techniques in animal studies.

Additionally, studies show that CBD prevents human experimental psychosis and is effective in open case reports and clinical trials in patients with schizophrenia, with a remarkable safety profile.

3. Reduces Anxiety

Studies using animal models of anxiety and involving healthy volunteers clearly suggest an anxiolytic-like effect of CBD. Cannabidiol has shown to reduce anxiety in patients with social anxiety disorder and researchers suggest that it may also be effective for panic disorder, obsessive compulsive disorder, social anxiety disorder and post-traumatic stress disorder.

A 2011 study aimed to compare the effects of a simulation public speaking test on healthy control patients and treatment-naive patients with social anxiety disorder. A total of 24 never-treated patients with social anxiety disorder were given either CBD or placebo 1.5 hours before the test.

Researchers found that pretreatment with CBD significantly reduced anxiety, cognitive impairment and discomfort in their speech performance, and significantly decreased alertness in anticipation of their speech. The placebo group presented higher anxiety, cognitive impairment and discomfort.

4. Helps to Fight Cancer

Several scientific reports demonstrate that CBD benefits include possessing antiproliferative, pro-apoptotic effects that inhibit cancer cell migration, adhesion and invasion.

A 2006 study published in the Journal of Pharmacology and Experimental Therapeutics found for the first time that CBD potently and selectively inhibited the growth of different breast tumor cell lines and exhibited significantly less potency in non-cancer cells.

In 2011, researchers added light on the cellular mechanism through which CBD induces cell death in breast cancer cells. They showed that CBD induced a concentration-dependent cell death of both estrogen receptor-positive and estrogen receptor-negative breast cancer cells. They also found that the effective concentrations of CBD in tumor cells have little effect on non-tumorigenic, mammary cells.

CBD behaves as a non-toxic compound and studies show that doses of 700 milligrams per day for six weeks did not show any overt toxicity in humans, suggesting that it can be used for prolonged treatment. Not only does the research show that CBD benefits include being effective in fighting breast cancer cells, data also suggests that it can be used to inhibit the invasion of lung and colon cancer, plus it possesses anti-tumor properties in gliomas and has been used to treat leukemia.

CBD guide - Dr. Axe

5. Relieves Nausea

Cannabis has been used for centuries for the suppression of nausea and vomiting. Research has revealed that among more than 80 cannabinoid compounds found in marijuana, both the intoxicant THC and the non-intoxicant CBD helps to get rid of nausea and vomiting in animal studies.

A 2012 study published in the British Journal of Pharmacology found that CBD benefits including possessing anti-nausea and antiemetic effects when it was administered to rats. Researchers found that CBD acts in a diphasic manner, meaning that in low doses it suppresses toxin-induced vomiting, but in high doses it increases nausea or has no effect.

6. May Treat Seizures and Other Neurological Disorders

A 2014 survey conducted by researchers at Stanford University was presented to parents belonging to a Facebook group dedicated to sharing information about the use of cannabidiol-enriched cannabis to treat their child’s seizures.

Nineteen responses met the inclusion criteria for the study: a diagnosis of epilepsy and current use of CBD-enriched cannabis. The average number of anti-epileptic drugs tried before using CBD cannabis was 12. Sixteen (84 percent) of the 19 parents reported a reduction in their child’s seizure frequency while taking CBD cannabis. Of these, two (11 percent) reported complete seizure freedom, eight (42 percent) reported a greater than 80 percent reduction in seizure frequency, and six (32 percent) reported a 25–60 percent seizure reduction.

Other beneficial effects included increased alertness, better mood and improved sleep; while side effects included drowsiness and fatigue.

Later in 2014, researchers reported on preliminary results of a study involving children with treatment-resistant epilepsies in an expanded access “compassionate use program.” Patients received a purified 98 percent oil-based CBD extract called Epidiolex, which is made by GW Pharmaceuticals. After three months of treatment, 39 percent of the 23 patients had more than a 50 percent reduction in seizures, with a 32 percent median reduction.

These preliminary results support the animal studies and survey reports that CBD may be a promising treatment for treatment-resistant epilepsy, and it is generally well-tolerated in doses up to 25 milligrams per kilogram of body weight.

7. Lowers Incidence of Diabetes

A 2006 study found that CBD treatment significantly reduced the incidence of diabetes in non-obese diabetic mice from an incidence of 86 percent in non-treated mice to an incidence of 30 percent in CBD-treated mice. CBD benefits also showed a significant reduction of plasma levels of pro-inflammatory cytokines. A histological examination of the pancreatic islets of the CBD-treated mice revealed significantly reduced insulitis.

In 2013, the American Journal of Medicine published a study that highlighted the impact of marijuana use on glucose, insulin and insulin resistance among U.S. adults. The study included 4,657 adult men and women from the National Health and Nutritional Examination Survey from 2005 to 2010.

Of the participants, 579 were current marijuana users and 1,975 were past users. The researchers found that current marijuana use was associated with 16 percent lower fasting insulin levels. They also found significant associations between marijuana use and smaller waist circumferences, a factor connected to the onset of diabetes symptoms.

8. Promotes Cardiovascular Health

A 2013 study published in the British Journal of Clinical Pharmacology reports that CBD protects against the vascular damage caused by a high glucose environment, inflammation or the induction of type 2 diabetes in animal models; plus, CBD proved to reduce the vascular hyperpermeability (which causes leaky gut) associated with such environments.


CBD Oil Side Effects & Precautions

As the popularity of CBD products continues to grow, more manufacturers are jumping on the bandwagon. This can be a great thing for consumers who are looking to get the best CBD products out there.

But it also requires careful research before making a purchase. Because the cannabis plant readily absorbs pesticides, heavy metals and other chemicals that are in the soil and water, it’s so important that cannabis plants are frequently tested while they are growing. And it’s up to manufactures to test CBD products, too. When you are shopping for CBD, look for products that have been tested for contaminants and for CBD vs. THC levels.

Although the research on the medicinal use of cannabis is strong, several studies indicate that the recreational use of cannabis can have persistent adverse effects on mental health. According to a 2013 report published in Frontiers in Psychiatry, depending on how often someone uses, the age of onset, the potency of the cannabis that is used and someone’s individual sensitivity, the recreational use of cannabis may cause permanent psychological disorders.

Most recreational users will never be faced with such persistent mental illness, but in some individuals cannabis use leads to undesirable effects, including cognitive impairment, anxiety, paranoia and increased risks of developing chronic psychosis or drug addiction.

Some studies show that CBD can counteract these adverse effects, but more research is needed, as most of this research is done on animals or is based on anecdotal reports. Little research has focused on the safety and side effects of CBD in humans; however, clinical trials indicate that only a few, generally mild side effects have been observed after CBD administration — and “tolerance” for CBD does not seem to occur.


How to Use CBD Oil and Where to Buy It

There are several ways to use CBD, including in capsule, topical, edible or drop forms. You can use lotions or oils containing CBD on your skin, place a few drops under your tongue or vape CBD oil.

I recommend ingesting CBD oil using a dropper because this is the easiest way to stay in control of exactly how much you are taking. Plus, pure CBD oil will not contain additives that come with side effects. Remember, when you are using CBD oil or any kind of cannabis product, you must read the product label to determine the best dose for you.

Here are a few tips to help you choose a CBD oil product and determine the best dose for you:

  1. Read the label to find out the total milligrams of CBD in the entire bottle/product and how many milligrams are in one standard dose. CBD products vary in potency, with some containing more total CBD than others. Most products will have on the label exactly how much CBD is in one dropper or drop, so you’ll be able to take exactly how much you need.
  2. Check the CBD and THC ratio. Some products may contain micro-doses of THC, which has been shown to promote the therapeutic effects of CBD. But if you are looking for a product that’s strictly CBD and doesn’t come with the chance of experiencing any psychoactive effects, then go for a product that contains no THC at all.
  3. Start with a small dose and work your way up if needed. Sometimes, a standard CBD oil dose is determined by your body weight, but this rule doesn’t work for everyone. Some people are more sensitive to cannabis compounds than others. For this reason, I recommend starting with a low dose of 10 to 20 milligrams to see how your body reacts. If you feel like you aren’t feeling the positive effects after a few days at that dose, then slowly increase the dose until you find what’s right for you.
  4. Be aware of your desired effect when you start using CBD oil. You can usually take smaller doses if you are looking to boost your mood, improve sleep, reduce stress and relieve headaches or nausea. You may need to take a little more if you’re looking to reduce inflammation, improve arthritis symptoms, fight anxiety and relieve symptoms of epilepsy, for example. If you know exactly what you are looking for from using CBD oil, then it will be easier for you to determine the proper dose.

Where do you buy CBD oil? You may have noticed that CBD products are everywhere these days. You can easily find CBD oil and other products online and in certain health food/vitamin stores or spas. To separate the highest quality products from the rest, look for one that has a certificate of analysis, or COA. This means that the manufacture tests the product for contaminants, and it meets lab standards. The highest scientific standard is called “ISO 17025.”

You also want to purchase a CBD product that clearly states how much CBD is present and if it’s made with any other cannabis compounds or ingredients.

I recommend avoiding vape pens because many contain a solvent called propylene glycol. When you burn this solvent at high temperatures, it can degrade into formaldehyde and cause danger adverse reactions.


Final Thoughts About CBD Oil

  • CBD is one of over 60 compounds found in cannabis that belong to a class of ingredients called cannabinoids; it is the major nonpsychoactive component of Cannabis sativa.

  • CBD oil is available in many forms. You can find products that provide CBD as a tincture, concentrate, capsule, topical solution, wax, edible and patch.
  • Research shows that CBD benefits include its ability to act as an anti-inflammatory, anticonvulsant, antioxidant, antiemetic, anxiolytic and antipsychotic agent. It is a potential medicine for the treatment of neuroinflammation, epilepsy, oxidative injury, vomiting and nausea, anxiety and schizophrenia.

  • CBD derived from industrial hemp is legal across the U.S., and CBD oil derived from marijuana is now legal in 46 states. However, each state has specific requirements and conditions that need to be followed in order to use marijuana-derived CBD legally.

Read Next: 101 Essential Oil Uses & Benefits


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