Cannabinol, also known as CBD, is the main non-psychoactive cannabinoid found in the Cannabis sativa plant, which includes all varieties of hemp and marijuana plants.1 Non-psychoactive means that, unlike its famous sister compound, tetrahydrocannabinol (THC) it doesn’t create a “high” feeling. What people may not know is that CBD is actually considered a nootropic.
As the legality of medical and recreational marijuana sweeps across the nation, and even some other parts of the world, more researchers have access to the natural plant compounds found in the Cannabis sativa plant, leading to a better understanding of these and other plant compounds and what they do in the human body.
Among other things, researchers have found that CBD can help maintain and promote health by protecting neurons, fighting free-radicals, and reducing inflammation in the body. The increase in research about and legality of this plant has led to more consumers seeking out CBD for therapeutic purposes, such as to provide pain relief. Some people even give CBD to their pets, with products for dogs and cats growing in popularity.
CBD is becoming an increasingly popular nutritional supplement and can be found in a variety of forms:
- Lotions or salves
- Infused foods, such as honey, chocolate, and gummy candy
Despite its growing popularity, most consumers know very little about what CBD is, how it works, and what is known (or unknown) about its benefits, safety profile, and limitations.
A Brief History of Cannabis sativa, The Endocannabinoid System, and Human Health
Throughout thousands of years of human history, Cannabis sativa has been a popular plant in traditional medicine. During most of this history, no one knew how marijuana worked or why it created changes in how individuals think and feel.
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Just 50 years ago, the first clue was found when THC was isolated and credited for the intoxicating effects of the plant. However, it wouldn’t be until the 1990s that scientists discovered that humans and all other mammals have a system now known as the endocannabinoid system (ECS). THC, CBD, and other cannabinoids found in the Cannabis sativa plant may impact human health through their interaction with this system.2
The Endocannabinoid System
The ECS is made up of endogenous cannabinoids, endocannabinoids, their receptors, and enzymes responsible for the breakdown and synthesis of endocannabinoids.3 The system plays a role in immune system function, cognition, pain, mood, appetite, motor function, and sedation. Dysregulation of the ECS is thought to play a role in a variety of conditions, including chronic pain conditions, anxiety, mood disorders, autism, epilepsy, and more.4
This connection has led researchers to explore if there is any way that manipulating the system can bring relief to individuals suffering from some of these conditions. The research looks into the potential of using both drugs and supplements to relieve pain and improve the lives of individuals.
CBD and THC are both phytocannabinoids, cannabinoids that are found in plants. These phytocannabinoids are thought to exert their influence on human health and behavior through their interaction with the endocannabinoid system.
It’s this interaction that may be to thank for the ways that CBD impacts health and wellbeing. Researchers believe that the way CBD boosts the levels of the endocannabinoids humans produce may be one of the ways in which it impacts human health.
Potential Benefits of CBD
Research into how CBD impacts human health is new, and researchers are just starting to understand who may benefit from its use. Two common uses for CBD products is to help relieve pain and manage anxiety symptoms.
CBD and Pain
As it stands there have been no human clinical trials examining the impact of CBD on pain, however, preliminary studies provide promising findings.
Researchers have found that oral CBD helps relieve symptoms of pain in rats suffering from both neurological and inflammatory pain conditions.5 Another study found that topical use of CBD on rats with arthritis led to improvements in measures of swelling and limb posture, which is used as a model of rat arthritic pain.6
There have been no human clinical studies examining the effect of CBD for those suffering from anxiety, but preliminary results provide a reason for optimism. This research has been conducted in short-term human studies and in animal studies.
In one placebo-controlled human study, it was found that 300 mg of CBD attenuated public-speaking-induced anxiety scores more than placebo. This same study found no benefits from 100 or 900 mg of CBD, suggesting an inverted bell-shaped efficiency curve, meaning that there is an optimal amount that’s effective, but more or less than this amount reduces efficacy.7
Should You Use CBD?
With CBD products available for purchase in all 50 states, many are curious if they should try these products. When answering this question, you will want to consider efficacy, safety, and cost.
In terms of efficacy, you’ll want to see if there are any studies looking into how it has worked in animals or humans for your specific purpose. As there have been few studies in humans, most people will experiment themselves and see if they find any benefits.
When it comes to safety, CBD is considered overall to have a favorable safety profile. This does not mean that there are no side effects, but those that have been found tend to be mild and are more common when megadoses are taken.
Lastly, there is the cost of CBD. These products tend to be pretty pricey: it’s not uncommon to pay 50 to 100 dollars for a one-month supply, so you’ll want to do a price/benefit analysis to see if the possible upsides are worth the cost for you personally.
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