The Anti-Aging Effect of Cannabidiol
Finding a cure for the aging process has long been the top priority for a certain sector of the beauty, pharmaceutical, and medical industries. Trying to slow down the natural aging process has been the end goal for many sectors of society, but often for widely different reasons. For example, the medical community wants to slow down aging to prevent continued suffering from illness and diseases in old age, while the beauty industry is perhaps less altruist in nature, aiming to slow down the aging process for appearance purposes only. The one crossover is the pursuit of financial gain because whoever cracks the code of how and why we age will undoubtedly reap an unlimited financial benefit.
While the current research into anti-aging is expansive, it is still quite inconclusive. Aging is characterized by the slow exposure over time to harmful external and internal stressors such as the sun’s radiation, environmental toxins, and pathogens such as fungi, bacteria, and viruses. These exposures all lead to mutations in our basic DNA structure. While this is all happening on the smallest molecular level, we begin to accumulate larger scale outward results, such as fine lines, wrinkles, sun spots and a slow decline in physical and mental ability.
Some of the most promising leads still remain quite preliminary but have to do with the effects of oxidative stress on cellular health (or the proliferation of free radicals) and the process of shortening DNA strings which are called telomeres. While there are currently no human studies into cannabidiol (CBD) and the anti-aging process, there is some initial evidence suggesting that CBD may prove to be an effective ingredient in the fight.
Cannabidiol is a compound found in cannabis sativa that is non-psychoactive and safe to use in the young and old alike. It has already found many medicinal applications, often being much more powerful and useful than drugs currently on the market. Some examples of its potential medical applications include:
- Treatment of depression and anxiety
- Treatment of chronic pain
Cannabidiol and the Aging Process
A simple google search will reveal that even before the arrival of confirmed clinical proof, beauty companies are jumping on board the CBD train. There are countless anti-aging beauty creams now available that contain CBD, but is there any proof of their claims and does it go any deeper than just the surface? There are three main areas of aging as currently understood, where CBD could lead to anti-aging breakthroughs: free radicals, inflammation, and decreased cognitive ability.
Fighting Free Radicals
First and foremost, CBD has significant ability to fight the proliferation of free radicals due to its powerful antioxidant characteristics. Free radicals are created through a completely natural process in the body, as they are simply the by-product expelled by a cell when they create energy. Free radicals are an unpaired negative electron, left to wander around the body until they find a positively charged particle to pair with. The body, in its quest to maintain a stable internal environment, will aim to stabilize these problematic unpaired molecules because they are unstable. If external stressors, such as exposure to excess smog, toxins or other environmental pollutants is prolonged, it can lead to an excess of free-radicals floating around looking to pair up. The body doesn’t always have enough antioxidants to stabilize these free radicals, and these unpaired molecules will then start pulling positive particles from your DNA. This DNA damage is ultimately what leads to a deterioration in cell health, and aging.
This is where CBD comes in, as an antioxidant it provides the missing positive particle to the lonely free radicals, and therefore prevents them from attacking your DNA structure. Cannabidiol has been found to be more powerful than other antioxidants such as vitamin C and E. In fact, the evidence of CBD for protection against free radical damage is so strong that the US government holds a patent towards this effect (U.S. Government Patent 1999/008769).
Based on CBD’s interaction with the endocannabinoid system, primarily with the CB2 receptor, it is thought that CBD could target the aging process at least in part through a reduction of inflammation. Aging and inflammation go hand in hand, but scientists are not yet clear on what is the cause and what is the effect. However, there may be potential to slow the aging process by slowing the increase in inflammation. Some current studies have found that CBD can reduce the damage caused by inflammation on oxidative stress, thereby protecting the organs and cell tissue from damage. It has also been found to reduce inflammatory response during disease and illness and a reduction in pain associated with inflammation. These are all important avenues for exploration.
Protecting Cognitive Function
Finally, CBD has very strong evidence demonstrating that it can help protect brain cells from damage and prevent cognitive decline due to old age and age-related illness. As we age, it is inevitable that cognitive function declines at some point due in part to a decline in healthy brain cells and tissue. Based on animal studies, it’s thought that cannabinoid activity protects against cognitive decline. By introducing cannabinoids, including CBD, it is thought to continue to stimulate cannabinoid activity. In human studies, CBD has been found to be beneficial for patients suffering from neurodegenerative diseases such as Parkinson’s and Alzheimer's. In particular, CBD seems to increase the brain-derived neurotrophic factor (BDNF), which is a compound in the brain that promotes new brain cell growth and protects against brain cell death. As we age, there is a slow down or complete cessation of new brain cell growth, so CBD provides some exciting potential to reverse this process.
Blesching, Uwe. The Cannabis Health Index. North Atlantic Books, 2015. Print.