Cannabidiol (CBD) is one of the most interesting of the hundreds of chemicals that the cannabis plant produces. The other chemical most often associated with the cannabis plant is delta-9-tetrahydrocannabinol (THC). Though these both come from the same plant, THC and CBD are incredibly different in how they function and what effects they have on the brain. THC is the chemical that gets people high, and CBD is the chemical that relieves pain, among other symptoms. Neither substance has received much research due to the legal status of marijuana, but this is beginning to change as more states revise their laws.
Because little research has been done and CBD is associated with an illegal plant, many myths have perpetuated about the substance. This is quite detrimental as the little research that has been done seems to find that CBD is a promising treatment for a wide variety of disorders ranging from chronic pain to anxiety. Clearing up these myths is necessary so that good research can be produced, and medical professionals can, if indicated, use CBD to help their patients who are unresponsive to their current treatment plans.
How CBD Works
The human body has a system of neurotransmitters in the brain referred to as the endogenous cannabinoid system. This means that the body produces its own chemicals that are similar to the chemicals found in cannabis plants, and that the body produces receptors for these chemicals, which lead to the effects associated with the endogenous cannabinoid neurotransmitters. These neurotransmitters are broken down by binding to a fatty protein that guides them to the enzyme that will break the molecule apart. The chemicals from the cannabis plant interfere with this system.
THC binds directly to the cannabinoid receptors in the body, which is what leads to the feeling of being high. THC will lead to decreased blood pressure, blood-shot eyes, motor coordination dysfunction, cognitive deficits, and sedation. CBD acts through a slightly different mechanism as it binds to the fatty protein, blocking the endogenous cannabinoids from being carried to their enzyme. This increases the body’s level of these chemicals. CBD relieves pain, reduces anxiety, and increases sedation without creating the adverse effects or high of THC. Understanding how CBD works in the body is key to understanding the myths and facts associated with CBD.
The Myths and the Facts
Perhaps the most common myth touted by CBD manufacturers is that CBD will cure cancer. Unfortunately, this is not true at all. CBD will not completely rid lab animals or humans of their cancer. However, CBD can help relieve some of the symptoms associated with cancer. For example, CBD can have anti-inflammatory effects. This will reduce the amount of pain and heat felt near the tumor should a patient experience this symptom. CBD also works in the brain to weaken pain signals being sent through the spine to the brain from the rest of the body. Additionally, some research has found that CBD can have anti-tumor effects in that tumors appear to stop growing in people who use CBD. So, while it may not cure cancer, CBD can be useful in helping those with it feel better.
Manufacturers of CBD also love to claim that CBD has no side effects associated with it. Again, this is not true, especially since even the most mundane treatments, like ibuprofen, can have side effects. CBD can turn off liver enzymes that are used to break down other drugs in the body in the same way that grapefruits do this. This can cause dangerously high levels of some medications to accumulate, which can be fatal. People thinking of using CBD should consult with a physician to ensure that this will not happen. CBD also has much more mild side effects that are usually not fatal. These side effects include fatigue, changes in appetite, changes in digestion, changes in sleep schedule, or even irritability. Most of these effects seem to disappear when the dose is reduced.
A myth perpetuated more by skeptics is that CBD does not work to relieve their target symptoms. This statement is problematic for a few reasons. The first is that these individuals may not be taking proper doses, because proper doses have yet to be determined by research. For now, scientists and medical professionals have no clue what amount of CBD is needed for symptom relief and what amount is dangerous. The other problem with this myth is that these individuals may not be paying close enough attention to their symptoms. There may be more relief than they were able to notice, so some professionals recommend keeping a journal of symptoms and severity before and while taking CBD (and just in general).
Piggybacking off of the last myth, another common myth is that more CBD is better. This is very likely to be false. First, people who take a lot of CBD are much more likely to experience the side effects associated with its use. When these people reduce the amount of CBD used, their side effects begin to wane or disappear. Second, a lot of research still needs to be done to determine the effective and safe doses of CBD. The legal status of CBD has led to little research being done, and now the field is beginning to catch up. Third, CBD oils often come mixed with a host of other chemicals that can alter how effective and safe CBD is. This may make high doses of CBD completely ineffective or even unsafe.
CBD is not a miracle drug that will cure cancer, anxiety, and every other incurable disease known to humans, but it is still looking to be an effective alternative to those who are reluctant to or unable to utilize the current medications available for these disorders. Due to the lack of research and awareness surrounding CBD, myths like this are easily perpetuated and must be curtailed so that proper investigations can be done. Currently, CBD is turning out to be a drug that may change how medicine is viewed.