The benefits of cannabis-derived products have been known for many years, but the awareness and scientific evidence of the benefits of specific cannabinoids is still new to the world of medicine. This is especially the case with the cannabinoid CBD, as more research shows that it could be one of the leading medicinal compounds of cannabis and hemp plants.
It is only since the legalisation of medicinal cannabis in some countries that legislation has started accommodating larger scale production and testing of CBD oils and other products. Whilst THC remains illegal in the UK due to its psychoactive properties, CBD is now freely available and studies are showing it can offer a range of positive effects.
Whether it’s reducing anxiety, easing sleep, or relieving nausea, CBD is gaining popularity as a non-addictive and naturally-derived alternative to prescription drugs.
CBD is one of the compounds that is responsible for marijuana’s pain-relieving qualities, which is why it has been used as a pain relief medicine for much longer than the legislation approving medicinal use of CBD has been in place.
CBD’s analgesic qualities are unlocked when it interacts with endocannabinoid receptors in the brain and immune system, reducing inflammation and alleviating pain. It’s for these benefits that CBD is often used by training athletes and sportspeople seeking regular pain relief.
Growing research shows that CBD can be used in the therapy of people with mental health conditions such as anxiety, depression, and PTSD. There’s also a lot of anecdotal evidence, with people saying that ingesting just a few drops of CBD can help them to relax and contribute towards alleviating the symptoms of their condition.
Evidence suggests that a secondary result of this is that CBD helps to modulate the sleep cycle and therefore combat insomnia and other sleep related issues.
Nausea and vomiting are protective mechanisms in the body that defend you against infection and disease. There are many reasons that people may experience nausea, from migraines, eating disorders, and infection to motion sickness, pregnancy, or pain, but it’s not necessary to suffer through it without seeking relief.
Several different cannabinoids have been found to reduce the effects of nausea, with THC reducing vomiting by binding to cannabinoid CB1 receptors and CBD interacting with serotonin receptors to quell sickness.
Cannabis derived medicines are now compared to regular prescription drugs in their effectiveness at treating nausea, and CBD can be prescribed in the UK to cancer patients who are experiencing vomiting or pain as a result of their treatment.
Medicinal cannabis was legalised in the UK after it was proven to reduce epileptic fits in children. In fact, it was so effective in some cases, that researchers found the frequency of seizures dropped by a median of 38.9%. It is now available on prescription from specialist doctors (not from GPs) due in part to the media attention that two high profile cases (those of Billy Caldwell and Alfie Dingley) received.
However, it is still relatively hard to be prescribed medical cannabis and although there are a few CBD based medicines available, it is regarded as a ‘last resort’ medicine and is yet to be approved for funding by local NHS trusts. Currently, the British Paediatric Neurology Association (BPNA) recommends only one CBD based medicine – Epidiolex.
Alongside the pain relieving benefits it offers, some athletes like to use CBD because it is known to stimulate the growth and development of brain neurons that help protect against CTE (chronic traumatic encephalopathy) in boxers or rugby players.
CBD’s ability to work with the endocannabinoid system and other brain signalling systems has also been found to benefit people with neurological diseases. Researchers found that treatment with CBD improved the quality of life and sleep for people with Parkinson’s disease.
CBD could also be valuable in the treatment of cancer. Animal studies and test tube studies have shown that CBD may have anti-cancer properties. However, these are early stages, as human studies need to be conducted before any definite conclusions can be drawn.
Scientists have found in preliminary studies that cannabinoids can stop cells from dividing or developing new blood vessels but more research needs to be carried out, as studies are generally contradictory or inconclusive.
Last updated: Thursday 14th March 2019