Like many wellness products and supplements, CBD comes with its fair share of benefits and misconceptions. Because beliefs around the use of cannabis vary widely, including its legality in different parts of the United States, CBD use can seem controversial. But research across the medical field suggests some clear benefits of its usage and, when used appropriately with a clear understanding of both CBD benefits and CBD myths, it can have a positive effect on overall health and wellness.
According to a survey by SingleCare, 22% of people don’t trust CBD. But 68% of people have found CBD use to be effective. Despite the existing research, we still have much to learn about how CBD can be a support to personal health and wellness across a variety of factors. Read on to learn where you land on this topic as we discuss the facts, myths and misconceptions, and benefits of CBD.
What is CBD?
CBD stands for “Cannibidiol” (Quite a mouthful! It’s no wonder we abbreviate it to just “CBD”), which is the second most active ingredient in cannabis. While cannabis is known for having mind-altering effects and is typically consumed by methods such as smoking or eating gummies, CBD on its own is a naturally occurring element and does not inherently alter the mind the way marijuana does.
The cannabis plant has higher levels of THC, a chemical compound that causes the brain to release dopamine and has psychoactive effects, than the hemp plant does. When used as a supplement, CBD is typically sourced from hemp, which has a THC level of less than 0.3%, in line with regulations from the US government. CBD interacts with the central nervous system in ways that can offer positive effects but without causing the “high” or euphoria that THC brings.
CBD can be found in products such as an oil or incorporated into lotion, both applied topically to the skin. It can also be ingested as a pill, capsule or gummy. These oral methods of consuming CBD tend to provide stronger effects throughout the body because they reach the bloodstream rather than being absorbed through and affecting only the skin.
Research on the health and medical benefits of CBD are still in the early stages. However, the research findings we do have offer promising evidence that there are some clear CBD benefits across a variety of wellness goals. Let’s explore what some of these are.
Did you know that the human body has an “endocannabinoid system”? It is a neuromodulatory system that works closely to support your central nervous system development. One of its key components is receptors which are responsible for producing the cognitive effects that marijuana has on the body when used. However, CBD itself, it is believed, does not bind to these receptors but activates other components of the endocannabinoid system.
As a result, CBD has anti-inflammatory properties that help soothe the cells of the body. Inflammation is typically marked by pain, heat or swelling due to an illness or an unexpected foreign “invader,” so the body sends white blood cells to fight off the intruder. For diseases such as arthritis that can cause various types of severe inflammation in the joints of the body, these anti-inflammatory effects of CBD can help sufferers feel relief from discomfort and stiffness.
Because of its anti-inflammatory effects, CBD is also being researched as a possible treatment for individuals with cancer, Alzheimer’s disease, cardiovascular diseases, and other conditions. The World Health Organization reports that CBD has been most widely confirmed as a treatment for anti-seizure activity in patients with epilepsy. In fact, the first FDA-approved medication with CBD as an active ingredient is specifically designed for this kind of seizure treatment.
One of the top CBD benefits is that it is consistently found to help relieve pain. CBD can raise the body’s levels of a pain-regulating compound called anandamide, and interacts positively with the receptor systems of the body to ease pain. As an additional benefit of this approach, those dealing with long-term pain may find CBD to be a helpful alternative to highly addictive opioids.
On its own, CBD can be particularly effective for treating nerve pain and back pain.
Mental health benefits
Unsurprisingly, CBD can produce a general calming effect that promotes relief from stress. But it has also been studied in connection to relief from a variety of mental health disorders.
Researchers have noted the potential for CBD to help ease the effects of some anxiety disorders, as well as investigating its therapeutic potential for post-traumatic stress disorder.
And not only can CBD be an effective pain relief alternative to more addictive pain medications, but CBD has also been researched as a possible interventive treatment for addiction disorders. Preliminary research also suggests that CBD can be useful as a sleep aid and for treating insomnia.
Possible side effects of CBD
It’s important to note that, since research into the benefits of CBD is still in its early stages, we are still learning about the full range of its impacts on the body. This means that there are some potential side effects that we may not yet know about.
Some of the known CBD side effects in humans include diarrhea and fatigue, or nausea and irritability. CBD can also interact with other medications to increase their effects, so it is important to discuss the idea of using CBD with your doctor and medical care team. They can advise you of any of these interactions and guide you to the best course of action, determine if CBD is right for you, and, if applicable, help you find the best form of CBD for your medical needs.
Misconceptions about CBD
If you are considering using CBD for its positive health benefits, it is key to keep the facts straight from the fiction. Let’s review some of the CBD myths you might have thought or heard of.
Myth: “CBD will make you get high.” On its own, CBD will not make the user experience euphoric or psychoactive effects, beyond the calming effect we have already mentioned. In marijuana, it is the THC that raises your dopamine levels significantly, but CBD, when used as a dietary supplement, is made from hemp, which does not have high enough THC levels to give you a high.
Myth: “CBD is addictive.” Nope! CBD has not been found to have any addictive properties and, in fact, research seems to suggest that it can instead be therapeutic for a variety of addiction, including even cannabis and tobacco addiction, though more data is needed to confirm these preliminary findings.
Myth: “CBD oil and hemp seed oil are the same.” Even though CBD is derived from the hemp plant, these two outputs are not the same. CBD is derived from the seeds, flowers, and stem of the hemp plant. As its name suggests, hemp seed oil exclusively comes from the seeds of the hemp plant, and offers its own benefits such as vitamins and minerals, but is distinct from CBD.
What to be aware of when buying CBD
It shouldn’t be a surprise, but not all CBD products are created equal! As we’ve mentioned, CBD products applied on the skin, for instance, can combat surface-level pain and inflammation, but CBD gummies or capsules are able to have an effect throughout the body, not just locally to the application.
And while the use of cannabis is legislated at the federal level and the state level, CBD is primarily sold as a dietary supplement, which the FDA does not regulate. So there is technically not an FDA-approved CBD product on the market at this time (except for Epidiolex, which is specifically meant for reducing seizures in patients). This is yet another reason why speaking to your doctor or medical team when choosing a CBD product is critical.
Based on your health symptoms or desired effects, your doctor will be best able to determine your needs and whether something applied topically like CBD oil will be most beneficial to you, or a supplement like a capsule or gummy would be best. They can also steer you toward a recommended brand or location to buy CBD since the proliferation of products can make it difficult to discern which would be best to buy.
Research among young adults suggests that many CBD users may be uninformed of its side effects and recommended usage. In the years ahead, research confirming the positive effects of CBD usage is likely to continue, but meanwhile, individuals should exercise good judgment in the ways that they consume CBD as well as consulting medical professionals. Regulations of both CBD and cannabis vary from state to state, so make sure that you know what is allowed and available near you as you pursue overall health and wellness and the ways CBD can help.
Disclaimer: This article is meant to inform the reader and empower them to do their own research on CBD and its effects. We have provided links to the research sources used to compile this information. Please consult your healthcare professional before using any new supplements or treatments, including CBD.