The most incredible thing about cannabidiol (CBD) is that it’s a potentially effective treatment for so many ailments, and especially conditions that approved pharmaceutical treatments have mixed results with. The reason for CBD’s extraordinary therapeutic value is its influence on the endocannabinoid system (ECS).
A healthy ECS is essential for good, balanced mental and physical health, but our understanding of it has historically been limited. While knowledge of the medicinal qualities of cannabis dates back millennia, only through recent science have we been able to learn more about the various compounds in the herb, and the effects each has on the body. The isolation of cannabinoids began in the 1960s, but the ECS wasn’t found until the 1990s.
Without further ado, here are seven common reasons for taking CBD.
Anxiety is not a new mental health disorder; however, it has arguably been exacerbated by the internet, social media and this fast-paced world in general, which doesn’t give people as much time to switch off and have space from their thoughts.
But anxiety isn’t simply a case of overthinking – a chemical imbalance in the brain keeps the organ in an over-excited state. This occurs due to problems with the inhibitory neurotransmitter gamma-Aminobutyric acid (GABA), which is unable to bind with GABA receptors. With GABA impaired, the brain cannot find equilibrium between excitation and inhibition – hence, the brain goes into overdrive, leading to several possible conditions, including anxiety.
However, CBD can tackle anxiety by making it easier for GABA to connect to the necessary receptors, working as a positive allosteric modulator.
Neurodegeneration occurs due to the deterioration of myelin sheath, which is meant to protect nerve fibers in the brain. Damage can reduce the speed of nerve impulses or even stop them altogether, which can lead to neurodegenerative diseases like Alzheimer’s and Huntington’s.
Multiple studies attest to the neuroprotectant properties of CBD and, along with other non-psychoactive cannabinoids, cannabis-based treatment may facilitate neurogenesis. With neurodegeneration linked to the shrinking of the hippocampus, the part of the brain which stores our memories, any compounds that can slow or reverse this progress are worth consideration.
The Brazilian government recently gave special permission to a doctor to allow a patient with Alzheimer’s to take CBD. Additional research will help confirm the long-term effects of CBD on neurodegenerative diseases, but the existing studies give reason to be optimistic.
No country is yet to get a grip on depression, with cases of the mood disorder on the increase – many are also suffering from treatment-resistant depression. Even for those with less serious cases, SSRIs – the leading range of antidepressants – are problematic. Research suggests their effectiveness has steadily declined, and some report symptoms of depersonalization. SSRIs may suppress negative thoughts and feelings, but at what cost?
Thankfully, CBD is changing the way that some scientists think about depression. The cannabinoid interacts with two key systems that affect mood – the endocannabinoid system and the serotonin system. CBD helps an endogenous antidepressant called anandamide to bind with the CB1 receptor in the ECS, which has been found to regulate mood. The interactions CBD makes in the serotonin system are less understood but appear to be centered around the 5-HT1A receptor.
Fibromyalgia is a devastating condition, made worse by the fact that we are yet to establish the cause, let alone the cure. However, Dr Ethan Russo, a cannabis researcher and neurologist has challenged biological norms by introducing the concept of a new disease: Clinical Endocannabinoid Deficiency (CECD). The idea of CECD is that some conditions are caused by dysregulation of the ECS, which renders it unable to perform at full capacity, leading to illness.
Despite the cause for fibromyalgia remaining unknown, many patients who are fed up with existing, ineffective treatments are giving CBD a go. Understandably, since the cannabinoid can help with inflammation, pain and cognitive impairment. If it is proven that fibromyalgia is caused by CECD, then CBD is the perfect treatment, as it helps boost endocannabinoid production where necessary.
Inflammation is at the root of so many conditions, as the body’s immune system response can easily get out control. Sometimes, inflammation is required, to kill off infections or to heal a wound following a cut or graze, but too much and the body essentially starts attacking itself, causing greater problems. Take arthritis, where joint cartilage is destroyed, leaving the finger bones exposed and pain an inevitability.
Non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDs) such as aspirin, ibuprofen and Celebrex are commonly used to treat inflammation, but side effects can include stomach ulcers, headaches and even allergic reactions. Contrastingly, CBD’s side effects are limited, and the compound has easy access to immune system response through the CB2 receptor in the ECS. CBD can even be used to manage inflammatory skin disorders, with CBD creams.
A decent chunk of deep sleep every night is vital for brain and body recovery. However, insomnia, restlessness, anxiety, stress and more can affect a person’s sleep pattern, causing fatigue and even hastening neurodegeneration – cerebrospinal fluid flows through the brain during deep sleep, washing away neurotoxins.
CBD can reduce anxiety and stress and other factors inhibiting sleep, but also treat the likes of insomnia and sleep apnea. In large doses, CBD is a potent sedative, and the compound’s soothing properties help to put the body in a state conducive to sleep. And with CBD gummy bears and other edibles offering up to eight hours of relief, the whole night is covered. CBD also makes subtle adjustments to the sleep cycle, extending the amount of time in deep sleep.
A migraine is a debilitating headache disorder which can cause cluster headaches and pulsating pain for anywhere between two hours to three days. However, research indicates that CECD may be behind migraines, since no cause has been established.
Several anecdotes point towards CBD’s pain-relieving and headache-easing qualities, and a recent study using the whole cannabis plant found cannabinoid therapy an effective way to manage migraines, with few side effects.