CBD is all the rage these days and becoming known as a ‘miraculous’ compound. But is it really as amazing as it sounds?
CBD, also known as cannabidiol, is one of many cannabinoids found in the hemp and cannabis plant. It was discovered in the 1940’s and was initially thought to be psychoactive i.e causes changes in brain function.
Since then, it’s popularity has been rapidly growing with researchers all around the world investigating its effects and is now known as one of the few cannabinoids that turns out to be non-psychoactive, particularly if extracted from the hemp plant. This makes it potentially safer and easier to use.
It is thought to have many therapeutic effects such as anti-seizure, antioxidant, anti-anxiety, antipsychotic, anticancer, analgesic and anti-inflammatory properties.
But does it really work and how?
CBD works by binding to certain receptors in our cells which then lead to a series of chemical reactions to cause a specific effect.
It has an affinity for activating some important receptors in such as:
-Serotonin receptors (specifically 5-HT1A) which control anxiety and mood
-Vanilloid receptors (TRPV1) which influence the pain experience
-Adenosine receptors which control sleep
-Endocannabinoid receptors (indirectly) which control appetite, memory, mood and pain.
One of the most well known effects of CBD is on anxiety and mood. It has been described to instantly give a lift in mood and a feeling of calmness. It impacts activity of the limbic and paralimbic systems in the brain(1) and binds to the 5-HT receptors that control the release of neurotransmitters such as serotonin, which influence stress, anxiety and mood and pain perception. Because of this, it is being researched as a natural anti-depressant.
There is evidence for the use of CBD for managing pain and inflammation in a range of pain conditions such as arthritis, chronic pain, cancer and multiple sclerosis(4). In painful inflammatory conditions, CBD may activate the endocannabinoid receptors to block pain and reduce neuro-inflammatory mechanisms.
With regards to the proposed antipsychotic effects, CBD has been found to be non-inferior to antipsychotic medication in acute schizophrenia. This means that it has the same benefits to medications used in this condition! Further, it can have effects in some forms of psychosis by modulating the medial temporal and striatal function in the brain, regions which are impacted in psychosis(2).
CBD oil has been shown to have anti-tumour effects (3) which suggests that it could be used as a potential anti-neoplastic agent in the treatment of cancer. However, studies are still in the laboratory stage so will require further rigorous testing before it can even begin to be used on human subjects.
There is also a small amount of research on CBD affecting the activity of voltage-gated sodium and potassium channels, which may affect neural activity. This is interesting as it suggests neuroprotective properties i.e preventing the breakdown of neurons in the brain, which is believed to contribute to common conditions such as Parkinson's, Alzheimer's, MS and strokes.
How much should I take?
There is a lack of evidence available regarding the ideal dosage of CBD oil and since it isn’t considered a medicine in many countries, there is little regulation regarding what products to choose and how much of it to take.
As such, one should be cautious and seek professional advice from a pharmacist to GP before taking CBD.
Many products will suggest a dosage themselves but this is not necessarily based on rigorous research. The effects of CBD are dose-dependent, meaning the more you take, the stronger the effect. If you tend to be more sensitive to natural products and medications, best to start at a low dose and build up.
Dosage will depend on the concentration i.e how much active ingredient is contained within the CBD product, the weight of the individual, individuals body chemistry and the severity of the condition.
The more concentrated and highly absorbable products will give a stronger dosage and thus, a stronger effect.
How could I take CBD?
-Liquid drops under the tongue
-Orally by capsules/lozenges/tinctures/gel caps
-Applied topically in form of a cream/gel
-Inhalation using vape
Are there any side effects of taking CBD?
CBD is a very safe compound with no known serious adverse effects. There is some evidence for mild to moderate adverse effects like nausea, vomiting, diarrhoea and some fatigue and dizziness.
Nonetheless, please be cautious and seek professional advice from a pharmacist to GP before taking CBD.
What should I look out for when choosing a CBD product?
Quality of CBD can be an issue so ensure you choose high quality products from well recognised brands that disclose their sourcing practices and quality standards.
Choose organic CBD as less chance they will contain harmful chemicals that are sometimes added in the processing.
Be aware that some CBD products contain THC which can increase the effect of CBD but also has psychoactive properties.
Where is hemp-derived CBD legal?
This question may not be as simple as a yes or no answer.
In Ireland, CBD is not currently authorized as a medicinal product so is not considered a treatment option and cannot be prescribed by doctors, they can however advise as to whether or not to use it. It is legal for CBD products to be sold in shops, pharmacies or health food stores as long as medicinal claims are not made.
It is legal in the UK and has recently been recognised as a medicine but there are restrictions in place in accordance with EU laws. The EU states that if the CBD oil is extracted using particular extraction methods, like using solvents or supercritical CO2 extraction, it cannot be sold in the EU (unlike CBD oil extracted simply by pressing). The THC content must also be below 0.2%.
CBD as a medicine can be obtained by prescription from a doctor in Austria, Belgium, Denmark, Netherlands, Romania, Spain, and Italy. It is also legal in Canada and most states in America recreationally and medicinally.
Does CBD have potential?
Many clinical studies are underway to evaluate the clinical properties of CBD. However, these studies are still in the early stages and still need further rigorous testing to validate CBD. The research so far shows promising results so we could definitely be seeing more of CBD in the future!
1.Crippa JA, Derenusson GN, Ferrari TB, Wichert-Ana L, Duran FL, Martin-Santos R, Simões MV, Bhattacharyya S, Fusar-Poli P, Atakan Z, Filho AS. Neural basis of anxiolytic effects of cannabidiol (CBD) in generalized social anxiety disorder: a preliminary report. Journal of Psychopharmacology. 2011 Jan;25(1):121-30.
2.Bhattacharyya S, Wilson R, Allen P, Bossong M, Appiah-Kusi E, McGuire P. 17.3 Effect Of Cannabidiol On Symptoms, Distress And Neurophysiological Abnormalities In Clinical High-risk For Psychosis Patients: A Placebo-controlled Study. Schizophrenia Bulletin. 2018 Apr 1;44(suppl_1):S28-.
3. Massi P, Vaccani A, Ceruti S, Colombo A, Abbracchio MP, Parolaro D. Antitumor effects of cannabidiol, a nonpsychoactive cannabinoid, on human glioma cell lines. Journal of Pharmacology and Experimental Therapeutics. 2004 Mar 1;308(3):838-45.
4. Russo EB. Cannabinoids in the management of difficult to treat pain. Therapeutics and clinical risk management. 2008 Feb;4(1):245.