Today’s news headlines frequently announce new efforts to legalize marijuana around the world. There is good reason for this: These plants are crucially important to humankind, as we use them to make medicines, fuel, food, fiber and so much more, and have been doing for thousands of years. They are safe, easy to grow, and thrive in most climates. It is as if Mother Nature herself created them for us.
The idea is not that far-fetched. Your body contains thousands of specialized receptors that only certain compounds can activate: Specifically, the cannabinoids in cannabis plants. Cannabidiol, or CBD, is just one of them, along with tetrahydrocannabinol, or THC, and others. Scientists are hailing CBD as a miracle compound, and they are now studying it with enthusiastic urgency worldwide.
Cannabidiol shows promising signs as a potential treatment for a host of severe diseases in both humans and animals, as well as an overall booster and protector of health. It is still too early to make definitive claims about its abilities, but researchers are discovering its therapeutic uses almost daily now, and anecdotal evidence exists aplenty to establish further the fact that CBD is a special cannabinoid indeed.
Director of the National Institute of Drug Abuse, Nora Volkow, has this to say, “Rigorous clinical studies are still needed to evaluate the clinical potential of CBD for specific conditions. However, pre-clinical research, including both cell culture and animal models, has shown CBD to have a range of effects that may be therapeutically useful, including anti-seizure, antioxidant, neuroprotective, anti-inflammatory, analgesic, anti-tumor, anti-psychotic, and anti-anxiety properties.”
Differences: THC vs. CBD
Scientists discovered cannabidiol more than 60 years ago. Despite knowing about it all this time, the primary focus of research was always on its sexier, more widely known cousin, tetrahydrocannabinol, or THC. THC is the primary active compound in cannabis with psychoactive properties. In short, THC is the chemical that makes users “high.”
Then, in the 1970s, when research into the plant gained momentum, the benefits of CBD started attracting the attention of scientists. Now, it is a priority, as they now realize that cannabidiol is just as important as THC, and likely even more so in many ways. Additionally, CBD is a non-psychoactive compound, which means that it will not make users stoned.
This is why CBD oil is legal across the United States and in most countries of the world, provided manufacturers extract it from hemp and not marijuana, as hemp contains less than three percent THC and is high in cannabidiol. Although related, CBD and THC are entirely different molecules with entirely different functions. They work independently yet synergistically to provide maximum healing.
The Effects of CBD in the Human Body
CBD is unique. Unlike THC, it has a wide array of effects on the most important systems in the body, those tasked with regulating our health. Specifically, CBD activates serotonin receptors, particularly 5-HT1A, which controls mood and anxiety; vanilloid receptors, which are responsible for modulating our experiences of pain; adenosine receptors, which control sleep depth and quality; and it influences endocannabinoid receptors directly, which control energy, memory, stress, body heat, and more.
In the laboratory, scientists have found CBD with anti-tumor effects on breast and glioma carcinomas in both experimental human and animal cell cultures: It kills cancer cells in some types of cancer. Test tube results are not indicative of what will happen in the human body, however, and researchers cannot make definitive anti-cancer claims just yet, but billions are monitoring these developments closely.
Since CBD binds to and activates various natural receptors in the body so effectively, including those in the endocannabinoid system, both pharmaceutical and nutraceutical companies across the globe are calling it a “wonder drug.” Almost daily new studies are proclaiming new therapeutic benefits of CBD. In many scientific communities, CBD is the most remarkable medical discovery in decades.
The Health Benefits of CBD
So just what does the research show? What are the benefits of CBD that has everyone in medical and scientific circles so interested? The scientific language of study results may sound complicated, so to understand CBD properly and the effects it has on the body, it is important to know its medical properties and what they can do for you. These are the health benefits of cannabidiol:
CBD is a Neuroprotective Antioxidant
Of all the qualities of CBD, its neuroprotective properties are among the most interesting and novel. Scientists believe its neuroprotection abilities stem from its powerful antioxidant effect on the brain. As a number of animal studies prove, the neuroprotection of CBD can “prevent, mitigate, reverse or interrupt many of the process that lead to the breakdown of neurons in the brain and nervous system.”
Neural breakdown can lead to severe yet common diseases, such as Alzheimer’s, Parkinson’s, multiple sclerosis, strokes, and more. The reversal of these types of conditions and their symptoms is because CBD reduces inflammation in the brain, which many medical professionals believe interferes with cognitive function and causes many mystery ailments, such as brain fog and chronic fatigue.
CBD is a Mood Enhancing Anti-Anxiety
Of all its effects, its ability to uplift mood and lower anxiety are possibly the most famous uses of CBD. Many describe the feeling as a wave of calm washing over them, which are consistent with studies demonstrating CBD’s effects on 5-HT receptors, which control the production and release of crucial serotonin neurotransmitters responsible modulating stress levels, fear response, and mood.
One study analyzing the effect of CBD on anxiety used magnetic response imaging, or MRI, a sophisticated tool that maps brain activity, to see what happens in the brain when patients take 600 milligrams of cannabidiol extract during exposure to anxiety- and stress-inducing triggers. Findings show CBD calming the cingulate cortex and amygdala, the areas of the brain controlling fear and anxiety.
In another study on 11 volunteers, Brazilian scientists investigated how CBD extract affects levels of cortisol in the human body. It found that CBD lowered cortisol levels much more than the placebo did, and that most participants reported feeling sedated by the treatment. Also in Brazil, researchers whom were scrutinizing the effects of CBD on anxiety found:
“Studies using animal models of anxiety and involving healthy human volunteers clearly suggest an anxiolytic-like effect of CBD. Moreover, Cannabidiol extract was shown to reduce anxiety in human patients with social anxiety disorder.” This is why scientists are urgently investigating CBD as a natural anti-psychotic, antidepressant, and healthier alternative to SSRI medicines, such as Prozac.
CBD is a Pain Relieving Anti-Inflammatory
Numerous studies on animals show that CBD has the remarkable capacity to inhibit the specific cellular processes that cause inflammation, and ultimately pain. Scientists are now studying just how much this applies to humans, and researchers in Europe conducted clinical trials for Sativex, a product blended with both THC and CBD at a ratio of 1:1.
The study indicated that Sativex successfully reduced pain associated with peripheral and central neuropathy, cancer, and rheumatoid arthritis afflicting study participants to varying degrees. However, it remains unclear the exact role that CBD played in these cases on its own, but as the animal studies suggest, because of its effects on cellular processes, it is very likely that CBD played an important one.
Although science is still undecided about the exact effectiveness of CBD oils and other CBD concentrates as a treatment for inflammation, there are thousands of anecdotal reports about how CBD extracts, including CBD oils and CBD creams, have been helping those struggling daily with inflammation-related diseases, such as arthritis. They unanimously report notable reduction in many of their symptoms.
CBD is an Anti-Nausea, Anti-Diabetic Anti-Epileptic
Animal studies, and a few, rare human studies, particularly into epilepsy, also find cannabidiol a promising potential treatment for nausea, diabetes, seizures, and many other conditions, although the need for more research is paramount. In three of four studies analyzing CBD’s effects on epilepsy, results were positive, despite some scientific flaws in experiment design and rigor.
The majority of researchers now question those studies, claiming the information available currently insufficient to draw accurate conclusions about the efficacy of CBD as an anti-seizure treatment. However, anecdotal evidence shows epileptics using it successfully in droves, and new studies are underway acquiring improved data that certainly supports their claims.
CBD is Psycho-Spiritual
Although the psychoactive effects of THC are legendary and highly sought after, CBD is a less widely used, newer compound in scientific circles. Its benefits and effects are still under study and not fully understood just yet. Having said that, we do know that cannabidiol is non-psychoactive, which means that it does not make users “high” or “stoned” on its own.
However, as mentioned above, many report a notable feeling of sedation after consuming high-quality CBD concentrates, as well as profound feelings of relaxation and bliss. For this reason, many meditators use CBD oil to “go deeper faster,” as it can help clear mental chatter that otherwise proves too persistent during practice. Others report heightened creativity and new life perspectives.
CBD oils and extracts are safe to use, and they have no concerning side effects. Unless you have an allergy to hemp, or are taking some medications or undergoing some medical treatments, there are no worries associated with using CBD. Start slowly until you know how your body reacts to it, and always discuss any plans to start CBD treatment with your physician beforehand.
John Levy is a cannabis supporter and a writer by profession. John is currently working with Pot Valet – a reputed cannabis delivery in Santa Barbara
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