CBD, short for cannabidiol, is a trending ingredient the natural products industry and is the focus of a new area of cannabis research. CBD is one of many cannabinoids, or molecules produced uniquely by the cannabis family. Unlike tetrahydrocannabinol (THC, the primary psychoactive element in marijuana), CBD is non-psychoactive, meaning it doesn’t have a strong effect on cognitive brain activity and doesn’t cause the “high” associated with marijuana.
“There is a great deal of interest in the possible therapeutic effects of CBD, but there is very little evidence of efficacy,” said Dr. J Hampton Atkinson, co-director of the Center for Medical Cannabis Research (CMCR) at the University of California, San Diego. CBD may have health benefits, but the lack of research in this area means there just aren’t enough data points to support most of the anecdotal claims. Along that same line, the lack of research also means the potential health risks of consuming CBD are unclear.
Research on CBD
Scientific observation takes time, and the research community has only just begun to pursue scientific inquiry into the discrete effects of various cannabinoids. That said, many researchers believe the potential carried by CBD is promising.
Every variety of the cannabis family produces cannabinoids, including hemp. While CBD and THC are the most well-known cannabinoids, there are many different types, and only recently have significant resources been poured into their study. Our brains have specific receptors designed to accept cannabinoids, known as CB1 and CB2. These receptors are responsible for the assimilation of cannabinoid molecules into your system, resulting in the psychoactive and immune responses correlated with cannabis consumption.
Within the CMCR, there is also “much interest in the possible anti-inflammatory effects of CBD, for use in arthritis of various types, including knees and hands,” Atkinson said. Recent in vitro research with human cell lines afflicted with rheumatoid arthritis has suggested that CBD treatment may help reduce inflammation.
But along with a growing awareness of cannabidiol as a potential health aide, there has also been a proliferation of misconceptions about CBD and cannabis therapeutics.
CBD is a molecule, not a miracle. Many people could benefit significantly from legal access to a wide range of cannabis remedies, not just low- THC or no- THC products. CBD alone may not always do the trick. There is compelling evidence that CBD works best in combination with THC and the full spectrum of other cannabis components.
But most health professionals know little about CBD or cannabis therapeutics and they lack sufficient expertise to adequately counsel patients regarding dosage, modes of administration, CBD / THC synergies, and any risk factors, including interactions with other drugs.
CBD oil has been touted as a curative for the sick and a preventive for the healthy, an all-purpose palliative for pets as well as people of all ages.
Given CBD ’s reputation as a popular, artisanal remedy, one would think that Epidiolex would command a lot of “off label” attention. After all, physicians often prescribe pharmaceuticals off label to treat conditions that were not the actual focus of clinical trials. But the costly price tag for Epidiolex (more than $30,000 annually) precludes off label prescribing as well as affordable access for tens of millions of Americans without health insurance.
The discovery of the endocannabinoid system has significantly advanced our understanding of health and disease. It has major implications for nearly every area of medical science and helps to explain how and why CBD and THC are such versatile compounds – and why cannabis is such a widely consumed plant, despite its illegal status.
There’s a lot of excitement about the healing potential of CBD – with good reason.