While THC is typically the part of cannabis that gets the most attention in the medical community, it’s not the only useful compound in the plant. The major non-psychoactive ingredient in cannabis is called cannabidiol or CBD, and it’s one of over 60 “cannabinoid” compounds found in cannabis. It has also been the subject of research in recent years for its ability to fight chronic pain.
Actually, though, pain relief is only one of the benefits of using CBD. In fact, in the British Journal of Clinical Pharmacology, scientists point out that CBD (in at least some experimental models), has been found to reduce inflammation, seizures, oxidative stress, some forms of nausea, anxiety and psychotic reactions.
All cannabinoids act as ligands, which means they have the ability to bond to protein molecules and then modulate a receptor’s behavior. And it’s the vastly different ways these compounds then react with protein receptors—found in large quantities in the central nervous system—that sheds some light on how cannabinoids each impact the body differently.
In this article I am going to focus on CBD, but it’s important to note that in the studies referenced here, CBD was extracted from marijuana plants and then medically administered. These results were not derived from the consumption of cannabis in the common recreational forms.
Now let’s look at the top 5 health benefits of CBD.
1. May relieve pain
If you’re looking to relieve pain, it’s likely CBD will be beneficial to you. While a lot of the research on CBD and pain still needs to be repeated on a large-scale level, it seems that CBD treatment might be effective in reducing pain associated with multiple sclerosis, cancer, chemotherapy, and inflammatory and neuropathic pain.
It’s interesting to note that when tested in cancer patients, a treatment combining THC and CBD worked better than THC alone to relieve pain that strong opioids couldn’t touch. Another study found that CBD seems to help with chronic neuropathic pain that is no longer responding to traditional pain treatments.
How? CBD can activate glycine receptors found in the central nervous system, that are involved in motor reflex circuits in your spinal cord. Glycine receptors can also function by inhibiting synapses that send pain signals out to your body, indicating how CBD may be helping to relieve pain caused by faulty glycine receptors.
2. May relieve anxiety
Cannabidiol has been found to reduce anxiety in patients with social anxiety disorder. Some researchers suggest that it may also be effective for panic disorder, obsessive compulsive disorder, social anxiety disorder and post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD).
In 2011, a study was conducted on never-before-treated patients with social anxiety disorder to find out how CBD may influence their anxiety responses when required to speak publicly. All of the patients pre-treated with CBD experienced less anxiety, cognitive impairment and discomfort than those receiving placebo treatment.
3. CBD seems to help fight some cancers
Several scientific reports demonstrate that CBD benefits include its antiproliferative, pro-apoptotic effects that inhibit cancer cell migration, adhesion and invasion. A 2006 study found for the first time that CBD potently and selectively inhibited the growth of different breast tumor cell lines without significantly damaging non-cancer cells.
In 2011, researchers showed that CBD induced a concentration-dependent cell death of both oestrogen receptor-positive and oestrogen receptor-negative breast cancer cells, shedding light on the mechanism by which this compound may inhibit cancer growth.
Not only does the research show that CBD benefits including being effective in fighting breast cancer cells, but data also suggests that it can be used to inhibit the invasion of lung and colon cancer. Additionally, CBD possesses anti-tumor properties when gliomas are present and, thus, has been used to treat leukemia.
4. CBD can reduce seizures in some people
Preliminary research indicates that purified CBD extracts may help reduce some seizures, specifically those in epilepsy. A 2014 study had promising results when children with treatment-resistant epilepsy had a marginally significant drop in symptoms after three months of treatment with CBD.
5. Likely to decrease risk for diabetes and heart disease
CBD and marijuana seem to have diabetes-preventing effects, as well as the ability to decrease fasting insulin levels and waist circumference. These are all heart disease risk factors; plus, research also indicates CBD can help protect against vascular damage and inflammation associated with heart disease.
About Dr. Josh Axe, DNM, DC, CNS: Dr. Josh Axe, DNM, DC, CNS, is a certified doctor of natural medicine, doctor of chiropractic and clinical nutritionist with a passion to help people get healthy by using food as medicine. In 2008, he started a functional medicine center in Nashville, which grew to become one of the most renowned clinics in the world. Dr. Axe has also founded one of the most visited natural health website in the world.