How Does CBD Work?

How Does CBD Work

The recognition of medical cannabis is increasing, and between the several remedies consumers are seeking  CBD, or cannabis oils. A wealth of advertising material, blogs and stories claim that CBD oils can cure whatever  helps you, even to fight against cancer.

But the short research doesn’t propose that cannabis oil can take the place of traditional medication, other than for in two very rare forms of brain disorder (and even then, it’s recommended only as a last-resort treatment). And, professionals alert that because CBD oil and other cannabis-based goods are not moderated or tested for safety by the federal government or any third-party agency, that is the reason it could be more difficult for consumers to know specifically what they’re experiencing.

What is CBD?

Simply put, cannabis oil is the concentrated liquid extract of the marijuana plant, Cannabis sativa.

Similar to other herbal extracts, the chemicals in cannabis oils vary depending on how the extract is made and what chemicals were in the plant to begin with. 

Cannabis plants produce thousands of compounds but the most well recognized belong to a class called cannabinoids. There are several cannabinoids but the two that are most well-known among consumers are THC (tetrahydrocannabinol) and CBD (cannabidiol).

THC is the primary psychoactive compound in marijuana and it is what people are searching for when they want a product that gives them a “high.” Unlike THC, CBD isn’t known to cause psychoactive effects, and is therefore attractive to those who want to avoid the high but who believe there are other benefits of CBD, said Sara Ward, a pharmacologist at Temple University in Philadelphia.

CBD products that don’t contain THC fall outside the scope of the U.S. Drug Enforcement Agency’s (DEA) Controlled Substances Act, which means CBD products are legal to sell and consume as long as they don’t have THC. That’s likely one of the reasons why CBD products, including CBD oil, are becoming more socially acceptable and increasingly popular. In 2016, Forbes reported that CBD products are expected to be a $2.2 billion industry by 2020.

How are CBD oils consumed?

The physiological effects of cannabinoids can vary widely from person to person, and also depend on how they’re consumed. That lack of predictability is one of the reasons why cannabis oil is a challenging candidate for developing into a medicine, Ward told Live Science.

“Two people may eat a brownie [made with cannabis oil] and one may absorb massive amounts of cannabinoids and the other may not,” Ward said. “How long it takes to work and how long it stays in the system differs greatly.”

It’s a little more uniform when the product is absorbed by smoking or vaping the oil, Ward said. But, “there are obvious concerns about smoking something.” A 2007 review published in the journal JAMA Internal Medicine found that smoking marijuana resulted in similar declines in respiratory system health as smoking tobacco. A similar review published in 2014 in The American Journal of Cardiology found that marijuana smoke inhalation can increase the chances of heart attack or stroke. Neither review analyzed the effects of vaping cannabis oil alone, so it’s unclear if it has the same health risks as smoking other marijuana products.

Why do people use cannabis oil?

People claim that cannabis oil can be used to treat a wide range of conditions, though evidence to back up these claims is often lacking. For example, according to Medical News Today, people use cannabis oil for conditions ranging from pain to acne; some even claim the oil can cure diseases like Alzheimer’s and cancer. (But again, there is no clinical evidence to support these claims.)

A review published in 2017 in the journal Frontiers in Pharmacology described how CBD may work to protect the hippocampus — the part of the brain responsible for several important functions, such as learning, memory and navigation — during times of stress, and may also help prevent brain-cell destruction that results from schizophrenia.

Another 2017 review published in the journal Annals of Palliative Medicine summarized a handful of studies that suggest cannabis oils containing THC or CBD, or both, may help with chronic pain management, but the mechanism is unclear.

Cannabis treatment in people with certain forms of epilepsy has been more promising. The only FDA-approved cannabis-based drug is Epidiolex, a CBD oral solution for treating two rare and severe forms of epilepsy. A recent clinical trial found that Epidiolex reduced convulsive seizures by 50% in children with Dravet syndrome, a type of epilepsy, MedPage Today reported.

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