What Does CBD Oil Do?

April 20, 2021

CBD is often talked about as a cure all, but today it’s time to demystify this hugely popular substance and talk about how it works, why it works, and what the benefits are.

How Does CBD Oil Work?

The CBD industry is booming, and the market for all types of applications (from coffee and skincare to drops and vape cartridges) continues to grow as the public discovers all the potential benefits CBD offers.  While the potential benefits are talked about frequently, the process through which CBD works often goes unmentioned.

CBD, or cannabidiol, is one of 113 chemical compounds found within Cannabis Sativa.  However, unlike the plant that produces cannabis with high levels of THC, CBD is most often derived from a subspecies commonly referred to as hemp and contains minimal amounts of the psychoactive chemical associated with the substance.

When isolated and extracted on its own, CBD is non-intoxicating and is therefore a legal product as long as it follows strict guidelines.  The question then, is how does it work?

The answer to how CBD is able to benefit the body and mind lies within cannabinoids.  Cannabinoids are not exclusive to the Cannabis Sativa plant, and can actually be found in most biological systems.    Humans have this as well, and it can be observed as a natural nerve function called the endocannabinoid system.

CBD and the Endocannabinoid System

The endocannabinoid system, in simplest terms, acts as a way to keep everything balanced.  Preliminary research shows the endocannabinoid system may help regulate key physiological and cognitive areas like metabolism, memory, sleep, reproduction, immune response, and mood.  The main purpose is to ensure each remains in a state of homeostasis, or a stable condition, and it works through three key pieces: cannabinoid receptors, endocannabinoids, and metabolic enzymes.

The human body is able to process the chemicals in CBD thanks to the endocannabinoid system which contains a series of receivers in the cells (primarily cannabinoid receptors called CB1 and CB2) which recognize endocannabinoid molecules and have metabolic enzymes that allow them to be synthesized. 

Since CBD is able to be processed through the body’s biological system, the substance is able to be activated, broken down, and utilized in a way that is able to influence the same physiological and cognitive processes that natural endocannabinoids regulate.

The Benefits of CBD:

While the research backing CBD as a treatment option for many common ailments and chronic conditions is slow and needs further exploration, the initial findings are encouraging.  From anxiety relief and insomnia assistance to migraine management and epilepsy support, the claims about CBD are wide reaching and could help millions.

CBD and Mental Health:

One area of CBD treatment that has a rapidly growing interest is mental health.  As endocannabinoids are able to impact mood and cognition, the increase in use of CBD as a way to regulate or assist disorders stemming from mental health is to be expected.

With health services struggling to keep up with demand, millions have turned to CBD as an answer to their struggles.  With studies showing promising potential when the substance is used as a therapeutic treatment, especially for anxiety disorders, depression, and issues with insomnia, the public’s desire to try this popular product is natural.

Research is attempting to determine the efficacy and efficiency of CBD as a treatment for mental health problems, but initial work suggests the cannabinoid may be able to bind with neurotransmitters like serotonin and dopamine which are essential for maintaining a balanced mood and a healthy sleep-wake cycle.  For example, one published case examining CBD as a treatment option recorded a reduction in anxiety with 79% of participants, and current research continues to show positive responses.  As such, the potential of CBD as a wellbeing aid is promising.

CBD and Pain:

As research continues to be conducted on the benefits of CBD, one of the leading applications is for chronic pain.  In fact, while some polls show that 19% of adults experience chronic pain, 6% have utilized cannabis or CBD as a method to help minimize their symptoms.  With a growing need for accessible treatment options, CBD is becoming highly sought after as a solution to recurring and long-lasting fatigue, joint issues, migraines, muscle spasms and aches.

The reason why CBD is seen as beneficial for those suffering from hard to treat conditions like fibromyalgia and arthritis is that the cannabinoid may activate a receptor called TRPV1 which plays a role in the sensation of pain.  CBD is also suggested to interact with neurotransmitters in such a way that works to reduce inflammation and influence pain response.  Several human studies have supported these claims, and while further investigation is needed the potential is impressive.

In fact, in 2018 research showed the potential of CBD when cannabinoids demonstrated to be effective in different models of pain including acute nociceptive, neuropathic, and inflammatory.  Further trials (including one in 2020 that examined self-reported results) have suggested similar findings, including improvements in menstrual pain, gastrointestinal pain, and mouth sore pain.  Imagine the possibilities!

CBD and Cancer:

While cannabis has become an alternative medicine for cancer patients in many countries, CBD is also rising as a product of choice due to the potential therapeutic properties it offers.  The National Cancer Institute acknowledges the promise of CBD, and other institutions like Macmillan dedicate pages to educating about the substance, however both recommend that further research is required.

However, claims have been made that CBD offers a wide range of palliative effects for cancer patients, including help with regulating pain, treating solid tumors, stimulating appetite, and reducing vomiting.  As the endocannabinoid system plays a key physiological role, the benefits for cancer seem to be vast.

Those undergoing chemotherapy may be particularly interested in trying CBD as a way to navigate their symptoms, with many studies demonstrating that oral application results in the body’s CB1 receptors working to suppress feelings of nausea.  Sample sizes in trials have been small, and many reports go unpublished, but the medical world is beginning to take notice and attempts to fully understand the potential of CBD for cancer patients is underway.

CBD and Neurology:

Considering the legalization of medical cannabis in the UK stems from a case involving epilepsy it is no surprise that CBD is often utilized as a treatment for neurological disorders as well. 

Research is still in the early stages, but there have been claims that regular application can assist with reducing seizures and minimizing the symptoms of epilepsy, slow or minimize the effects of Alzheimer’s, MS, and Parkinson’s disease, support recovery after a stroke, and reduce inflammation that can lead to neurological disorders becoming worse.  This may be due to CB1 receptors in the brain which act as a part of the endocannabinoid system.

In 2016, a trial involving 214 people with epilepsy showed that oral doses of CBD taken alongside the existing anti-epilepsy medications helped the participants experience 36.5% fewer seizures over a twelve week period.  Another from 2019 accumulated preclinical data and suggests that cannabinoids pose “significant therapeutic value in stroke,” suggesting that CBD can improve “functional outcome and survival rates.”  This initial work shows that more investigation into the benefits of CBD for neurological disorders is vital.

CBD and Skin:

A rising star when it comes to skincare ingredients, the public is quickly becoming aware of the benefits CBD offers the beauty and personal care industry.  The trend for CBD skincare products is only going to grow, with the market being estimated to be valued at $1.7 billion by 2025.

This is not just a fad though, as CBD has been claimed to be a solution for acne-prone and sensitive skin types as well as those suffering with certain conditions.  As the compound contains anti-inflammatory properties, it has been adopted by formulators as an ingredient that can help combat blemishes, eczema, and psoriasis.  Others suggest it can work to minimize the signs of aging and oxidative stress.  The applications appear boundless!

Initial research shows that the cannabis plant itself may contain anti-fungal and antibacterial properties, both of which would benefit those suffering from spotty skin.  With so many other potential therapeutic uses, this certainly makes CBD a beautiful prospect.

Other Benefits of CBD Oil:

CBD oil can offer help to people, but did you know it also offers potential benefits for pets?  Many owners are turning to CBD as a way to treat their animal’s conditions much in the way a person would apply the substance to minimize their own symptoms.  Clinical evidence is currently limited, however studies into the benefits of CBD for pets are quickly ramping up as the demand increases.

CBD offers a huge host of potential benefits, spanning from improving mental health to assisting with chronic conditions like epilepsy and MS.  The research continues to grow, and the number of consumers shows that this easy to use substance is desired.  As more evidence is produced, the therapeutic properties of CBD are sure to be illuminated even further.

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