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CBD Health Benefits: Separating Fact from Fiction



Separating fact from user hype and marketing fallacies about cannabidiol (CBD) benefits is not getting easier, unfortunately. Since the passing of the U.S. 2018 Farm Bill, with its considerably more permissive Hemp Act, the cannabis health market has been buzzing like a giant beehive with all sorts of news. CBD gets attributed with health properties from curing cancer (clinically unproven) to alleviating anxiety (somewhat clinically proven) and stopping epileptic seizures (clinically a solid fact).

Yet its rising popularity among the general population cannot be denied, and even doctors are increasingly stepping out to endorse and suggest CBD-based cannabis medicine.

But it's always good to make an informed decision about your health. Therefore, we scanned through the latest clinical evidence to see what you can safely expect to gain in terms of CBD health benefits.

CBD Benefit #1—Controls Epileptic Seizures

This benefit is somewhat of a yawn, because the first natural CBD medicine for epilepsy was FDA approved last year, and it's common news. This is a very strong, medical-grade CBD, and it’s available by prescription only for severe, intractable epileptic conditions. So, it’s not what folks are commonly considering taking CBD for when visiting their local health shop.

However, it can bear significance anyway—mostly because of where science is focusing these days. The questions about CBD are more nuanced and along the lines of: "Which works best for epilepsy—pure CBD extract or CBD-rich cannabis medicine?" At this point, it seems the latter works better, and this matters, because if this is true about epilepsy, it could very well be true about other conditions, too.

Controlling epileptic seizures is not what folks are commonly considering taking CBD for when visiting their local health shop.

RELATED: Understanding the Entourage Effect of Cannabinoids

Not to disregard science at all, but nature knows best, and its design is perfect. Therefore it makes sense that the compounds in a plant will work together more effectively than a single one would. This is not always the case, often depending on what you're looking to address, but it's nevertheless a good rule of thumb.

This is evidenced by a recent meta-analysis of the data, which concludes:

"CBD-rich extracts seem to present a better therapeutic profile than purified CBD, at least in this population of patients with refractory epilepsy. The roots of this difference is likely due to synergistic effects of CBD with other phytocompounds (aka Entourage effect), but this remains to be confirmed in controlled clinical studies." [1]

Tip: This means that no matter for what you're hoping CBD would help for, look for whole-plant CBD oils or tinctures when shopping. Even if you're just experimenting, it could make all the difference between a "Meh" and a "Wow!" The entourage effect matters, and while CBD seems to help fabulously on its own for some conditions, starting with the orchestra before spending money on a solo performance might be the better course of action.

RELATED: 8 CBD Benefits That You Should Consider

CBD Benefit #2—Helps Attune Insomnia & Anxiety and Related Disorders

Here, research gets sticky, because most studies are laboratory or animal based, and the few clinical ones available do tend to have design deficiencies.

CBD Benefit #2—Helps Attune Insomnia & Anxiety and Related Disorders

For instance, one recent large case series that studied CBD for anxiety and sleep was really not that large (the patient population was only around 100). Also, it looked only at CBD as an adjunct treatment for patients who are already on medication. This population does not represent the general public.

"The final sample consisted of 72 adults presenting with primary concerns of anxiety or poor sleep. Anxiety scores decreased within the first month in 57 patients (79.2%) and remained decreased during the study duration. Sleep scores improved within the first month in 48 patients (66.7%) but fluctuated over time. In this chart review, CBD was well tolerated in all but 3 patients." [2]

The study was not in vain, of course, because the results were promising. Also, CBD is known to work well for healthy people struggling with a spot of insomnia and/or anxiety.

Tip: Again, to be sure you get the most bang for your buck, invest in a product that you know is what it claims to be on the label. This means to look out for formal laboratory analysis of the content. This report will clearly state the components in the CBD product, so you can see for yourself what you're buying and ingesting. If one is not available—or if the manufacturers or marketers are reluctant to release it—steer clear of the product.

CBD Benefit #3—Pain Reliever and Anti-Inflammatory

These CBD health properties are also fairly well-known and reasonably well-documented. It is often self-administered to alleviate pain with a variety of causes, anything from postoperative pain and skin disease to muscle pain after strenuous exercises.

CBD Benefit #3—Pain Reliever and Anti-Inflammatory

RELATED: The CBD Benefits That You Need in Your Life

Again, a lot more clinically relevant, well-designed research is called for because the evidence is somewhat burdened by design flaws etc.

For instance, it was found that CBD had a mild to moderate effect on patients suffering from chronic pain due to kidney transplants:

"Two patients had total pain improvement, 4 had a partial response in the first 15 days, and in 1 there was no change." [3]

Again, the patient sample size was small, and patients asked for CBD to alleviate their pain. Yet the finding is significant, because nephrotoxicity, or kidney failure is always a risk with transplant patients, which rules out conventional pain treatment. CBD was well tolerated and a non-toxic painkiller, preferable over nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs. At the given doses, there was also no significant drug-drug interaction.

CBD Benefit #3—Pain Reliever and Anti-Inflammatory

In a recent observational study, three patients self-initiated CBD treatment for a very painful skin condition (epidermolysis bullosa).

"One patient was weaned completely off oral opioid analgesics. All 3 reported faster wound healing, less blistering, and amelioration of pain with cannabidiol use." [4]

So, while many claims about cannabidiol are largely unproven and a lot more well-designed study is needed, some CBD health benefits can be safely assumed. It’s important to remember that for most conditions, CBD exerts its magic only in tandem with tetrahydrocannabinol (THC) and possibly other cannabis compounds. So, choose your CBD products carefully, experiment wisely, and always consult a health professional before substituting CBD for any prescription medicine.

Sources:

  1. https://www.frontiersin.org/articles/10.3389/fneur.2018.00759/full
  2. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC6326553/
  3. https://www.sciencedirect.com/science/article/abs/pii/S0041134517309624
  4. https://onlinelibrary.wiley.com/doi/abs/10.1111/pde.13545

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