Updated: Sep 26, 2020
Medical Uses for CBD
By Anique Ali, M.D.
What is CBD?
CBD or cannabidiol is a naturally occurring compound found in the resinous flower of cannabis. CBD is one of more than a hundred phytocannabinoids, which are unique to cannabis and give it its medicinal properties.
When we talk of cannabis, what first comes to mind is the "high" or intoxicating effect associated with it, which makes it a recreational drug; but what we need to understand is that this recreational effect of cannabis is due to another compound present in it called THC (tetrahydrocannabinol). When we extract pure CBD from the cannabis plant, the intoxicating effects of THC are no longer there and we are able to use it as a purely medicinal drug. Extensive research has gone into this compound, CBD, and its use as a medicine. CBD has certain neuroprotective mechanisms and also has anti-cancer properties.
How does CBD work?
There are certain cannabinoids which are produced naturally in our bodies. CBD works by mimicking the effects of these endogenously produced cannabinoids. Thus, CBD works by its effects on the endocannabinoid system of the body. The endocannabinoid system plays a crucial role in regulating a broad range of physiological processes that affect our everyday experience – our mood, our energy level, our intestinal fortitude, immune activity, blood pressure, bone density, glucose metabolism, how we experience pain, stress, hunger, and more. The endocannabinoid system not only plays an important part in the nervous system, but in all the systems of the body as a whole. So CBD works to normalize the endocannabinoid system, which gets disrupted in the state of disease. Some diseases in which CBD is extensively being used include epilepsy and Lennox-Gastaut syndrome.
Uses of CBD
The anticholinergic effects of CBD go a long way in helping people with anxiety. The manifestations of anxiety with which CBD can help include tachycardia (abnormally fast heart rate), perspiration, blackouts, and panic attacks.
This advantage of CBD has also been proven by studies and trials. In one study, 24 people with social anxiety disorder received either 600 mg of CBD or a placebo before a public speaking test. The group that received the CBD had significantly less anxiety, cognitive impairment, and discomfort in their speech performance, compared to the placebo group.
Role in Epilepsy Treatment
Epilepsy is the tendency to have unprovoked seizures. A seizure or convulsion can be defined as the occurrence of signs and symptoms due to excessive or abnormal synchronous activity in the brain. During a seizure, a person may have an impairment or loss of consciousness, behavioral abnormalities, sensory disturbances, abnormal motor activity, or autonomic dysfunction. CBD has a proven role in decreasing the frequency of fits of epilepsy. It is replacing the conventional epilepsy medications due to its very few side effects.
Cannabis extract has been used for pain management since 2900 BC. Many researchers have found CBD to be a compound that plays a crucial role in how our bodies cope with pain. As explained earlier, the endocannabinoid system modulates the threshold of pain felt and perceived by our brain. Studies have shown that CBD may help reduce chronic pain by binding to endocannabinoid receptors in the body, thus reducing the production of neurotransmitters required for generation of pain signals.
Some researchers have found CBD and THC to be effective for treating pain in patients suffering from multiple sclerosis. A study published on use of Sativex (an oral spray containing a CBD and THC combination) by multiple sclerosis patients revealed improvements in pain and muscle spasms, proving yet another potential use for CBD.
One of the most researched benefits of CBD is its role in neurological disorders like epilepsy, Parkinson’s disease, and multiple sclerosis. For example, a study of 214 people suffering from epilepsy showed a 35% decrease in seizure activity compared to a control group. CBD has also proven to be helpful in improving quality of life and sleep for people suffering from Parkinson’s disease.
Prevention of Obesity
Dietary modification with CBD oil and butter has been found to actively work as an appetite suppressant, directly hitting those growing waistlines and controlling the unnecessary ingestion of food. The fat-burning process is also accelerated by the use of CBD oil in the diet, which in turn prevents the inessential buildup of fat in the body, avoiding obesity.
CBD Benefits for Diabetics
Years of therapeutic research have primarily shown that, to improve control of blood sugar in this metabolic disorder in which no system of the body goes unaffected, CBD benefits the body in the following ways:
● Reduces Inflammation
With a well-established link between chronic inflammation, a biological immune response primarily in the blood vessels, and insulin resistance, a key mechanism in prediabetes and type II DM where normal cells fail to respond to insulin stimulus, the anti-inflammatory trait of CBD directly benefits the arteries by reducing the inflammation and improving circulation in all parts of the body, including major systems like the renal and gastrointestinal. CBD significantly reduces the level of inflammatory cytokines and other immune products that promote the process of inflammation.
● Fights Atherosclerosis
Diabetics are also at an increased risk of developing atherosclerosis, a plaque buildup in the arteries restricting blood circulation and infecting the area supplied. This phenomenon also puts diabetics at an increased risk of stroke. CBD has shown to cause a delay in this process, too.
● Decreases Insulin Resistance
With the clinical trials conducted so far, CBD oil has been shown to reduce insulin resistance, a pathological process that is basically responsible for uncontrolled glucose levels in people suffering from type 2 diabetes. Resultantly, the body’s own insulin bonds with the cells and is capable of doing what it is supposed to do.
● Stimulates the Pancreas for Insulin Release
Cannabidiol (CBD) acts on the endocannabinoid system in the body. This system has its own set of receptors for CBD that mediate its various effects. The increasing insulin resistance decrease the ability of β-cells of the pancreas to produce insulin in the body, and hence in the later years of diabetes mellitus type 2, the absolute insulin deficiency develops. CBD has been shown to stimulate β-cells of the pancreas to ramp-up insulin production.
CBD has a vasodilator effect; it improves blood circulation by preventing narrowing of the arteries. This effect is beneficial for controlling systemic blood pressure, and effective in reducing dosage of anti-hypertensive medications.
Speeds Up the Healing Process
A drug that is known for its anti-inflammatory properties will eventually speed up the process of healing of any wound, especially for a diabetic with a complication as destructive as amputation. Topical application of CBD oil significantly reduces the generalized body itching and burning sensation in extremities. CBD also aids in the process of muscle recovery after heavy workouts and other strenuous physical activity.
The antispasmodic property in CBD helps with muscle cramps and gastrointestinal disorders caused by this chronic illness. CBD oil used in a vaporizer, as another route of administration, is used for the treatment and prevention of restless leg syndrome. Acne and rashes have been seen to heal by the use of CBD as a topical cream.
It has been proven that CBD receptors are naturally found throughout the human body: in the brain, nervous system, and many other important sites. This shows that cannabidiol has an excellent safety and tolerability profile in humans. The topical and dietary forms of administration of CBD are becoming available for easier use by people suffering from a variety of disorders. CBD, with its increasing clinical trials and evidence accumulating in favor of its healing properties, can soon be a part of a lifestyle and drug regime that many people can conveniently follow.
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