If you run a search for CBD or cannabidiol and its reported benefits, you’ll find a lot of claims. CBD is in the spotlight following the federal legalization of hemp production and sale by the United States Government. Even though word about the benefits of marijuana have been around for quite some time, those associated with CBD are just beginning to surface. You can learn more about the differences of THC and CBD elsewhere.
The suggested benefits of CBD are so numerous it might make your head spin. Some might recommend taking CBD to stop the spinning, too. With all the attention on CBD, lingering questions remain. Does CBD really provide any benefit and what does the science look like? Is there even any science to begin with?
Let’s take a peek at 7 popular things that people say CBD can do and dive into a handful of studies that may or may not provide the answers to these reported benefits. There’s nothing wrong with a smidge of curiosity.
- Relieves Chronic Pain & Inflammation
- Improves Sleep Quality
- Reduces Anxiety
- Helps Skin
- Promotes Neurogenesis
- Improves Cardiovascular Health
- Fights Addiction
Note: some of the referenced studies evaluated the effects of CBD on animal subjects only!
Relieves Chronic Pain & Inflammation
Pain is one of the biggest, if not the number one, claim about CBD. A study listed in the Journal of Experimental Medicine evaluated the effect on rats when injected with cannabidiol. They reported that “cannabidiol and its modified derivatives significantly suppress chronic inflammatory and neuropathic pain without causing apparent analgesic tolerance in rodents.” For those unfamiliar, analgesic tolerance is when patients develop tolerances to certain drugs, which is partially why some pain medications can be dangerous and addictive.
Another rat model study looked at CBD and arthritis, suggesting it may help alleviate pain-related symptoms of arthritis stating that “transdermal CBD gel significantly reduced joint swelling.” Arthritis.org even did a writeup on CBD.
Both of these studies imply that CBD should be evaluated for alternative, safer pain therapies and treatments.
Improves Sleep Quality
Quality sleep is a coveted, yet sometimes elusive bodily requirement. 6 hours of great, undisturbed sleep will beat 8 hours of tossing and turning any night of the week. Sleep disturbances are incredibly common.
A January 2019 study looked at 72 adult humans. Yes. Humans. Not rats! These HUMANS were given 25mg of CBD in capsule form every evening after dinner. Some patients were given 50mg or 75mg capsules. The study used the Pittsburgh Sleep Quality Index (PSQI), which is a self-report questionnaire that assesses sleep quality over a 1-month time interval.
The PSQI asks questions like “when have you usually gone to bed?”, “how many hours of actual sleep do you get at night?”, and “during the past month, how often have you had trouble sleeping because you cannot get to sleep within 30 minutes?”. See the full questionnaire.
The findings were interesting. Of those 72 patients, sleep scores for 48 of them (66.7%) improved.
One such theory about why people may experience better sleep is connected to the idea that CBD may reduce pain, anxiety and depression. If CBD alleviates these other ailments then maybe it indirectly helps with sleep. Stay tuned.
The other big claim is how CBD may impact anxiety & depression. In the same HUMAN study mentioned above regarding sleep, participants’ anxiety levels were also monitored and evaluated. Participants who predominantly reported anxiety over sleep issues were given their 25mg of CBD each morning after breakfast.
Anxiety levels in the study’s participants were measured using The Hamilton Anxiety Rating Scale (HAM-A). HAM-A looks at 14 variables where subjects rate each variable on a score from 0 (not present) to 4 (very severe). It looks at things like moods, tension, fears, insomnia, respiratory symptoms and more.
Anxiety scores decreased within the first month in 57 patients (79.2%) and remained decreased throughout the duration of the study.
Another popularly referenced study looked into patients with never-treated Generalized Social Anxiety Disorder (SAD). The researchers gave subjects 600mg of CBD who then engaged in simulated public speaking. Researchers monitored physical variables like heart rate, blood pressure, and skin conductance. They also took into account subjective ratings through the Visual Analogue Mood Scale (VAMS) and Negative Self-Statement Scale (SSPS-N) – questionnaires.
Here’s a quote from that study:
“Pretreatment with CBD significantly reduced anxiety, cognitive impairment and discomfort in their speech performance, and significantly decreased alert in their anticipatory speech.”
Silky smooth skin. Who wants it? Nothing demonstrates a youthful appearance like a healthy glow. Beauty CBD brands are taking note of what CBD could mean for the health of your skin.
One study said a bunch of super technical things but ended with “CBD has potential as a promising therapeutic agent for the treatment of acne vulgaris.” In short they’re saying CBD may potentially help alleviate pimples. The reduction in acne was correlated to a reduction in sebum on the side of the face where a topical solution containing CBD was applied.
Researchers are considering how CBD may be used to treat other skin conditions like itchiness, eczema, and psoriasis.
Promotes what? Neurogenesis is the growth of new neurons in the brain. Adult neurogenesis is important for brain homeostasis. A recent study showed that neurogenesis naturally continues late into life. That study didn’t have anything to do with CBD but it highlights the importance of neurogenesis in adults. A low degree of neurogenesis is intimately connected to depression and other cognitive issues.
Other forms of research that did incorporate CBD indicate that endocannabinoids (like CBD) may play pivotal roles in at least some of the phases of neurogenesis. Another one hinted that THC may be neurotoxic while CBD may be neuroprotective.
So, does CBD make you smarter? It seems the jury is still out on this one.
Improves Cardiovascular Health
Our cardiovascular systems are responsible for a lot. A 2017 study examining the correlation of CBD and blood pressure reported lower systolic and diastolic blood pressure for 10 male participants dosed with CBD. Participants underwent pre- and post- stress tests and in both tests their blood pressure readings were lower. Some might argue that if CBD reduces anxiety, this may translate to a reduction in blood pressure.
Another rat study from 2007, which teeters on the edge of the neurogenesis argument, showed rats that were treated with CBD for a week following a stroke experienced lower amounts of dead tissue (brain damage) by 66%. A 2017 study corroborated these findings.
This one seems very much unlike the other labeled benefits of CBD. However, research surrounding CBD and its possible influences on addiction are quite robust.
A promising study wanted to test the “anti-relapse” potential of transdermal CBD. For the record, this was another animal study. Researchers selected animal subjects that showed a history of self-administering cocaine or alcohol and demonstrated behaviors commonly seen in relapsing human addicts like dependency, impulsivity and anxiety.
The animal participants received CBD once a day for a week straight.
The results were interesting…
Although CBD levels remained detectable for only 3 days following the 7 day administration period, the subjects were less likely to relapse for up to 5 months!