CBD has a few core benefits that make it useful for a wide range of different symptoms.
For example, the robust anti-inflammatory profile of CBD oils makes it useful for many different inflammatory disorders, including multiple sclerosis, Crohn’s disease, arthritis, migraine headaches, and more.
Here are some of the core benefits CBD that make it effective for a myriad of health conditions:
Alleviates pain & inflammation
Supports mental health & wellbeing
Supports healthy skin
Protects the brain
Supports digestive function
May protect the cardiovascular system
Supports reproductive health
Regulates hormones & metabolism
Cannabinoid Benefits Chart
CBD isn’t the only active ingredient that contributes to the overall health benefits of a hemp extract.
While CBD is the main ingredient, other cannabinoids and cannabis-derived terpenes contribute to the overall health benefits of a full-spectrum CBD oil as well.
Here’s a brief overview of the many health benefits of cannabinoids:
1. Alleviates Pain & Inflammation
Cannabis products have been used to relieve chronic pain and inflammation for thousands of years.
Only recently have scientists been able to analyze and understand how hemp and marijuana plants can offer so many benefits for pain symptoms.
Prevents T-cell infiltration in rheumatoid arthritis
Promotes recovery of the joint tissue
Evidence: CBD & Arthritis
Animal studies involving mice with collagen-induced arthritis treated with CBD showed a dramatic improvement in pain symptoms in the mice given CBD compared to the control group [Malfait 2000].
Rheumatoid arthritis (RA) is an autoimmune disease. This means that the cause of joint pain with this type of arthritis comes from the body’s own immune cells attacking and destroying the cells that make up the joint tissue. This leads to pain, inflammation, and swelling. A type of immune cells called T-cells is responsible for attacking and destroying the joints.
CBD has been shown to inhibit T-cell infiltration in rheumatoid arthritis joint tissue [Specter 1990]. Other studies have shown that CBD was able to also prevent T-cells from attacking the joints [Klein 1991].
CBD has also been shown to block key inflammatory messengers involved with rheumatoid arthritis — such as nitric oxide, TNF-a, IL-1, IFN-g, and much more [Coffey 1996, Watzl 1991].
1.2 CBD For Fibromyalgia
Fibromyalgia is a common condition (affecting up to 2% of the population) that involves chronic pain, fatigue, insomnia, depression, and poor focus.
There’s no cure for fibromyalgia, and most of the current medications available for treating it aren’t very effective.
Alleviates side effects such as anxiety & depression
Evidence: CBD & Fibromyalgia
There hasn’t been a lot of research on the effects of CBD on fibromyalgia. A 2018 systematic review on CBD for pain only found seven studies involving CBD or other cannabinoids for the treatment of fibromyalgia, and evidence was limited for each of these studies [Stockings 2018].
With that said, there is plenty of evidence for the painkilling benefits of CBD for other types of neuropathic pain. While more research is needed, the benefits of CBD oil for managing tough to treat pain involved with fibromyalgia are promising.
There are also some studies on the effects of synthetic cannabinoids on pain, but the results are much less impressive than CBD in its natural form. A large meta-analysis done by the Cochrane Group (considered the highest level of research) analyzed two clinical studies that explored the effects of a synthetic cannabinoid called nabilone for fibromyalgia [Walitt 2016]. This study reported no significant improvement using the synthetic cannabinoid.
1.3 CBD For Migraine Headaches
Migraines are a severe form of headaches. They’re often accompanied by symptoms such as nausea, vomiting, or sensitivity to light, sound, or smell.
Many people are reaching for a bottle of CBD oil for migraine headaches instead of prescription painkillers. There’s even some evidence to suggest CBD may offer a preventative action against migraine attacks.
May prevent the release of serotonin from platelets
May reduce vascular spasms
Evidence: CBD & Migraines
Migraine headaches are poorly understood despite recent advancements in neurology.
There are a few theories for what causes migraine headaches:
Excessive serotonin release from platelet cells
Spasms of the arteries feeding blood to the brain
There are no clinical studies explicitly exploring the impact of CBD on migraines, but there are a few studies that suggest CBD as a promising candidate for treatment.
CBD has been shown to inhibit serotonin release from platelet cells in the brain [Volfe 1985], block inflammation in the brain [Ryberg 2007], and inhibit pain signals directly.
More loosely, CBD may prevent vascular spasms in the brain through its antispasmodic effects and the ability to upregulate GABA. GABA is responsible for inhibiting glutamate, which has been linked with muscle spasms of the arteries feeding the brain.
1.4 CBD For Nerve Pain (Neuropathic Pain)
Nerve pain is any pain originating from damage or dysfunction of the nerve cells themselves. This type of pain is notoriously difficult to treat — up to 60% of patients suffering from neuropathic pain can’t find an effective treatment.
There’s been a lot of promising research in recent years around the use of CBD oil for nerve pain. It works by targeting a system called the endocannabinoid system (ECS) — which is responsible for regulating the health of the nerve cells.
It’s thought that this effect on the endocannabinoid system is the primary mechanism CBD uses to block pain originating in the nerves. However, more research is needed to understand this effect in more detail.
Blocks pain transmission in the spinal cord and brain
Promotes GABA activity in the neurons
Evidence: CBD & Nerve Pain
A study involving 303 patients diagnosed with treatment-resistant peripheral nerve pain were given a topical spray consisting of CBD and THC [Serpell 2014]. The study concluded that the CBD/THC spray improved the sleep quality and severity of pain in a significant portion of the treatment group.
Delayed onset muscle pain (DOMS) is a normal part of working out. It happens when we push our muscles harder than they’ve worked before, or in a way we’re not used to. The stress placed on the muscle fibers leads to damage and inflammation, which can result in aches and pains.
DOMS usually appears 24 – 48 hours after a workout and can last for several days at a time.
This form of muscle pain can make it difficult to get back into the gym until the pain goes away.
CBD is a useful supplement for alleviating the pain and inflammation with DOMS, helping you recover quicker and get back in the gym as soon as possible.
Blocks pain transmission traveling from the muscles to the brain
Alleviates inflammation in the muscles
Improves sleep quality and recovery
Enhances satellite cell differentiation in the muscles
Supports protein synthesis by reducing cortisol levels
Evidence: CBD for Muscle Pain & Recovery
While there’s plenty of evidence to suggest CBD products can be used to reduce inflammation and ease the pain — there are no specific studies exploring the benefits of CBD products for DOMS or other forms of muscle pain in humans.
Animal studies have shown doses of CBD can effectively reduce various forms of chronic muscle pain [Wong 2019].
1.6 CBD For Sickle Cell Anaemia
Sickle cell anemia is a condition involving misshapen red blood cells. The shape often appears to have a sickle-like shape, which is where the name for the disease originated.
One of the hallmark signs of sickle cell anemia is chronic pain. The shape of the blood cells makes it difficult for them to fit into some of the small capillaries lining the skin’s surface, in the muscles, and throughout the internal organs. When these cells become stuck, they can lead to pain and inflammation that’s notoriously difficult to treat.
While there’s some research on the effects of CBD for sickle cell anemia pain so far, the research is still in its infancy.
Stabilizes mast cells to prevent inflammation & irritation
Evidence: CBD & Sickle Cell Anemia
Animal studies involving the pharmaceutical preparation of the cannabinoids CBD and THC — called Sativex — has been shown to dramatically reduce pain and inflammation associated with sickle cell anemia [Vincent 2016].
This study reported the primary mechanism of action for the painkilling effects of CBD was through inhibition of mast cells. These cells become activated when blood cells become lodged in the capillaries — leading to a cascade of inflammation and pain.
2. Supports Mental Health & Wellbeing
Mental illness covers a wide range of health conditions — from depression and anxiety to psychosis and schizophrenia.
CBD offers several distinct benefits for mental health that make it useful for a variety of unrelated mental health conditions. I should note that CBD is not an approved treatment for any mental health issue. It helps supports mental health and wellbeing when used in combination with other therapies. This usually includes diet and lifestyle changes, professional counseling, or other supplements and medications.
If you’re experiencing any severe mental health symptoms, it’s important you visit a medical professional as soon as possible before turning to natural health supplements like CBD.
The main benefits of CBD for mental wellness include:
CBD oils offer several key benefits for managing, mitigating, and even treating different types of anxiety conditions.
The benefits of CBD oil for anxiety include:
Boosts GABA function in the brain
Regulates serotonin & dopamine activity
Relaxes tight or tense muscles
Alleviates inflammation in the brain
Promotes a more restorative sleep
Reduces cortisol levels
Evidence: CBD & Anxiety Disorders
A preclinical study published in 2015 explored CBD’s potential to treat several prominent forms of anxiety disorders [Blessing 2015].
The study concluded that there was conclusive evidence demonstrating the efficacy of CBD for reducing anxiety disorders such as PTSD, generalized anxiety disorder, obsessive-compulsive disorder, and social anxiety disorder.
A large meta-analysis published in 2018 highlighted the benefits of CBD oil for post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) [Bitencourt 2018]. The study explored the results of animal studies and clinical trials. The study concluded that CBD significantly improved symptoms of PTSD — including the retention of unpleasant memories. The doses used in this research ranged from 12 mg (orally) to 10 mg/kg (injected).
2.2 CBD For Chronic Stress
Stress is an entirely normal and healthy process — but only in small bursts. Being stressed out all the time can be damaging to our health long-term.
Chronic stress can lead to high blood pressure, low immunity, autoimmune disease, chronic fatigue syndrome, metabolic disorders, anxiety disorders, depression, and much more.
One of the primary benefits of CBD is its ability to promote relaxation and alleviate chronic stress.
Cortisol is the primary stress hormone in the human body. Cortisol testing is considered one of the simplest ways to measure stress levels in humans, and reducing cortisol is a key therapeutic target for managing chronic stress levels.
In one study, 11 human volunteers were given high-dose CBD (up to 600 mg CBD) to measure its effects on cortisol levels [Zuardi 1993]. Blood tests were used to measure cortisol levels before and after taking CBD. The results showed a substantial reduction in cortisol levels after taking CBD extract on two separate occasions.
2.3 CBD For Insomnia & Sleep Disorders
There are two main types of insomnia — sleep onset insomnia (difficulty falling asleep) and sleep maintenance insomnia (inability to stay asleep throughout the night).
Research supports the use of CBD for both forms of insomnia — it helps users fall asleep faster, stay asleep longer, and feel more refreshed the following morning.
A meta-analysis exploring the effects of CBD on sleep dating back from the 1970s found that CBD has a different impact on sleep, depending on the dose [Babson 2017].
Low-dose CBD has a mild stimulating effect, while high-doses have a much stronger sedative action. High doses of CBD was associated with increased total sleep time and decreased incidence of movement or disruptions throughout the night.
The same meta-analysis also suggested improvements in sleep quality for people suffering from REM sleep behavior disorder — a condition that causes sufferers to act out during deep REM sleep.
2.4 CBD For Mood Disorders
The term “mood disorder” refers to any neurological disorder that affects the body’s ability to regulate or maintain emotion.
There are dozens of mood disorders, and CBD has a unique effect for each one.
CBD has been shown to help with bipolar disorder, depression, mania (with caution), hypomania, and seasonal affective disorder (SAD).
The primary benefits of CBD oil for mood disorders include:
Other studies have elucidated how CBD is able to alleviate depression. One study found that CBD extracts were able to increase serotonin activity in mice [Sales 2018]. Serotonin is one of the primary targets for pharmaceutical antidepressant medications including Sertraline and Prozac.
CBD has also been shown to alleviate obsessive behaviors in mice — measured by marble-burying habits in mice [Casarotto 2010].
2.5 CBD For Addiction
Addiction and substance abuse to both illicit and prescription medications is a serious problem around the world. In the United States alone, it’s estimated that 21 million people have at least one addiction.
Typical forms of addiction include — substance abuse, gambling addiction, or sex addiction.
Addiction is classified as a mental disorder by the American Psychiatric Association. It’s characterized by a compulsive desire to do something despite having clear negative impacts on the body.
Alleviates common symptoms of drug withdrawal syndromes
CBD may reduce cravings for tobacco
Evidence: CBD & Addiction
CBD has been shown to reduce cigarette cravings in long-term smokers [Morgan 2013]. The study concluded that 40% fewer cigarettes were smoked by participants in the treatment group than the placebo control group. The effects of CBD had a persistent impact for several weeks after the study concluded.
A study published in 2019 analyzed a group of 146 medical marijuana patients who were also taking benzodiazepine medications [Purcell 2019]. Researchers reported that 30% of patients were no longer using the drugs at the two-month follow-up period. At the 6-month mark, 45% of patients taking part in the study were no longer using benzodiazepines. Researchers conducting this study associated cannabis use as one of the key factors that help patients break free from the addictive tendencies of long-term benzodiazepine use.
Many people are using CBD oil to wean off Xanax and other benzodiazepine drugs. It’s been shown to offer direct support for the underlying cause of benzodiazepine withdrawal by preventing the reuptake of GABA [Banerjee 1975]. This is the target neurotransmitter for benzodiazepine anti-anxiety medications.
2.6 CBD For Schizophrenia
The benefits of CBD for schizophrenia are not well understood. Research has a long way to go before making any conclusive claims about using CBD to support the condition.
With that said, CBD has been shown to offer several key benefits that suggest it as a promising candidate for managing symptoms of the condition.
Improves blood flow to cortical regions of the brain
Alleviates common side effects of schizophrenia
Regulates anandamide levels
Evidence: CBD & Schizophrenia
The research for the effects of CBD on schizophrenia is still in the early stages. There are many challenges in finding effective treatment options for this condition due to its complexity. There isn’t one specific cause for the condition, and most of the likely causes are only theoretical.
The prominent theories for the causes of schizophrenia include:
Poor blood flow to cortical regions of the brain
One of the best studies we have available on CBD’s potential benefits for schizophrenia compared the use of CBD with current prescription antipsychotic medications [Leweke 2012]. This double-blind, placebo-control study found that CBD was as effective as amisulpride for treating schizophrenia symptoms.
Amisulpride is a potent second-generation antipsychotic drug used in the treatment of schizophrenia and psychosis.
Researchers conducting this study suggested the mechanism of action for CBD was through improved anandamide signaling.
Other studies have shown another cannabinoid, THC (tetrahydrocannabinol), activates CB1 receptors in the brain [Pertwee 2008], which are considered vital mediators of psychosis. Products containing more than trace amounts of THC should be avoided by anybody diagnosed or at risk of developing schizophrenia.
3. Supports Healthy Skin
Skin is the largest organ in the body. It’s responsible for maintaining our internal body temperature, protecting our internal organs, storing nutrients, and manufacturing vitamin D.
CBD offers a similar level of benefit for many different skin conditions — ranging from inflammatory conditions like psoriasis or eczema to cosmetic disorders like acne or wrinkling.
3.1 CBD For Acne
Acne is caused by an overproduction of sebum, which promotes bacterial growth inside of the pores. This leads to inflammation, swelling, and redness around the pore.
CBD oil and CBD skincare products offer similar benefits against the formation of acne.
CBD topicals provide a direct dose of CBD to the surface of the skin, while CBD oils are better for alleviating many of the underlying causes for acne (such as inflammation or excess oil production).
A study exploring the potential anti-acne effects of cannabinoids noted the most significant improvement came from the novel cannabinoid THCV (tetrahydrocannabivarin) [Oláh 2016].
CBD and CBDV also showed dramatic improvements in controlling sebum production, reducing inflammation, and activating vanilloid receptors in the skin. Each of these effects contributes to the overall anti-acne benefits of a full-spectrum CBD extract.
3.2 CBD For Psoriasis
Psoriasis is a skin condition caused by an autoimmune disorder that causes rapid regeneration of skin cells. This leads to characteristic itchy, red, scaly patches that can form anywhere on the body.
There’s no cure for this condition. Most patients experience cycles of flare-ups and remissions — each lasting several weeks or months at a time.
CBD has been shown to offer three distinct benefits for managing or preventing the symptoms of psoriasis. Topical products that contain high concentrations of CBD may be useful for reducing the severity of the condition and preventing flare-ups before they occur.
A study published in 2013 found a set of cannabinoid receptors located in the skin could reduce excessive skin cell growth associated with psoriasis [Ramot 2013]. Due to the ability for CBD to regulate these receptors, researchers suggested topical CBD products may be able to inhibit the formation of psoriasis patches on the skin.
Another study found that CBD directly inhibits an inflammatory messenger molecule known as nuclear factor-kappa-b (NFkB) [Silva 2019] — which is considered one of the primary inflammatory mediators involved with the formation of psoriasis.
3.3 CBD For Eczema
Eczema is an inflammatory disorder affecting the outer layers of the skin (epidermis). Rough, dry patches caused by eczema can be extremely itchy and painful.
The benefits of CBD oil for eczema include:
Alleviates pain and itchiness in the skin
Inhibits inflammation in the skin
Evidence: CBD & Eczema
A clinical study consisting of 20 patients with inflammatory skin disorders (psoriasis or eczema) were given a topical CBD cream and instructed to apply it twice per day for three months [Palmieri 2019]. At the end of the study, researchers reported a significant improvement in the inflammatory status of the skin for both conditions after using CBD ointment.
4. Protects The Brain (Neuroprotective)
CBD is a neuroprotective agent — which means it can preserve the function and structure of the neurons that make up the central nervous system.
These specialized cells are highly sensitive to damage from oxidative or inflammatory compounds. Autoimmune disease, prion disease, genetic polymorphisms, and more can all lead to neuronal damage. The umbrella term for these conditions is neurodegenerative disorders — which refers to any condition that involves gradual destruction or loss of nerve cells.
CBD has a lot of benefits for neurological disorders through its anti-inflammatory and endocannabinoid-mediated effects.
This system is one of the primary regulators for nerve cell health. It protects the nerves from damage, supports nerve cell regeneration, and maintains optimal cell function.
4.1 CBD For Epilepsy
The neuroprotective effect of CBD is especially apparent when looking at the benefits this compound has for epileptic disorders.
Several large-scale clinical trials have explored the effects of CBD extracts (both full-spectrum and pure CBD) for treating various forms of epilepsy — including Dravet’s syndrome, Lennox-Gastaut Syndrome, childhood absence epilepsy, and more.
CBD has been shown to dramatically reduce the severity of epileptic seizures and seizure frequency (how often a seizure occurs).
Modulates key receptors that regulate brain health
Supports GABA activity
Evidence: CBD & Epilepsy
A 2018 meta-analysis involving 670 people found that 71% of people given full-spectrum CBD extracts experienced reduced seizure frequency compared to placebo [Pamplona 2018]. Only 46% of patients taking CBD isolates reported improvements — suggesting that the other compounds in a full-spectrum extract contribute to the antiepileptic effects of CBD.
Researchers reported that 40% of people in the study experienced half the amount of seizures as expected, a quarter had a 70% drop in seizure frequency, and 10% were seizure-free by the end of the study.
4.2 CBD For Multiple Sclerosis
Multiple sclerosis (MS) is an autoimmune disease involving the destruction of the myelin sheath around nerve cells. You can think of your nerve cells like a bundle of wires and the myelin as the plastic insulation. Without myelin, nerve cells can’t transmit messages to the rest of the body.
There is no cure for MS, but there are a few medications that can be used to slow the progression of the disease.
CBD is a popular option for managing MS because it targets several underlying causes of the condition (inflammation, autoimmunity, nerve cell function) and alleviates the most common side effects (pain, muscle spasms, bladder control).
A new pharmaceutical medication for MS is derived from CBD and the related cannabinoid, THC — called Sativex®
Most of the research on the effects of CBD products for multiple sclerosis comes from a pharmaceutical preparation called Sativex®. Sativex® is a 1:1 extract of CBD and THC and the only cannabis-related drug approved for treating MS in the United States.
Clinical trials on Sativex® have shown the drug can directly improve many of the common side effects of multiple sclerosis. It’s been shown to improve muscle spasms [Wade 2010], bladder dysfunction [Brady 2004], and nerve pain [Barnes 2006].
Huntington’s disease is a genetic disorder affecting the brain. There’s no cure for the disease, but there are a few ways to slow its progression and alleviate the most common side effects.
The underlying cause of Huntington’s disease is a gradual buildup of a protein called Huntington — which can lead to the eventual damage and destruction of the nerve cells in the brain. This leads to uncontrollable muscle movements, inability to control emotions, and a gradual reduction in cognitive function.
CBD has several key benefits to offer Huntington’s disease patients. The benefits primarily rely on its potent anti-inflammatory and neuroprotective benefits.
Alleviates common side effects of Huntington’s disease
Offers powerful neuroprotective benefits
Evidence: CBD & Huntington’s Disease
There’s a lack of research on the effects of CBD on Huntington’s disease. Most of the research available uses animal models or small study groups. However, the research currently available shows a lot of promise towards CBD as a potential new therapy to help patients manage symptoms.
Experimental models of Huntington’s disease in animals have shown dramatic improvements in symptoms and disease progression after being treated with a combination of CBD and THC (Sativex®) [Sagredo 2011].
Case reports published in Oxford Condition Monographs have also suggested success among Huntington’s disease patients using CBD to manage symptoms like chorea (involuntary eye movement) and speech difficulties [Bates 2014].
4.4 CBD For Parkinson’s Disease
Parkinson’s disease (PD) is a chronic neurodegenerative disorder affecting the nucleus accumbens (NA) — which is where most of the brain’s dopamine is produced.
Over several years, dopamine levels in the brain start to decline, resulting in side effects like poor concentration, muscle tremors, depression, apathy, sleep disorders, and much more.
CBD is useful for supporting this condition but can’t be used to cure it — there’s are currently no cure for this condition. Instead, supplements and medications are used to slow disease progression, ease common side effects, and improve quality of life.
One of the hallmark side effects of Parkinson’s disease is muscle tremors and loss of muscle coordination. CBD was shown to significantly reduce muscle tremors associated with Parkinson’s disease in animal models [Kluger 2015].
Some of the more interesting research on the potential benefits of CBD for Parkinson’s disease have shown that CBD may be able to boost dopamine levels in the brain [Morales 2018]. These findings are significant because the primary cause of symptoms associated with Parkinson’s disease is a gradual reduction of dopamine in the brain. More research is needed to understand how this effect applies to real-life patients, but the research so far is promising.
A small clinical study involving the use of CBD for patients experiencing psychotic side effects found the supplement had a significant reduction in the severity of symptoms [Zuardi 2009]. This study reported no adverse side effects from the CBD throughout the study period.
4.5 CBD For Amyotrophic Lateral Sclerosis (ALS)
Amyotrophic lateral sclerosis (ALS) — AKA Lou Gehrig’s disease — is a neurodegenerative condition involving the breakdown of the neurons responsible for controlling muscle movement (motor neurons).
There’s no cure for this condition, and the treatment options are limited. The current treatment approach for this condition is to alleviate side effects, slow the progression of the disease, and improve quality of life.
CBD is not a cure for ALS, but it may support patients with side effects such as pain, muscle cramping, insomnia, anxiety, and depression.
May slow the progression of the disease by supporting neuron health
Evidence: CBD & ALS
There are currently no clinical trials in the academic literature that explore the direct impact of CBD extracts with ALS. The only evidence available for the benefits of this supplement comes from anecdotal reports of patients using CBD products to manage symptoms and implied benefits from other research (such as benefits on sleep, pain, and muscle spasms).
Animal studies have been done to explore the impact of another cannabinoid, THC, on ALS. In a study published in 2004, researchers reported mice with experimental ALS had significantly less severity in their symptoms after being treated with THC [Raman 2004].
5. Supports Digestive Health
Digestive problems are prevalent — experts estimate that nearly one in five people suffer some form of digestive dysfunction.
Poor digestive health can affect nearly every other organ system in the body. Chronic inflammation can cause particles to “leak” into the bloodstream, interfering with hormones, neurotransmitters, or organ function elsewhere in the body.
Additionally, chronic inflammation in the gut can spill into the bloodstream and trigger inflammation in the lungs, brain, skin, and more.
CBD offers several benefits for digestive health, but the most significant impact, by far, is its ability to inhibit inflammation.
Inflammation is a key underlying cause of digestive problems. Inflammation may be caused by irritants in food, allergies, alterations in the gut microbiome, or genetic polymorphisms.
5.1 CBD For Inflammatory Bowel Disease (IBD)
Inflammatory bowel disease (IBD) refers to two conditions — ulcerative colitis (UC) and Crohn’s disease.
Both conditions involve chronic inflammation in the digestive tract that leads to problems with absorption, constipation or diarrhea, altered gut microflora, pain, and cramping.
CBD offers direct benefits towards IBD by inhibiting inflammation, alleviating pain, and supporting the regeneration of damaged cells in the gut lining. The most popular ways of using CBD for IBD are CBD oils and CBD suppositories.
A review article published in 2013 highlights several in-vitro and animal studies that showed CBD could inhibit several different forms of inflammation most commonly found with inflammatory bowel disease [Esposito 2013].
The study concluded that “[CBD] possesses an extraordinary range of beneficial effects that may slow the course of the disease, ameliorate symptoms and potentially increase the efficacy of the drugs available for the therapy of invalidating gut disorders such as ulcerative colitis or Crohn’s disease.”
Another study analyzed the results of three small clinical trials exploring the effects of CBD for Crohn’s disease [Kafil 2018]. Patients receiving CBD oil were asked to fill out a questionnaire to determine their quality of life. The study found patients using CBD had scores that were roughly 17% higher than participants in the placebo control group.
More large-scale clinical trials are needed to fully understand the benefits of CBD oil in the treatment of inflammatory bowel disease.
5.2 CBD For Irritable Bowel Syndrome (IBS)
Irritable bowel syndrome (IBS) has symptoms similar to IBD — diarrhea or constipation, abdominal pain, nausea, gas and bloating, fatigue, and weight gain or loss.
The difference between IBS and IBD is that there’s no identifiable cause for the condition with IBS. It’s classified as a syndrome rather than a disease, which means it’s a collection of related symptoms rather than a specific disease process.
Not knowing what’ the specific cause for the condition makes IBS challenging to diagnose and treat. Doctors diagnose the condition only after ruling out other causes for the associated symptoms.
CBD is a popular supportive option to manage symptoms, and there’s some interesting research that suggests a potential cause for IBS is a dysfunction of the endocannabinoid system itself.
Alleviates cramping and hyperactive intestinal movement
Evidence: CBD & IBS
The research on the benefits of CBD for IBS is still in its infancy — the main mechanisms suggested for CBD products are only in the experimental phase. So far, the results have been promising and offer a compelling reason to conduct larger, more expensive studies on the interaction.
The underlying cause of IBS is not well understood. In recent years, a theory has surfaced that suggests anandamide deficiency as a key factor in the condition [Russo 2016]. Anandamide is a key component of the endocannabinoid system used to regulate nerve and epithelial cell function in the digestive tract. This is also thought to be a potential cause for migraine headaches and fibromyalgia — two common comorbidities in IBS patients.
CBD has been shown to regulate anandamide levels by activating the vanilloid VR1 receptors responsible for controlling the breakdown of this endocannabinoid [Bisogno 2001]. By regulating this receptor, it’s thought that CBD can increase anandamide levels in the gut, thus reducing IBS symptoms.
5.3 CBD For Nausea
CBD is one of the most reliable anti-nausea herbal extracts available. It works directly on the medulla oblongata, where the nausea center is located.
People are using CBD to alleviate nausea experienced from a hangover while traveling (motion sickness), as a side effect of medications or cancer therapy, morning sickness, and much more.
THC alleviates nausea symptoms by activating the CB1 receptors of the endocannabinoid system directly. These receptors are responsible for regulating the 5HT3 serotonin receptors that control the urge to vomit. CBD works indirectly by regulating a different type of serotonin receptor (5HT1A), which leads to reduced serotonin in the nausea center — leading to suppression of the nausea reflex.
6. May Protect the Cardiovascular System
Cardiovascular disease is the number one killer in the developed world. This critical system is highly susceptible to inflammation and free-radical damage.
There are many different types of cardiovascular disease — such as hypertension, coronary artery disease, arrhythmias, stroke, chronic obstructive pulmonary disease, or congestive heart failure.
Anything higher than 120/80 mmHg is considered high blood pressure. The medical condition “hypertension” is diagnosed when blood pressure exceeds 130/90 mmHg.
Hypertension can lead to severe long-term consequences if it goes unchecked for too long. It can increase the chances of developing other cardiovascular disorders — such as atherosclerosis, arteriosclerosis, coronary artery disease, or stroke.
CBD oil is a popular natural health supplement to help with the early stages of high blood pressure. However, due to potential adverse interactions between CBD and blood pressure medications, you should always speak with your doctor before using CBD products to help manage your condition.
A randomized crossover study found a single dose of CBD (600 mg orally) in hypertensive patients resulted in a reduction in resting blood pressure [Jadoon 2017]. This effect was primarily associated with the supplement’s anti-anxiety effects — which is a common cause for high resting blood pressure.
An experimental study using constricted human arteries exposed to CBD extract found a reduction of arterial pressure by 40% [Stanley 2013].
Follow-up studies found the mechanism CBD uses to reduce blood pressure relied on a modulation of the CB1 endocannabinoid receptors (found throughout the cardiovascular system) [Stanley 2015]. The CB1 receptors triggered nitric oxide release, which is a potent vasodilator (widens the arteries to reduce blood pressure).
6.2 CBD For Stroke
A stroke is a disease affecting the arteries supplying blood and nutrients to the brain. When blood vessels become blocked or rupture, the blood can’t reach various parts of the brain. Within minutes, a lack of blood flow results in the death of the affected neurons.
Strokes can lead to severe, long-term neurological deficits if not treated immediately.
CBD is not a treatment for stroke but offers benefits that may reduce your chances of developing a stroke or increase chances of survival and recovery.
There aren’t any large clinical trials available to demonstrate the benefits of CBD for stroke patients. However, a few preclinical studies suggest CBD may be a promising candidate as a supportive agent for ischemic injuries caused by stroke.
Animal studies exploring CBD’s protective effects for ischemic injury (injury caused by lack of oxygen) found significantly less lasting damage in animals treated with CBD immediately after the injury [Braida 2003]. CBD appeared to have a protective effect against ischemia.
Other studies on CBD’s benefits for stroke suggest that the majority of effects result from its ability to modulate the CB1 endocannabinoid receptors. These receptors have been shown to provide neuroprotective effects by preventing hyperexcitation of the neurons, supporting the phosphatidylinositol-3 kinase/Akt pathway, and resisting hypothermia [Hayakawa 2010].
6.3 CBD For Atherosclerosis
Atherosclerosis is characterized by a buildup of fatty deposits on the arterial walls. These deposits are made up of cholesterol, various lipids, calcium, and fibrin.
As the plaque develops, the artery walls become thicker — causing reduced blood flow through the artery. This means less blood, oxygen, and nutrients can move through the arteries.
This condition can go unnoticed for many years. When blood flow is reduced too much, it can cause the tissue the blood vessel supports to become hypoxic (lack of oxygen). If this blockage occurs in the large arteries feeding the heart, brain, or extremities, it can lead to severe consequences. A few examples include heart attack, angina, kidney failure, or peripheral artery disease.
CBD has been shown to offer powerful preventative benefits for atherosclerosis by targeting several of its underlying causes.
There’s no clinical research exploring the impact of CBD for atherosclerosis specifically, but there are plenty of studies that suggest CBD as a promising treatment option through its effects on several underlying causes for the condition.
For example, CBD and other endocannabinoid regulators have been shown to reduce blood pressure in rats with induced hypertension [Bátkai 2004]. High blood pressure has been shown to significantly increase the risk of developing atherosclerosis and coronary artery disease later in life [Nakanishi 2017].
CBD has also been shown to activate PPAR [Stanley 2013], which exerts several protective effects against the progression of atherosclerosis [Bishop‐Bailey 2000].
7. Supports Reproductive Health In Men & Women
CBD offers a few unique benefits towards maintaining the health of the reproductive system in both men and women.
While there’s some evidence to suggest CBD can be useful for making intercourse more pleasurable, the most significant improvement comes from its ability to alleviate performance anxiety. Other benefits include its ability to support various health conditions involving inflammation or pain in the reproductive organs.
Most people use CBD oils or suppositories (female reproductive health), but there are also sex-specific products available like CBD lubes and topical oils.
The benefits of CBD for the reproductive system:
May help alleviate pain during intercourse
Relieves performance anxiety
May support erectile dysfunction
Alleviates common symptoms of premenstrual syndrome
Supports symptoms involved with PCOS
May relieve pain and inflammation from endometriosis
Alleviates anxiety associated with menopause
7.1 CBD For Premenstrual Syndrome (PMS)
Premenstrual syndrome (PMS) is a prevalent condition experienced by up to 95% of women of reproductive age.
This condition occurs up to a week before the menstrual phase of the woman’s reproductive cycle. Hormonal changes that occur as the body prepares for menstruation result in a series of psychological and physical symptoms.
The effects of PMS are different for everybody and can range in severity from mild to extreme.
Many women are using CBD oils to support PMS symptoms, such as anxiety, muscle cramps, mood changes, pain, insomnia, and more.
Supports mood and alleviates symptoms of depression
Relieves abdominal cramping and pain
Supports sleep quality
Resists the formation of acne breakouts
Evidence: CBD & PMS
There aren’t any studies specifically looking at the effects of CBD for PMS, but there are plenty of studies that have shown direct benefits from CBD for the common symptoms associated with the condition (pain, cramping, and mood changes).
During the luteal phase (the phase just before the menstrual phase), dramatic changes in progesterone and estrogen can affect serotonin levels in the brain. A drop in serotonin activity during this phase is thought to be one of the primary causes of the mood changes associated with PMS.
CBD has been shown to alleviate low serotonin activity in the brain [National Academies of Sciences 2017]. This is suggested to be one of the key reasons why CBD is so effective for stabilizing mood during PMS.
7.2 CBD For Polycystic Ovarian Syndrome (PCOS)
Polycystic ovarian syndrome (PCOS) is poorly understood. We still don’t know the underlying cause of this condition, making it hard to both diagnose and treat.
PCOS is more or a metabolic disorder than anything else. It involves a widespread imbalance in female reproductive hormones, male androgens, and insulin.
CBD isn’t a cure for PCOS, but it can help support several of the underlying mechanisms involved with the progression of symptoms.
A large-scale analysis study looked at the results of data obtained from the National Health and Nutrition Examination Survey from 2005 to 2010 to correlate the impact of cannabis on insulin resistance [Penner 2013]. The study found that participants of the survey that used cannabis regularly had 16% lower insulin resistance scores than non-users.
While this particular study looked at the effects of any cannabis product (including marijuana), researchers suggested CBD as one of the key compounds responsible for this insulin-regulating benefit.
7.3 CBD For Endometriosis
Endometriosis is a condition where tissue that grows inside the uterus mistakenly grows outside the uterus. This special tissue (endometrial tissue) is adapted to change in response to female hormones throughout the menstrual cycle.
This tissue itself isn’t harmful on its own, but the problem comes during the menstrual phase when this tissue is triggered by hormone changes to begin shedding.
Endometrial tissue inside the uterus is pushed out of the body through the vaginal cavity. The tissues growing outside the uterus become trapped in the body. This can result in severe pain and inflammation. Over many cycles, it can eventually lead to scar formation on the ovaries, uterus, and fallopian tubes.
CBD is not a cure for endometriosis and will not prevent the growth of endometrial tissue. However, it can offer benefits for the common side effects of the condition.
The benefits of CBD oil for endometriosis include:
Alleviates inflammatory pain
Reduces muscle cramping
Blocks the effects of inflammatory prostaglandins
Regulates hormone production
Evidence: CBD & Endometriosis
Women diagnosed with endometriosis were asked about their experience using CBD to manage pelvic pain associated with the condition [Reinert 2019]. Of the survey respondents that have tried CBD, 57% reported CBD to be very or moderately effective.
8. Regulates Hormones & Metabolism
The endocannabinoid system is intimately involved with regulating the endocrine system — which involves the hormone-producing organs in the body.
CBD has been shown to support reproductive hormones (covered in more depth in section 7) and metabolic hormones.
When it comes to metabolism, CBD offers several key benefits that make it useful for managing long-term problems involving insulin resistance and weight gain.
This supplement isn’t sufficient on its own, but when combined with other diet and lifestyle changes, it can offer substantial benefit on the overall metabolic system — which includes organs such as the pancreas (the source of insulin), the liver, the digestive system, the kidneys, adipocytes (fat-storage cells), and the brain.
The major benefits of CBD on metabolism include:
Regulates insulin production
Reduces appetite to curb cravings and support weight loss
Protects the liver, kidneys, and pancreas
Supports the effects of insulin
Fights chronic inflammation
May support blood lipid levels
8.1 CBD For Diabetes
Diabetes is a metabolic disorder involving the hormone insulin. This hormone is responsible for moving sugar from the blood to the inside of cells, where it’s converted to energy. If there isn’t enough insulin (type I) or the insulin doesn’t work properly (type II) — it leads to diabetes.
CBD is not a cure for diabetes, but it does offer useful benefits for supporting insulin function, alleviates side effects like pain, and offers protective effects on the organs most affected by diabetes (such as the liver, kidneys, and pancreas).
Protects the insulin-secreting cells in the pancreas
Evidence: CBD & Diabetes
A study done in 2013 involved 4700 patients with prediabetes (elevated blood sugar that remains below the threshold for diabetes) who were screened to measure the effects of cannabis on insulin sensitivity [Penner 2013]. The study found that people who used cannabis products had an average of 16% lower fasting insulin scores (a marker of lower insulin resistance).
In animal studies, overweight rats given cannabis extracts over long periods had a heavier pancreas than rats in the control group [Levendal 2012]. This study suggested cannabis has a protective effect on the pancreas. A common side effect of high blood sugar levels is damage and destruction of the pancreas — leading to less insulin secretion and a worsening of symptoms as the disease progresses.
CBD also offers benefits in the form of appetite suppression [Matias 2006]. Obesity is a major contributing factor to the progression of type II diabetes. Achieving and maintaining optimal BMI is one of the primary treatment goals for managing this condition.
8.2 CBD For Fatty Liver Disease
There are two forms of fatty liver disease — alcoholic fatty liver disease (FALD) and nonalcoholic fatty liver disease (NAFLD). CBD is a cure for neither, but there is evidence it can help slow the progression of both.
Fatty liver is a serious medical condition that can usually be prevented if changes are made to both diet and lifestyle (taking steps to control weight and sugar intake, quitting alcohol, exercising regularly).
CBD offers supportive benefits by regulating the endocannabinoid system — which is involved with liver function. This compound may slow the progression of the disease for long enough to make the other necessary changes to diet and lifestyle habits.
An animal study fed mice a high fat, high-calorie diet for 15 weeks to induce fatty liver disease [Romero-Zerbo 2020]. Half the animals were given daily doses of CBD for two weeks to measure its protective effect. Researchers reported that blood lipid and bodyweight remained comparable in both groups at the end of the study. However, the CBD group had better insulin resistance scores, reduced liver inflammation, reduced fibrosis in the liver, less cell death in the pancreas, and fewer signs of fatty liver disease overall.
Experimental studies have suggested that the primary benefit of CBD for fatty liver disease is the result of CB1 endocannabinoid receptor inhibition [Alswat 2013]. CBD is a modulator of the endocannabinoid receptors, which means it can both increase and decrease receptor activity.
8.3 CBD For Metabolic Syndrome
Metabolic syndrome is a complex disorder involving the way the body stores and uses sugar and fats for energy. This condition is caused by lifestyle factors such as poor diet (high sugar and fat intake) and lack of exercise.
The only effective treatments for this condition are diet and lifestyle changes. High sugar and high-fat foods, increased caloric intake, lack of exercise, and use of liver-toxic substances like alcohol and nicotine all need to be cut out to stop or reverse the progression of metabolic syndrome.
CBD can’t cure or prevent this condition but may offer support for a few of the underlying processes involved with the progression of the disorder.
The primary underlying causes of metabolic syndrome are insulin resistance, obesity, fatty liver disease, and chronic inflammation — all of which CBD has been shown to offer direct benefits.
Protects the insulin-secreting cells in the pancreas
Reduces inflammatory load
Evidence: CBD & Metabolic Syndrome
A study done in Australia involving nearly 1.5 million patients was used to identify correlations between cannabis use and incidences of metabolic syndrome [Waterreus 2016]. The study found that patients who used cannabis had a significantly lower chance of developing metabolic syndrome than non-users.
More research in the form of clinical trials is needed to understand the benefits of CBD for metabolic syndrome fully.
8.4 CBD For Weight Loss
Achieving and maintaining ideal body weight (based on body mass index or BMI) is one of the best steps you can take to maintain optimal health and wellbeing. While being slightly overweight is unlikely to significantly impact your health, obesity is correlated with a wide range of health conditions long term.
The best way to lose weight, by far, is through diet and exercise. In some cases, you may need to address other underlying factors contributing to weight gain as well — such as thyroid or hormone dysfunction.
CBD offers several benefits that support weight loss but isn’t enough to cut weight on its own. For best results, CBD should be used in combination with other weight loss treatments — such as calorie-restrictive diets, exercise regimens, and quitting alcohol or cigarettes.
Alleviates chronic inflammation associated with obesity
Supports optimal hormone function
Alleviates digestive disorders & inflammation
Supports mitochondria function (where sugar & fat is burned for energy)
May reduce insulin resistance
Alleviates stress & anxiety
Evidence: CBD & Weight Loss
The research around the weight loss benefits of CBD is limited, but there are a few good correlational studies and animal studies that suggest CBD as a promising candidate for weight loss programs.
Recent animal studies have shown CBD may reduce weight by boosting metabolism and reducing appetite [Koch 2017]. This study found the mechanism of action relied on CBDs interaction with the CB1 and CB2 endocannabinoid receptors — both of which play a role in both fat and sugar metabolism.
The Benefits of CBD For Children: Is it Safe?
CBD is entirely non-psychoactive as long as it’s made from hemp plants instead of marijuana. It’s been proven safe for children, even in very high doses.
Several large clinical trials have already been completed exploring the efficacy and safety of using CBD products with children.
A meta-analysis published in 2018 explored the effects of CBD on 607 patients between the ages of 5 months and 67 years with treatment-resistant epilepsy (average age 13) [Szaflarski 2018]. Researchers reported that CBD was very well tolerated by patients of all ages. The most common side effects reported were fatigue and diarrhea — even in very high doses (up to 10 mg/kg).
There are many reasons why a parent may want to use CBD products with their children. CBD offers all the same benefits for children as it does for adults. Its primary use is to relieve anxiety, manage inflammatory disorders or chronic pain, or support specific health conditions.
May support common side effects of autism spectrum disorder (ASD) — such as anxiety, insomnia, seizures, and mood disorders
May alleviate symptoms of childhood asthma
Can help with sleep in agitated children
May prevent or alleviate nausea & motion sickness
Useful for certain epileptic disorders (such as Dravet’s syndrome)
Can help relax the lungs to help with coughing
Alleviates anxiety & stress disorders in children
What Are the Side-Effects of CBD?
All health supplements and medications bring the risk of side effects. The severity of these side effects depends on the individual substance.
Compared to other health supplements, CBD has a very low risk of producing side effects. Most people who experience side effects report the reaction to be mild — most commonly involving tiredness or dizziness.
In more severe cases, CBD may cause a noticeable drop in blood pressure, diarrhea, or nausea — though these are very rare.
Side effects become more common with high doses of CBD and when using it alongside other medications, supplements, or alcohol.
CBD is a very useful supplement — offering a broad range of benefits across multiple organ systems. It’s used to support neurological function, cardiovascular health, immune function, and much more.
This impressive molecule can offer all these benefits by interacting with a system responsible for regulating different processes around the body — called the endocannabinoid system.
By supporting this system, CBD can affect hormone production, nerve function, inflammation, pain transmission, and more.
CBD Research: Scientific Studies Involving CBD
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