8 CBD oil benefits: cancer, anxiety, pain, acne and more
Plus, advice on recommended dosage and potential side effects.
From reducing stress and promoting a better night’s sleep to treating serious conditions and diseases such as epilepsy and rheumatoid arthritis, CBD oil – occasionally called cannabis oil – is inhabiting medicine cabinets across the world for a huge range of reasons.
CBD is an extract known as cannabidiol, and it’s one of the 113 identified cannabinoids found in cannabis plants. This naturally occurring substance is extracted and mixed with a carrier oil – often hemp seed or coconut – to create CBD oil.
We spoke with pharmacist Sultan Dajani, from Dragonfly CBD, and professional rugby player Grayson Hart, co-founder of Pure Sport CBD, to find out the science-backed benefits, recommended dosage, and potential side effects to using CBD oil:
Is CBD the same as cannabis?
CBD is one of 104 chemical compounds, known as cannabinoids, that can be found in the cannabis plant. It’s a naturally occurring substance, which can be extracted and mixed with a carrier oil – often hemp seed or coconut – to create CBD oil.
Unlike the most well-known cannabinoid, tetrahydrocannabidiol (THC), CBD is not psychoactive, meaning that it won’t make you ‘high’ – the sensation most commonly associated with cannabis. It is, however, reported to offer a range of health and medicinal benefits – the reason behind its growing acclaim.
What does CBD oil do?
CBD oil acts on your endocannabinoid system: a network of receptors that interacts with various cannabinoids to maintain vital functions throughout the body, says Dajani, including sleep, appetite, pain and immune system response. When talking about CBD oil, there are two main receptors involved: CB1 and CB2.
‘CB1 receptors are concentrated in the nervous system and the brain, particularly in the parts of the brain responsible for mental and physiological functions such as memory, cognition, emotion and motor co-ordination,’ he explains. ‘CB2 receptors are found throughout the central nervous and immune systems.’
The use of CBD oil is being researched in various conditions, including Alzheimer’s disease, Parkinson’s disease, schizophrenia, Crohn’s disease, rheumatoid arthritis and diabetes complications.
Tetrahydrocannabinol (THC) is the main psychoactive compound in marijuana that gives the sensation of being ‘high’. Since CBD and THC have slightly different chemical structures, they interact with CB1 and CB2 receptors in different ways, differentiating the effects each has on the body, Dajani continues.
Both CBD and THC interact with CB2 receptors, but only THC bonds directly with CB1 receptors. ‘When this bond between THC and CB1 receptors is formed, the reaction creates signals that are sent to the brain, resulting in the effect of ‘getting high’,’ he says. ‘Research shows that CBD does not bond with CB1 receptors, so when people take CBD for reasons such as stress, anxiety, and pain, it does not have the effect of creating a high.’
Is CBD legal in the UK?
There has been a fair amount of confusion surrounding the legality of CBD oil, because the vast majority of cannabinoids are controlled substances under the Misuse of Drugs Act.
However, CBD oil is completely legal in the UK, providing it has been derived from an industrial hemp strain that is EU-approved and contains little-to-no THC.
There are strict restrictions in place with regard to the THC content of CBD oil. To be legal in the UK, CBD oil must contain no more than 0.2 per cent THC, and the THC must not be easily separated from it.
8 CBD oil benefits and uses
Here are some of the CBD oil benefits as seen in science so far:
1. CBD oil can relieve chronic pain
CBD oil has an analgesic effect, meaning it reduces pain perception in the brain. ‘CBD has also been shown to have anti-inflammatory effects, influencing biochemical inflammatory pathways in animal studies, with benefits shown in animals in chronic muscle pain, including fibromyagia,’ says Dajani. ‘A 2012 review in the Journal of Experimental Medicine concluded that CBD oil was an effective treatment for chronic pain.’
2. CBD oil alleviates cancer-related symptoms
Multiple studies have shown that CBD oil offers benefits to those receiving treatment for cancer. High-strength CBD medicinal cannabis products can help reduce nausea and improve appetite, pain and sleep disturbance in cancer patients.
3. CBD oil can ease anxiety
Laboratory studies have shown that the use of CBD oil is useful in reducing anxiety – and may help to ‘regulate learned fear, reduce conditioned fear and anxiety, and dampen down its expression,’ says Dajani – meaning it could be a beneficial natural remedy for sufferers.
‘Reductions in anxiety appear to mediated by the interaction of CBD with the 5HT1-A receptor rather than CB1 or CB2 receptors, and not dependent on the benzodiazepine receptors used by medication such as diazepam,’ he adds.
In a double-blind placebo-controlled study of people with social anxiety disorder, treatment with CBD before simulated public speaking ‘significantly reduced anxiety, cognitive impairment and discomfort in their speech performance, and significantly reduced alert levels in their anticipatory speech,’ Dajani says.
4. CBD oil is a natural antidepressant
The antidepressant effects of CBD have been demonstrated widely in animal models. This is because CBD oil interacts with the neurotransmitter serotonin, which regulates mood and social behaviour.
It has also been shown to safely improve the symptoms of post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) in children. ‘Because CBD is completely natural, there are no negative side effects that reliance on prescription medication may cause,’ says Hart.
5. CBD oil has neuroprotective properties
Thanks to its interaction with the endocannabinoid system, CBD oil may provide benefits for those with neurological disorders – particularly certain types of epilepsy and multiple sclerosis. ‘CBD has been shown to have a calming effect in the central nervous system, mediated by CBD’s interaction with the CBD 1 and 2 receptors, amongst others,’ says Dajani.
6. CBD oil may help treat acne
Due to the effects of CBD oil on the immune system and its ability to help reduce inflammation, it may offer relief from acne. ‘Cannabinoids are the subject of growing research interest for inflammatory skin conditions, such as acne, eczema, itching, rashes and psoriasis,’ says Dajani.
‘Although research is very preliminary, pre-clinical and laboratory work has demonstrated anti-inflammatory, antipruritic and anti-ageing properties for CBD with identification of various mechanisms including interacting with the endocannabinoid system of the skin,’ he adds.
7. CBD oil has heart-healthy benefits
CBD appears to reduce the cardiovascular response to stress, says Dajani, by influencing the survival and death of white blood cells, white blood cell migration and platelet aggregation – all of which can be linked with stress.
‘A double blind randomised controlled cross-over study in nine healthy male volunteers found that acute administration of CBD reduces resting blood pressure and the blood pressure increase to stress in humans, associated with increased heart rate,’ he says.
8. CBD oil makes your workout feel easier
CBD oil plays a vital role in decreasing glutamate build-up during strenuous activities, says Hart. ‘CBD makes this possible by connecting to CB1 and CB2 receptors and preventing the release of specific neurotransmitters,’ he explains. ‘This influences the nervous system, enabling you to handle pain and inflammation better. CBD can help with short term pain problems or long-term injuries with throbbing pain.’
How to take CBD oil
CBD oil is most readily available as a tincture. This can be taken by applying a few drops under your tongue, holding in your mouth for a few moments so it can be absorbed, before swallowing. It can also be added to water or smoothies. A tongue spray form is available, as are capsules, gummies, creams that can be applied topically, and e-liquid for vape pens.
When it comes to CBD dosage, always start small – its effects should be immediate.
When it comes to CBD dosage, always start small – its effects should be immediate, so you will be able to tell if the lower dosage is working for you. ‘A dose of around 10-20mg is a good place to start for beginners,’ says Hart. ‘See how that works with your body and decide whether to move up or down.’
‘Dosage frequency and amounts are at the user’s discretion, with a maximum daily dose of 200mg,’ adds Dajani. Remember, it’s always best to consult your doctor before trialling any new medication or remedy.
Is CBD oil safe?
The majority of CBD oil users don’t experience any negative effects. CBD oil has no harmful side effects and is not addictive. ‘According to a World Health Organisation (WHO) report, naturally occurring CBD is safe, well tolerated in humans and is not associated with any negative public health effects,’ says Dajani.
Where higher doses of CBD have been used in clinical studies, some side effects have been reported, including dry mouth, light-headedness and drowsiness. ‘Lower blood pressure can also be an issue for people whose blood pressure is already low,’ he continues. ‘There have been no reports to date of physical dependence effects – tolerance or withdrawal.’
What to look for in CBD oil
CBD products can vary significantly in in terms of quality ingredients, so it is important to know what to look for. In a recent analysis of CBD products on the UK market, nearly two-thirds contained less than 90 per cent of the declared amount of CBD, with one containing zero cannabinoids, says Dajani. More than half contained detectable amounts of THC and seven products contained another controlled cannabinoid, called cannabinol (CBN).
‘CBD oil must be sold as a food supplement, not as a medicine,’ he says. ‘Choose a CBD product that has a zero THC content. Choose a CBD product that has received-or is working towards Novel Food authorisation. Choose a product that will allow scrutiny of its test results – ideally independently tested on batch-by-batch basis – and is obtained from a reputable source.’