CBD, or cannabidiol, is a non-psychoactive member of a plant family of compounds known as cannabinoids. We each have an endocannabinoid system which plays a role in regulating mood, pain, memory, and appetite (1, 2, 3). Our bodies actually produce two endocannabinoids; anandamide (known as the “bliss molecule”), and sn-2-arachidonoylglycerol. These endocannabinoids bind to cannabinoid receptors, which have been found in the brain, lungs, liver, kidneys, and immune system (2, 4). Then, an enzyme breaks down these endocannabinoids. We obtain phytocannabinoids from particular foods, like broccoli, cabbage, carrots, parsley, sunflower seeds, and cacao. When we consume higher amounts of phytocannabinoids, via CBD, for example, our body will break down the CBD thus preserving our endocannabinoids.
Some of the potential health benefits of CBD include decreasing inflammation, pain, stress, and anxiety (5-9). For the sake of time and attention to detail, this article will focus on peer-reviewed studies regarding inflammation.
CBD and Inflammation
Inflammation can range from acute (like a rash or the swelling we experience after injuring a knee) to chronic (presenting in conditions such as inflammatory bowel disease, Crohn’s disease, Alzheimer’s disease, heart disease, PCOS, and more)(10, 11). Pain often accompanies inflammation. CBD may decrease pain by binding to serotonin receptors and interacting with TRPV1 channels (12-15). An oral spray containing CBD was approved in Canada over ten years ago to treat pain in both multiple sclerosis and cancer (16).
Animal studies have demonstrated how the endocannabinoid system plays a role in inflammation occurring from allergies. For example, a study using a mouse model for allergic reactions of the skin found that when mice lacked cannabinoid receptors, their skin allergic reactions were heightened. Following in the same vein, when mice had increased levels of anandamide, their skin allergic reactions were decreased (17).
When it comes to conditions of chronic inflammation, CBD may also provide relief (18). A study published in PLoS One in 2011 found that CBD may decrease inflammation in patients with ulcerative colitis (UC). The researchers obtained bowel biopsies of 10 patients with UC and 8 control subjects. The biopsies were then cultured with CBD. The results indicated a protective action of CBD against further intestinal damage (19).
This isn’t the only evidence that CBD may have beneficial effects on gut conditions. A cell study in 2017 demonstrated that CBD may protect against inflammatory damage and restore the intestinal barrier (20). In Crohn’s disease, a randomized placebo-controlled trial on CBD was published in 2018 (21). The study included 50 patients with Crohn’s disease. After 8 weeks of administration of a CBD oil (containing 15% CBD and 4% THC), the Crohn’s Disease Activity Index decreased and quality of life increased compared to the control group that consumed an olive oil placebo (Naftali et al., 2018).
CBD and Headaches
Migraines may be related to inflammation. The prevalence of migraines is increased in women for reasons largely unknown (evidence published in 2018 suggests sex hormones may play a role)(22). There is evidence that women who suffer from migraines have greater FAAH enzymatic activity which results in greater breakdown of endocannabinoids (23). Other research indicates a decrease of anandamide in the cerebrospinal fluid of migraine sufferers (24). This further supports the theory that endocannabinoids may play a role in the regulation of migraines (25-27).
A review published in Current Opinion of Neurology in June of 2019 discussed the use of CBD oil for migraine relief (25). It is possible that the endocannabinoid system has several pathways of which it regulates migraine pain (25).
While human clinical trials on CBD, specifically, for migraine relief are sparse, a study was published in Pharmacotherapy in 2016 which included 121 patients who were migraine sufferers. The researchers found that daily medical marijuana use reduced the frequency of migraines from 10 to 4 migraines a month (28). While not specific to CBD, this study further suggests that the endocannabinoid system may play a roll in some types of headaches.
Can CBD Alleviate Acne?
One physical sign of inflammation can be acne. While we have all likely dealt with acne at some point in our life, it has the potential to greatly impact our self-esteem and quality of life (29). A pre-clinical study in 2014 determined that CBD may have a therapeutic effect on acne vulgaris partly due to its anti-inflammatory properties (30).
Are there any Side-effects?
CBD has been shown to be relatively safe for consumption with some reported side-effects being fatigue, diarrhea, and loss of appetite (31). It may put extra stress on the liver and interfere with other medications. Enzymes cytochrome p450, CYP3A4, and CYP2C19 metabolize CBD, so if other medications or supplements are also metabolized by these enzymes, there may be interactions (32). It is important to discuss with your healthcare provider before using CBD.
The research on CBD and the cannabinoid system is evolving rapidly. I am curious to see what an increase in future clinical studies will confirm for us.
In health, Dr. Dylan Cutler, Ph.D.
The post was sponsored by Icaria – CBD Hemp Oil for Busy Female Professionals, based in North Vancouver, British Columbia.
Pin For Later:
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