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The Health Benefits of CBD Oil

This cannabis extract may help treat nerve pain, anxiety, and epilepsy

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Cathy Wong is a nutritionist and wellness expert. Her work is regularly featured in media such as First For Women, Woman’s World, and Natural Health.

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Lana Butner, ND, LAc, is a board-certified naturopathic doctor and licensed acupuncturist in New York City.

CBD oil is an extract of Cannabis indica or Cannabis sativa—the same plants that, when dried, make marijuana. CBD oil is believed by some to treat pain, reduce anxiety, and stimulate appetite in the same way that marijuana does, but without its psychoactive effects. CBD has also shown promise in treating certain types of seizures.

CBD is the short name for cannabidiol, one of the two chemicals—among the dozens in cannabis—that have the most health benefits. The other, tetrahydrocannabinol (THC), is what gets people “high.” CBD oil generally does not contain THC, although some trace amounts may be present in products sold in certain states.

CBD oil contains CBD mixed with an inert carrier oil, such as coconut oil or hemp seed oil. The bottled oil, called a tincture, is sold in various concentrations. There are also CBD capsules, CBD gummies, and under-the-tongue CBD sprays.

Health Benefits

CBD’s exact mechanism of action is unclear. Unlike THC, CBD has a relatively low affinity for cannabinoid receptors in the brain. These are the molecules to which THC binds to elicit its psychoactive effects.

Instead, CBD is thought to influence other receptors, including opioid receptors that regulate pain and glycine receptors involved in the regulation of the “feel-good” hormone serotonin.

Proponents claim that CBD oil can treat a wide variety of health problems, including:

  • Acne
  • Anorexia
  • Anxiety
  • Chronic pain
  • Depression
  • Drug addiction and withdrawal
  • Epilepsy
  • Glaucoma
  • High blood pressure
  • Insomnia
  • Muscle spasms
  • Parkinson’s disease

Despite the growing popularity of CBD use, CBD oil remains sorely under-researched. As such, some of these claims are better supported by studies than others.

Here is just some of what the current evidence says.

Anxiety

CBD shows promise in the treatment of anxiety disorders, suggests a 2015 review of studies in the journal Neurotherapeutics.   According to the investigators, CBD demonstrated potent anxiolytic (anxiety-relieving) effects in animal research, albeit with counterintuitive results.

In all but a few studies, lower doses of CBD (10 milligrams per kilogram, mg/kg, or less) were better able to treat symptoms of anxiety. Higher doses (100 mg/kg or more) exhibited virtually no effect.

Part of this response could be explained by the way that CBD acts in the brain. In many cases, CBD works as an agonist, meaning that it triggers an opposite response when binding to a receptor. It is possible that low doses can elicit a positive agonist response, while high doses overwhelm the brain and trigger a compensatory effect to fight CBD’s effects.

Among the few human trials evaluating CBD’s anxiolytic effects was one published in the Brazilian Journal of Psychiatry in 2019.   For this study, 57 men were given either CBD oil or a placebo before a public-speaking event. Anxiety was evaluated using physiological measures (such as blood pressure, heart rate, etc.) and a relatively reliable test for mood states known as the Visual Analog Mood Scale (VAMS).

According to the investigators, men provided 300 mg of CBD exhibited less anxiety than those given a placebo. Interestingly, those provided 100 mg or 600 mg of CBD oil did not.

Addiction

CBD oil may benefit those with drug addiction, suggests a 2015 review of studies published in Substance Abuse.

In an analysis of 14 published studies (nine involving animals and five involving humans), scientists with the University of Montreal concluded that CBD “showed promise” in treating people with opioid, cocaine, or psychostimulant addiction.

However, the effect of CBD on each addiction type was often very different. With opioid addiction, for example, CBD showed little effect in minimizing withdrawal symptoms in the absence of THC. By contrast, CBD on its own appeared effective in minimizing drug-seeking behaviors in users of cocaine, methamphetamine, and other psychostimulant drugs.

There have also been suggestions that CBD may aid in the treatment of cannabis and nicotine addiction. Further research is needed.

Nerve Pain

Medical marijuana is frequently prescribed to people with intractable (treatment-resistant) pain, including those with terminal cancer. There is some evidence that CBD contributes to this benefit.

According to a 2012 study in the Journal of Experimental Medicine, rats injected with inflammatory chemicals in their hind feet experienced less inflammation and neuropathic pain when treated with an oral dose and spinal injection of CBD.  

Scientists believe that CBD reduces nerve pain by binding to glycine receptors in the brain that regulate the speed at which nerve signals pass between nerve cells.

Human studies evaluating the use of CBD in treating chronic pain are lacking. Those that do exist almost invariably include THC, making it difficult to isolate CBD’s distinct effects.

Heart Health

CBD oil may reduce the risk of heart disease by alleviating hypertension (high blood pressure) in certain people, suggests a 2017 study in JCI Insight.  

For this study, nine healthy men took either 600 mg of CBD or the same dose of a placebo. According to the researcher, those treated with CBD had lower blood pressure before and after exposure to stressful stimuli (including exercise or extreme cold).

In addition, the stroke volume (the amount of blood remaining in the heart after a heartbeat) was significantly reduced, meaning that the heart was pumping more efficiently.

The findings suggest that CBD oil may be a suitable complementary therapy for people whose hypertension is complicated by stress and anxiety. However, there is no evidence that CBD oil can treat hypertension on its own or prevent hypertension in people at risk. While stress is known to complicate high blood pressure, it cannot cause hypertension.

Seizures

In June 2018, the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) approved Epidiolex, a CBD oral solution used for the treatment of certain rare forms of epilepsy in children under 2—Dravet syndrome and Lennox-Gastaut syndrome.   Both are exceptionally rare genetic disorders causing lifelong catastrophic seizures that begin during the first year of life.

Outside of these two disorders, CBD’s effectiveness in treating seizures is uncertain. Even with Epidiolex, it is uncertain whether the anti-seizure effects can be attributed to CBD or some other factor.  

There is some evidence that CBD interacts with seizure medications such as Onfi (clobazam) and “boosts” their concentration in the blood. This would not only make the drugs more effective but extend their half-lives as well. Further research is needed.

Possible Side Effects

Clinical research has shown that CBD oil can trigger side effects. Severity and type can vary from one person to the next.   Common symptoms include:

  • Anxiety
  • Changes in appetite
  • Changes in mood
  • Diarrhea
  • Dizziness
  • Drowsiness
  • Dry mouth
  • Nausea
  • Vomiting

CBD oil may also increase liver enzymes (a marker of liver inflammation). People with liver disease should use CBD oil with caution, ideally under the care of a doctor who can regularly check blood liver enzyme levels.

CBD oil should be avoided during pregnancy and breastfeeding. A 2018 study from the American Academy of Pediatrics warned women to avoid marijuana during pregnancy due to the potential risks to a baby’s development.   Although it is unclear how CBD contributes, CBD is known to pass through the placental barrier.

If you are thinking about using CBD oil to treat a health condition, be sure to speak with your healthcare provider to ensure that it is the right option for you.

Since some CBD oils contain trace amounts of THC, you should avoid driving or using heavy machinery when taking CBD oil, particularly when first starting treatment or using a new brand.

Interactions

CBD oil can interact with certain medications, including some drugs used to treat epilepsy. CBD inhibits an enzyme called cytochrome P450 (CYP450), which certain drugs use for metabolization. By interfering with CYP450, CBD may either increase the toxicity or decrease the effectiveness of these drugs.

Potential drug-drug interactions with CBD include:

  • Anti-arrhythmia drugs like quinidine
  • Anticonvulsants like Tegretol (carbamazepine) and Trileptal (oxcarbazepine)
  • Antifungal drugs like Nizoral (ketoconazole) and Vfend (voriconazole)
  • Antipsychotic drugs like Orap (pimozide)
  • Atypical antidepressants like Remeron (mirtazapine)
  • Benzodiazepine sedatives like Klonopin (clonazepam) and Halcion (triazolam)
  • Immune-suppressive drugs like Sandimmune (cyclosporine)
  • Macrolide antibiotics like clarithromycin and telithromycin
  • Migraine medications like Ergomar (ergotamine)
  • Opioid painkillers like Duragesic (fentanyl) and alfentanil
  • Rifampin-based drugs used to treat tuberculosis

Many of these interactions are mild and require no adjustment to treatment. Others may require a drug substitution or the separation of doses by several hours.

To avoid interactions, advise your doctor and pharmacist about any drugs you are taking, whether they are prescription, over-the-counter, herbal, or recreational.

Dosage and Preparation

There are no guidelines for the appropriate use of CBD oil. CBD oil is usually delivered sublingually (under the tongue). Most oils are sold in 30-milliliter (mL) bottles with a dropper cap.

There is currently no known “correct” dose of CBD oil. Depending on who you speak to, the daily dose can range anywhere from 5 mg to 25 mg.

The tricky part is calculating the exact amount of CBD per milliliter of oil. Some tinctures have concentrations of 1,500 mg per 30 mL, while others have 3,000 mg per mL (or more).

How to Calculate CBD Dose

To determine an exact dose of CBD, remember that each drop of oil equals 0.05 mL of fluid. This means that a 30-mL bottle of CBD oil will have roughly 600 drops. If the concentration of the tincture is 1,500 mg/mL, one drop would contain 2.5 mg of CBD (1,500 mg ÷ 600 drops = 2.5 mg).

To use CBD oil, place one or more drops under the tongue and hold the dose there for 30 to 60 seconds without swallowing. Capsules and gummies are easier to dose, although they tend to be more costly. CBD sublingual sprays are used mainly for convenience.

What to Look For

Aficionados of CBD oil will tell you to buy full-spectrum oils over CBD isolates. Unlike isolates, which contain CBD only, full-spectrum oils contain a variety of compounds found naturally in the cannabis plant, including proteins, flavonoids, terpenes, and chlorophyll. Alternative practitioners believe these compounds offer more substantial health benefits, although there is no clear evidence of this.

Remember, because CBD oils are largely unregulated, there is no guarantee that a product is either safe or effective.

According to a 2017 study in the Journal of the American Medical Association, only 30.95% of CBD products sold online were correctly labeled. Most contained less CBD than advertised, while 21.43% had significant amounts of THC.  

Here are a few tips to help you find the best CBD oil:

  • Buy American. Domestically produced CBD oil tends to be safer because of better growing and refining practices.
  • Go organic. Brands certified organic by the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) are less likely to expose you to pesticides and other harmful chemicals.
  • Read the product label. Even if you choose a full-spectrum oil, don’t assume that every ingredient on the product label is natural. There may be preservatives, flavorings, or thinning agents that you don’t want or need. If you don’t recognize an ingredient, ask the dispenser what it is or check online.

Are CBD Oil and Hemp Oil the Same?

Not necessarily. Although some people use the terms synonymously, they may also be referring to hemp seed oil, which is primarily used for cooking, food production, and skincare products. CBD oil is made from the leaves, stems, buds, and flowers of the Cannabis indica or Cannabis sativa plant and should contain less than 0.3% THC. Hemp oil is made from the seeds of Cannabis sativa and contains no TCH.

CBD oil is made from cannabidiol, a non-intoxicating extract of marijuana, and is believed to treat pain, anxiety, and seizures.

7 Benefits and Uses of CBD Oil (Plus Side Effects)

Cannabidiol is a popular natural remedy used for many common ailments.

Better known as CBD, it is one of over 100 chemical compounds known as cannabinoids found in the cannabis or marijuana plant, Cannabis sativa ( 1 ).

Tetrahydrocannabinol (THC) is the main psychoactive cannabinoid found in cannabis, and causes the sensation of getting “high” that’s often associated with marijuana. However, unlike THC, CBD is not psychoactive.

This quality makes CBD an appealing option for those who are looking for relief from pain and other symptoms without the mind-altering effects of marijuana or certain pharmaceutical drugs.

CBD oil is made by extracting CBD from the cannabis plant, then diluting it with a carrier oil like coconut or hemp seed oil.

It’s gaining momentum in the health and wellness world, with some scientific studies confirming it may ease symptoms of ailments like chronic pain and anxiety.

Here are seven health benefits of CBD oil that are backed by scientific evidence.

Marijuana has been used to treat pain as far back as 2900 B.C. ( 2 ).

More recently, scientists have discovered that certain components of marijuana, including CBD, are responsible for its pain-relieving effects.

The human body contains a specialized system called the endocannabinoid system (ECS), which is involved in regulating a variety of functions including sleep, appetite, pain and immune system response ( 3 ).

The body produces endocannabinoids, which are neurotransmitters that bind to cannabinoid receptors in your nervous system.

Studies have shown that CBD may help reduce chronic pain by impacting endocannabinoid receptor activity, reducing inflammation and interacting with neurotransmitters ( 4 ).

For example, one study in rats found that CBD injections reduced pain response to surgical incision, while another rat study found that oral CBD treatment significantly reduced sciatic nerve pain and inflammation ( 5 , 6 ).

Several human studies have found that a combination of CBD and THC is effective in treating pain related to multiple sclerosis and arthritis.

An oral spray called Sativex, which is a combination of THC and CBD, is approved in several countries to treat pain related to multiple sclerosis.

One study of 47 people with multiple sclerosis examined the effects of taking Sativex for one month. The participants experienced improvements in pain, walking, and muscle spasms. Still, the study didn’t include any control group and placebo effects cannot be ruled out ( 7 ).

Another study found that Sativex significantly improved pain during movement, pain at rest and sleep quality in 58 people with rheumatoid arthritis ( 8 ).

Summary CBD, especially in combination with THC, may be effective in reducing pain associated with diseases like multiple sclerosis and rheumatoid arthritis.

Anxiety and depression are common mental health disorders that can have devastating impacts on health and well-being.

According to the World Health Organization, depression is the single largest contributor to disability worldwide, while anxiety disorders are ranked sixth (9).

Anxiety and depression are usually treated with pharmaceutical drugs, which can cause a number of side effects including drowsiness, agitation, insomnia, sexual dysfunction and headache ( 10 ).

What’s more, medications like benzodiazepines can be addictive and may lead to substance abuse ( 11 ).

CBD oil has shown promise as a treatment for both depression and anxiety, leading many who live with these disorders to become interested in this natural approach.

In one Brazilian study, 57 men received either oral CBD or a placebo 90 minutes before they underwent a simulated public speaking test. The researchers found that a 300-mg dose of CBD was the most effective at significantly reducing anxiety during the test.

The placebo, a 150-mg dose of CBD, and a 600-mg dose of CBD had little to no effect on anxiety ( 12 ).

CBD oil has even been used to safely treat insomnia and anxiety in children with post-traumatic stress disorder ( 13 ).

CBD has also shown antidepressant-like effects in several animal studies ( 14 , 15 ).

These qualities are linked to CBD’s ability to act on the brain’s receptors for serotonin, a neurotransmitter that regulates mood and social behavior.

Summary Using CBD has been shown to reduce anxiety and depression in both human and animal studies.

CBD may help reduce symptoms related to cancer and side effects related to cancer treatment, like nausea, vomiting and pain.

One study looked at the effects of CBD and THC in 177 people with cancer-related pain who did not experience relief from pain medication.

Those treated with an extract containing both compounds experienced a significant reduction in pain compared to those who received only THC extract ( 16 ).

CBD may also help reduce chemotherapy-induced nausea and vomiting, which are among the most common chemotherapy-related side effects for those with cancer ( 17 ).

Though there are drugs that help with these distressing symptoms, they are sometimes ineffective, leading some people to seek alternatives.

A study of 16 people undergoing chemotherapy found that a one-to-one combination of CBD and THC administered via mouth spray reduced chemotherapy-related nausea and vomiting better than standard treatment alone ( 18 ).

Some test-tube and animal studies have even shown that CBD may have anticancer properties. For example, one test-tube study found that concentrated CBD induced cell death in human breast cancer cells ( 19 ).

Another study showed that CBD inhibited the spread of aggressive breast cancer cells in mice ( 20 ).

However, these are test-tube and animal studies, so they can only suggest what might work in people. More studies in humans are needed before conclusions can be made.

Summary Though CBD has been shown to help reduce symptoms related to cancer and cancer treatment, and may even have cancer-fighting properties, more research is needed to assess its efficacy and safety.

Acne is a common skin condition that affects more than 9% of the population ( 21 ).

It is thought to be caused by a number of factors, including genetics, bacteria, underlying inflammation and the overproduction of sebum, an oily secretion made by sebaceous glands in the skin ( 22 , 23).

Based on recent scientific studies, CBD oil may help treat acne due to its anti-inflammatory properties and ability to reduce sebum production.

One test-tube study found that CBD oil prevented sebaceous gland cells from secreting excessive sebum, exerted anti-inflammatory actions and prevented the activation of “pro-acne” agents like inflammatory cytokines ( 24 ).

Another study had similar findings, concluding that CBD may be an efficient and safe way to treat acne, thanks in part to its remarkable anti-inflammatory qualities ( 25 ).

Though these results are promising, human studies exploring the effects of CBD on acne are needed.

Summary CBD may have beneficial effects on acne due to its anti-inflammatory qualities and its ability to control the overproduction of sebum from the sebaceous glands.

Researchers believe that CBD’s ability to act on the endocannabinoid system and other brain signaling systems may provide benefits for those with neurological disorders.

In fact, one of the most studied uses for CBD is in treating neurological disorders like epilepsy and multiple sclerosis. Though research in this area is still relatively new, several studies have shown promising results.

Sativex, an oral spray consisting of CBD and THC, has been proven to be a safe and effective way to reduce muscle spasticity in people with multiple sclerosis.

One study found that Sativex reduced spasms in 75% of 276 people with multiple sclerosis who were experiencing muscle spasticity that was resistant to medications ( 26 ).

Another study gave 214 people with severe epilepsy 0.9–2.3 grams of CBD oil per pound (2–5 g/kg) of body weight. Their seizures reduced by a median of 36.5% ( 27 ).

One more study found that CBD oil significantly reduced seizure activity in children with Dravet syndrome, a complex childhood epilepsy disorder, compared to a placebo ( 28 ).

However, it’s important to note that some people in both these studies experienced adverse reactions associated with CBD treatment, such as convulsions, fever and fatigue.

CBD has also been researched for its potential effectiveness in treating several other neurological diseases.

For example, several studies have shown that treatment with CBD improved quality of life and sleep quality for people with Parkinson’s disease ( 29 , 30 ).

Additionally, animal and test-tube studies have shown that CBD may decrease inflammation and help prevent the neurodegeneration associated with Alzheimer’s disease ( 31 ).

In one long-term study, researchers gave CBD to mice genetically predisposed to Alzheimer’s disease, finding that it helped prevent cognitive decline ( 32 ).

Summary Though research is limited at this time, CBD has been shown to ease symptoms related to epilepsy and Parkinson’s disease. CBD was also shown to reduce the progression of Alzheimer’s disease in test-tube and animal studies.

Recent research has linked CBD with several benefits for the heart and circulatory system, including the ability to lower high blood pressure.

High blood pressure is linked to higher risks of a number of health conditions, including stroke, heart attack and metabolic syndrome ( 33 ).

Studies indicate that CBD may be able to help with high blood pressure.

One recent study treated nine healthy men with one dose of 600 mg of CBD oil and found it reduced resting blood pressure, compared to a placebo.

The same study also gave the men stress tests that normally increase blood pressure. Interestingly, the single dose of CBD led the men to experience a smaller blood pressure increase than normal in response to these tests ( 34 ).

Researchers have suggested that the stress- and anxiety-reducing properties of CBD are responsible for its ability to help lower blood pressure.

Additionally, several animal studies have demonstrated that CBD may help reduce the inflammation and cell death associated with heart disease due to its powerful antioxidant and stress-reducing properties.

For example, one study found that treatment with CBD reduced oxidative stress and prevented heart damage in diabetic mice with heart disease ( 35 ).

Summary Though more human studies are needed, CBD may benefit heart health in several ways, including by reducing blood pressure and preventing heart damage.

CBD has been studied for its role in treating a number of health issues other than those outlined above.

Though more studies are needed, CBD is thought to provide the following health benefits:

  • Antipsychotic effects: Studies suggest that CBD may help people with schizophrenia and other mental disorders by reducing psychotic symptoms ( 36 ).
  • Substance abuse treatment: CBD has been shown to modify circuits in the brain related to drug addiction. In rats, CBD has been shown to reduce morphine dependence and heroin-seeking behavior ( 37 ).
  • Anti-tumor effects: In test-tube and animal studies, CBD has demonstrated anti-tumor effects. In animals, it has been shown to prevent the spread of breast, prostate, brain, colon and lung cancer ( 38 ).
  • Diabetes prevention: In diabetic mice, treatment with CBD reduced the incidence of diabetes by 56% and significantly reduced inflammation ( 39 ).

Summary Some studies suggest that CBD may help with diabetes, substance abuse, mental disorders and certain types of cancers. However, more research in humans is needed.

Though CBD is generally well tolerated and considered safe, it may cause adverse reactions in some people.

Side effects noted in studies include ( 40 ):

  • Diarrhea
  • Changes in appetite and weight
  • Fatigue

CBD is also known to interact with several medications. Before you start using CBD oil, discuss it with your doctor to ensure your safety and avoid potentially harmful interactions ( 41 ).

This is especially important if you take medications or supplements that come with a “grapefruit warning.” Both grapefruit and CBD interfere with cytochromes P450 (CYPs), a group of enzymes that are important to drug metabolism (42).

One study performed on mice showed that CBD-rich cannabis extracts have the potential to cause liver toxicity. However, some the mice in the study were force-fed extremely large doses of the extract (43).

Summary Although CBD is generally considered safe, it can cause adverse reactions like diarrhea and fatigue in some people. It may also interfere with certain medications.

CBD oil has been studied for its potential role in easing symptoms of many common health issues, including anxiety, depression, acne and heart disease.

For those with cancer, it may even provide a natural alternative for pain and symptom relief.

Research on the potential health benefits of CBD oil is ongoing, so new therapeutic uses for this natural remedy are sure to be discovered.

Though there is much to be learned about the efficacy and safety of CBD, results from recent studies suggest that CBD may provide a safe, powerful natural treatment for many health issues.

If you’re interested in trying CBD, you can purchase many products online, including gummies, oils, and lotions.

Is CBD Legal? Hemp-derived CBD products (with less than 0.3 percent THC) are legal on the federal level, but are still illegal under some state laws. Marijuana-derived CBD products are illegal on the federal level, but are legal under some state laws. Check your state’s laws and those of anywhere you travel. Keep in mind that nonprescription CBD products are not FDA-approved, and may be inaccurately labeled.

Cannabidiol, or CBD, is a chemical compound in marijuana with a variety of uses. Here are 7 benefits of CBD oil.