With state-to-state controversy about legality and safety, medical marijuana makes major headlines. Marijuana is a commonly used slang term for the cannabis plant. Lately, you may have heard about cannabidiol (CBD) oil. Cannabinoids are chemical compounds in the cannabis plant, and CBD is one compound derived from cannabis that has and is being studied for its medical and health effects. This chemical compound, one of more than 60 compounds found in the cannabis plant, CBD is showing promise as a pain-reliever, an epilepsy treatment, and for wasting disease associated with cancer. It’s also being promised to cure everything from anxiety to acne. So what’s the deal? Cannabis might be in the news a lot, but it is still difficult to find unbiased and straightforward information about the potential benefits held within this complicated plant. The controversy surrounding cannabis has to do with the tug of war between medical purpose and recreational use—not to mention big money. That said, I do believe that CBD oil has an important role to play in medicine. Here are the facts:
How does CBD work in the body? CBD attaches to cannabinoid receptors that are naturally in your body. Our bodies make natural versions of chemicals that are similar to cannabinoids, and so we already have receptors in place. There are two, CB1 and CB2 receptors. The first of these deals with pain, mood, cognitive processes, and appetite, while the second is more commonly found in your immune system and these affect body inflammation and pain.
Is there a role for CBD oil in medicine? There is. CBD research shows promising evidence for this compound as an anti-inflammatory, an anti-epileptic, and as a pain management medication. I have seen CBD oil benefit many patients who have an autoimmune disease, cancer cachexia (wasting syndrome), pain, and seizures.
What does the research say about CBD? There have been hundreds of thousands of studies on cannabis to date, but we are still working on getting clear guidelines on what CBD oil can do. Here’s the most promising research:
- Pain: Several studies show that CBD reduces chronic pain with muscle spasms, arthritis, and nerve pain. A study published in the Journal of Experimental Medicine found that CBD use led to reduced levels of chronic pain and that patients didn’t develop the dangerous tolerance noted with opiate medications. Another study that looked at using a topical CBD oil found reduced arthritis pain.
- Wasting Disease: Treatment with CBD oil has been shown to reduce nausea and vomiting and to increase appetite in patients with cancer.
- Inflammation: Inflammation is a response triggered by your immune system when your body perceives a threat. Inflammation can be caused by physical or emotional trauma, diet, food intolerances, diseases, and viral and bacterial infections. Many studies show that CBD reduces many different types of inflammation.
- Epilepsy: Famously brought to light by a case study done years ago, in a study published recently in the New England Journal of Medicine, researchers found that CBD oil reduced the frequency of seizures by more than 50%.
- Autoimmune disease: Disorders of the immune system include multiple sclerosis, Hashimoto’s disease, asthma, lupus, celiac disease and more. Since these types of autoimmune diseases are almost always linked to inflammation, it isn’t surprising that CBD use is related to reduced symptoms.
Will I get “high” if I use CBD Oil? No. The compound in marijuana that causes characteristic psychoactive “high,” is found in the compound delta-9 tetrahydrocannabinol (THC), not in CBD. The ratio of CBD to THC 10 to 1, although if you are taking CBD over a period of time, this ratio may need to be adjusted to 5 to 1 or 3 to 1. In these ratios, there are no mind-altering effects.
Are hemp and cannabis the same thing? While they come from different parts of the plant, both are part of the cannabis plant. Hemp contains less than 0.3% of THC and has no psychoactive properties.
How do I get CBD oil? Currently, the availability of CBD oil varies from state to state. In some areas of the US you can order CBD online, others you need first to have a medical card that allows cannabis use for a specific medical condition, and in others, it is still illegal. There is currently no industry standard for calculating the percentage of CBD in an oil, so it can be difficult to determine what you’ll get in a given product. If you are considering trying CBD oil discuss it with your doctor before making a decision.
|Dr. Tasneem Bhatia, MD, is a board-certified physician, specializing in integrative and emergency medicine, pediatrics and prevention, with expertise in women’s health, weight-loss and nutrition. She is the author of “What Doctors Eat” and “The 21-Day Belly Fix.”|
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