For nearly an entire century, cannabis was prohibited by federal law, and scientists and medical researchers who wanted to study it had to put their licenses, careers and livelihoods on the line. Not only has there historically been little to no funding available for clinical cannabis research, but the United States government has made it exceptionally difficult for scientists to use any form of cannabis in a lab.
Fortunately, thanks to rapidly changing legislation, more studies are coming out. Now that CBD and hemp are legal at the federal level and money is pouring into the cannabis sector, we can expect to see plenty of research in the United States. (Note that other countries have had an easier time studying CBD — Israel in particular has been a leader in cannabis research.)
2018 was a big year for CBD research thanks to the Farm Bill. Here are some of the most prominent pieces of research that came out in the past year, and what they mean for our understanding of this natural, plant-based medicine.
How CBD May Reverse the Effects of Epilepsy
In the spring of 2018, a significant study highlighted the pharmaceutical use of CBD to treat epilepsy. The British Journal of Pharmacology published the study, which was conducted on rats in the United Kingdom. The findings indicated that “CBD restores excitability and morphological impairments in epileptic models to pre‐epilepsy control levels through multiple mechanisms to reinstate normal network function.” In other words, the research suggests that CBD may reverse damage caused by epileptic seizures.
How CBD Might Prevent and Treat Effects of Schizophrenia
Frontiers in Pharmacology published a study in August 2018 that resulted in “pre-clinical evidence for a safe and beneficial effect of peripubertal and treatment with CBD on preventing positive and cognitive symptoms of schizophrenia.”
Conducted on rats, this study suggests that treating patients around the time of puberty has the potential to prevent schizophrenia. According to the study, past research indicated that “treatment with CBD in schizophrenia patients results in a significant clinical improvement.” The present study “reinforces and extends the beneficial and safe preventive effects of peripubertal treatment with CBD on halting the emergence of behavioral abnormalities that mimic the positive and cognitive symptoms of schizophrenia.”
How CBD Plays a Role in Reducing Anxiety and Improving Sleep
A study conducted in 2018 was published in January 2019 in Kaiser’s Permanente Journal. This one is particularly powerful because it observed humans, not rats (though it’s important to note that the study was not controlled). The group comprised 72 adults, and analyzed the effects of CBD on sleep and anxiety. In this group, anxiety scores decreased for nearly 80 percent of the patients, and sleep scores improved in roughly 67 percent of the patients. CBD was well tolerated in over 95 percent of the patients. Reported side effects included dry eye.
Another component that makes this study interesting is that the dose was considerably lower than in former trials — 25 to 175 milligrams per day, as opposed to 300 to 600 (or more), indicating that patients may not need an exorbitant amount of CBD to see favorable results.
How CBD Can Prevent Alcohol and Drug Relapse
Scientists and the global community alike are intrigued by suggestions that CBD may play a role in combating the opioid crisis. In 2018, the journal Neuropsychopharmacology reported that CBD could potentially reduce drug-seeking behaviors. The most exciting piece of information was that there were positive “long-lasting effects with only brief treatment.”
The study, which was performed on rats, concluded that “CBD reduced experimental anxiety and prevented the development of high impulsivity in rats with an alcohol dependence history.” In addition, “CBD attenuated context-induced and stress-induced drug seeking without tolerance, sedative effects, or interference with normal motivated behavior.” These results suggest CBD may be able to assist humans who struggle with addiction.
How CBD Can Mitigate the Intoxication of THC
If you’ve been wanting to try THC for medicinal purposes but don’t want to experience the euphoric intoxication (head high), then this study will be of particular interest. The journal Cannabis and Cannabinoid Research showed that patients who smoked cannabis, which includes the phytocannabinoid THC, reported “reduced euphoria when smoking cannabis” after they had used CBD. In effect, CBD may allow you to reap the benefits of THC without the high.
CBD Has Mild (or No) Side Effects, but Works Better with Food
GW Pharmaceuticals conducted research that was published in late 2018 to look at the potential side effects of CBD, and found that even extremely high doses were safe. The study noted that “CBD at doses up to 6000 mg was well tolerated,” and “most [adverse effects] were mild in severity; none were severe or serious.” It concluded that “the safety and [study] support twice-daily administration of CBD.”
The study also noted the impact of food on CBD’s absorption and efficacy: “Food increased the bioavailability of CBD and, as such, administering CBD with food would maximize bioavailability and likely reduce within-day fluctuation in systemic exposure to drug.”
How CBD Extract Differs from Isolate
Frontiers in Neurology published a study that focused on CBD solutions for treating epilepsy, which found that “treatment with CBD-based products significantly reduces seizure frequency, even for this otherwise treatment-resistant population.” The same study provided information on how CBD isolate differs from hemp/CBD extract.
Essentially, there were more side effects with CBD isolate than there were with extracts. “Mild adverse effects were more frequent in products containing purified CBD than in CBD-rich extracts,” the study found. “The most common adverse events reported were appetite alteration, sleepiness, gastrointestinal disturbances/diarrhea, weight changes, fatigue, and nausea.”
However, the findings when it came to epilepsy not only showed that seizures were reduced, but “reports about improvement in ‘secondary’ health aspects were very common.” Apparently, products containing CBD isolate “provide a significant improvement in quality of life for the patients and their family members,” including better sleep, improved mood, lowered aggression and improved awareness.
Find additional studies at the links below.
PAIN AND ANXIETY RELIEF: https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC6319597/
STROKE DAMAGE: https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC6142691/
MULTIPLE SCLEROSIS: https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC6085417/
MOVEMENT DISORDERS: https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC5958190/