As you're confidently strolling down the aisle in a supplements shop, you may take certain things for granted. For example, those shakes really do help you build muscle mass. That supplement really will detoxify your blood. This other one will help me grow two inches...taller. But the supplement industry was a dirty little secret. There's not a whole lot of science behind most of the supplements you find on those pristine shelves.
They've probably done little testing. And what they say is in the that 80-pound tub of protein mix or even in that 1oz sciency looking vial may not even be in there.
The Food and Drug Administration (FDA) does very little to oversee the industry. As long as they're not saying that they can prevent, cure or treat a disease, they can pretty much do anything they want. It's up to you as the consumer to do the research and come to your own conclusions. Cannabidiol (CBD) is no different. In fact, CBD is one of the latest party-goers to crash this supplements party.
But unlike some supplements, some strong evidence really does have CBD's back. In fact, it's rounded up a posse by now. And while scientists need to stay objective to do good research, there's a lot of excitement out there about what they're finding and what more they must find. But it's important to re-iterate that not all studies are created equal. We have something called the Scientific Method that helps keep scientists honest and objective.
Before we jump right into the ocean of scientific evidence supporting CBD and start surfing those waves of information, it pays to familiarize ourselves with some important science concepts on which the studies in the article are built.
Science Concepts You Need to Know
The Scientific Method was invented around the 17th Century. Before that pretty much anyone could claim anything and call it scientific proof. You remember...
If she sinks, she's a witch. Or is it... if she floats, she's a witch? It doesn't really matter because the accusers had already decided she (or he) was a witch and were using fake science to convince the townsfolk of the fact. That's not science. That's insanity.
To eliminate this nonsense, several scientific concepts have been developed and we'll be looking at these as we explore CBD evidence.
- Anecdotal Evidence - The evidence is based upon individual observations. If someone says, "CBD cured my anxiety", that's based on their personal experience. Anecdotal evidence generally needs to be taken with a grain of salt -- or a ml of Reef CBD if you prefer. But if enough people have this experience, the proof gets stronger. A survey of 100 people may not mean a whole lot. But you survey thousands and you may be onto something.
- Controlled Study - Some participants received a placebo so that the researchers can know for certain that CBD did something and that the results aren't tainted by placebo effect. The mind is a curious thing. We often see what we want to see. We only see things that support what we already believe. If people think CBD should help X, then that's what they experience up to a point. Controlled studies tell us that CBD benefits aren't all in our heads.
- Double-Blind - Neither the scientists nor the participants know if they got a placebo or the real deal. The observations are genuine. As a side note, it's notoriously hard to do a double-blind, controlled study on marijuana because it's pretty obvious who took a placebo. They're the ones wondering what's so funny.
- Clinical Studies - These are the studies done with the highest scientific rigor on humans with a condition typically over a longer period of time to confirm safety and effectiveness. Clinical studies are resource-intensive, so they're usually only done when something wants FDA approval and after numerous pre-clinical studies have shown that it's worth the investment. Most CBD studies right now are in pre-clinical stages.
- Peer-Reviewed - This means that a scientist that has no conflict of interest has reviewed a study to verify that standard scientific practices were followed. They can repeat the study and get a comparable result.
It's also important to note that a study needs to be repeatable again and again and get more or less the same result to be valid. Did you ever wonder why there are so many similar studies out there? This is why.
Now, on to the CBD benefits strongly backed by science.
1. Reduce number of seizures
What's the strongest possible proof for the safety and effectiveness of a medication? In the US, that's an FDA approval. This isn't to say they never get it wrong and have to pull drugs from the market. But they do require some significant scientific proof before they'll approve a drug. Drum roll, please.
Enter Epidiolex. In 2018, this became the first federally approved cannabis-based drug in the US. CBD is the active ingredient. For children with hard-to-treat seizures, this drug is a lifesaver.
In 2016, a little girl named Charlotte suffered from nearly perpetual violent seizures. Each seizure did more damage to her brain. Charlotte couldn't talk or control her body normally. She was having 1000's of seizures a month. Charlotte went on a regimen of CBD oil, which her parents acquired from a Colorado-based company and the seizures nearly stopped. Charlotte is now regaining much of her lost function and enjoying the normal childhood every child deserves.
As a result of Charlotte's story, farmers in states where marijuana laws are laxer began cultivating cannabis called Charlotte's Web that is very high in CBD and very low in THC, the substance that makes people high. Because of Charlotte more children with similar seizures now had access to CBD.
Charlotte's isn't the only story like this. But it was influential as it may have strongly contributed to the reclassification of hemp in the 2016 and 2018 Farm bills. These bills opened the doors for hemp-derived CBD to be sold in the US. It also encouraged the FDA to take CBD claims seriously leading to the approval of Epidiolex.
But one child's story isn't enough for the FDA. Let's look at some of the scientific proof of CBD benefits for seizures that went into the approval decision.
You Want the Proof?
In 2017, researchers in the US and Europe conducted a placebo-controlled, double-blind, clinical study on CBD for individuals with a rare form of seizures called Dravet's. Each participant was having at least 4 seizures a month, a far cry from poor Charlotte's condition, but still terrible. During the study, the CBD group's seizures reduced by half. The placebo group had no significant reduction.
How did CBD do this? The next benefit may shed some light on that.
2. Protect Nerves
Studies have shown that CBD may protect the nerve endings and dampen overactive messages traveling through the nervous system. A seizure is an overwhelming of the brain with too many messages at once. But this protection may go beyond seizures.
- A 2018 professional review of existing studies found that nerve protection may help those with Parkinson's and Multiple Sclerosis
- A 2018 study found that for those with Parkinson's early, intervention is vital because the damage that Parkinson's does to the nerves happens quickly and is irreversible, making CBD's effects limited.
- A study conducted by Maryland researchers way back in 2000 had already determined that CBD was able to protect nerves from damage. While we have scientific rigor for a reason, it also means that sometimes scientists spend decades studying something before we see practical application in therapeutics or medicine.
Has CBD's day finally come? We hope so. And with each new study confirming the findings of the last, that looks to be the case.
Many scientists believe that CBD benefits may extend to other conditions that damage nerves like celiac, the disease that causes gluten intolerance as well as multiple sclerosis (MS), lupus and rheumatoid arthritis. But it's still too early in the studies. You might choose to use to see if it helps you with conditions of the nervous system. But the jury is still out on these CBD benefits.
But seizures and nerve protection aren't the only areas where the science is strong.
3. Reduce Chemo and HIV-induced nausea
Healers of all kinds have been using cannabis to treat nausea for 1000's of years. The first recorded usage was over 5000 years ago in what is now Romania. In the US, up until marijuana prohibition in the mid-20th Century, doctors regularly prescribed cannabis to their patients for conditions like nausea. In fact, the American Medical Association opposed the restrictive laws and regulations on cannabis. In the 1930s, they wrote a letter proclaiming the health benefits of cannabis and requested that it be researched. Despite their request, cannabis research in the US all but ceased around this time.
To healers, both ancient and modern, the proof was in the many patients who anecdotally described their relief. And likely some personal experience of healers was in there as well. Now, we finally have the scientific evidence to support what ancient apothecaries and herbalists knew all along.
At this time, a major double-blind, controlled study is underway to provide FDA level proof of CBD benefits for nausea. Once this study is completed, we can expect to see more prescribed CBD drugs hit the market. But even though this study has not yet been completed, it wouldn't even be happening if we didn't already have some very promising studies.
- A study from 2015 showed that a drug now available in Europe called Sativex reduced nausea in 71% of participants in the study.
- A 2011 study showed a reduced nausea response in people exposed to a harmless but nausea-causing substance.
Numerous other studies support the anti-nausea effects of CBD. In most cases, researchers studying the effect of CBD on nausea study it with THC. But don't get it twisted. This is not because CBD can't relieve nausea on its own. It's because the THC in cannabis is an appetite stimulant. Not being able to eat is common for people on chemo and those with HIV AIDS, so researchers are very interested in how both work together for these patients.
But if getting high isn't the look you're going for, know that CBD can stand on its own.
4. Reduce inflammation
The benefits of CBD on inflammation are something anyone can get excited about, even the chillest dude you know. A lot of the chronic diseases that exist today wouldn't exist without inflammation. For example, irritable bowel syndrome (IBS), colitis, arthritis, dermatitis, autoimmune diseases. Inflammation is important. It's how your body fights infection. But when it sticks around after last call, it becomes that belligerent drunk who's flipping the tables and making those unwanted advances.
The benefits of CBD for inflammation are promising. But it may be some time though before we can say that it can treat a specific disease. More studies are needed to find the right doses. But until then, many people are experimenting and reporting positive results.
- In 2016, researchers found that a high dose of CBD could significantly reduce colon inflammation when given via suppository.
- A 2017 study showed that CBD reduced joint inflammation They found the most effective dose to be 300 μg, which is approximately 1/3 of a milligram. It reduced inflammation response by nearly 23%.
- In 2016, researchers used CBD to reduce gum inflammation in those with gingivitis.
And we're only scratching the surface here.
5. Reduce pain
Inflammation and pain often go hand in hand. But it's important to look at these separately. Does reducing the inflammation also reduce the pain associated with it?
- A 2018 study on HIV patients showed the CBD reduced nerve pain by 30%. This can likely be attributed to the anti-inflammation and the neuroprotective properties.
- A 2018 study on our very best friend, the dog, is also interesting. A controlled, double-blind, randomized study gave CBD to dogs who had crippling osteoarthritis that made it hard for them to move. At the 0, 2, 4, 8 and 24 marks they measured attitude, behavior and the ease with which they could walk. Dogs who received the CBD performed better on all measures compared to placebo.
Why is a dog study so significant? Pain reduction is very difficult to measure scientifically because it's based on perception. On a scale of 1 to 10, how bad is your pain? But dogs don't lie. If they're moving around and look like they feel better, then they do.
6. Reduce anxiety symptoms
Most of us try to go with the flow and hang loose, but in today's busy culture, the stress is eating away at us all the time no matter how many times a week you hit to the yoga studio. So, is there strong science to show that CBD may help reduce anxiety? Good videos are coming your way.
Multiple studies support the anti-anxiety effects of CBD. Researchers are particularly interested in its ability to help people with:
- Panic disorder
- Obsessive-compulsive disorder (OCD)
- Social anxiety disorder
- Post-traumatic stress disorders
In fact, CBD-Anxiety studies give us one of the best studies so far. What would you do if you have severe social anxiety and had to give a speech in an auditorium? Freeze? Pass out? Lose bodily fluids? Maybe.
Scientists gathered a bunch of participants who had significant clinically-diagnosed anxiety. They gave each of them a public speaking project. But before they pushed them petrified out onto the stage, they gave half of them CBD and the other half a placebo.
During the students' speeches, they measured physical indicators of anxiety:
- Blood pressure
- Heart rate
- Skin temperature
They also did some observational measurements like:
- Whether they looked cognitively impaired (eg, forgot things or couldn't speak)
- How comfortable they looked
- The participant's perceived level of anxiety
The CBD group outperformed placebo on every measure.
7. Reduce intestinal distress
Irritable Bowel Syndrome is an inflammatory condition, but it deserves its own section. Common IBS diseases include ulcerative colitis and Crohn's.
- A 2013 study on those with IBS found that CBD is a "very promising compound since it shares the typical cannabinoid beneficial effects on gut lacking any psychotropic effects"
- A 2011 study showed a reduction in TNF-α expression as well as the presence of cleaved caspase-3 in the intestines of those with colitis. Both of these markers represent a scientifically measurable reduction in bowel inflammation.
- A 2009 study found that CBD reduced damage to the colon caused by toxins, such as chemo.
- Results on those with Crohn's Disease have been mixed. A small randomized, controlled, double-blind study resulted in remission for 65% of the CBD participants after 8 weeks. But we should note that 35% of the placebo group also went into remission, reminding us once again that sometimes it's mind over matter. Another smaller controlled study found no benefits over placebo for Crohn's.
That last point is an important reminder that research is still ongoing. Despite the fact that many studies have been done, there's a lot we still don't know. That's especially true when it comes to how much CBD a person needs for different benefits. The above studies have shown that CBD is safe in high doses and has no significant side effects. And they are bringing to light what administration methods and doses work best. Before we go, let's take a quick look at what these studies are showing us.
CBD Administration Methods
How do you take your CBD? You've got a lot of choices.
You can vape CBD straight into your lungs by inhaling CBD vape juice through a vape pen. The lungs are filled with mucous membrane that quickly absorbs CBD.
CBD can be absorbed through the skin using a CBD tincture or there are numerous cbd creams, lotions and body rubs. If you have inflamed joints, applying it directly to that area is the most direct way to get the CBD where you need it.
In some of these studies, the CBD was given through IV. We don't recommend that you try that at home. But that's one way to get your daily CBD.
CBD can be administered through suppository. Not pleasant to think about. But again, this can get the CBD where it needs to go.
Just like a breath spray, you can spray directly into your mouth or onto your skin.
The CBD tincture is your most versatile option. You can take it orally, sublingually, topically or turn it into a spray. You can drip tincture under your tongue, hold it for 90 seconds or so, swish and then swallow. This helps deliver the CBD more directly into your bloodstream because it bypasses the stomach and liver.
CBD also comes in CBD capsules that could be taken with your morning coffee.
CBD Flavor Shots
One of the newest and most fun ways to get your CBD is through CBD shots. Following the 5-Hour Energy concept, you can take the little bottles with you anywhere. Open it up and get your CBD boost.
And for those who like things in the most natural form possible, you can get CBD in the form of a hemp flower. It's naturally high in cannabidiol and below the legal amount of THC. So, go ahead. Grind it. Pack it. Roll it up into a CBD blunt. But whatever you do, enjoy these priceless nugs the way mother nature intended.
CBD Benefits Backed by Science
As the mysteries of the universe unfold before us, the benefits of CBD on the human body -- and our fur babies -- becomes clearer. And we see the great potential CBD holds in the world of therapeutics. Do we know all the answers? No. Are more human studies needed? Absolutely. But there's no reason to wait to explore the benefits of CBD for yourself. To learn more about CBD, follow our blog.