Can it Cure Everything?
CBD is short for cannabidiol, which is the non-psychoactive ingredient in the cannabis plant, also known as marijuana. THC (tetrahydrocannabinol) is the compound in marijuana that is psychoactive and creates a high. And while CBD and THC are linked together in marijuana, CBD by itself does not affect the same brain receptors as THC. According to the World Health Organization’s 2017 report, “In humans, CBD exhibits no effects indicative of any abuse or dependence potential…. to date, there is no evidence of public health-related problems associated with the use of pure CBD.” CBD, usually infused into oil, is now turning up in everything from bath bombs to mascara, (no kidding) and is in dog treats, gummies, salves, lotions, hair pomade, and all types of beverages. You can buy a $5 bottle of water infused with “5,000,000 nanograms” of CBD. There is even a site that claims CBD oil will kill cancer cells.
For all the claims, there is a lot of strong evidence for the use of CBD. One of the most compelling is when it’s used in controlling devastating cases of childhood epilepsy such as Dravet syndrome and Lennox-Gastaut syndrome. Many studies have shown CBD was able to reduce the occurrence of seizures or stop them altogether, in children treated. Epidiolex, an antiseizure drug made available in 2018, is currently the only prescription medication containing CBD. The FDA has also approved pharmaceuticals containing CBD and less than 0.1% of THC.
As these supplements and topicals are unregulated, much like vitamins, it is hard to know what you are getting and how much. But early studies have shown some evidence for CBD as a promising treatment for many disorders and challenges including:
Post-traumatic stress disorder
All agree on the potential and call for more study in wider populations.
CBD is also an option for treating different kinds of chronic pain. Proponents cite a study from the European Journal of Pain that showed CBD applied on the skin could relieve arthritis pain. Inflammatory and neuropathic pain, and other difficult types of chronic pain to treat are under study using CBD. Many hospice and palliative care providers are also onboard with using CBD to achieve patient comfort. Stay tuned for my interview with Tracey Mallick-Searle, NP who is an international expert in the use of CBD for pain relief.
Are Marketers Getting Ahead of the Science?
“We don’t know as scientists if it gets absorbed, how it’s acting, what dose one needs, so there are so many unanswered questions. I need placebo-controlled evidence to be convinced,” says Margaret Haney, a neurobiologist who directs the Marijuana Research Laboratory at Columbia University. So, there is excitement about the possibilities, but so far large studies that compare CBD with placebos in people are rare. Much of the existing research has been done with cells in the lab or in animals, which don’t necessarily translate to humans. National Institutes of Health funding for CBD studies has gone up from zero in 2014 to an estimated $16 million in 2018. Researchers are conducting small trials looking at CBD effects on anxiety, addiction, pain, and depression, and insomnia.
“People think it’s great for everything,” says cognitive neuroscientist Kent Hutchison of the University of Colorado Boulder. “But I do think it’s going to be great for some things. We just need to figure out what those things are.”
If you decide to try a CBD product, do talk with your health provider and discuss its possible effect on other medications you are taking.