WHAT IS CBD & THC?
The cannabis plant comes in two main varieties: Cannabis Sativa and Cannabis Indica. Either subspecies contains over 100 chemical compounds (called cannabinoids), including CBD (cannabidiol) and THC (tetrahydrocannabinol).
Marijuana derives from either variety of cannabis, but hemp only comes from the Cannabis Sativa plant. Hemp plants contain very little or none THC, the compound responsible for the psychoactive effects of cannabis. Instead, they contain a much higher concentration of CBD, the non-psychoactive compound in cannabis. The majority of CBD products are sourced from hemp.
CBD provides various health effects, from anxiety and pain relief to better skin and heart health. However, because CBD is separate from THC, the psychoactive compound of cannabis, CBD users can enjoy the health benefits of CBD without experiencing the “high” associated with marijuana. This enables users to safely use CBD without worrying about being high disrupting their daily lives.
Several studies show that CBD provides relief for chronic pain stemming from arthritis, multiple sclerosis, and other conditions. The body’s endocannabinoid system is involved in regulating your emotions, motor control, immune system, and pain response. When the body ingests CBD, it affects the way your body perceives and responds to pain.
One study of rats found that CBD reduced their acute pain response to surgical incision both immediately and in the long-term. Another study found that CBD’s anti-inflammatory properties significantly reduce chronic nerve pain and inflammation.
CBD has also been shown to reduce spasticity among individuals with multiple sclerosis, enabling them to walk more easily with less pain. In a study of individuals with rheumatoid arthritis, a daily CBD spray treatment reduced pain both when the person was moving and when they were at rest.
In addition to their illness, cancer patients often live with several uncomfortable symptoms, like pain, depression, and sleep issues. Worse, the treatment for cancer often results in chemotherapy-induced nausea and vomiting. CBD can relieve all of these cancer symptoms.
Not all cancer patients adequately respond to traditional pain medication like opioids. Of the ones who do, they may develop an addiction to the drugs. CBD provides an alternative treatment that is non-habit forming and even more effective, according to the research. One study shows that CBD reduced pain 30% more than traditional medication or THC alone.
Nausea and vomiting are two of the most common—and most feared—symptoms of chemotherapy. These symptoms can be so intense that they lead 25 to 50% of cancer patients to ultimately delay or refuse this life-saving treatment. Fortunately, CBD can significantly control and reduce both of these symptoms. In one study of cancer patients, researchers administered a daily CBD/THC spray or placebo to participants during the 5 days following their chemotherapy. The individuals who received the CBD spray experienced a 49% reduction in nausea and vomiting-related symptoms.
There’s also a growing body of evidence suggesting that CBD may actually facilitate cancer cell death and slow the spread of aggressive cancer cells for breast cancer, although the research is still in early stages.
Much like how CBD affects the way the body perceives and remembers pain, CBD can also change the endocannabinoid system’s response to anxiety disorders and depression.
In one study of individuals with social anxiety disorder and a phobia of public speaking, participants were separated into two groups. One received a single dose of 600mg CBD while the other received a placebo, an hour and a half before they participated in a simulated public speaking test. The individuals who received CBD experienced significant reductions in their anxiety, as well as in the cognitive impairment and discomfort they felt while public speaking.
Researchers also evaluated the participants’ self assessments of their public speaking performance. The tendency for the placebo group to make negative self-assessments was nearly fully absent among the CBD group.
CBD has also been shown to have antidepressant-like effects and to help motivate social interaction.
In many instances, insomnia and sleep issues accompany anxiety disorders. In one study of pediatric post-traumatic stress disorder, CBD was shown to consistently improve sleep quality over a period of 5 months—in the absence of any pharmaceutical drugs. A once daily 12-25 mg CBD treatment enabled the individual to sleep through the night and experience better quality sleep, with less overall anxiety during the day.
REM sleep behavior disorder (RBD) is a potentially dangerous sleep disorder that, left untreated, often develops into a neurodegenerative disease like Parkinson’s or lewy body dementia. In healthy REM sleep, muscle atonia sets in, paralyzing the muscles so we don’t physically act out our dreams. With RBD, however, the muscle atonia is not present, enabling individuals to move violently during sleep and put themselves at risk of injury. CBD has been shown to immediately and significantly control the physical symptoms of RBD, reducing the occurrence of RBD without any negative side effects.
In the rheumatoid arthritis study we cited above, the CBD treatment also improved quality of sleep for the RA patients—as well as their pain—demonstrating how the benefits of CBD are not limited and can treat multiple symptoms at once.
As an anti-inflammatory, CBD can also treat skin issues like acne and psoriasis.
In addition to genetics and other factors, one possible cause for acne is the overproduction of oil sebum by inflamed sebaceous glands in the skin. Studies have found that CBD is particularly effective at slowing or inhibiting productionof human sebocytes.
Psoriasis is another skin disorder, characterized by a rapid buildup of skin cells that results in inflammation, redness, and scaling of the skin. As an autoimmune condition, early research suggests CBD’s anti-inflammatory properties may also help treat psoriasis.
CBD may also be instrumental in helping people overcome nicotine or opioid addiction, by alleviating the symptoms of withdrawal.
One study of smokers who wanted to quit smoking gave participants an inhaler of either CBD or a placebo. Over the course of one week, they were told to use the inhaler whenever they felt the urge to smoke. At the end of the week, those with the placebo inhaler smoked the same amount of cigarettes as they had before the study. Participants with the CBD inhaler, however, reduced the total number of cigarettes they smoked by 40%.
Part of why CBD is uniquely helpful for those in addiction recovery, as opposed to THC (which can provide many of the same health benefits), is because CBD provides all the same benefits without the risk of addiction. THC appears to increase sensitivity to other drugs, which can end up rewarding drug-seeking behavior. CBD, on the other hand, CBD provides the same health benefits while inhibiting drug-seeking behavior, thereby reducing an individual’s risk for abuse and relaps
The studies for CBD as an aid to heroin addiction recovery are promising, as regular CBD treatment significantly reduces an individual’s cravings for the drug. Even more promising is the fact that these effects appear to get stronger with time, with craving reduction lasting as long as 7 days after the initial CBD treatment.